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Best of Savannah voting is open
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With another stellar edition of the Savannah Music Festival comfortably in the books, we at Connect Savannah turn our attention to the next huge item on our calendar, our annual Best of     Savannah readers poll.

Plenty of imitators have sprung up over the years, but our reader poll remains by far the most fun and comprehensive in town. This year we’ve spruced up the category list, adding many new ones and tweaking some old ones.

The days of print ballots are long gone — to vote you’ll have to go to While a certain amount of campaigning is par for the course, we have ways of spotting ballot-stuffers, and we only accept ballots with a minimum of 25 categories filled out.

Voting ends midnight April 30, and the winners will be announced in the special issue hitting stands May 19. You know what to do!


On the afternoon of Good Friday — as good a time as any to drop big news and run for cover — the City announced that longtime City Manager Michael Brown was resigning to take an equivalent job in Arlington, Va. The news was hardly a shock to anyone plugged into the city rumor mill. Still, you can’t report rumors — or more correctly, you shouldn’t report rumors — so we were all stuck waiting for the inevitable announcement.

The departure could not come at a more sensitive time. Brown’s able assistant manager, Chris Morrill, was long assumed to be his heir apparent, but the widely-respected Morrill left for a job on the other side of the Old Dominion in Roanoke only two months ago.

So we’re now looking at two major vacancies in two key positions. That could have been three had the City not named two-time interim police chief Willie C. Lovett as permanent official police chief just two days before Brown’s announcement. While that job, at least, is in good hands, it’s still a sensitive transition time.

On one hand, many of what Brown considers his signature achievements have already come to fruition: The Ellis Square renaissance, the Forsyth Fort makeover, Battlefield Park, three new memorials, Joe Tribble, Adams and Cuyler Parks... the list goes on and on.

On the other hand, it will take a steady hand — or two, actually — to make sure Savannah doesn’t lose this remarkable recent civic momentum, especially in the current grim revenue environment.

There’s one remaining senior manager left, Assistant City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney, and it remains to be seen if there will be political pressure to promote her from within, with or without a national job search. But even if she gets a nod, that still leaves one spot to fill.

The hiring decisions this City Council makes now will impact Savannah for years to come, for better or worse. There’s nothing wrong with giving your own Council representative a call to make your feelings known.

The 2010 Savannah Music Festival is now in the books, and while I continue to be amazed at how many locals still haven’t even heard of this world-class event, most shows I went to were very solidly attended. And needless to say, the quality of the performances was, as usual, sky-high.

While much credit indeed must go to Executive Director Rob Gibson for his extraordinary good taste in selecting the lineup, let’s not forget the contribution of Associate Director Daniel Hope, who quietly but consistently brings the best musicians in classical music to town for creative and often-daring concerts that always breathe new life into the genre.

Venues remain a minor challenge. While the Charles H. Morris Center has come into its own as a fun, great-sounding space, the Johnny Mercer Theatre’s wretched acoustics do the Festival’s fine acts a disservice.

And while I appreciate the frequent creative double bills — such as the stunning Festival finale of Bassekou Kouyate and Bill Frisell — each set often seems disappointingly short.

Two clear marketing tracks, each with their own built-in following, have emerged: High profile indie/college acts which bring a younger crowd; and “classic” Festival acts which bring an older audience. It will be interesting to see moving forward if this parallel audience development remains, or if some cross-over will eventually take place.

The Festival does an outstanding, largely unappreciated role in putting on free shows for local schoolchildren, so their youth outreach component is quite strong. But generally, when I take my pre-teen daughter to a ticketed Festival concert — as opposed to the free school shows — she is almost always the youngest person in the audience.

While I understand the need for an adult’s night out every now and then, it’s a shame more parents don’t see fit to expose their children to this level of world-class talent.

In any case, thanks again to Rob, Daniel, Ryan McMaken, Maria Lancaster, Lauren Grant, Jane Levy, Ricardo Ochoa, and everyone else on the staff and board of the Festival for helping making Savannah a better place to live.