BORN and raised in Montreal, Patterson married an American in 1974 and became a citizen in 1995. She spent 10 years as a paralegal and 16 years teaching French before she and her husband retired to Savannah’s historic district in 2000, where she now works as a Reiki master and life coach. A vocal advocate for residential issues, Patterson led the effort to upgrade the busy intersection at Abercorn and E. Gwinnett to make it safer for cyclists and pedestrians.
The 2nd District has a lot to cover. What made you decide to run?
We bought our house 1996 when our son came here for SCAD. We’ve been here 15 years, and I’ve been very active in this area. I’m very close to all of my neighbors, and I got them to join in accomplishing an awful lot.
At the corner near my house, there were accidents after accidents. It took me almost five years with the city, trying to find solutions. Since then, pedestrians can cross without being hit, there are less car accidents.
In the process of trying to get this done, the city wanted to create a new ordinance that would have gotten rid of 23 parking spots on Abercorn itself, and I reacted very strongly against that because this area is really in need of parking spots. I said there has to be another solution.
So they went back and there was a big meeting with the mayor, the city manager, the MPC, the people from traffic, and found something that would work.
We’ve also been able to get my neighbors to prevent two rezonings in our immediate are that would have been detrimental in our neighborhood.
So without being in office, I’ve been able to accomplish a great deal.
What do you see as the biggest challenges for the district?
We have several. First is trying to include everybody.
There are a lot of changes happening. I’m not against progress, I’m for progress. But I want it to uplift the neighborhood. Some [owners] need a big push. Property maintenance, code violation, and so on, we need to strengthen those departments so they can help.
Crime is an issue, as it is throughout the city, no matter where you are. I do have several ideas how we should start. The police department should consider a better alliance with federal agencies, the DEA, the FBI, it would be great if they could work together.
Of course, parents, it’s their responsibility to take care of their children from thebeginning and they should be a big part of it.
I do agree that we need more officers. I would like the officers that come in to use motorcycles and bicycles and walk in the neighborhoods. Let’s be physical.
What else would you do to reduce crime?
Again, property maintenance is a big issue. Our lighting system is terrible, so I would fix that. The electric company should place a wire with the lights under the tree canopy. Light the streets, the lanes, sidewalks, the squares.
Georgia Power hasn’t gotten here with the new lights yet? The rest of the city looks like a Walmart parking lot!
No, I guess it hasn’t.
Anyway, I would also focus on the petty crimes: Litter, loitering, the graffiti artists.
The biggest thing—and some people won’t like this—is that we go after the people who buy drugs. They’re creating the demand, and if there is no demand there won’t be a supply. The people who buy drugs are helping create our crime problem. They’re part of it. Let’s face it. The people who use prostitutes—it’s the same thing.
I would like to see the police department, basically, target the buyers. Then you’re going to get rid of issues with drugs.
What would you differently than the incumbent in this district and the rest of the administration?
Well, they don’t seem to be able to make any decisions. And then they don’t enforce them when they do. That’s a big negative.
Savannah has grown really quickly in the last ten years, even with the recession. Especially with the tourism, it just keeps moving. It may have taken a lot them by surprise.
Tourism is a large part of your district; what are your plans to manage this growing industry?
I have several ideas. First, I don’t think we need any more hotels for a while. I would be very careful at looking at those numbers. The last occupancy numbers that were published were in the 70 percent range; that means 20 percent of those hotel rooms are still empty.
So why do new hotels keep popping up everywhere, especially downtown? Let’s say we don’t need those hotels all of the sudden; say the economy goes bad or something, what do you with all of them?
What I would like to see for the hotels is start to see them spreading around the borders of town instead and help those areas grow. I think they should forget about downtown; we’ve had our share, we’re overwhelmed with hotels. That, plus the Airbnb and everything else, there are plenty of places to stay.
What is your economic development platform?
I would like to bring a younger generation here. People who have the education and means to start a little tech city. We have that land at Savannah River Landing; that would be a great area to have a tech center. I would also like to see affordable lodging for those young families and couples or singles, so that you can bring vitality to the downtown.
What is your opinion on a city/county merger?
I’ve been around a while, and I my experience is that those things never work. It’s always a problem, and ten years later you have to go back to where you were. It gets too complicated. I think it’s better to keep Savannah as Savannah and have the right people in the right positions.
How do you plan to engage the less prosperous voters in your district?
I come from a family of six children. I understand what it is to be poor. I’ve been there. I would make sure jobs come in so they can be employed.
For the people who are just starting out, trying to buy a house, trying to get things moving, I think property maintenance figures into it so that their investment doesn’t go down the drain because their neighbor next door isn’t doing his or her fair share of upkeep.
Any more specific solutions?
I guess a lack of togetherness. I would like people in neighborhoods get closer. We all have our little hamlets; I’d like to see people expand. I’d like to see people in City Hall able to reach decisions quicker, to have a vision and to be fair to everybody.
I would also add more traffic calming, more pedestrian crosswalks and fix the bumps in the street.
I do want to say that I receive no contributions for my campaign. I make decisions, I have published a lot of my opinions.
But I’m not just a person with opinions, I have solutions. I am person of integrity and I get things done. It is my hope to continue to do that.