AS A HANDFUL of you may know, there is a mayoral and alderman–at–large runoff election this Tuesday, Dec. 6.
Given that the general election Nov. 8 only garnered a thirty percent turnout of eligible voters — a group which itself is a subset of about half the total population of Chatham County — I suspect turnout for the runoff will range from embarrassingly low to catastrophically abysmal.
Nonetheless, despite the almost certain debilitating citywide apathy, it’s an important event and deserves some attention here.
I’ve always resisted making formal endorsements at this newspaper for three main reasons:
1) We believe our readers can and should come to their own independent conclusions.
2) Newspaper endorsements rarely sway voters; in fact sometimes they have an opposite effect.
3) Newspaper endorsements generally make newspaper people look either like self–important fools or spineless brown–nosers. (A good example of the former is the Savannah Morning News punting and refusing to make a mayoral endorsement when there were six candidates to choose from and their readers could actually have used a little guidance. A good example of the latter is the Savannah Morning News’ subsequent endorsement of frontrunner Edna Jackson this past weekend.)
That said, there’s a place for good old-fashioned analysis, and here’s my take on what’s going on.
Your choice for mayor boils down to two:
Edna Jackson is a former Savannah State administrator who has served three terms on City Council and has the support of outgoing mayor Otis Johnson and the vast bulk of the usual local establishment characters, from the NAACP to the Chamber of Commerce to the Savannah Morning News.
Jeff Felser is an attorney who has served two terms on City Council. He is running an energetic underdog campaign focusing on younger voters and those disenchanted with the Johnson/Jackson axis of power.
I haven’t agreed with everything he’s said and done, but generally I’ve found Felser to be quite well–informed and a careful student of most issues.
While Jackson is the obvious heir apparent to Otis Johnson’s legacy of nominally progressive social activism, her methodology thankfully seems less confrontational.
I must say I haven’t found Jackson to be as well–informed on particular issues as she could and should be. But I do believe she is a classy Southern lady of the old school and a genuinely nice person — as opposed to someone who is good at pretending to be nice when it suits them.
The choice is yours, but in all candor your chance to choose real change came and went a month ago.
For example, both Jackson and Felser support harbor deepening and the proposed new T–SPLOST tax 100 percent.
(For those keeping count, another penny tax here would mean just under ten cents on the dollar, a sales tax burden higher than New York City. We’ll have a lot more on the T–SPLOST issue in coming months.)
And they both have been front–and–center in some form or fashion to most every questionable thing this City Council has done over the past eight years.
But as I said to both candidates when I moderated a recent transportation issues debate between the two — sponsored by the Savannah Bicycle Campaign, the League of Women Voters, and the Savannah Green Building Council — it’s a testament to the skill, tenacity, and overall appeal of Felser and Jackson that they made it to the runoff.
The winner will continue to be tested, as the crowded initial field and incredibly low election turnout hardly point to anything resembling a real mandate.
The alderman–at–large runoff the same day is between Tom Bordeaux and Clinton Young. Bordeaux is well–known to many from his nearly 20-year tenure in the Georgia legislature, where the Democrat made waves as a supporter of consumer rights in one of the most consumer–unfriendly states in the union.
Bordeaux is in fact so well–known that many local Republicans are going out of their way this election season to remind voters of their utter and apparently unquenchable personal hatred of him.
This is ironic given that it was during Bordeaux’s tenure that Republicans such as Savannah’s Eric Johnson annihilated all traces of Democratic dominance in the Georgia legislature, rendering Bordeaux, for all his supposed evil-genius villainy, completely irrelevant in state politics.
(Google “Eric Johnson” + “legislative hawks” to learn more.)
Any middling sophomore psychology student could quickly see that Republicans’ continued demonization of the vanquished Bordeaux probably constitutes what’s known in the field as “projection.” But I digress.
I confess I know very little about Bordeaux’s opponent Clinton Young other than the fact that he seems to be well–regarded and personally well–liked.
Not much analysis there, eh? Sorry, there were a lot of candidates this year!
Whoever wins will help run a Savannah facing serious questions of fiscal management, both long–term and short–term.
These challenges include potentially disastrous pension fund shortfalls, meeting the cost of moving the surfacewater intake after harbor deepening fouls yet another portion of the Savannah River watershed, a state unemployment rate consistently above the national average, and of course what to do with Savannah River Landing, considering we’re still paying for it and all.
Here’s hoping that voter apathy doesn’t make our future any more difficult than it already is likely to be.