Savannah gearing up for 2015 city elections

Although a few candidates (especially Murray Silver, who is challenging incumbent mayor Edna Jackson) have been courting voters for months, the city of Savannah’s campaign season is just now in full swing.

From the Savannah Morning News’ Challengers line up for Savannah City Council seats:

As of Friday morning, 12 residents were listed by the city clerk’s office as having declared their intention to run, which is required before accepting campaign donations, and each council member has indicated they plan to seek re-election, with the exception of Post 2 Alderman-at-Large Tom Bordeaux.

Bordeaux, often seen with his head in his hands at council meetings, announced earlier this year he would not seek a second term.

Click here to see the clerk of council’s updated list of declared challengers. (Also, Barry Gale has been campaigning for District 2, but I don’t see his name there.)

There are nine seats on city council: the mayor (now Jackson), two aldermen-at-large (now Bordeaux and Carol Bell), and six aldermen from individual districts (now Van Johnson, Mary Osborne, John Hall, Mary Ellen Sprague, Estella Shabazz, and Tony Thomas). The current council has come under fire for all sorts of reasons — including depressingly persistent violent crime and questionable property acquisitions. As a voter, I share those concerns, but for what it’s worth, I think Savannahians have a tendency to forget how much power rests with the city manager’s office (now headed by Stephanie Cutter).

In It’s time for winds of change in Savannah city government, the Savannah Morning News editorial team says “it’s time for the winds of change to begin blowing through Savannah’s city government, for new faces to be seen and heard and, in some cases, elected.” That editorial notes a litany of recent problems at City Hall — and that list doesn’t even include firefighters showing up unexpectedly at the city council meeting last week to air contract concerns. The list of issues in the SMN editorial (a paper for which I have freelanced for many years) also omits mention of the amazingly slow pace of progress for a much-needed revision of the city’s alcohol ordinance; officials began working on a new ordinance in 2013, but key provisions might not take effect until January 2017.

Silver has established a robust web presence — including his website and the ChangeSavannah Facebook page. He is also well-known around town as an author (including 1982’s Great Balls of Fire: The Uncensored Story of Jerry Lee Lewis) and publisher. Silver will not only need to drive turnout of his supporters, but he will also have to attract voters who opted for Edna Jackson in 2011. In a runoff against Jeff Felser, Jackson took 57 percent, for a fairly easy win. Savannah politics are routinely viewed through a racial lens, but it’s worth keeping in mind that the majority black electorate also supported Bordeaux (who is white) over a credible black challenger in the 2011 runoff.

It’s also worth noting that 2015 is the first time we’ll be voting under the aldermanic map produced after the 2010 Census. (In the absence of better sources, click here for a post on my site Savannah Unplugged with various graphics and links about the new districts.) I live in the newly drawn District 2, which should have an especially interesting race — a seemingly weak incumbent in Mary Osborne and three credible challengers (Bill Durrence, Barry Gale, and Detric Leggett).