As we approach Savannah's municipal election Nov. 3, the Savannah Morning News has been talking with the candidates for the City Council and Mayor. The four candidates for District 6 - Zena McClain, Stephen McElveen, David Self and incumbent Tony Thomas - talked about crime, poverty and their priorities for Savannah.
"I don't think there has been effective collaborations between all the elected officials. If there were stronger collaborations between the school board member, the county commissioner, to address the root issues, that would have a positive effect in our neighborhood. I know the city has now, on the eve of the election, gone to New York [for End Gun Violence: Step Forward anti-crime initiative] and had the discussion about violence. That is something I talked about eight years ago when I was running for district attorney. The failure to get the district attorney involved in all of this is something that could have happened eight years ago. I see a lot of reactionary responses to the crime."
On the Coffee Bluff Marina:
"That's another issue. The wasteful spending. I think this current council has spent way too much of the taxpayers' money. I don't think decisions are being made that are wise. I've gone up to the marina, and each time I go, it's quite empty. I don't see a lot of sixth-district people using that marina."
"My plan is to work closely with the Savannah Economic Development Authority and the Chamber of Commerce and people in those bureaus working hard to bring good paying jobs to the city. Connected to that, you have to have something to attract people here. An industry will bring jobs to a community where they see their workers will benefit. They look for a strong school system, and they look for transportation. We don't have the transportation here."
"It's all based on communication as far as I'm concerned. I would be interested when the last time Windsor Forest Neighborhood Association president talked to the Wilshire area neighborhood association president. Facilitating communication between the powers that be, neighborhood associations primarily, seems to me would be the first step in coordinating some kind of effort to get things changed."
On what he'd bring to the council:
"I'm a sales consultant. I design surveillance systems and that kind of thing. But out of all the candidates out there, who sat there with mom and dad talking about the burglary that happened last week and why mom can't sleep and about why the kids are terrified? Me. That experience, I'm in the security field already, will help me know which way to go."
On his priorities for Savannah:
"I'm pro business. I want to do what I can to facilitate sane development. Things that would best benefit the sixth district would be things I do on city council in general. Keep an eye on city spending. It seems to me people are too free with taxpayers money. We need somebody in there to watch the pennies as they flow."
"Understaffed, overworked. I've spoken with many police officers who are not happy with the current situation. It seems like there's almost a revolving door with officers leaving. We hire them. We train them and they get recruited out to other cities. That's broken."
On public safety:
"Part of it is the citizens need to take responsibility. Whether that's with neighborhood watches. I mean that's a program that's been around for years. We don't need to reinvent the wheel. I don't believe that lock-it or lose-it signs plastered all over a neighborhood really benefit us. It may benefit some, but it has an adverse effect of potential buyers driving into that neighborhood and seeing all these signs and think it's unsafe."
On his priorities:
"As far as economic development, the first thing I think this city needs to do is put a hold on everything so we can ensure we are not dealing with cronyism. That it's not some political favor being done and it is in fact the right thing for the city. Buying the fairgrounds for $3 million could have purchased what I believe is roughly 72 police cars."
"First of all, let's talk about how bad the ship was. We have a former police chief incarcerated. We just recently had a [corruption] suit that was filed that several officers are making substantial claims. From what [chief] Lumpkin is doing, to turn the ship, is going to take time, and it takes a person of integrity like the current chief. The number that the media has not reported, which makes me feel good about chief Lumpkin, is 45. That's the number of terminations that have been made. This is a chief who is taking the integrity of the department, and his personal integrity, and applying it to fix a department that has been destroyed by politics and bad leadership."
On Coffee Bluff:
"I think the new operator is extraordinary. The power is fully functional now on the docks. The gas line is being moved, and that should be finished, I believe, by December. The one other design, and the contractor and I talked about this on Sunday, was the kayak launch area itself. We are going to change our concept to do an on-dock launch. I believe that would be something additional we will be bringing forth."
On future projects:
"Mohawk Lake, which is right behind the Savannah Mall is one of the main projects. It will be similar to the Joseph Tribble Park we did in Windsor Forest, which provides recreational, walking [facilities]. This project will provide canoeing and sailing."