Gotta love those guys. They’re great.
They’re the Oakland Raiders of city government: some are loud, some are uncouth, some are obnoxious. They say what they think. Results be damned. They lead hard, they campaign hard, they back down from no one. They have bruises and scars and police reports to show for it.
They’re James Dean and John Wayne and George Patton and Johnny Cash rolled into one, men’s men who followers swoon over and adversaries beware. They don’t take kindly to those who question their motives. It’s their way or the highway; don’t get in their way or they’ll bulldoze right over you.
From their council-chamber chairs they seek the truth; they root out corruption, they uncover racism, they pinpoint the mistakes of others within city and county government. They are the keepers of the flame for what is right. Without them, where would Anniston be?
Others cities tremble with jealousy, and rightly so. They wish they could be like Anniston, where action rules the day.
Oxford has Interstate 20, and Oxford Exchange, and a yet-to-be-built Publix, and coffers dripping in revenue like honey leaking from a jar, but Oxford doesn’t have Anniston’s spunk. How interesting Oxford would be if Mayor Leon Smith would throw a few punches in the hallway or pin someone against the wall when they dared flash too much uppity attitude. Perhaps Anniston Mayor Gene Robinson, a former Navy man, could offer his Oxford counterpart a few tips. (Here’s one: Don’t lead with your chin, Mr. Mayor.)
And Jacksonville? It is, well, placid. Too much peace, too much quiet, too much harmony, not enough discord and disruption. Where’s the friction, man? Get with the program.
Only Weaver, home of feisty Mayor Garry Bearden, can give rollickin’ ol’ Anniston a run for its money in Calhoun County. Its government mimics some of Anniston’s best qualities: arguments, shouting matches, lawsuits, police reports and the like. Go get ’em, Garry! But Weaver, truth be told, is the minor leagues of dissension. It has ways to go before it joins Anniston in this elite class.
Some say Anniston’s City Hall is a train wreck, a civic embarrassment. Hooey. It’s the best thing going, a postcard for the modern-day Southern small town. No wishy-washy, consensus-building politicians here. Anniston’s men legislate with meaning, with conviction, with persistence. They sermonize every other Tuesday afternoon, voices booming. They’ll take on the Calhoun County Commission, or the McClellan Development Authority, or the Calhoun County Courthouse, or the Anniston Police Department, or the local newspaper.
How lucky Anniston is to have them.
Corruption? Illegal activities? Refusal to follow city policies? Demeaning Facebook posts? From their chambers these councilman are Anniston’s protectors, improving this city one inquiry hearing or one fistfight or one street-side press conference at a time.
Oh, and what a good first impression the council makes. One can imagine how attractive Anniston looks to out-of-state employers who may inquire about doing business here. Hop on the computer, as they surely do, and Google up the aptly named Model City.
They see a councilman accusing a police department of racism while it is mourning the loss of one of its own.
They see a councilman arrested and charged with assaulting the mayor.
They see that same councilman say the mayor hit him first.
They see councilmen with their attorneys on speed-dial: Sue, sue sue! Litigate, litigate, litigate! Take ’em to court! Take ’em to court! Take ’em to court!
They see Anniston in full bloom, its council the flower that beautifies the entire town.
They see a government that most people just don’t understand, that residents misinterpret as egomaniacal, as power-hungry, as divisive and detrimental. They see a City Hall given a bad rap just because the men’s men on the dais can be temperamental and combative. They see men who, if residents would just get out of their way, would take this city to the promised land.
Those misguided people are wrong, right?
Well … If Anniston endures this wretched mess, we’re going to have one whopper of a story to tell one day.
Phillip Tutor — firstname.lastname@example.org — is The Star’s commentary editor.