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Letters to the Editor
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Communities aren’t only about property values


Savannah is changing. On East Park Avenue the smell of fresh paint is redolent.  The neighborhood is coming up. 

Within a year of our moving here in October 2004, real estate prices climbed an easy $100,000 on the old colonials like ours. It took our breath away.

It was great to see the old houses renovated; sad to see our neighbors evicted, as house after house was remodeled to accommodate richer tenants.

The other day, I received a flyer addressed to “All Dixon Park Residents and Homeowners”— but as we read on we realize the “resident” part was gratuitous; they were talking to the homeowners.

It was headed “Urgent Notice” and warned of a “situation” that “has the potential to affect the neighborhood and your property value negatively.” The Savannah Home for Runaways (now known as Park Place Outreach) was seeking to move their facility for runaway teens to 512 & 514 Henry St. 

The flyer announced that a public hearing would be held on July 25 with the Zoning Board of Appeals.  I missed the meeting, so I called the signer of the flyer, W. John Mitchell, President of the “Dixon Park Neighborhood Improvement Assoc”, for an update. I was pleased to hear that the Appeals Board was unmoved and had refused to change the zoning to disallow the home’s relocation to Henry Street 

Mr. Mitchell believes ”runaway” is a bad word — to homeowners. He is sure that’s why the dreaded facility recently changed their name to Park Place Outreach — to hide their darker nature. He worries that locating the facility in our neighborhood “will create a ‘precedent” (bold and underline, his) “that allows future facilities of this type to move in too — perhaps next door to your property.”

And although they lost the first round, The Dixon Park Neighborhood “Improvement” Assoc. is fighting on to alter  the zoning to the extent that at least the residents of the facility wouldn‘t be allowed to hang out on their front porch — after all, he said, we don’t want to advertise the true nature of the facility.

When did a child running away from an unlivable situation become anathema to our neighborhood and its “property values”… and exactly what  kind of precedents do we want to establish for our community?

In our world these days, where materialism so predominates, barely an eyebrow is raised by the kind of talk we hear from Mr. Mitchell’s Association. My neighbors on East Park, in casual chat, seem to be as embarrassed as I am by the Neighborhood Improvement Assoc.’s stand.

If I haven’t made myself clear by now, please allow me:  I don’t want my neighborhood to shut out these kids, I don’t believe improved property values are the primary consideration in this case. If our neighborhood isn’t people-friendly and compassionate, it will become quite a different place to the one we moved into two years ago.  I don’t want that to happen.  

Eve Herbst


Aida is indeed hum-worthy


It’s very difficult to fairly judge the merits of a Broadway shows you’ve never seen or heard before based on a local production, as you did with your review of the recent Aida. I’ve seen only two that fully measured up to their Broadway counterparts and those were the SCAD productions of Evita and A Chorus Line.

I agree that both Jeanette Illidge as Aida and Warren Heilman’s musical direction were quite good. But we part company on everything else. Your take is that’s a good production of a poor show. Mine is the reverse of that.

Granted, Aida isn’t a Broadway classic, but it did win four Tony Awards. After its three-year run on Broadway, it toured successfully for two years. It definitely had a catchy Elton John score with clever, often humorous and lovely lyrics by Tim Rice.

“Written in the Stars” as a duet with Elton John and LeAnn Rimes was already a chart-topper and receiving constant airplay even before the show opened on Broadway.  Equally memorable songs include “Elaborate Lives,” “A Step too Far,” “Easy as Life,” “Strongest Suit” and “The Gods Love Nubia.” Elton John’s vision of Aida was an uneasy mix of comedy and tragedy, true, but a strong score it did have.

I first saw the show at its premiere at The Alliance Theatre in Atlanta in 1998. I left the theatre humming both “Strongest Suit” and “Elaborate Lives.”

I saw Aida twice on Broadway. Heather Headley’s performance as Aida and John’s score and Rice’s lyrics were always the show’s strong points. But it was also beautifully staged and moved like lightning, as opposed to the incredibly lethargic pace of the local production.

Two recordings of the score exist -- the traditional Broadway cast CD and a superior CD released pre-Broadway with the songs sung by talents such as Sting, James Taylor, Tina Turner, Shania Twain, Spice Girls, etc.

A listen to either CD, especially the latter, just might change your mind about Aida’s score.

Charles Sawyer