Savannah candidates debate crime, education

Two of the three election candidates for the Savannah constituency tackled questions about crime, education and immigration at a forum last week hosted by the Chamber of Commerce.

Independent Kent McTaggart and Progressives candidate and former Bodden Town MLA Heather Bodden fielded questions Thursday evening from the Chamber of Commerce organizers. A third candidate, former Progressives MLA, now independent, Anthony Eden did not appear.

In addressing the topic of crime on island, Mr. McTaggart called for the use of drones.

He told a nearly empty hall that putting money into crime prevention was “unfortunate” because it drew funds away from more constructive programs like education.

“We must use drones because they deal with it [crime] in a rapid manner, and if stationed in each constituency, they can track multiple suspects, he said.

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“Then they can notify police to close in”  and arrest suspects in a single action, he said.

Ms. Bodden pointed out that armed robbery is “a cause of concern.”

“We need to take a tough stance,” she said. “We need to take guns and gangs head on and we need to increase the number of officers.”

Local police, she said, serve a fast-expanding Bodden Town, North Side and East End, although recent additions to the force have made patrols more effective.

She decried the use of helicopters, however, saying they made the district “look like we have a lot of crime.” She called for creation of neighborhood watch organizations.

Other questions touched on education, employment and responses to questions regarding work permits.

“We have a lot of laws, but little enforcement,” Mr. McTaggart said, asking that those responsible for enforcement be held accountable.”

Ms. Bodden said overseas advertising for local positions should name the companies soliciting employees, and echoed the call for better enforcement.

Solutions for management of traffic congestion include the extension of the East-West Arterial to Frank Sound, Ms. Bodden said.

Asked about domestic violence, she pointed out that when she was previously an MLA, she had established a safe house for battered women and children.

Reiterating calls for a sex-offender registry, Mr. McTaggart said domestic violence can’t be resolved in a short period of time, averring “the old ‘toss ‘em in jail and let ‘em rot” is “not realistic,” but still recommending “extremely harsh prison sentences.”

He called on schools to closely observe at-risk children because “that’s where the problems” are most readily identified, and “we can force action to get assistance and counseling to parents.”

Both candidates agreed the family unit is “under attack.” Mr. McTaggart recommended maternity leave for both parents and “mechanisms to increase the quality of life,” although he recognized “there is not a single fix.”

Ms. Bodden criticized children for “running out of hand,” refusing parental discipline – and parents for lax attention. “It’s not like when I was young and we were looked after by the community, by grandparents, teachers and churches.”

Answering a series of audience questions submitted ahead of time, Mr. McTaggart, a 25-year veteran of the construction industry, said he hoped to gain appointment as Minister of Planning, Lands and Works. Calling for change, he said planning officials are “a stymie to development,” often “taking 12 months or 18 months” to grant building permits. “It’s very frustrating to developers and they often end up leaving.” He also called for term limits for MLAs.

Mortgage rates are also an obstacle to development, he said. “You can’t have 35-year and 40-year mortgages on starter homes,” because they discourage aspirational buyers.

Ms. Bodden said it “hadn’t crossed my mind” to seek a ministerial appointment, saying her 24 years of community service were her strength: “It’s what I’m good at, going into people’s homes, being accessible, listening to them air their issues, giving them a voice, being their ears and eyes.

“I just want to continue, and if I’m in the LA, I’ll just take [that] to a higher level,” she said.

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