He’s trapped in a five-ring circus, and there’s no way out. No back door to run through, no fire escape to shimmy down to safety. He needs a lifeline and can’t find one. Lord, what agony.
He’s stuck in a morass of civic disgrace — a council that’s rewriting Webster’s definition of dysfunction, and a council-led inquiry that, best I can tell, is accomplishing three things: (a.) ticking off everyone in an Anniston Police uniform; (b.) allowing a few councilmen to think their crowns are indeed shinier than everyone else’s; and (c.) making Anniston’s City Hall seem as efficient as the government the White House set up in Kabul.
He’s guilty by association, fair or not. As a council member, he’s often painted with the same brush used on his Gurnee Avenue colleagues.
Though all on this council share blame for Anniston’s recent travails, at least Dawson seems to be trying to deliver an ounce of decorum and civility. He hugged Councilman Herbert Palmore during a recent meeting; at least Palmore chuckled. He’s tried to get the other councilmen to end this foolish, destructive inquiry, and Palmore’s at least listened, but his attempts have fallen largely on disinterested ears.
I have no idea if he’s an effective councilman — heck, he’s even my councilman and I’m unsure; if anything, he seems to be in the council’s background, overshadowed by the bluster of others, his efforts too quiet for too long. Mayor Gene Robinson often implores the council to work as a team, but his frayed relationships with the councilmen derail that plea as soon as it’s uttered.
Dawson, meanwhile, is finally pounding the drum about governing professionally and eschewing the turbulence of this summer: inquiry boycotts, unfortunate language in the chambers, the appearance of personal vendettas, quashed subpoenas, accusations of corruption in everything from the Calhoun County Courthouse to the fire department.
Yet, the picture of Dawson earlier this week in The Star was telling: Head in hands during a meeting; hope he was resting and not in disgust.
After the last few months, and after listening to council bickering and conspiracy theorists, I fear someone will say even the city-paid guys who cut the grass in Quintard Avenue’s median are on the take. How much do they get paid to manicure that green?
You know, just the stuff Annistonians want from their elected leaders.
This week, someone reminded me of a passage from author Ray Bradbury’s 1949 work, Dandelion Wine, that seems oddly appropriate when discussing what often seems like a lone voice of occasional sanity at City Hall.
Bradbury wrote, “Each person was to himself one alone. One oneness, a unit in a society, but always afraid, always alone. If I should scream, if I should call for help, would anyone hear … would it even matter?”
Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
Of course, the councilman got himself into this mess. He didn’t have to run for public office; he could have remained free from this fray. Instead, lo and behold, he defeated fellow challenger Marcus Dunn for the open Ward 4 seat in 2008 and was drafted into this unfortunate scenario.
If I were him, I’d wish I’d lost that election.
He didn’t. And today, this city needs voices of reason now more than ever.
Dawson has sought an end to this inquiry. He’s been rebuffed, effectively ignored in most cases. He shouldn’t be dismayed. Mimicking the Bradbury passage, no one of substance may hear him, no one may think his objections matter, but he should scream his message if necessary, he should call for help. The worst option would be to lower the volume.
Dawson has tried occasionally to calm the council storm, soothe relationships and get the train of progress moving. We’ve seen how well that’s worked. But that’s no reason to quit now. Keep going. Keep pushing. Like Churchill, keep urging calm and the need to carry on. Remember what he said earlier this week, that the council is always “on the front page of the paper airing dirty laundry …” and that it was hurting the city in myriad ways.
Anyone who loves Anniston — or at least wants it to prosper for Calhoun County’s sake — is feeling that pain.
I can’t imagine being on this council, trapped among the chaos. That’s why it’s good to hear voices of reason when they emerge. Maybe someone one day will hear those calls for help.
Phillip Tutor — firstname.lastname@example.org — is The Star’s commentary editor.