By Brian Myers | Illustration by Jenn Carroll
ROSHIDA Edwards entered the Post 1 race with the hope that she would be able to bridge the generation gap between the older Savannah citizens that serve as leaders and the youth of the community that many times feel that they don’t have relatable elders to include them in the future growth of the city.
To her own admission in her interview with the Savannahian, Edwards has no political experience. But she points out that she has something more valuable than perennial candidacy or incumbency: As a small business owner and a seasoned youth mentor, Edwards brings what she calls “Savannah experience” to the table.
“This city has taken a major turn. The At-large position is one that should represent future movement,” the 39-year Savannah resident said. “I’m one of the two youngest candidates on the ballot. My age should be looked at as a leveraging tool between seniors and the youth. My age plays such an important role in letting youth see someone that’s relatable. This is especially important when it comes to crime reduction.”
Additionally, Edwards feels that her “Savannah experience” will help her bridge the gap between elected leaders and the public that they serve. She vows to “restore trust in local government through transparency and honesty. Let the people see the focus is on them,” she stated before continuing that “our citizens have no trust in local government.”
Like many who are vying for office this election cycle, Edwards is putting the housing issue on the forefront. “It's an issue that has begun to spiral out of control. We’re short 9,000 units. We’re making baby steps, but we’re not doing anything to make a huge dent.”
Edwards does more than just point out this glaring problem that is impacting potential homeowners and renters alike. For her part, she is suggesting helpful solutions to remedy the situation at hand. “I’m a supporter of adding affordable housing to the SPLOST,” she outlined. Some of these funds could reasonably be allocated to assist with housing, reducing the growing amount of unit deficits the city of Savannah is experiencing.
Edwards believes in open communication and transparency, and wants a collaborative relationship between elected officials and residents. But this collaboration also includes entities and institutions. For Edwards, this means getting the City to the table with leaders from SCAD.
“We have to be able to sit down with SCAD and have a realistic conversation. We’re thankful for what the school has done. But they utilize resources.” Edwards maintained that she is supportive of a PILOT program being implemented with SCAD, as the growing student and faculty population are resulting in “services being stretched.”
“Residents are getting upset because they pay for these services and have to share them” with a school that pays relatively zero in property taxes.
The interview gravitated toward the rise in rental prices in Savannah, and what steps the next Council should be taking to alleviate the burden on the citizens. According to Edwards, “Everything comes down to true conversations. We need to admit that we have an issue. Anything and everything we can do about housing costs, we should be doing. We need to apply a bit of pressure to the state, if necessary. Citizens are moving away and still working here because they cannot afford it.” If this trend continues, the exodus of generational Savannahians will lead to what she fears will be “the city losing part of its identity.”
Edwards is one candidate that was not in favor of keeping the millage rate the same. In her viewpoint, the rate should have been lowered for several reasons. “Our residents can’t handle it,” she said. “And we (current Council) don’t have a clear plan on how we prioritize.” Edwards mentioned that though the current Council voted to use the excess millage rate proceeds to address needed infrastructure issues related to flooding, without a transparent plan on how the areas are prioritized, she couldn’t support it.
The candidate stated that if she is elected and property values continue to increase, she would be strongly in support of reducing the millage rate.
Edwards also stressed the importance of increasing the City’s revenues without raising taxes. One tactic she believes would be effective is to ensure that the City is implementing and adhering to all policies that would make the municipality eligible for as much federal funding as possible.
Regarding recent decisions by the current Council to ignore recommendations made by the Historic Savannah Foundation, Edwards urges some caution. “I get a little worried when we talk about going against the historic preservation board.”
Edwards vowed to keep the current policy of decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana possession, but didn’t have a hard stance of how the City should handle governing the drug if it’s made recreationally legal in the state of Georgia. Rather than jump into making policy on it when/if that happens, Edwards wants to look at how other cities have handled it, and go from there.
Edwards aims to make Savannah a better place for its people, promising to make transparency and inclusion a top priority. But she also wants a system of local government that doesn’t put up hurdle after hurdle for small business owners, either. Citing her own frustrations with red tape that delayed and frustrated her own business ventures, Edwards began to further see the need for her voice to be heard so that these same experiences wouldn’t become a reality for others.
As her campaign motto promises, “Let’s Shake Things Up!” is a mantra that her position, if elected, will surely be known for.
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