Oh, it’s often easy to fall into the habit of expecting lukewarm results from some members of this frequently dysfunctional group of elected leaders. Their track record is hard to ignore.
Yet, a refreshing sign emerged briefly last Saturday thanks to Councilman Herbert Palmore, who represents Ward 2. Not only did Palmore hold a small ward meeting at the Anniston Meeting Center, he offered civic advice that residents from each of the city’s four wards should heed.
Let councilmen know your concerns. Send e-mails, make phone calls, attend council meetings.
In other words, get involved.
That’s sound counsel, regardless of who delivers it.
Granted, Anniston’s council meetings often descend into the theater of the absurd, thanks in large part to the recurring, infantile banter between Mayor Gene Robinson and Councilman Ben Little. That’s a distraction residents shouldn’t have to endure when they take the time to attend gatherings that many people would consider a waste of their time.
Nevertheless, Palmore’s advice is spot-on right. A city benefits when residents are engaged in the local government. And government is more effective when councilmen and mayors are known to residents through more than a newspaper’s pages or a radio station’s airwaves.
To that end, here’s a suggestion to Anniston’s council:
It’s time for the council to steal Palmore’s plan to have semi-regular ward meetings and put it to greater use. If it’s good for one councilman, it should be good for all. Plus, heaven knows that this city and its elected officials could use an influx of good vibes.
Every three months, each Anniston councilman — Mayor Gene Robinson, too — should hold a ward meeting that’s scheduled well in advance and publicized on the city’s website. Don’t weasel out of the commitment. Let respectful residents have an open mike to ask questions and gain a first-hand view of who represents them.
Let the meetings be friendly to any relevant topic — from crime and schools to sales-tax increases and retail growth. Anything that affects the city is fair game. Set a date and time limit — an hour’s a good starting point — and stick to them.
No one said street-level democracy isn’t a contact sport. Some of these councilmen might not enjoy getting an earful from a resident whose dander is up. Palmore likely heard a bit of that last Saturday from those who asked him about his vote against Robinson’s proposal for a 1-cent sales-tax increase that would have helped, among other things, Anniston’s schools.
Still, Palmore’s advice shouldn’t go to waste. It might not make for great theater, but it could make for good government.