Savannah’s new city council holds first meeting

Savannah’s new city council holds first meeting

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Thursday was the first regular meeting for the new Savannah City Council.

On the first day, council fulfilled what city leaders say is a largely ceremonial task, appointing leadership positions.

The appointments, which council decides among themselves, fill in a line of succession if for some reason the mayor can’t be present.

The first peer appointment went to Alderwoman Estella Shabazz as Mayor Pro Tem.

Alderwoman Keisha Gibson-Carter was voted to be the Council Chairperson, and Alderman Nick Palumbo the Council Vice-Chair.

Mayor Van Johnson said after the regular meeting he's excited to have them aboard in those leadership roles.

"I think it actually went remarkably well. Again, I wanted to make sure not only for the council members but for the city at large that we were being very educational about the process of what was happening. We didn’t want anybody to be caught off guard, and we took extra time. And as we go and get more familiar with it, it’ll move a little faster. But I think...I was very proud of the council,” Johnson said.

Savannah’s new city council holds first meeting

Also at Thursday’s meeting, Savannah’s new city council reviewed what they want state leaders to work on and who they want to tell the legislature about it.

During Thursday’s regular meeting, the new council nearly canceled the current lobbying contract worth $60,000 with Connect South.

Mayor Johnson was one of the cautionary voices in chamber as a majority at first decided not to renew the contract with Connect South.

Alderwoman Alicia Blakely and four of her fellow council members expressed disappointment with what they saw as a lack of results from the Atlanta-based firm.

The services of Connect South were originally secured back in 2017. When the contract was initially voted down, Palumbo appealed, echoing the concern of Mayor Johnson that if they terminated this contract, they wouldn’t have anyone representing what he referred to as an ambitious agenda for the city.

In the end, council did vote 5-4 to approve the contract and keep Connect South, but some demanded more results.

“I think what I heard from City Council was they wanted us to aggressively manage this contract, and ensure that our taxpayers are receiving value for this service," said Bret Bell, with the City of Savannah.

Some of the legislative priorities council agreed upon were things like changing laws to allow police to destroy confiscated guns if they can’t find their owners, and putting a limit on commercial property tax assessments city-wide.

Again, the legislative priority list - just over a dozen items long - will head to the capital as elected leaders there wrap up their first full week of the session.

To further include the public on issues, Mayor Johnson said the city will be announcing town hall meetings across the community soon.

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