As most readers of this blog probably know, a 5-4 majority on the Chatham County Commission voted last Friday to end talks with the City of Savannah regarding the decade-old police merger and instructed County Manager Lee Smith to reconstitute the county’s police force for the unincorporated areas.
The commission voted many months ago to dissolve the merger, which was widely seen as a negotiating ploy, and it seems like city leaders never took the threat of dissolution seriously. Meanwhile, city officials spun their wheels and grandstanded. In my City Talk column today, I recounted a little bit of the history of the city’s dithering and the seeming unawareness that public opinion had turned so strongly against the city in the ongoing disputes.
So watch this “emergency” meeting of City Council that was called last Friday. The city attorney at first seems confused about what the County Commission decided, the city manager has basically nothing to say, the mayor grandstands even more (often in garbled sentences), and the council approves a motion that made essentially no sense under the circumstances.
This is ugly stuff:
There’s talk of still salvaging the merger. For that to happen, the city only needs to get one commissioner to change votes, but I don’t think that’s going to happen without the city making some sort of serious concession — a concession they could have made many months ago — and immediately committing to an extended agreement.
UPDATE: As has been rumored, it looks like Commission Chairman Al Scott will veto Friday’s motion. The County code allows the chairman to veto ordinances and resolutions — but is a simple motion the legal equivalent of a resolution? Georgia’s Attorney General will likely be asked to rule on the issue.
BACK TO ORIGINAL POST:
I’ve written often about the city’s freqent inability to finalize important things — on property sales, on construction, on ordinance updates (food trucks, alcohol, animals, etc.), on the police merger, on the contracts with firefighters, etc.
There are some very nice people who serve on City Council and who are in the upper echelons of the the city’s paid staff, but the existing bureaucracy is often insular, arrogant, and incompetent. I don’t know whether voters will embrace sweeping change in next week’s election. If they don’t, and if the same team remains in charge, we should expect increasing dysfunction as all these delays build upon each other. It’s a grim prospect.