Savannah Alderman Van Johnson outlines mayoral platform

Van Johnson talks with WTOC
Van Johnson talks with WTOC(WTOC)
Published: Oct. 29, 2019 at 6:26 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Longtime Savannah councilman Van Johnson said this is the perfect time to run for mayor. He said his understanding of city government and leadership skills make him the right candidate. It’s long been suspected that Johnson would run in 2019. However, he told WTOC he decided late last year to give up the seat he’s held for 16 years and run against the current mayor, Eddie Deloach.

“Over the last four years, it was just growing issues that kept occurring that made me really feel like we were moving away from our North Star,” Johnson said. “You can make your dreams come true in Savannah as I have. You can own a house, own a business, you can raise your children. Savannah is pregnant with those types of possibilities; I want to be that midwife that delivers those possibilities, and I think that Savannah is an excellent place to live, and I want to make it better.”

Johnson will have to convince some people who voted for Mayor Deloach to flip and vote for him. WTOC asked him how he can do that.

“All they have to do is check his record. Four years ago the issue was crime, crime, crime. ‘All I’m going to do all day is crime, crime, crime.’ When you look at the results, it’s been business, business, business,” Johnson said.

He pointed to the failed fire fee, the police de-merger, and cuts to the arts and culture budget as examples. He hopes voters remember these decisions at the polls.

Johnson faces an uphill battle when it comes to campaign cash versus Mayor Deloach. Johnson raised about a fourth of what the mayor did from July 1st to September 30th.

“The mayor has raised a lot of money, and when you look at where the money is coming from, it’s very clear about where his priorities are and where his supporters are,” Johnson said. “The reality is, I’ve had people coming to me and putting $10 in my hand, $15 in my hand, and saying, ‘I believe in you.’ That means more to me than anything else.”

[Watch an extended interview with Johnson below.]

As for policies, Johnson said police need to continue targeting violent gang members in our community. He says he wants to add more street lights to deter crime as well.

When we discussed possible tax increases, Johnson said he’s willing to provide the services taxpayers want.

“As mayor, I’m willing to give our citizens whatever it is they want. We just need to communicate to them that the services that they want, there’s a cost to it,” Johnson said. “I’m certainly not in favor of tax increases, but again, it’s based on what the citizens tell us they want.”

Johnson has been a major voice in the city’s pursuit of building an arena on the west-side. Gentrification is a concern of people living there. WTOC asked him about preventing that from happening.

“If the city owns the land, and we control what goes there, then we obviously get to control the gentrification and development,” Johnson said. “For years, we’ve had cement plants and city lots, and this is our big time to really make it the economic engine that it deserves to be.”

Johnson says, day one, he’ll work to galvanize the new, 9-member council, something he says has been missing the last four years.

“Our residents deserve to see a council that we may not always agree, but they certainly don’t need the divisiveness that they’ve seen in this current term,” Johnson said.

Johnson is also a proponent of increasing the minimum wage of city workers to $15 an hour. He said with attrition and re-organization, he thinks they can increase wages without a huge burden to taxpayers. Only a couple hundred employees make less than $15 an hour right now.

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