REAL studied six issue areas that determine the quality of life in every community. Each committee was charged with developing an analysis of core problems of the City of Savannah and to recommend effective and feasible policy alternatives to the status quo. Jump to the highlights of the six reports by clicking the links below. You can view the full report here.
The theme of the report is “Our Criminal Justice System Criminalizes Black People.” Recommendations include:
- Adopt a City and County Cash Bail Ordinance.
- Create a Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee.
- Create, Enhance and Expand Community-Based Detention, Sentencing, and Re-entry Programs.
- Implement Implicit Racial Bias Accountability Mechanisms.
- Create a Standardized Data Collection System.
- Create a Commission to Address Racial Disparity in Juvenile Justice.
Economic Empowerment and Development
The emphasis of the report is on
(1) Income Mobility for African American, Single Head of Households/Childhood Poverty.(2) Wealth Building and Increasing African American Owned Businesses. The committee wants to document the differences between the White and Black economic experience in the greater Savannah Area.
- Identify and allocate funding for the creation of substantial bridging capital across the existing social safety net for families falling off the benefits cliff.
- Using a Housing Voucher program to assist in moving families out of low-wealth communities.
- Incentivizing Social Capital that includes elevated peer networks, coaching, and support cohorts.
- Develop alternative methods for accessing benefits such as community-based group care with a portable health benefit product.
- Develop and Incentivize asset building programs.
- Increase transportation routes from highest impoverished zip codes into logistics and manufacturing areas of the county.
- Collaborate with local community leaders at the city and county level to establish a data-driven systems change and policy agenda that supports the economic mobility of Savannah families.
- Collaborate with local workforce development programs and colleges to increase and incentivize post-secondary opportunities and
- employment pathways with stackable credentials and education as a means for economic mobility.
- Decrease or eliminate zoning restrictions that make home-based business less accessible. The removal of licensure barriers not only
- unlocks employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for the poor in low-skill occupations but also lowers prices in service driven economies.
- Increase Quality daycare providers and access to daycare.
- Focus equity investments in neighborhoods that are community-driven and supported such as co-ops.
- Develop and Implement a network of early learning centers.
- Partner with local business leaders to support and advocate for livable wages within the city limit > $12.32 per hour.
- Increase affordable housing availability.
- Increase funding for and expand access to existing effective programs.
- Appoint a City Staff member whose primary role is to ensure the growth and acceleration of African American owned Businesses. This individual will assure the following action plan:
- Develop and implement a business accelerator and incubation model for African American owned entrepreneurs and business owners.
- Use dedicated programing from the entrepreneurial center and SCORE, create a 12-week curriculum that culminates with micro-lending and grants to seed and support African American businesses.
- Identify key areas of industries and opportunities through gap analysis and scale programing to meet this demand.
- Provide a means test and performance score of existing programs aimed at Minority Business Enterprise growth to determine program efficacy and effectiveness annually. Address all gaps.
- Integrate Minority Business Enterprise expansion into all aspects of the City’s economy.
- Participate in negotiations with enforcement authority to ensure equitable distribution of business and contracts.
- Collaborate with Savannah Economic Development Authority to develop a program that incentivizes African American business involvement to include, but not limited to:
- Purchasing and business programing that target minority-owned business and procurement.
- Participate in a city-wide racial equity program.
- Incentivize minority leadership in key roles and training programs. Incentivize second chance hiring.
The emphasis of the Education Committee was:
- Education is a right.
- Education is a social contract with a community.
- Education is a determinant of socioeconomic well-being and health of a community.
The Committee focused on the research which showed that third grade reading scores are a key predictor for school success. Using a racial equity framework, a focus was placed on the learning pathway of Black children spanning birth through the first year of post-secondary education.
Education recommendations include:
- The formation of four (4) working groups to organize the following topics in the focal learning pathway:
- Early Childhood and School Readiness: Family Learning 0-3, Preschool and Pre-K programs.
- Academic Success and Instructional Effectiveness: Academic Success Measures, Instruction (curricular materials, culturally relevant learning, bias), Teacher Preparation and Training.
- Out-of-School Learning: Afterschool and Summer Learning.
- School Success: Parent-School Partnerships, Discipline Policies, and Technology.
Focused on relevant topic areas, each working group will continue the data-driven inquiry process to identify racial inequities and the underlying causes. They will research and catalog national and local research, examples, and best practices. Additionally, working group members will collaborate to document the current operations and policy landscape for their topics with consideration of availability, access, quality, relevance, participation, and impact.
In keeping with the evolution of the greater environmental justice movement, the committee applied this holistic paradigm to their analysis. In other words, they seek strategies that:
- Affect change at a policy level.
- Reduce single, multiple, and cumulative risks.
