By Brian Myers | Illustration by Jenn Carroll
AS A candidate for the Post 1 At-Large seat, Curtis Singleton brings decades of policymaking and legislative insider experience to the forefront of this November’s election.
Singleton has been involved in politics since his high school years, working with elected leaders on all levels of government. He served as a White House intern under the Carter Administration while in college before attending the University of Georgia to earn his J.D. Singleton spent many years working as a policy analyst under State Senator Zell Miller, helping to round off his extensive political resume.
“Policy is my hard background,” the candidate told the Savannahian in a recent interview. He believes that his experience in working across the political aisle in the state legislature will enhance his abilities as a city leader if he’s elected to the Post 1 position in November.
Singleton currently serves as president of the Savannah Mediation Center. As a professional mediator, the candidate also brings this skill set to an election that some argue a mediator would best serve the local legislative institution, particularly among an elected body that always seems to be publicly at odds with one another.
The public bickering that some members of the current Council have been criticized for engaging in is one of the dynamics that Singleton believes he can help change if he is elected. When asked about the various challenges the newly elected Council will face, Singleton responded with many of the same answers in the same vein as other candidates. Addressing the shortage of public safety officers, instituting more effective community involvement with policing, and the importance of infrastructure keeping up with a growing population were all acknowledged by Singleton as issues that are both important and resonate with citizens who are preparing to cast their ballots.
But Singleton’s viewpoint goes beyond just the issues that a Council faces. To him, a primary concern that he feels needs to be addressed is the governing body’s unity.
“The function of any government is to provide peace, protection, and public service,” Singleton stated. “We have got to work to represent our city in a more positive way. As an experienced peacebuilder, that’s a personal goal. Our city has a reputation for hospitality, welcoming visitors with open arms. Our Council should reflect that.”
Singleton further pointed out that infighting, especially when it’s done in full view of the public, is no way to get policy generated. “We shouldn’t have a breakdown in communication because of a disagreement,” he insists.
In his interview, Singleton is also adamant that all communities are represented by the Council, and that maintaining Savannah as we know it depends on that concept. “We are at risk of losing our identity,” says Singleton, impressing the importance of the various communities within the city being heard.
Singleton is strongly in favor of growing the partnership between elected leaders and SCAD. He referenced a recent New York Times article that analyzed the relationship between the city of New York and the storied educational institutions Columbian University and NYU. “Essentially, SCAD is an institutional investor. How we handle that relationship going forward should be a public/private partnership coming together. A major institutional investor like SCAD can have impacts on everything from the roadways to the housing market,” he points out, before stressing the importance of looking into PILOT programs that SCAD could possibly be incentivized to participate in.
Rising housing costs have been a recent concern among voters in Savannah, an issue that Singleton candidly addressed. He discussed the importance of the city’s Housing Trust Fund, and how the monies under its control could be leveraged to purchase affordable rental housing, if the right candidates were elected. Singleton is also in favor of public/private partnerships that would lead to more affordable housing for police, fire, and healthcare workers. “Purchasing homes that can be used for subsidized rentals will help these employees move into Savannah instead of living in neighboring counties.”
The tourism industry was another topic that Singleton gave his insight on, stressing the importance of new development on Hutchinson Island. “The convention center is the single largest effort to leverage what Savannah represents. Once it’s complete, it will compete with large venues in other cities.”
When it comes to Savannah being a draw for tourists, Singleton quips that “Savannah is at the top of the heap,” being well known for its hospitality, cuisine, architecture, history, and other attributes. “We’re also at 6% less cost of living than the national average.”
But for Singleton, the growing level of tourism needs to seek a balance with the identities that various communities have forged in Savannah for generations. While insisting that growth and progress are great things, he wants this balance to be struck so that “communities do not get marginalized in the process.”
This viewpoint circles back to how much Singleton values making a seat at the table for everyone, so that no one person or one community is overlooked or left behind.
The candidate also feels strongly about protecting the historic architecture that makes Savannah unique, as well as helping to draw in visitors every year. Referring to the historic preservation as “part of the city’s identity,” he vows to work to preserve this asset if elected.
Singleton also weighed in on the future of recreational marijuana becoming a reality in the state of Georgia. With so many political insiders insisting that it’s only a question of when, and not if, recreational marijuana makes its way to the state, Singleton wants to ensure that proper safeguards are in place to keep the drug out of the hands of minors.
When asked if the City should continue its policy of decriminalization for possession of small amounts of marijuana, Singleton answered that he’s strongly in favor. Pointing out that possession charges result in many youth offenders being thrust into a justice system that is hard to escape from, Singleton wants to make sure that local government pushes strongly for education instead of possession arrests.
Singleton conveyed that he is a strong believer in elected officials engaging members of the community more. From his vantage point as a career mediator, outreach and collaboration are proven ways to maintain a community’s identity while still being able to forage ahead with progress.
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