Anniston has its share. Most are well known, and a good many are on the city’s southern and western sides. That said, I live on the other side of 10th Street Mountain, which people tout as being safe as Fort Knox, but, well, it has warts, too. Go down to Gurnee Avenue and check out the Anniston Police reports. Stuff happens everywhere — maybe not as often, or to the worst degree, but it’s there. Utopias are hard to find.
Oxford is Oxford, which is neither a slam nor a commendation. Among its suburban bliss and retail Meccas are areas people often avoid, too. Leon Smith can’t control everything.
We can keep going.
Jacksonville? Not perfect.
Ohatchee? It’s not, either.
Weaver? Same thing.
Out in the county? Yep.
On and on.
Inherently, towns are communities of people, and people are diverse and independent. We’re not robots. Forget race, forget income, forget education, forget all the stuff that separates us on Census reports. Bottom line: There are good people, there are wise people, there are people who choose wrong paths, regardless of the reasons. Money, schooling and career success don’t ensure morality or, frankly, a vaccination against dumb decisions. Idiots come in all variations. I’m not going to quote comedian Ron White, but you get the picture.
As long as cities are comprised of people, cities will have neighborhoods where stuff happens. (And, yes, “stuff” is a convenient euphemism for crime and illegal drug sales and gunplay. It’s a dull, simple word, but in this case, it works.) And peaceful people of all makes and models would prefer not to live in neighborhoods where stuff happens as often as it rains, or more so.
Rocky Hollow is an interesting case. The initiative to clean up its streets isn’t being led by politicians or police. It’s not something The Star or the Chamber of Commerce cooked up. It’s residents who have tired of hearing handguns fired at night. It’s residents who’d rather the police not have to turn their street corners into the county’s version of Cops. It’s residents who’d rather not live next door to those who sell dope or show their manliness by shooting a gun at someone who’s crossed them.
The story in last Sunday’s Star about this initiative left you with a distinct and optimistic feeling. This just might work.
Me? Not so sure.
Anniston Police can’t patrol Rocky Hollow like prison guards working a cellblock. Land-wise, thanks to McClellan’s acreage, Anniston isn’t tiny. It takes lots of uniformed officers to blanket the town, and, as most people know, it’s been too long since APD’s staff was full. Extra patrols help; they can kick-start rejuvenation.
But in the end, the same forces that cause a neighborhood to wither are the same forces that must be reversed. Property owners have to speak out; squeaky wheels are hard to silence. Landlords must set standards: No “stuff” at their rentals. Councilmen can wield influence, though they’re not as powerful as some believe. (This isn’t a challenge, but I wonder how residents would react if Mayor-elect Vaughn Stewart and Ward 1 Councilman Jay Jenkins took regular walks along Rocky Hollow, knocking on doors, meeting residents, showing their interest in this grassroots initiative.)
Fate and time play a role. It’s not mountain-moving; recovery is possible. But all those factors must happen, together, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
If pieces are missing, the operation fails.
Even if it’s a long shot, a revived Rocky Hollow would do wonders for Anniston. Don’t miss the timing, either. A new mayor and a new council take over in November. The assumption is the days of elected buffoonery will end. What a signal it would send if the next incarnation of Anniston included political competence and a burgeoning success story of neighborhood reclamation and crime reduction.
Short version: Anniston could be a model of doing things right.
Phillip Tutor — email@example.com — is The Star’s commentary editor. Follow him at Twitter.com/PTutor_Star.