Thoughts on the denial of Ruel Joyner’s candidacy for Savannah City Council

I’ve been inside Ruel Joyner’s apartment on the second floor of 24e. Earlier this year, I interviewed him in his capacity as Downtown Business Association president; we met downstairs in the store, took the elevator up to the second level, and went inside the apartment. I didn’t know it was there, but it was, and obviously has been for a long time.

So I was a little shocked to read this morning that the very existence of that apartment was called into question and cited by Clerk of Council Dyanne Reese as one of the reasons to deny Joyner’s claim of city residency and thus disqualify him from running for the 1st district seat on Savannah’s City Council.

From today’s Savannah Morning News:

Reese wrote that Joyner provided nothing to substantiate they live in the apartment, nor any documentation to prove there is an apartment. There are no separate water or utility bills for an apartment, nor did Joyner produce any cable bills, phone bills or other documentation, including the number of rooms or square footage it has.

So if she doubted its very existence, why couldn’t Reese have sent someone over to ask to see the apartment? When I was president of the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home and managing a residential apartment on the ground floor, two — count ’em, two — city officials went to inspect it when our tenant tried to get a residential parking permit from Parking Services. If the city bureaucracy can harass a resident like that (she had ample documentation of her residence there as well as a letter from me as her landlord), surely they can send someone to a building in the midst of downtown to see if there’s an apartment there.

And as for phone bills and cable bills, is the Clerk of Council (should the Clerk of Council even be supervising elections when she works with the incumbents routinely?) aware that the times they have a-changed?

I haven’t had a home phone in about seven years. I could tell T-Mobile I lived anywhere and manage my account entirely online. Phones are no longer tied to places as much as people.

And if I had a business like 24e, which obviously has its own internet connections and other utilities, would I establish separate accounts for all my bills for my own residence on the premises?

I don’t know how much time Joyner and his family actually spend in that apartment, and I don’t know if he in fact meets clear legal standards for residency, but the inclusion of such spurious arguments in the ruling is more than disappointing. He met the requirements to get onto the ballot in the first place, and he will be appealing the ruling in court. Let’s hope the ruling will be clearly based in the law.

I’m a resident of the 1st district, and I’d welcome Joyner to the race even if there are some gray areas legally in terms of residency. His family has owned a building on Broughton Street for many years, he runs a successful business there, and he has proven himself deeply concerned about Savannah’s future.

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