Planning for this vital road that will connect Interstate 20 in Oxford to U.S. 431 in Anniston began in earnest in the mid-1980s.
Ground was broken in October 2001.
Today, nine years after the project began, decades after its necessity became a well-known need, the first portion of the road is mere weeks away from opening. The infernal waiting is soon to be lessened.
Yet, the Anniston City Council this week selected the road’s official name — Veterans Memorial Parkway — in a slipshod, ill-planned, rushed process that says a great deal about these councilmen’s decision-making abilities. What it says isn’t kind.
What’s more, the council missed a grand opportunity to put McClellan — which the parkway will traverse — front and center in the naming process. The word “McClellan” deserves strong consideration in any name-that-road discussion, both for its military connotation and its use as a signpost for travelers. A McClellan Memorial Parkway could more adequately tell drivers where they’re headed and simultaneously honor veterans.
So, we ask: Can the council conduct a do-over? Can the process be reopened before signs are erected along the seven-plus mile road?
It’s important to say that honoring those who served at the former Fort McClellan is a noble effort. There’s no fault in that basic logic. Rightly, this area has grandiose plans for McClellan’s reuse as an economic engine for an entire region, but the legacy of the soldiers who trained and lived at the now-shuttered post can’t be erased, either.
At least the council didn’t name it after one of its own. Oxford, which in 2005 dubbed its sliver of the road Leon Smith Parkway, already went down that path.
What’s troubling about the council’s decision is the process in which it was conducted. In fact, was there a process? In the words of City Manager Don Hoyt, the answer is emphatic. “There was no protocol set up in terms of collecting names in any general way,” Hoyt said.
In other words, the council blew it. It set up no official process for residents to send in their suggestions. It conducted no choreographed campaign to name what may well supplant Quintard Avenue as the most important road in the city.
Facing a looming deadline for submitting the name to the state Department of Transportation, the council took what few suggestions it had, included its scant ideas, briefly discussed the options and gave the DOT something to put on the road signs.
That’s what happens when councilmen waste their time on misguided inquiries and personal agendas instead of conducting city business in an organized, professional manner.