Leading Savannah: Alderman At-Large Post 1

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - The Alderman At-Large positions don't just cover one area, but the City of Savannah as a whole.

There are two candidates running for Savannah's At-Large Post 1, incumbent Carol Bell and newcomer Linda Wilder Bryan.

Both candidates agree the Savannah-Chatham Metro Police needs enough support and resources for the city to thrive, but they have different ideas on where that funding would come from.

Carol Bell has served as Alderman At-Large Post 1 since 2012. She says she wants to see SCMPD fully staffed and funded, but she says the money is already there.

"Since we have been operating without a fully staffed police department, we actually have budgeted funds for salaries for 2015 and we will not have to sacrifice services to hire the additional police officers that we need," said Bell.

She says the city would not have to take the money from anywhere else to properly provide for SCMPD.

Her opponent Linda Wilder-Bryan says she does think there needs to be more funding for SCMPD, in an effort to increase wages and implement sensitivity training for officers.

She says the money should come from parks and recreation.

"And so I don't see us using the parks at this time if people aren't safe to go there anyway. It just does not make any sense to me and so we need to increase the wages for them and bring about a closer bonding for everybody in the community," said Wilder-Bryan.

Wilder-Bryan goes on to say she thinks the parks should open back up, and be fully funded, after Savannah has gotten crime under control. She says crime would be her top priority, since her son was shot and killed in Savannah in August.

Bell says fighting crime in Savannah is also at the top of her agenda.

"Community awareness, community education, there are a lot of good programs that we used to have in the past. Cops on the block, infiltrating them, high visibility," said Wilder-Bryan. "I've been in some communities where they're nonexempt and so we have to get our community engaged. They have police stations that close at 5 p.m. when everybody knows that crime starts at 5:01 p.m. So we have to get our people engaged."

Incumbent Carol Bell says she'd like to know why crime has gone up dramatically this year and tackle those issues.

"And I think that's key, we need to find out, we need to identify exactly what changes occurred in our environment, in our families, in our cultures in this community that caused crime to escalate to the point that it has over the past 8 to 10 months," said Bell.

Wilder-Bryan says some of the current city leaders are out of touch with the people.

"We can't even have a conversation. They're elitists and they actually, they're not turns their reins now. We're their servants, they're supposed to be our servants," said Wilder-Bryan.

But current Alderwoman Bell disagrees. She says she's always been a civil servant, way before she took office.

"So I want you to evaluate me by my track record. I have spent my 30 plus, 40 plus years in Savannah committing my resources and my time to this community and volunteer is in my DNA," said Bell. "Yes, I get a little passionate about that because sometimes we need to just stop and recognize that there are people out there who are doing all that they can do to help improve the quality of life, for not just our children, but for all children."

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