SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - One of Savannah's most outspoken elected officials took to Facebook Tuesday night for a first of its kind, virtual town hall meeting.
Alderman Van Johnson is no fan of fire fees, de-mergers and city layoffs. The city has some tough decisions to make by the end of the year. The number of viewers on the feed reached over 150 at times, and Van Johnson says that's more attendance than he's ever seen in person at town hall meetings.
When it comes to town hall meetings, people have work and transportation issues. Alderman Johnson says he wants to be where the people are. These days - that's on Facebook.
"They said really? I mean really. You know, why not."
Some said he was opening the wrong kind of floodgate, and that those following along would have the nerve to confront him on anything behind the safety of their own computers.
"I believe in free speech, and I also believe in block and mute.....and delete."
When 7:30 p.m. rolled around, Johnson started the live stream.
It was an hour-and-a-half-long video, so let's break down the issues he addressed. First of all, he says the city is not in the hole yet. They will begin the 2018 year with a $3 million, but he says we will be in the hole if we don't make some changes.
"The money we want to spend is less than the money we have to spend," he said.
Secondly, he discussed whether or not the police demerger a smart financial decision.
"Joanne says we should have never demerged the police department. Umm, I agree," he said.
Third in question - the fire fee. Is that the best option to cover costs? Johnson says no, and suggests these alternatives.
"We have the ability to borrow. We could look into things such as temporary retirement incentive plans. Increases for employees - we can delay that at some point to three months, six months, maybe a year."
Facebook live streamers also thought outside of the box.
"There are a lot of truckers damaging our roads. Charge the truckers a large vehicle fee....I'm in."
These are all one alderman's thoughts and opinions, and he has but one vote on council, but with more than 150 joining him on Facebook, he's confident that one voice may become a little louder.
The city's budget meeting is this Thursday and Friday, where hopefully we'll get firm answers on all of these questions.