Category Archives: Politics

Nov. 14 mayoral candidate forum will focus on transportation and sustainability

Savannah mayoral candidates Edna Jackson and Jeff Felser will field questions about their positions on transportation and sustainability issues Monday, Nov. 14 at 6:30 p.m. Hosted by the Savannah Bicycle Campaign, US Green Building Council-Savannah Branch and League of Women Voters, the forum will be held at the Coastal Georgia Center, 305 Fahm St.  The forum will start at 6:30 p.m., following a brief reception, and will be moderated by Jim Morekis, editor-in-chief of Connect Savannah.

“As we choose our next mayor, it’s more important than ever to ensure that Savannah grows into the future and grows wisely,” said Mark Fitzpatrick, Chair of the US Green Building Council-Savannah Branch. “Through this forum, candidates can express their vision for how Savannah can be a leader by demonstrating responsible stewardship of our environment while incorporating innovative strategies as part of that solution.”

“We’ve seen a tremendous increase in the use of bicycles for transportation in the community. The City of Savannah government has been a positive influence in that growth, and we hope this forum allows candidates the chance to address how they will help continue this trend and also make transit and pedestrian options more viable,” said Drew Wade, Chairman of the Savannah Bicycle Campaign. “Several long-term transportation planning efforts are reaching the point where those decisions become a critical part of the community we live with for the next several decades; we need to make the right decisions.”

The event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Frank McIntosh at 912-272-1074 or frank@bicyclecampaign.org.

Sept. 27 forum will probe aldermanic candidates’ positions on sustainability

A forum for Savannah’s at-large aldermanic candidates is scheduled for Sept. 27 from 6-8 p.m. at the Coastal Georgia Center. The event is organized by the Savannah Bicycle Campaign and The Savannah Branch of the U.S. Green Building Council. Details from the Savannah Bicycle Campaign:

Alderman At-Large candidates will gather to field questions regarding their positions on transportation and sustainability issues. The forum is free and open to the public, will be moderated by Orlando Montoya, news producer with Georgia Public Broadcasting in Savannah, and Jim Morekis, editor-in-chief of Connect Savannah. Candidates will answer formal questions delivered by the moderators during the program before taking questions from the audience and from the media.

More information is available here.

Lawmakers propose disastrous, job-killing, backwards-looking transportation plan

In a July 5 article called “How the Great Reset has Already Changed America,” for the Atlantic, Richard Florida describes how our elected leaders are lagging behind and even moving in directions that suggest a disconnection from our current reality. He writes, “… our political and business leaders continue to look backwards, wasting precious time and resources on futile attempts to resuscitate the same dysfunctional system of banks, sprawl, and inefficient and energy-wasting ways of life that brought about the crisis in the first place.”

It’s hard to imagine a better example of backwards-looking ideas than House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica’s proposed transportation reauthorization bill, which he announced yesterday. It will eliminate dedicated federal funding for bicycling and walking. Mica apparently deems spending in these areas to be “not in the federal interest.” Meanwhile Sen. James Inhofe, the lead Republican negotiator on the transportation bill in the Senate, has stated one of his top three priorities is to eliminate “frivolous spending” on bicycle facilities, according to the League of American Bicyclists.

These merciless cuts are not aimed at reducing the deficit, reviving the economy, creating jobs, improving transportation choices or serving the American people.

It’s clear they did not.

 

Would oil off our coast cause us to change our ways?

oilspillstoppedIn the early days of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, some local media reported the Gulf Coast’s loss could be the Atlantic Coast’s gain, in the form of tourists reconfiguring their summer vacation destinations. These stories usually included mandatory expressions of sympathy for the region dealing with the environmental catastrophe. Still, the disaster was down there. The major consequence for us would be more difficulty finding space to plant our chairs and umbrellas on the more crowded beaches of Tybee Island, right? Interviews were conducted just to make sure we were in the clear. But now the story may be changing. Yesterday, the New York Times’ Dot Earth blog published a horrifying animation that illustrates where the oil might eventually go if the damaged well continues to flow.

Oil AnimationWill the realization that it could come here lead to any action besides the emotionally satisfying, but ultimately useless, railing against BP and the government that has been our only response to the spill? Will the possibility of oil slicks from Miami to Maine cause us to comprehend our role in this cataclysm? Will it help us to finally understand that it’s our unrelenting demand for cheap oil that made deep water drilling a viable business proposition? Will it prompt us to take a hard look at how we have built our communities and the way we choose to travel in our daily lives?

Here’s an excellent list of 10 ways cities and towns can kick the offshore-oil habit. How many of these are we doing locally? Aside from the wonderful expansion of on-street bicycle parking, spearheaded by Sean Brandon of the City of Savannah’s Parking and Mobility Services department, the sad answer is not much. In fact, some of the ideas mentioned in the list, including increased density and reduced automobile parking, are fighting words around here! Having been shown the consequences of our oil dependency via television coverage from the Gulf of Mexico, can we now talk seriously about our problems and begin to make responsible decisions about how to make our communities sustainable and livable? Or will it take oil drifting into Wassaw Sound to get our attention?

Police use car vs. pedestrian crash to counter critics, warn walkers

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I really didn’t want to write about this again, but it looks like the Savannah Chatham Metropolitan Police Department is casting a June 19 car vs. pedestrian crash as vindication of its unpopular crackdown on jaywalking, which was launched last month. With a headline that’s unusually snarky for a police department communication, “Still Think We’re Being too Strict?”, the press release reports the injury of a pedestrian who “was not in a crosswalk at the time of the incident” and promises, “once released from the hospital, the pedestrian will be cited for jaywalking.

I have no problem with traffic crashes being used as cautionary tales to educate the public. However, I’ve heard from some folks who think the police are using this as a “gotcha moment” to challenge criticism of the jaywalking crackdown.

And couldn’t this latest car vs. pedestrian crash just as easily be worked the opposite way? Instead of proving the need for a crackdown, couldn’t it just as easily be spun as evidence that the crackdown hasn’t worked? After all, the police department’s well-publicized and enthusiastically executed crackdown on pedestrians didn’t prevent this incident. In fact, the latest crash would seem offer evidence that citing pedestrians for even the slightest infraction does not generally improve public safety (which is the conclusion of every item of research on the topic I’ve been able to find). Does it also explain why law enforcement agencies that undertake similar enforcement campaigns eventually abandon them?

Please understand that I do not wish to vilify the police nor do I disagree with the enforcement of city ordinances. I imagine the police felt compelled to do something after a foreign dignitary was killed in a downtown crosswalk, generating international attention. Unfortunately, the response has burned through police staff hours, pedestrians’ wallets and public goodwill for the department.

Meanwhile, the opposition to the jaywalking crackdown has turned out to be a pretty big tent, attracting not only those who question the effectiveness of the practice and the potential damage done to the city’s reputation as a walkable destination, but also those who have used it as a base from which to attack parking enforcement, which is beneficial to pedestrians (and something we need more of, not less). Others see the crackdown as a conspiracy to boost city government revenues. Some even view it as a test case for advancing libertarian political ideologies.

Now into the fray, I’m afraid, comes a third group comprised of motorists, who think the pedestrian’s sole role is to stay out of the way — even in environments that were designed for pedestrians.  You might call it a “a gradual shifting in the balance of responsibility for safety onto the pedestrian” kicked into overdrive and it’s something Bill Dawers predicted some time ago:

“I fear that this recent high-profile campaign targeting pedestrians only reinforced many drivers’ misplaced sense of entitlement on downtown streets.”

When enforcement efforts are aimed almost exclusively at people on foot, it conveys the idea that pedestrians belong at the bottom of the urban mobility food chain. I detect many people are responding to this as references to “idiot pedestrians” and similarly derogatory terms seem to be on the uptick in both online and in-person conversations locally.

All this has distracted attention from the questions we really ought to be asking as a community: What are the best practice models for reducing injuries and deaths and how can we implement them here? Here’s hoping we can take a deep breath, develop sensible strategies for addressing the problem and support the police and other agencies as they work to make Savannah’s streets safer.

Illustration from “Jaywalking and the Invention of the Motor Age Street,” by Peter Norton.