MAYBE IT’S MORE than a bit presumptuous to come up with New Year’s Resolutions for a whole community.
But these are intended as a wish list of sorts, a starting point for discussions at a logical time for such new beginnings.
I’m sure you can add more of your own, or tweak these as you might see fit:
• Become More Engaged With Civic Meetings. Except in the case of controversial votes and debates, very few citizens attend Savannah City Council meetings.
And very few citizens follow the City’s livestreams of the meetings, both on the City’s site and on its YouTube channel.
Most times there are literally five or fewer human beings watching any of these broadcasts at one time. That’s pathetic.
I’ve heard complaints that the meetings are perhaps intentionally timed to cut down on public participation. Could be.
But let’s be frank — if they were held at dinnertime, would you really be more likely to go? How about before you go to work in the morning? Probably not?
In any case, the option of watching them remotely is already there, and almost never used.
I’m not just talking about City Council meetings. There are a whole slew of other public meetings all around town, from School Board meetings to County Commission meetings, to umpteen Board meetings which are by law open to the public, whether broadcast or not.
This is where your government and your community is formed, at meetings like these. Whether elected officials, appointed officials, or volunteer Board members, these public meetings are where the rubber meets the road.
The Cultural Affairs Commission, for example, is a volunteer-run City board responsible in part for doling out hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding to local arts and culture organizations.
Their work has tangible, immediate impact on your community, and they are just one of dozens of similar citizen-staffed local boards. But I’d wager the number of people in town who know what they do is a single digit percentage.
Another example: The Savannah-Chatham County School Board is responsible for collecting and spending the vast bulk of property taxes in Chatham County, in addition to providing oversight for how we impact the lives of over 30,000 schoolchildren, our most precious resource.
Yet, almost no one outside of professional journalists and a small core of activists and concerned parents keeps up with what they do on a regular basis.
Wonder why things are so dysfunctional here? When so much happens with so little public scrutiny, what do you expect?
Democracy can’t work without your involvement. And that doesn’t just mean voting every two or four years.
• Get The Hell Off Facebook: Don’t get me wrong – social media certainly has its practical uses, which are unmatched by any other medium.
And neighborhood chat pages do have a pragmatic function, and they can and do help bring positive, street-level change to local communities.
That said, most of the people doing really great and important work in this town spend as little time on Facebook as they can get away with.
Many of the people I genuinely admire most in Savannah are the ones who post and comment the least.
I’ve seen (or taken part in) hundreds of social media debates. The number of times I’ve seen anyone change their mind on an issue could be counted on one hand.
Real change can come from social media engagement. But let’s face it — not much.
The toxicity of social media is like a bad penny. It drives the good stuff out of circulation and replaces it with something that’s literally worthless.
In 2019, it would be great if more of us got out from behind the computer or phone and had face-to-face conversations with people from all walks of life, not just those who agree with us on political matters.
Plenty of you spend hours a day on social media. Take just one hour, or two, or three hours of that time and focus it instead on flesh-and-blood interactions on subjects you care about.
• Support Local Arts and Artists: By which I really mean: Spend some money on them.
No, seriously: Spend money on what you say is important to you.
You say you love music and think Savannah has a great music scene? Awesome.
Don’t balk next time there’s a five or ten buck cover charge at a local club for you to see three or maybe even four great bands.
I’ve seen people refuse to pay a small cover charge to listen to live music, and then go to another bar and pay six or seven bucks for a craft beer, plus tip, without batting an eye. Makes no sense.
You say one of the great things about Savannah that brought you here is it’s such an “artsy” town? Awesome.
Go to a Savannah Philharmonic performance. Better yet, take your children.
Go to a local community theatre performance. The actors don’t get paid, but the groups need money to continue putting on these top-level productions.
Go to local museums, such as any of the Telfair properties, or the Davenport House, or the Beach Institute, or the Ships of the Sea, to name just a few examples. They’re doing great work, and they’re not just for tourists.
Buy some hand-crafted artwork made by one of those local artists that you say contributes so much to the community. They can’t keep contributing art if they can’t pay the rent or mortgage.
• Want Better Content? Support It: Similarly, everyone complains about the state of media in Savannah, but in our brave new digital world, no one wants to pay a single dime for content.
Connect Savannah is in a bit of an advantageous position in this regard because our content has always been free.
However, we depend on our advertisers to support the content that you don’t have to pay for.
If you say you want to be better informed, support those doing the informing, whether it’s us or any of our colleagues in local journalism.