Savannah mayor delivers the 2022 State of the City address

Published: Nov. 2, 2022 at 4:52 PM EDT|Updated: Nov. 2, 2022 at 10:44 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The mayor of Savannah delivered his first in-person State of the City address on Wednesday evening.

Highlighting the city’s progress and major investments he’s proud of since he took office two years ago.

From pouring millions of dollars into affordable housing projects, raising the wage for Savannah’s police officers and firefighters, to the new Enmarket Arena - that’s now home to the Savannah Ghost Pirates.

Mayor Johnson said: “We intentionally, from Mayor Adams to Mayor Johnson to Mayor Jackson to Mayor DeLoach, placed this arena on the westside of Savannah to make sure we’re intentionally investing into the westside of Savannah.”

Investments into the community go hand in hand with creating a safer community. Mayor Johnson highlighted the work of their Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement focused on reducing crime by engaging with the community.

“This program has engaged hundreds of young people in our community and gave them a positive outlet and I had to come out there a couple of nights and serve some of those young boys and show them I’m not as old as I look.”

While the mayor said they’ve done a lot of work, they still have a lot to do, including finalizing Local Option Sales Tax negotiations before the end of the year.

“We will get this done because we have to get it done. It makes no sense to me to celebrate our lowest property rate in 35 years just to have to raise property taxes to unaffordable rates in this economy.”

Public safety remains one of the mayor’s sole priorities - gun violence being a problem in the city. The year before he took office, SPD recorded 20 homicides.

That number rose to 26 his first year then up to 29 last year. There have already been 25 homicides this year.

“One death. One rape. One domestic abuse. One suicide. One human trafficking incident are one too many. We must remain committed to community engagement education and violence interruption as we work together to make this city safer.”

The mayor himself is a victim of violent threats. He closed out his address mentioning rumors spread by council members that have put him at risk.

“Because of these false statements and false allegations, I’ve had increased threats to my life and had even to increase my personal security as a result. To be woken up in the middle of the night that someone is at city hall looking for me to kill me...”

He says his greatest frustration is slander, fighting and physical altercations between council members. He made a direct call to action for them to treat each other better.

“Proverbs 17:1-2 says that better is a dry morsel but quietness and peace than a house full of feasting with strife and contention. President Abraham Lincoln said a house divided cannot stand. My beloved colleagues...before we cast another vote, let’s put down the egos.”

The tension, fights, and divisiveness among council has been an issue during this administration.

The mayor says they can disagree without being disagreeable.

Council members respond to State of the City Address

After the mayor spoke, WTOC caught up with several council members to hear what they thought about the State of the City address.

Alderwoman Linda Wilder-Bryan said, “just think how better it would be if the fight was about what people elected and I’m committed to doing that and we can to do that. I’m so excited and I’m over the top. I’m always going to be shouting and cheering for us to get along and do better because the people are suffering because of it.”

Alderman Kurtis Purtee said, “I’m glad the mayor said what he said about unifying city council. It’s really important. I think it’s time that we all come together. We all have the same vision in mind for Savannah. It’s how do we get there...which road do we take. I think a lot of us are looking at different avenues with the same goal in mind.”

Alderman Nick Palumbo said, “It’s really exciting to return back in person and celebrate the accomplishments of not only the last year, but the last three years. The progress we’ve made as a council and a city to continuing to push forward into a new era for the city of Savannah and it’s been really exciting to see how we’re going to cascade into the future to continue those investments and improvements to make our city better.”

Alderwoman Dr. Estella Edwards Shabazz said, ”The mayor gave us a beautiful picture and not just beautiful picture...a factual picture of what the work of the mayor and the council have been doing over the year of 2022. He did an excellent job.”

You can watch the full State of the City address below: