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Bill Dawers

City Talk appears every Tuesday and Sunday - Email me. Send mail to 10 East 32nd St., Savannah, Ga. 31401.

CITY TALK: Streetscape plans could impact downtown Savannah

In recent days, we’ve heard some important updates about long-discussed projects that will alter the streetscape of greater downtown Savannah.

It’s curious that all this news has come to the fore immediately after the Dec. 1 runoff, but it’s unlikely earlier discussion of the changes would have impacted the final outcomes in the races for mayor, alderman at-large and second district alderman.

CITY TALK: CAT scandal spotlights lack of transparency

After reading last week about the federal indictment of the Chatham Area Transit executive director and maintenance director for mail fraud and extortion, I went to http://www.catchacat.org to look at recent financial information.

CITY TALK: Impressive turnout boosts challengers in Savannah runoff

In last Sunday’s City Talk, I pitched the notion of encouraging more citizens to vote in Savannah elections by switching to the same calendar used for national and countywide elections.

As we discovered last Tuesday, there’s another way to drive turnout in Savannah.

CITY TALK: Holiday events set for Wright Square, design district

The first week of December brings us two traditional holiday events that highlight locally owned small businesses in the Historic District: the Downtown Design District’s Holiday Walk and the Wright Square Merchants’ Holiday Open House.

Savannah Morning News file photo

CITY TALK: How can we get more Savannah residents to vote?

Of course, there are many reasons why some folks can’t or don’t vote. Thousands of college students and members of the military have moved here relatively recently and aren’t really connected to local politics. Some adults have lost their voting rights, while others have embraced cynicism.

But is the low turnout simply about cynicism or lack of connection to the city? Are there ways to get more residents to vote?

CITY TALK: Employment remains strong with runoff election looming

According to data released in recent days, the Savannah area economy remains generally strong.

That’s important news as we head toward the Dec. 1 runoff election in the city of Savannah for mayor, an alderman at-large seat and first district alderman.

CITY TALK: Does Savannah need two arenas?

An advisory committee recently recommended to Savannah city officials that the current arena at the Civic Center remain in use even after a new state-of-the-art $100 million dollar arena is built less than a mile away.

CITY TALK: Election returns reflect changing demographics

The shifting political winds and changes in neighborhood demographics can be seen in the votes cast at two key polling places: Bull Street Baptist Church and Williams Court Apartments.

Meldrim Row Apartments before demolition

CITY TALK: Checking out the dinner menu at the Collins Quarter

The Collins Quarter, which opened in summer 2014, has transformed the intersection of Oglethorpe Avenue and Bull Street. With its expansive windows, welcoming lighting and sidewalk tables, The Collins Quarter enlivens that stretch of Bull Street throughout the day, but the effect is especially felt at night.

CITY TALK: Lucky's Market revitalizes key stretch of Abercorn

When I finally made my first trip to Lucky’s Market, the new store at 5501 Abercorn St. was humming with activity.

That’s not surprising for a brand new store, but this was on Sunday evening, with blustery winds and rain that made it feel a lot colder than it really was.

The tag line on the Lucky’s Market website is “Organic for the 99%” and the store certainly offers all sorts of organic options.

CITY TALK: Crunching numbers from last week's Savannah city election

The runoff between DeLoach and Jackson could follow a similar pattern to the runoff between Otis Johnson and Pete Liakakis in 2003. White candidates picked up a majority of the vote in the general election, and Liakakis appeared to be headed for victory in the runoff.

CITY TALK: Local jobs growth may be moderating

September data released recently by the Georgia Department of Labor showed continued job growth in the metro Savannah area, which includes Chatham, Bryan and Effingham counties.

CITY TALK: The cultural arts center as a metaphor for city dysfunction

The city has posted a page of information responding to a straw man question: “Is the City making progress on the Cultural Arts Center?” That’s kind of like asking, “Am I getting older?”

This rendering of the city’s proposed cultural arts center shows the entrance from Montgomery Street. The building gained design approval from the Savannah Historic District Board of Review

CITY TALK: Police merger collapse long time coming

The city’s negotiating position worsened throughout 2015, as crime increased, police staffing remained problematic and the city’s list of unfinished business grew longer and longer. Curiously, Savannah’s elected and appointed officials never seemed to fully appreciate just how precarious the police merger had become. And now here we are.

CITY TALK: Why should we care about Savannah's poverty rate?

“Your figures are wrong,” Jackson told DeLoach. “Before the recession, the poverty rate in Savannah had dropped tremendously to about 17 percent, but because of the recession, poverty levels have gone back up. And I admit it is too high.”

Obviously, such a sharp disagreement warrants a closer look at the poverty estimates, as well as consideration of the policy ramifications.

So what do the numbers say?

CITY TALK: New push to fix Tybee road in wake of tragedy

As many of you already know, there was another tragedy on the road to Tybee. I didn’t know Susan Allen Bartoletti, but obviously extend my condolences to her family and friends.

Bartoletti passed away last Thursday night after a wreck on the Bull River Bridge, which has seen its share of tragedies in recent years.

CITY TALK: Taking the pulse of the downtown Savannah restaurant scene

The restaurant business is notoriously difficult, but we’re seeing a restaurant renaissance in Savannah right now as savvy entrepreneurs, talented chefs and other industry professionals join forces.

photo by Bill Dawers

CITY TALK: City launches web page to fight bad info

Last week, the city of Savannah launched Just the FAQs, “a new web feature to help answer pressing questions the public may have about decisions the city has made, or services it offers.”

CITY TALK: Is consolidation of Savannah, Chatham County on the way? Is it a good idea?

At the forum sponsored by the Jaycees last week, Savannah’s mayoral candidates were asked whether they favor a consolidated city-county government. It’s a topic that seems to be coming up more and more in public discussions

CITY TALK: Continued jobs growth predicted for Savannah

The Savannah metro area (Chatham, Effingham and Bryan counties) had 2.3 percent payroll employment growth between August 2014 and August 2015. That’s considerably faster than the rate of population growth.

The manufacturing sector added an estimated 700 jobs in the Savannah area over the past year, as did retail trade. The category of transportation, warehousing and utilities added 500 jobs.