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Challenge 2015: David Self, District 6 

FORMER DOWNTOWN business owner David Self says he was prompted to run for office by the continuing crime issue, as well as his experience trying to deal with the City while working in the Historic District.

He is one of several challengers to longtime incumbent Tony Thomas in the Southside’s Sixth District.

You are going up against Tony Thomas, a very well-entrenched incumbent with a solid level of support.

He’s part of a bigger problem. I truly believe the entire City Council has failed this city, and he’s a part of it.

But here’s the thing: What if everybody in the district goes, well he’s done a pretty good job, it’s somebody else that needs to go. If every district says that, we’ll end up with same group we currently have.

The last two elections the incumbent in District 6 wasn’t challenged. He’s certainly got plenty of challenges this time around.

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This is the first time I can remember all incumbents having so much opposition.

People reach the boiling point. They reach a tipping point. It ties back to crime and the understaffed police department, that’s what people are curious about.

Then they’ve got $3 million to buy the fairgrounds, but we can’t afford to staff the police department? People are fed up.

The anger I’m hearing when knocking on doors is simply amazing. And it’s not always targeted at one individual but more often targeted at the whole entire group.

I had a conversation with the mayor recently. She commented something like, this is like nastiest race I’ve ever seen. And I told her people are mad! People are angry and don’t feel like they know what they need to know.

I’m passionate about it because I’m sick of it. It’s Dysfunction Junction down there. I wonder if they bring in a consultant to see what they want for lunch. You can’t make this stuff up.

I believe in term limits. What’s the aggregate total for the ones on Council now? Something like 76 years? That’s crazy. I think they’re terrified of what may happen this election.

Worst thing is, people are saying if something doesn’t happen they’re moving. That’s a sad commentary.

When neighbors on the Eastside are putting bulletproof windows on their houses, and mothers are laying on top of their toddlers on the bathroom floor, you’ve got a very serious problem.

Almost alone among candidates, you have spoken out against Ben Carter’s influence downtown.

I had a business downtown in Wright Square. When Ben Carter came to town I didn’t embrace it. Soon my landlord came to me with a 30 percent rent increase.

I said I’m just not going to do it. I’m just not going to participate in that kind of greed. My business didn’t fail, as has been mentioned.

People downtown are up in arms with their heads exploding over what’s happened to property taxes. Obviously when purchase prices start going up your assessed value goes up. I work too hard for my money to give more of it away. The same theory applies to City taxpayers who work too hard to have a City government that just constantly wastes it.

I do understand the part about making Broughton better. But it was always their vision, not ours. Things that went on down there made me sick. Everybody gave Carter credit for those huge planters. I thought they looked like big ashtrays!

Does it seem like the appetite for expensive new projects is almost an addiction for this Council? Would you support a moratorium on new projects?

We can talk about project after project. Let’s talk about Coffee Bluff Marina. But really, haven’t we talked about it all enough? I mean really. Let’s take action.

I would want to see a forensic financial audit of this City. What’s really behind the closet doors.

Where’s the money really going? It’s going somewhere.

I’m not the smartest guy in the world but I’m smart enough to know there’s a problem when there’s a shooting at Tibet and Middleground, and the official explanation is “that’s really been a bad spot for years.”

And it still is? That’s the excuse? It’s always been like that? Therein lies the problem.

Having run a business downtown, but also living on the residential Southside, where do you stand on the balance between a healthy tourism sector and quality of life for residents?

We’re a city dependent on tourism. But it still ties right back to crime. They may report how tourism is up, up, up! But no one will ever convince me that any of the people who were at Bull and Oglethorpe when the driveby shooting happened right next to the Girl Scout Headquarters raised their hand and said, “Hey, I can’t wait to come back here!”

What the tourism people can’t tell us is how many aren’t coming back.

I do know how many people would come into my store and say something like, “We’ve come here every year for the past five years, but we saw last night there were six shootings. We wonder if we’ll ever come back again.”

So what did the City do? They put stickers on all the parking meters downtown saying, “Lock It or Lose It.” So now everyone who sees that is wondering if it’s even safe to park downtown!

If we don’t get a handle on crime, on people being robbed, on purses being stolen, that circulates. If I or you post something on Facebook saying, look what happened today in Savannah, well not all our friends live in Savannah. That message gets circulated way out of Savannah.

And people do read that. I have family members in California asking me what’s going on here?

Do you support some kind of workaround to state law so that there is some equivalent to a living wage in the City of Savannah?

I agree but the question is how we do it. We should dig into it and find as many options as we can.

I’ve heard till my head spins that we have to have a living wage. We encourage new businesses to come in and hire our folks, but they’re coming in paying salaries that aren’t helping the situation.

It’s a reality of Savannah. We have to look at everything, turn every stone over and follow the money.

I’ve never run for office, I’m not really a public speaker, I’m the first to say I don’t have all the answers. But the bigger question out there is, What is it we don’t know?

What do you think of Stephanie Cutter? Safe to assume you would like to see a new City Manager?

If my memory serves me correctly, she said she didn't want the job to start with. I rest my case.

Would you propose to someone who said, “Hey, just to let you know in case you were wondering, I’ll never want to marry you.”

Obviously common sense isn’t so common after all!

cs
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About The Author

Jim Morekis

Jim Morekis

Bio:
A native Savannahian, Jim has been editor-in-chief of Connect Savannah for ten years. The University of Georgia graduate is also a travel writer, authoring regional guides in the Moon handbook series... more

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