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City Talk

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

CITY TALK: Draft of alcohol ordinance a good read

Savannah city officials recently released yet another draft of the proposed alcohol ordinance rewrite. Before reading my take on the new ordinance, you might want to check it out for yourself. The latest version has the same key concepts and provisions that were in the summer 2015 draft, but the language has been streamlined. It appears about one-third of the words were trimmed from the previous draft.

CITY TALK: Trends to watch for the rest of 2016

With so much news at the beginning of the year, I neglected to devote a column to some of the bigger questions facing Savannah in 2016. So here it is, a little late.

We are all wondering if the new mayor and aldermen will impact the direction of the city, but the first concern is obviously about crime.

What will happen to crime trends in 2016? Will new strategies and better police staffing lead to measurable declines?

CITY TALK: Employment strong in metro area in 2015

In late January, the Georgia Department of Labor released the employment estimates for December, which means we now have a snapshot of the local and statewide labor markets for all of 2015. According to the estimates for payroll employment, the Savannah metro area (Chatham, Effingham and Bryan counties) had 168,300 jobs in December 2014. That number rose 4.1 percent to 175,200 in December 2015.

 

CITY TALK: More angst over the impending destruction of the Johnny Harris restaurant

The recent angst about the fate of Johnny Harris Restaurant got me thinking about some other interesting uses, reuses and demolitions of commercial properties in recent years.

CITY TALK: Delayed ordinances have symbolic power

As Eric Curl reported last week in his article “Savannah employees await delayed pay increases,” the city of Savannah is planning salary adjustments for approximately 1,600 employees.

The process has been ongoing since fall of 2014, but it can’t move ahead until the city manager’s office forwards crucial information about pay levels to a consultant.

CITY TALK: Savannah Taphouse brings 'upscale sports bar atmosphere' to Broughton Street

When you walk into the new Savannah Taphouse for the first time, you’ll probably be as surprised as I was by the dramatic makeover of the space at 125 East Broughton St.

Well before my time in Savannah, the building was the lobby of the Avon Theater. Moviegoers entered under the marquee on Broughton Street but had to pass through the lane to get to the actual theater.

CITY TALK: Last week's transportation plan leaves out local priorities

Transportation spending is one of the most frustrating, most boring and most important issues I’ve been following for the last 15 years. You can go ahead and yell at me about it, but I’m still glad I supported the doomed TSPLOST in 2012. 

CITY TALK: 39 Rue de Jean hits the ground running

The opening of 39 Rue de Jean, the latest venture by Charleston-based Holy City Hospitality, was delayed for so long that I occasionally forgot the French restaurant was even coming to Savannah.

But 39 Rue de Jean finally opened in November, and a friend and I finally made a visit for dinner. We found both the food and service stellar.

CITY TALK: Solid process needed in search for city manager

So Savannah is about to do something with which we don’t have much experience.

We are about to launch a search for a new city manager.

CITY TALK: Looking back with nostalgia, ahead with optimism

I don’t have any data to back up what I’m about to say, but it seems like Savannah has a disproportionate number of really old businesses. I’m talking about businesses that are still doing pretty much the same thing they were doing generations ago, often by members of the same families that founded them.

CITY TALK: Jepson Center worth a visit for art, food

On Sunday afternoon, a steady stream of visitors flowed through the Telfair Museums’ Jepson Center for the Arts.

Most of the visitors seemed to be tourists — the city was crawling with them through the holidays — and most were headed for the Jepson’s major exhibition “Monet and American Impressionism.”

CITY TALK: Proposed alcohol ordinance rewrite faces new Savannah City Council

The city of Savannah’s proposed rewrite of the alcohol ordinance was back in the news last week. It’s one of the pieces of unfinished business that the new mayor and council will have to consider in 2016.

The proposed ordinance has many moving parts, and I can’t possibly look at all the issues in a single column.

CITY TALK: Learning lessons from New Orleans

I spent most of Christmas week in New Orleans. I didn’t hear a single siren.
 
In fact, I didn’t even see a police officer or cruiser over the course of five days. 
 
New Orleans is a high-crime city like Savannah, and you can certainly find ugly pockets of violence.

CITY TALK: Numbers tell story of crime, jobs

City Talk turned 15 years old recently. I’m 51. Freaky, right?

I’ve written about many topics over the years, and I’ve cited all sorts of numbers and statistics in this space. I’m rarely shocked by the data that comes across my desk.

But I never imagined that crime would spike as much as it did in 2015.

CITY TALK: Proposed Forsyth bike ban will hurt police efforts

“Why are we building an arena when crime is out of control?”

“Who cares about a Cultural Arts Center when so many people are getting shot?”

A lot of my friends asked questions like these in recent months. I think the answer is pretty easy.

CITY TALK: Emergent Savannah takes stock of past, considers future

Last Monday evening, The Sentient Bean was packed for Emergent Savannah’s exploration of “Savannahness.”

Founded about a year ago, Emergent Savannah describes itself as “a collaboration of local activists who believe that Savannah is capable of evolving into a more intentional community.”

CITY TALK: Shootings in Savannah's Ellis Square problem for whole city

I was in Ellis Square at 1:45 a.m. on Saturday. I had just left The Jinx on West Congress Street after the release show for the new record by the local rock band Niche.

It was especially quiet for a balmy Friday night in the City Market area.

As I learned the next morning, trouble was brewing nearby.

Police Chief Joseph Lumpkin has pledged to help stop rising crime in Savannah. He said ending the city’s increasing violence will require a collaborative effort between residents and police.

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.