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City Talk: Changing our city requires much more than cops

Like so many others in the community, I was proud to have Scott Waldrup as a friend.

You have probably already read many tributes to Scott, who was just 30 when he became an innocent victim in last week’s senseless violence in the City Market area. Witnesses report that his final act was to push others out of harm’s way.

Scott had recently become general manager of The Grey and development director for Savannah Pride. In the coming years, he would have been asked to assume all sorts of other leadership and service roles in the community.

Scott’s friends and family will honor his life and legacy in largely private ways, but his death has fueled a growing movement for broader change in the community. As The Grey founding partner Johno Morisano said at a beautiful memorial gathering last week, we need to change the city’s narrative.

What is the current Savannah narrative? Long stretches of complacency mixed with fits of unsustained urgency. A city of beauty and promise that is plagued by needless deaths almost every week. Deep divisions by race and class. Too many lives and futures lost to violence.

We aren’t going to solve these problems quickly or easily, but if we are serious about changing the narrative, we need all hands on deck.

Dozens of members of the downtown bar and restaurant community have been galvanized by Scott’s death. That community needs to have a permanent seat at the table for any discussions about public safety in the heart of downtown.

Of course, the issues extend well beyond downtown. There are many laudable efforts already underway, but we need to work harder to convince boys and young men to reject violence.

And if it’s all hands on deck, then many people and organizations need to play a more active role in that effort – parents, friends, the school system, the police, the courts, churches, nonprofits, the business community, city officials, and so forth and so on.

We aren’t going to find just one solution to the longstanding plague of violence in Savannah. The problem isn’t something that can be illustrated in a quick PowerPoint or solved in a Facebook post.

Many people, including many young adults across the city, have been deeply affected by last week’s violence. Many folks are ready to do more, whatever that entails.

I think the biggest danger right now is that Savannah will lapse again into the complacency and resignation that seems built into the city’s character.

We need to take advantage of this moment.

City Talk appears every Sunday and Tuesday. Bill Dawers can be reached via billdawers@comcast.net. Send mail to 10 E. 32nd St., Savannah, Ga. 31401.

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