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Challenge 2015: Clinton Young, Alderman at Large Post 2

CLINTON YOUNG has run for local office a few times before, most recently in the runoff against Tom Bordeaux for the seat Young is now running for.

The Savannah native is one of the few candidates in the race who has seen the City’s most serious problems up close and personal, at the street level, and he speaks very candidly about that.

Am I correct in saying that this election maybe the first time we’re seeing local African American voters seriously dissatisfied with African American elected leaders here?

Somewhat. A lot of what you’re seeing is not just here, it’s nationally as well as locally. What we’re looking at is 50-plus years of the Civil Rights Movement and its disappointments.

We’ve had some major successes, but overall as a people, the African American community, too many of our black men are in prison. Too many of our children are labeled as having a behavioral disorder or in Special Ed. Too many blacks are unemployed.

Too many black women are raising children in a single parent home by themselves, for the third, fourth, fifth generation.

The Civil Rights Movement has failed a people. 400 years in this country, and you see the result of 400 years of oppression and the last 50-plus years of the Civil Rights Movement that was supposed to be the grand inclusion of the great American dream.

The leaders took for themselves out of the Civil Rights Movement and left just trinkets. A lot of our leadership took it for self-interest.

MLK Boulevard used to be the black business mecca of Savannah. Now the only black-owned presence there is black churches, in one of the most crime-ridden areas of the City.

We have over 500 churches in this City! If these 500 churches did half their job, our poverty rate would be down in single digits instead of 28 percent.

You are one of the success stories from that side of town. You made it out of the projects and are now running for City Council.

I came up out of poverty. I grew up off MLK when it was still called West Broad Street, in Frazier Homes.

I’ve seen a lot in my lifetime. I buried a brother. That could have very easily been him burying me.

I just went to a funeral Saturday morning with some friends of mine who buried their only son. That was the young man, Frank Wilson Jr., who got gunned down in the square the previous Sunday morning. His momma and daddy’s only son.

Frank Sr. and I grew up in the church together. I was youth minister and Frank was a musician. He and his wife have been married 38 years and they just buried their only boy. It was a very powerful and emotional service I went to.

Crime is the issue of this campaign. How do you stand on ways to fight it?

We stress community policing. But you cannot do an effective job policing as a community with a ratio of 600 cops when we need a budget for 700. You need an effective ratio.

We have to identify what are the real cancers from the criminal element. You have today a third generation drug dealer.

It’s not just marijuana dealers anymore. It’s a full blown crack epidemic at its height and pinnacle, coupled with the resurgence of LSD and meth and black heroin and mixtures of all these drugs.

Think what these drugs put on the soul of an individual. It puts them in the ranks of the living dead. Walking zombies. The worst crimes are between 1-6 am when these folks are out there on this stuff.

Specifically how might you want to address that?

We have problematic areas that have been under siege for over 30 years. The Ogeechee/Florence/Burroughs corridor has been a known drug area for over 30 years. Your multiple shootings are usually around that area. Waters Avenue, Augusta Avenue, those are also major league drug boroughs.

We need to light these areas up. We need to get the cameras rolling. You’ve got to evaluate the activity of these folks before they strike.

When I ran in ‘07 I was pushing prime time time foot patrol, to take back the streets. And that’s the back door into a curfew—these children can’t and shouldn’t be faced with these evils that are out there today.

It’s 10 o’clock, do you know where your children are? I’m from that generation. I remember that.

Parental responsibility is at an all-time low. It’s actually the fulfillment of a prophecy, which is, just before a nation falls there are telltale signs: Children shall be the oppressors.

I screamed in ‘07 and again in ‘11, why can you take $110 million to build a jail but you didn’t go into each district in the county and build a million-dollar community center with a small operating budget, and upgrade existing centers?

And then with the lack of officers, you take the voice out of Silent Witness. People won’t say anything, because they know they have no help. An understaffed police department is prime pickings for third generation drug dealers.

They take the product to a strange car. They know which ones are the strange cars they usually don’t see. So it goes from a transaction to a robbery. This is where the shootings are coming from. And then these guys in the cars are shooting back.

If we’re very serious we will merge forces and powers of the City of Savannah and Chatham County together and handle this 28 percent poverty. It can no longer just be about the pride of who’s in charge.

Conventional wisdom is that black leaders in the City don’t want consolidation because it would dilute their power, and white people in the County don’t want it because they want to stay separate from City residents. But you’re saying openly you are for City/County consolidation?

Consolidation is the only way to fix this, man! Consolidation is how you fix this. You need the joint efforts of the governments.

The balm that will heal us will be the combined efforts of City and County government merging and addressing these cancers on the community. If you address it, then surely it be better tomorrow than it was yesterday.

If you’re truly about healing this city, then that’s what it’s gonna take. I’m just one man but I believe I can work past party lines, racial lines, and help bring this to pass.

And I tell you this: If we can bind city and county together you won’t be disappointed ever again by our neighboring state, which ranks last in education, winning out and getting those large employers.

Imagine if we had netted just two of those major companies, that 28 percent poverty would be single digits today. 1000 jobs is big financial game, because then you have the supporting businesses that go along with a Daimler Chrysler, with a Volvo, with a BMW.

Would you vote to keep City Manager Stephanie Cutter?

That seems to be the litmus question in this race, that and crime and consolidation.

Look, she came in at the 11th hour. She has been a good steward and very faithful to this administration.

The City Attorney and the Clerk of Council and the City Manager all work for the Council, and that boils down to the need to have a clearcut vision.

You use some very stark, almost Biblical language about right vs. wrong, good vs. evil. But so far you haven’t mentioned greed and the love of money.

Right, the cronyism and the nepotism, exactly. I think we should go to federal ethics law and use a version of the Hatch Reform Act of 1993. If we implemented a serious effort like that in local government that would help knock out a lot of this bipartisan participation in what is basically illegal activity.

You’re in a very crowded field. How do you try and stand out?

I believe my name recognition alone is worth at least 20-25 percent, and there will be a runoff, which I expect to make.

I’m not knocking Joe Steffen, but he can’t sell himself as the black man’s champion. And of course they’re selling Brian Foster as The Great White Hope.

I’ve run before as champion for the people, and now I’m calling the champion in you. The champion in the people. To fight the greatest war of our generation. The war on poverty and the war on crime. The war for our children’s generation.