- Improve public health for the most vulnerable populations.
- Enhance public participation in decision making.
- Promote community engagement and empowerment.
- Build infrastructure for healthy and sustainable communities.
- Employ innovative public and private partnerships.
The committee chose to focus on three areas of inequity that impact communities of color in Savannah:
- Air pollution
- Lead exposure and
- Energy inefficiency
Committee’s recommendations are:
- Conduct a full study conducted by the City of Savannah, followed by developing a cross-sector air pollution action plan with the local industrial sector and the Board of Education.
- Distribute air monitors, humidifiers, and air purifiers to families in affected areas of the city through community health workers.
- In-service training on identifying respiratory conditions to medical and school staff.
- Partner with the local food bank to provide food that reduces asthma to affected families.
- Establish a Childhood Asthma Registry.
- Implement state guidelines of one lead test at 20 micrograms per deciliter.
- Emphasize lead hazard reduction techniques over total abatement per HUD recommendations through the City’s code enforcement.
- Integrate the new standard of checking for lead hazards in pre-1978 rental properties to allow lead hazard reduction techniques to be used with yearly monitoring of the property into code compliance.
- Develop a residential weatherization program that prioritizes the highest energy burdened households.
- Develop a program to help residents convert to using energy efficient HVAC, lighting, appliances, roofing, etc., prioritizing households with the highest energy burden. n Develop a public warning, communication, and backup energy system to continue operation of critical infrastructure for residents with the highest energy burden.
- Integrate maternal, infant, and mental health into existing City of Savannah initiatives addressing climate change and energy efficiency. n Implement a policy that assists energy efficiency improvements and other weatherization updates on the homes of vulnerable households.
- Increase access to perinatal health and mental health care, with targeted resources to children, families, caregivers, and pregnant and postpartum people living in climate-affected areas of Savannah.
- Integrate a heat vulnerability index in the City of Savannah’s emergency management system to protect vulnerable residents against extreme heat.
- Expand the City of Savannah’s community mental health infrastructure to provide outreach, training, and services to residents in need.
The Health Committee focused on the problem of “Food Apartheid" in Savannah. In Chatham County, specifically Savannah, certain communities are faced with a lack of healthy food options including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and quality, lean meat. Until recently, these communities have been referred to as “Food Deserts”. To broaden the understanding of the realities that exist in many low-wealth communities of color, many activists and community organizers now use the term “Food Apartheid”. In Savannah, communities most impacted by food apartheid are low-wealth Black neighborhoods on the east and west sides of Savannah, specifically in census tracks within the 31404 and 31415 zip codes.
- Evaluate the viability of Savannah opening supermarkets sustained by the local community (co-op) or a non-profit organization.
- Incorporate food placement strategies in food retail stores to improve dietary related behaviors.
- Increase the availability of healthy food in existing corner stores.
- Expand of the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) incentives for fresh produce.
- Create initiatives focused on reducing the price of healthy food in existing stores.
Housing affordability is already a top priority for the City of Savannah, so Mayor Van R. Johnson formed a Housing Savannah Task Force separate from the REAL Task Force, to develop strategies for improving access to affordable housing. Thus, the housing committee on the REAL Task Force was charged with identifying points of racial disparity within the city’s affordability crisis.
- Build cooperation with Chatham County Commission to expand the City of Savannah ordinance to be applied countywide.
- Adoption of state legislation by Savannah City Council, to include all properties, including owner occupied properties.
- Create an accountability measure for landlord refusal to rent to families with children.
- Implement racial equity metrics across all City of Savannah divisions by executive order because the data tracking system should be commensurate and centralized across all departments to have maximum impact and efficiency.
- Establish a data-sharing agreement with Housing Authority of Savannah (HAS) and local housing nonprofits to build a culture that values the practice of tracking data on race.
- Although HAS does not have the ability to scale up its Housing Choice homeownership program, its potential for converting larger numbers of low-income residents into homeowners is compelling. It is a strong recommendation that Housing Choice ownership be studied further to determine the feasibility of the City of Savannah replicating it in partnership with a local community development corporations.
- The homeownership program currently for public housing residents can and need to be expanded in partnership with the City of Savannah. This expansion would only cost approximately $100,000 annually to cover personnel expenses, as the program uses a case management model.
- The committee believes that residents must be the primary beneficiaries of a housing services one-stop shop. Whether it’s brick-and mortar or virtual, it must be able to assist both potential homeowners and home developers. A strong local example of an in-person social support one-stop shop is St. Joseph’s African American Health Information & Resource Center.
- City of Savannah Department of Planning, Zoning and Urban Design would conduct a case study that includes a cost-benefit analysis of providing density bonuses in the areas that are gentrifying rapidly and that can absorb more residential density with little opposition or impact on infrastructure.