IT seems like so long ago now, given all that’s transpired since then both locally and nationally.
But in the wake of the inauguration of Eddie DeLoach as Savannah mayor two years ago this month, there were a lot of predictions about what kind of mayor he might be.
Some of those predictions have so far turned out to be quite wrong.
The general consensus back then was DeLoach would be a significantly more hard-line conservative mayor than we were generally accustomed to here.
A Tea Partier, if you will.
A less-general but also prevalent idea was that, given the undertone of racial rancor present in the election campaign itself, that the DeLoach administration might be an openly racially divisive one.
Certainly, with two years left to go in DeLoach’s first term, it’s too early to render anything close to a final judgment.
But I think it’s safe to say that in many ways, Mayor DeLoach defied the general stereotypes in some key ways.
Here’s a sample quote from the most recent Council meeting, with regards to the new City ordinance on abandoned shopping carts:
“This is not heart surgery... these folks that need these carts to get groceries home, you just have to say ‘that’s part of my business’ if you want them to keep shopping there.”
The speaker was, of course, Mayor DeLoach himself, sounding a note of downright liberal compassion.
If I hadn’t already tipped you off about who said it, you’d probably be surprised to know it was DeLoach, and not one of the more obviously and openly progressive members of Council.
And it wasn’t a one-off — throughout the contentious shopping cart debate, he maintained a clear stance of taking the side of the disadvantaged vs. the grocery lobby regarding the use/taking of carts.
If one treats all politicians equally skeptically, as I do, one is tempted to say this is just a politician giving lip service.
Ordinarily I might agree, but Mayor DeLoach actually has a track record of sounding similar notes of what might otherwise be called bleeding-heart liberalism.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that Mayor DeLoach has spearheaded both the effort to rename the Talmadge Bridge and the effort to reinterpret the Confederate Memorial in Forsyth Park, in political terms if not in terms of overall activism.
On the memorial issue, DeLoach read an impassioned statement referring to the then-recent violence in Virginia:
“We must all denounce these forms of domestic terrorism... we must not just be on the right side of history, we must write the right version of history.”
In referring to a promised public town hall meeting to discuss the memorial and bridge, DeLoach even said he felt so strongly about these issues that he might be willing to disregard public opinion:
Mayor DeLoach said, “I already know how I feel” and how City Council feels about the issues. He said “who shows up the most isn’t going to determine” what Council thinks and decides on what to do about the monument and bridge.
(Don’t worry, I’m not abandoning all healthy skepticism. It’s also true that the promised public forum never actually took place; another, independently-organized forum essentially replaced it.)
Earlier in the year, DeLoach even went to bat for women’s rights, in a sense, when he admonished Alderman Tony Thomas for calling a female TV reporter the C-word on camera.
“There’s no way we can accept this approach to talking to anyone,” DeLoach said of what he called “unacceptable sexist and vulgar comments.”
DeLoach followed through by insisting on a formal censure vote for Thomas.
To an extent this was a no-brainer, but DeLoach could just as easily have said it wasn’t Council’s business.
All this sets up a potentially very interesting situation ahead of the next mayoral election, in November 2019.
That also seems far away, but in reality the campaigning will get underway in earnest around this time next year.
I have zero insight into whether or not DeLoach will run for re-election, nor if Alderman Van Johnson will run for mayor, as is widely assumed but unconfirmed.
But if any of DeLoach’s presumptive opponents planned on campaigning significantly to his left on social issues... they might discover there’s not really that much room on the mayor’s left.
I’m certainly not suggesting Mayor DeLoach has gone full-on Social Justice Warrior.
What I am suggesting is that all politics is local, and sometimes that personal kind of closeness can blur the usual partisan political lines which have all but destroyed our politics at a national level.