On February 11, I attended the City of Savannah Town Hall Meeting: 2014 Year in Review, otherwise known as the mayor's State of the City address. I, along with many others, was roundly confused from start to fumbled finish: a town hall meeting is typically open to all and attendees generally present ideas, voice their opinions, and ask questions of public figures. However, at the conclusion of her address-- which the mayor read word for prepared word and with difficulty-- she called on Chief Lumpkin to say a few words, having received the biggest ovation in an otherwise poorly received presentation.
But when Lumpkin approached the podium, instead of addressing the crowd, he took the mayor aside and informed her that a protest was about to take place. Suddenly, a young black man dressed in a dark suit hoisted a child's coffin over his head and the mayor, calling everyone's attention to the display, attempted to explain it away as a reminder that too many children have died as a result of violence in Savannah. And at that point, Lumpkin retreated without making a statement, and the "town hall meeting" was shut down before anyone could present the first idea, voice a single concern, or ask a question of their city council.
I am here to tell you, fellow Savannahians, that the casket was not a prop for Edna's speech; it was a protest lodged by alderman candidate Detric Leggett, who intended to place the coffin at council's feet and ask, "Mayor Jackson, is this all you have to offer the children of Savannah?", in protest of her administration's abject failure to stem the tide of violence. But Leggett was not permitted to speak, nor anyone else, and the plug was pulled on the microphone just as soon as Van Johnson had completed a hasty benediction.
Meeting adjourned. Free speech denied.
Leggett wasn't the only protester that was turned away. The United Youth Leaders of Savannah showed up to demand an explanation why the recreation and leisure services throughout their community is substandard, unsafe and outdated. And Savannah Youth City Services wanted to challenge council's gift list of grants to churches for social programs that do not exist and the money unaccounted for.
There were a number of embarrassing gaffes in the mayor's address, chief among them was her admission that in 2014-- "a year of unprecedented turmoil in our police department...we addressed problems that had been ignored for decades." And, as whispered about the room in retort, Edna Jackson has been sitting on city council for going on sixteen years.
I fully expect that I have seen the very last of Edna Jackson's State of the City addresses tonight.
But that's up to you, the voter.