City Alderman Tony Thomas was the target of last Wednesday’s censure by Savannah City Council for his atrocious behavior and his potty mouth, but the southside alderman who seemed unrepentant after the special meeting was not the biggest loser.
That distinction goes to 1st District Alderman Van Johnson who seemed to do everything in his power to sabotage a noble, good-faith effort by Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach to do what past mayors failed to do — enforce minimal standards of good behavior, dignity and decorum among elected City Council members.
Those standards include:
• Not calling females by the C-word, perhaps the foulest four-letter word in the English language.
• Not acting the fool in public after apparently over-indulging on alcoholic beverages, and then putting others in compromising positions.
• Respecting yourself, the city you serve and the constituents you took an oath to faithfully represent.
• Never stiffing the bartenders. Perhaps one of the most telling observations about Thomas came from Alderman Julian Miller. After Thomas tried to bait Miller last Wednesday through guilt by association and dragging him into this year’s Drunkathon on St. Patrick’s Day Scandal, Miller revealed that Thomas offered to buy Miller a drink at the DeSoto Hotel. But Thomas, in classless form, walked away without paying for the beverages, sticking Miller with the tab.
Johnson should have backed DeLoach 100 percent. Instead, he disappointingly showed open disdain for the mayor’s effort to bring class to an often classless bunch.
I used to believe that the most painful thing on television these days was Southern Charm Savannah. I’ve seen exactly one episode the whole way through. I can’t figure out which is worse: The idiots who agreed to appear on this deadly dull, so-called reality show, or the idiots who tune in to watch it. Viewers should have better things to do with their spare time, like watching paint dry or pulling out their fingernails with pliers.
But in a free country, you can excuse or ignore bad TV. This is Hollywood, which is known to make up all kinds of dreck to entertain the masses. So these morons are supposed to be products of Savannah Country Day School? Give me a break. With the possible exception of Nelson Lewis, the only remotely likeable character, the cretins on this show couldn’t get through Maggie’s Morning School.
And strip golf? Give me a double break. Without pockets, just where would you put your tees and ball markers? Putting bare naked bottoms on vinyl golf cart seats that have been exposed to the scorching Georgia sun would be like sitting on a pancake griddle.
But City Council is what passes for real life in the Free State of Chatham. When it comes to local politics, the televised sessions of City Council and County Commission are as real as it gets. Or real pathetic and scary. The last time I looked, the mayor and council plan to spend $189 million of taxpayer dollars this year. And Van Johnson, a stickler for the rules when Ruel Joyner ran against him in 2011, now argues for no standards and chooses to parse words with Eddie DeLoach and enable obnoxious behavior by elected officials like Tony Thomas.
What was Johnson’s problem? Maybe he had been playing strip golf that morning and was carrying around an extra golf tee.
Watching him yammer on and on about how “we all have bad days” and why the council “shouldn’t pile on” or set itself up as “the morality police” was nonsensical and painfully annoying. He was far more painful to endure than anything on Southern Charm Savannah. It was akin to having two hot pokers thrust through the eyeballs all the way to the back of the brain. The fact that Johnson’s blathering forced the council to water down what was already a weak censure resolution of Thomas added insult to injury. Unfortunately for Johnson’s political future, he picked the wrong battle and he exposed himself as incapable of being the sort of leader that most thinking Savannahians want and expect.
It was telling that the person in the room who seemed the most puzzled by what was happening was Thomas himself. He later told WSAV-TV reporter Andrew Davis that “I don’t know what I got censured for,” adding that to him, it was an “empty censure” that “doesn’t mean a thing.”
Maybe not to him. But to Van Johnson, the upshot from Wednesday’s meeting means plenty: He shot his own political ambitions in the foot, harming any dream he might have of being mayor of this city one day. His obstinance made Mayor DeLoach, who had the courage to bring this much-needed and long-overdue censure motion forward, look like Winston Churchill. Alderwoman Carol Bell, who made the motion to approve the censure and rightly condemned any slurs based on a person’s sex, race or religion, saw her political stock soar. Her epic eye rolls at some of Tony the Terrible’s ridiculous comments spoke for the masses and were worth a million bucks in future political ads.
Tom Barton is the editorial page editor of the Savannah Morning News. firstname.lastname@example.org