IN THE middle of this contentious election season — is there any other kind? — it’s easy to focus on the negatives about Savannah, rather than the positives.
We can get back to critical coverage later, but this Thanksgiving week I want to focus on a few things about our town that I’m thankful for.
There are lots of problems in Savannah: poverty, crime, low wages, poor educational system, etc. These are problems experienced in many other places.
But the great things about Savannah are our things, and what sets us apart.
I’m sure you can add to the list with your own observations.
The Oglethorpe Plan. Every great design starts with a great blueprint, and our original downtown plan, dating from 1733, is quite simply one of the best in the world. This is proven time and again not only by observations from visitors, but by the great sense of civic devotion felt by most everyone who lives here, whether old-timer or new arrival.
This has become especially apparent the past few years, with the vast public outrage over the effects of rampant development downtown on the basic pattern of this very simple, yet genius design.
In many other cities, people just wouldn’t care. Here, we care. And how.
Trees, please. I keep telling people that Savannah is at Peak Canopy right now — enjoy it while you can. Even though almost all visitor surveys say that the tree canopy is one of the main things they love about Savannah, we don’t devote nearly enough money and attention to maintaining the tree canopy for future generations.
A quick jaunt to other locales near and far — such as Pooler, for instance — shows you what an urban area looks like when trees are an afterthought at best, or considered a nuisance at worst.
Savannah is truly blessed to have the extensive and varied tree canopy it has, and despite the efforts of the City to keep it up, there needs to be more of a priority accorded to it.
It should be a no-brainer to make this more of a local issue, as you don’t need to depend on theory to sell it — it’s all right there in front of us, every day.
Voting works — usually. As much complaining as I and most everyone else does about the state of politics here, when voters want change in Savannah, they usually get what they want.
People really wanted change in 2015, and that’s how Eddie DeLoach and his slate got elected. People really wanted change this year, and that’s how nearly every incumbent — possibly including DeLoach pending the Dec. 3 result — is no longer on City Council.
And guess what? The newly elected folks could just as easily get voted out in four years, too.
That’s not a bug, that’s a feature. That’s how the system is supposed to work.
Ease of transportation. It’s easy to take this one for granted. But when you visit any larger market, such as Atlanta, Nashville, or even Charleston, it really brings home just how good we have it here in terms of getting around.
While ATL is notorious for traffic jams and the need to budget at least half an hour each way, and often much more, for even a casual grocery trip, it’s not just the population of the market that matters.
Chattanooga, Tenn., for example, is roughly Savannah’s size. Have you tried getting through or around Chattanooga at rush hour? It’s a parking lot for miles.
Here, however, other than a few bottlenecks and a few regular curveballs (the President Street train, for instance, or a wreck on Hwy 80 to Tybee), we can get from one end of town to another in under half an hour — in only 15 minutes if you use the Truman.
The bicycling situation in Savannah, while less than ideal, just gets better and better all the time, thanks in large part to the tireless efforts of cycling advocates and organizations like Bike Walk Savannah.
Which brings us to:
Inspiring nonprofit community. I have joked that every person in Savannah seems to head their own nonprofit. There is certainly a very expansive and hands-on nonprofit community here, involved in everything from homelessness to animal rescue to reducing gun violence to food access.
Of course, they’re all chasing a very small piece of the pie in terms of funding — which is probably why there are so many small, volunteer-based nonprofits as opposed to larger, well-funded ones.
The people I admire most in Savannah are these small nonprofit directors. They work extraordinarily long hours for little to no remuneration, get about the same amount of abuse from clients and customers as any small business might, are usually on the chopping block when funding cuts come up, and their type of service often means no holidays can be taken.
Much of what passes for local activism these days is spending all day on Facebook being as divisive as possible. But these heroes don’t have time or inclination for that. They’re too busy building bridges, not burning them.
Here’s to you — you know who you are.
To-go cups. Yeah, I know. I write about to-go cups a lot. But I stand by my statement that to-go cups are the single most respectfully adult and enlightened thing about Savannah, that truly sets us apart from literally almost everywhere else in the country.
Think about it: Why are you trusted to drink a beer inside a bar or restaurant, but not trusted to drink the same beer three feet outside the same bar or restaurant? As long as you’re not behind the wheel of a car, it makes no sense, logically or legally.
Savannah is one of a very few cities in America which still respects this basic adult right. Don’t let anyone try and take your to-go cups away!