October 30, 2015 at 3:18 PM EST - Updated July 25 at 4:02 AM
SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC)
Only one Savannah City Council seat is guaranteed a new face, but most of the contenders are familiar ones.
From economic and political, to religious, business and community activism, the Alderman At-Large Post 2 seat features the largest and most diverse group of candidates.
They also represent a whole spectrum of different ideas. Whether it's crime, economy, poverty, blight or just how a city council member should approach the seat of alderman at-large.
“This is a city manager form of government, I don’t think council really understands that. They haven't operated that way. The city council is a board of directors and the mayor is the CEO,” said Brian Foster.
“I think city council should take any considerations when they are presented and stay out of the nitty gritty part of it. That is how our government is set up,” said Travis Coles.
“I don’t think they get too involved. I think they don’t get involved enough. They should be involved and engaged in what is going on in this city,” said Alicia Blakely.
“The at-large shouldn’t have a dog in the fight in any particular district. You may have some interest because you live there but you should be some kind of conduit,” said G. Lind Taylor.
“We try to provide direction to city staff and major priorities the city and council want to enact. Secondly we provide a kind of CEO role as it relates to our head person, which is the city manager,” said Joe Steffen.
“You should have a clear cut plan with what you are going to do with anything you buy. It shouldn’t be laying on the table this long,” said Clinton Young.
Any council candidate in Savannah will tell you the number one issue voters bring up is crime. The Alderman At-large Post 2 candidates are in an interesting position, because none of them have been on council before and they all think they bring something fresh to the table.
“I'm the senior pastor of the first congregational church,” said Taylor.
“I've been in business management for 11 years. Work for a company called FEE Inc., which owns four different businesses in Savannah,” said Coles.
“I run a vending machine business. My wife and I started that in 1993,” said Young.
“I am currently the legal counsel for Savannah State University. I've been there seven years now,” said Steffen.
“I am a community activist, human rights advocate. I am into everything,” said Blakely.
“Retired from the banking industry after 45 years, a year and a half ago. I was founder and CEO of First Chatham Bank,” Foster.
All different backgrounds, but all list crime and public safety as their top priority. These six candidates support more police officers, higher salaries and giving the department what they need. But they all have a slightly different takes and how we got into this problem in the first place, and how to get out of it. Not just a hiring spree.
“Let's throw in 500 security cameras, a system for the whole city. Put them in all the hot spots, not just downtown. In the hot spots where the crime is,” said Foster.
“We need to pull the officers who are in the desk and put them on the streets to patrol,” said Blakely.
“The city has plenty of money to deal with crime. We don’t need to raise taxes we just need to redirect efforts, but you have to have a string majority on council who will put safety ahead of everything else,” said Steffen.
“How do you remedy this? You need to light it up, put cameras around until you get the manpower you need to do those things,” said Young.
“I think we could alleviate these issues by bringing in some temporary help from state and federal agencies especially with the more gang related issues,” said Coles.
“I talked to a couple of officers and leaders about community policing, and how effective boots on the streets are,” said Taylor.
A common theme they all spoke about was tourism.
“We have over a million tourists come in per month. Hotels are justified but where will they park? That's a big problem,” said Young.
“It's another reason why I believe the air B&B's ordinance should be amended to allow some of the folks who can’t afford $300 a night to rent a house on the eastside or southside instead of just limiting it to downtown Victorian District,” said Coles.
“We have to see ourselves interconnected. That is part of our makeup to make sure this city is a healthy one for everybody,” said Taylor.
‘It seems most of the hotels are boutique hotels built the last four years, which means they are outside the price range of you or I. I wonder about the long-term planning in that,” said Steffen.
“They don’t have living wages for the service industry and you are not negotiating living wages with the individuals bringing hotels in? How do you expect individuals to get out of poverty?” said Blakely.
“Have we really thought all this through? Put a good strategic plan in place? As long as the occupancy rate is running over 70 percent people will still build hotels and motels,” said Foster.