CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - The Savannah municipal election is now less than a week away, and four candidates are running for Savannah's 6th District Alderman.
WTOC's Sean Evans sat down with the candidates to see where each stands on the issues of how to continue funding the City's police department and where those resources come from.
Candidates Zena McClain, Stephen McElveen, David Self and incumbent candidate Tony Thomas all gave different answers to what city services could be sacrificed to provide greater funding for the police department, though priority was a common theme in the responses.
"I don't believe there is a funding problem here in the City, the City has the money. The City has the money in reserves. I believe that there is a problem with planning and setting priorities. So, it's not a funding problem, it is a priority problem," said McClain, 6th District candidate.
"As far as I'm concerned there's a lot of waste that goes on. Look at the Waters Avenue project over there. Much of that money could be re-couped and put toward the police department. Police department funding, as far as I'm concerned, is simply one of the things you do not skimp on, especially in the crime environment that we're in today," said McElveen, 6th District candidate.
"I think it starts with, I mean, when you've got a city that's just spent $3 million on fair grounds, somebody's got their priorities very wrong under the dome. I understand that $3 million would have purchased 72 police cars. It's a matter of priorities. It's a matter of getting in there to see what we can do without. Or, it's a matter of following the money that's already there to ensure that it's being spent correctly. I question whether it is," said Self, 6th District Candidate.
"I believe that the funding is already at the department. I think that looking for additional technology and tools is what the question should be. I'm in favor of floating a bond if necessary in order to provide take home cars, cameras to do the additional technology needs of the department to bring it up. The very first thing that I'm in support of is getting the vacancies filled, and getting all of the paid positions filled in the department, so that then we can go to the next level and see, do we want more officers? Do we want additional, what kind of technologies, what is it actually, what kind of investment is being asked?" said 6th District incumbent Tony Thomas.
McElveen, McClain, Self and Thomas have been visible to voters during the campaign season.
Here's each candidate weighing in on an issue that affects each and every voter, road conditions, and what can be done to fix Savannah's main thoroughfares in desperate need of some TLC.
"We can't continue to allow things to get to a state of emergency before we start digging the first shovel full of dirt," said McElveen.
"I mean, you drive around town these days, right before the election, in my own neighborhood all the street lights are getting replaced. Everywhere you go you see projects going on. They didn't happen when they needed to happen," said Self.
"The City of Savannah cannot afford to pay for all the roadwork that needs to be done in the City limits alone. So we're going to have to look for additional funding sources, through help from the state and feds, and look down the road to another type of SPLOST, like a T-SPLOST for this region," said Thomas.
"Big industry comes where there is an adequate, or good transportation system, especially when you're looking for those young, upwardly mobile individuals. They like to move to cities that have decent transportation services so they don't have to drive and be stuck in traffic," said McClain.
Switching gears a bit, I also asked all four about what measures they would take as council members to stifle gang-related violence here in Savannah.
"I believe that if you have more police officers on the street, there becomes an awareness that, 'I may not be able to do this here, I need to take it somewhere else.' If we do that enough, it's got to have an effect on what's going on in our city," said Self.
"I believe that we need to concentrate on the most serious, violent offenders, those who commit crimes with guns, working in conjunction with the District Attorney's Office and the police department in getting those serious offenders off the streets," said McClain.
"Unfortunately, in order for us to deal with the gangs on the street, we had to deal with the gang in the police department and get Lovett and his cronies out of there. And I think that there's still some cleanup that needs to be done. So before we can really get our efforts fully focused on the street level, I think the police department, we need to allow Chief Lumpkin to continue finishing up his cleaning up of that department," said Thomas.
"We can't continue to coddle repeat offenders. Now anybody can make a mistake, first offender, let's let the justice system pan out like it normally would. However, if you repeat the crime or are a repeat offender, we may need to make it so uncomfortable for them that it's a deterrent," said McElveen.