Savannah Morning News column, March 9, 2014
This is a friendly city. We invite newcomers to dinner. We chitchat as we walk our dogs in the neighborhood. We chitchat in the grocery stores. We nod good morning to people we pass in the park (at least the first time around). We rally to fund-raising events. We have a children’s museum, a dog park and a baseball team (go Sand Gnats). We have a huge art school, a well-used downtown park, a beachfront, several art museums. We have tennis courts where people invite you to play if you hang around long enough. We have a bike share program (well, 16 bikes). We have bike paths (well, three that I can think of although sometimes it’s hard to know because the painted words – “bike path” – are faded). We have two farmers markets and a thriving food co-op that’s been around since 2007. In general we leave 15 minutes before we have to be somewhere. Other places might be more spectacular but every time we leave home we say, “Nice, but it wasn’t very friendly.”
All this good stuff without an ounce of leadership from the top. Amazing, no?
Quick: name an alderman. Now, name another. All of us who live in the city have two – our own neighborhood alderman who is supposed to be in touch with us, even after the election (especially after the election when we’re ready to get things done) and an alderman-at-large that we share. Full confession: I do not know my alderman-at large. I hear more from real estate people than I do from her (him?) and more about what’s happening in the city, too. If I can get all these pizza flyers every other day, wouldn’t you think a form letter would be in order now and then?
P.S. If you mentioned Estelle Shabazz as one of the aldermen I asked you to name, well, this does not count. She’s been in the news too much lately. Oh, you haven’t heard? She’s the alderman who said people raising bees should consider putting a net over the hives to cut down on possible danger. Excuse me? Pollination? Reproduction? Fertilization?
By the way, has anyone told Alderman Shabazz that the Hyatt Regency Savannah, her City Hall neighbor one or two addresses to the west, has bees on top of its roof? The beehives are part of the hotel’s plan to “go green.” The last time I checked on the Savannah Cams website I did not see a net.
Our City Council is “beeeing” cautious on the bee issue. I think I heard plans of a study to “beeee” done.
I like the Savannah Cams idea. Too bad it doesn’t extend south of downtown. Then, without leaving home, you could see the utter and complete destruction of Abercorn Street somewhere along the curve south of the post office and the car dealerships and you wouldn’t have to weep in your car. Remember Abercorn, where there used to be a large swatch of trees, perfect for those sunny hot summer days when you were stuck in your vehicle? The shade made driving quite pleasant. I think they left six trees. Lots of sky.
This is a friendly city. This is an easy city. But it’s not a city that thinks beyond the immediate. We’d rather get a C than work for the A. We’re cautious. We’ve forgotten about the relationship between human beings and nature (and bees). We like our tourists better than our residents or trees (or bees). Ask anyone who lives downtown. He or she will tell you and will ask at what point does the tail wag the dog?
News flash: No city can ever provide enough parking spaces or parking meters or highways. So why not go radical and make downtown a walking city, a biking city, a special bus city? Short of that, why not get rid of all the parking meters and turn the meter maids and maidens into street ambassadors? Post office? Over there. Liberty street? To your left. Visitors will remember that.
Will we be like Berlin, a city that vows to become car-free within 20 years? Doubtful. Will we limit the number of downtown properties that can be rented out to short-term vacationers at the expense of residents? Don’t hold your breath.
Maybe it doesn’t matter that most of the things we like about this city have nothing to do with what goes on in City Hall. Even with the vacuum at the top we seem to be doing pretty well, but think what could happen if more people with real intentions, real heart, real ideas decided to run for office. A person can dream.