IN THE brief few weeks after the runoff election which ushered in sweeping change in City government, some interesting things happened—things which might have made that election turn out quite differently had they happened just a little bit sooner.
For example, a week after Alderwoman Mary Osborne was defeated largely because of her neglect for the Waters Avenue corridor within her district, a City enterprise zone to attract new business was unveiled for... wait for it...
... the Waters Avenue corridor.
A day later, the City announced a whopping $27 million in improvements to the east end of Broughton Street.
Most importantly, after the election Metro Police, Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap, Sheriff’s Dept. and federal officials announced a sweeping new approach to law enforcement directly involving federal agencies and much more strict sentencing of repeat violent offenders.
It was a move many voters demanded for at least the past year leading up to the election. But it came after the election.
In other words: The one thing that probably could have changed the course of the election had it been done before the election, happened after the election.
Now, a lot of variables and a lot of different agencies, departments, and bureaucracies had a say in all the above decisions, and it would be foolish to boil any of it down to one easy solution one way or the other.
For example, given the public outrage at the $3 million Fairgrounds purchase —announced just before the election and which became the last straw for many frustrated voters—it’s understandable that the City might want to wait until after the election to announce that much more expensive plan for Broughton Street that would not only indebt voters further, but which wouldn’t help low-income voters in any way.
But I’m not the only one frankly perplexed at the timing of all these very important announcements from the lame-duck administration, coming between the election and when the new Mayor and Council members are sworn in. I’m not saying it’s good or bad.... just puzzling.
A lot of it, to be sure, simply has to do with the new budget not being passed until after the election. But reading the tea leaves, you really wonder what was going on behind the scenes.
If, as one must assume, most of these things were in the works before the election, it makes sense that the outgoing administration would want to claim credit for them before the next administration is sworn in next month.
Frankly, if I were them I’d probably do the same thing. And maybe the explanation is just that simple.
But the fact that the significantly enhanced law enforcement measures—going to the very heart of the core issue of the whole election—were unveiled only after the current administration’s defeat surely is telling.
I can’t help but speculate it might be a reflection not only of a general lack of confidence in the outgoing administration—which essentially destroyed the City/County police merger—but in City Manager Stephanie Cutter, who by many accounts has been at serious loggerheads with Chief Lumpkin on police salaries and promotion/retention issues.
And that leads us to the great unspoken election issue:
Whether or not Stephanie Cutter will remain as City Manager, by charter the City’s most powerful single position.
In interviews with candidates before the election, I endeavored to ask each one whether or not they would vote to keep Cutter.
While only a couple—Murray Silver and David Self—openly recommended that she be let go, I got the distinct sense that a major priority for Mayor-Elect Eddie DeLoach and the new Council majority will be to, at minimum, broach the subject of replacing Cutter.
I submit that a graceful and face-saving way out for everyone would be to simply host a grand retirement party for Ms. Cutter, thanking her for her exemplary service in a time of great turmoil and transition, and ensuring that she receive the handsome pension to which she is entitled.
Nothing negative need transpire.
And then everyone can turn the page without the need for a long, knock-down-drag-out fight over who will take the reins of Savannah into the future.