Safety • Opportunities • Housing
My focus on City Council will be:
Guaranteeing the safety of our city by maintaining a consistently fully-staffed and highly-trained police department to ensure a secure environment for all residents.
Cultivating job opportunities that are accessible to every member of our community, while also equipping them with the skills and resources needed to seize these opportunities.
Working to provide adequate housing options for our hardworking citizens right here in our vibrant city, allowing them to relish the beauty of the place they call home while pursuing their careers.
Working Together Works
ATTAINABLE WORKFORCE HOUSING
Everybody needs a roof over their head. It’s tragic that so many that work in our city, including hospitality workers, firemen, police officers, and others, cannot afford to actually live in our city because we don’t have enough housing they can afford.
First of all, with leadership we can show those who fear development that development does not have to negatively affect their neighborhoods. We have countless examples of this already, and we need to highlight those success stories and build more.
The City has learned that it can multiply their success by working with organizations like the Housing Authority, the Homeless Authority, the Community Housing Services and Habitat for Humanity. We also need to work with private sector workforce housing developers who can bolster our efforts. Many of our local developers are forced to build in other cities because of the expensive red tape and licensing that Savannah creates. The delays that the cities cause make it impossible for developers to finish their projects on time and under budget. We need a can-do attitude throughout city government.
15,000 new workers (and counting) in our area will undoubtedly place huge burdens on our already congested streets and highways. We have no plans to address that despite the fact that 52 percent of city voters approved the most recent T-SPLOST initiative. We need those funds to expand and improve our streets and highways, and, in the process, continue to improve our gateways. T-SPLOST passed in our city by a 4-point margin, but failed county-wide. Like the majority of our citizens, I will support a new T-SPLOST initiative when we get another chance to vote on it.
No city from Tokyo to Paris to Savannah avoids a growing homeless population and Savannah’s climate draws people needing housing. 80 percent receive help through our Continuum of Care which includes the Homeless Authority, Union Mission and 27 other non-profit organizations. 90 percent of homeless were not homeless nor ever had been before COVID! The only answer is housing, which we lack. The Tiny House Project houses 48 veterans and their partners who previously had no roofs with 100 percent success. The city has broken ground on 48 larger tiny homes for families it will partner with the Homeless Authority to manage. We need more partnerships like this. And for the remaining 20 percent – about 700 individuals – we need to partner with state and federal agencies to provide medical, emotional and mental health support to position them to be helped.
Housing shortages also curtail investment opportunities for young families. Most families start investing with first home purchases, which evolve into equity for larger homes, college payments and further investments. But a perfect storm of rising prices, high interest rates and a dearth of homes they can afford block these investments. Builders are eager to provide homes, but a multiplicity of complications from zoning to permitting to inspections add complications and expense, slowing construction and increasing prices. We can greatly help with no cost to the city, the builders or the home buyers by streamlining the application and permitting processes needed to build these houses.
SAVANNAH COLLEGE OF ART AND DESIGN (SCAD)
In many ways, SCAD gets a bum rap for flourishing as an educational institution and improving our city. True, SCAD avoids property taxes by being a non-profit, but so do other schools like Georgia Southern, Savannah State, Georgia Tech and hundreds of other non-profits and faith-based entities. (I strongly oppose charging faith-based entities that already do so much for our community.)
The city can address this by requiring all property that is rezoned or granted variances to be subject to “payment in lieu of taxes” (PILOT) if the property belongs to an exempt organization or is ever sold to one. Then city leaders can address leaders of SCAD, the most financially successful entity, for a plan to help support the services it requires, even if it is an in-kind contribution, some of which it already provides without recognition.
SHORT TERM VACATION RENTALS (STVR)
Savannah became a pioneer in short term vacation rental management six years ago with ground-breaking limits and requirements that stopped the legal conversion of homes to vacation residences. Until we enforce all aspects of that ordinance, there is little need to discuss additional restrictions that may or may not be enforced.
It has been decades since our city was described as “like a beautiful woman with a dirty face.” Since then, it has only gotten worse. Trash lines our streets; illegal signs line our streetways; some lanes never get cleaned, light poles rust from neglect … the list goes on. We should have more respect for our community.
Each year we entertain millions of visitors who patronize our hotels, restaurants and shops that employ more than 30,000 people, but our city is dirty and we need to devote resources to cleaning it up and keeping it clean.
Let’s get more help to the dedicated employees that work in Code Enforcement. Let’s fully fund that department and get them back to work. Let’s show some pride in our city.