So Tuesday they met, they feuded (occasionally), they made notable decisions, they raised their voices (a few, not all) and they adjourned. More often than not, that’s what happens when members of the Anniston City Council share a room

Volume mixed with substance, time-wasting bluster shrouding the worthwhile.  

But don’t kid yourself. 

Anniston doesn’t hold the patent for this stuff.

This week, the mayor in Spanish Fort, Mike McMillan, turned himself in to authorities after he was charged with slapping a female city staffer, and the incoming council in Talladega participated in a “team bonding” outing in hopes of squelching reprises of that body’s seemingly constant squabbles.

Last month, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled against Selma Mayor Darrio Melton, who had borrowed a tactic from Anniston Councilman Ben Little — he sued the City Council because he believed he, and not the council, had appointing authority over department heads. 

Down in Alex City, two men got into a fistfight three years ago at a City Council meeting. One was Charles Shaw, the mayor. The other was Tony Goss, a councilman. They huffed. They puffed. Shaw slugged Goss. Shaw — and his wife! — was arrested. (The mayor was found guilty of third-degree assault; his wife was acquitted.)

The year before, a scuffle between Birmingham Mayor William Bell and Councilman Marcus Lundy sent both men to the hospital with scratches and sore feelings.

See? It’s everywhere — mayors fighting councilmen, councils bickering amongst themselves, mayors suing councils, mayors breaking the law, hubris and emotion gumming up the political process like sludge in a sewer line. 

Yet in Anniston, political theatrics are listed as a main motivator for a shadowy nonprofit, Forward 4 All, which believes separating the city’s well-to-do eastern neighborhoods from the rest is the best option for all involved, or so its spokesman says.

Truth be told, if Tuesday’s embarrassing affair at the Anniston City Meeting Center wasn’t a hand-delivered victory for deannexation proponents, it at least was fuel for their self-serving argument.

 Routine, it was. Little bloviated over colleagues. Councilman Jay Jenkins seemed noticeably frustrated, more so than usual. Little and David Reddick, the council’s two black members, accused Mayor Jack Draper, Jenkins and Councilwoman Millie Harris of punishing them by voting in stricter limits on council travel money. 

The white members did that, Little said, “because we’re black and because we represent black people … They don’t want to see poor people grow.”

“This is just evil,” Reddick said. 

A hand-delivered victory, indeed.

“I don’t know if it’s embarrassing,” Draper said Wednesday afternoon, “but I do know it hurts the city and the perception of the city. It certainly hurts the city in terms of economic development.”

Ah, yes, perception. If Anniston can’t divorce itself from failed marriages with the Army and environmental pollution, it also can’t outrun the notion that City Hall is a steaming pile of dysfunction — council members emboldened by the city’s racial demographics and the worst traits of ward politics.

The truth is that the council made sound decisions Tuesday night, led by taking back more than $562,000 in federal funds originally given to the Anniston Housing Authority. The housing authority was in danger of losing the money because of a looming federal deadline to spend it on current projects.

But to get there, the council had to wade through that steaming pile and listen to Little and Reddick accuse the white council members — again — of political racism.

And, yes, “it’s preposterous (to say) that the three white council members don’t want the other parts of the city to thrive,” Draper said. “As far as defending the city, that’s just wrong. It makes me question if they want the city of Anniston to thrive.”

At least there were no fistfights.

Earlier this week, I noticed that Anniston’s Grace Episcopal Church had posted a prayer for the city on its Facebook page. It read:

“Almighty God our heavenly Father, send down upon those who hold office in the city of Anniston, the spirit of wisdom, charity, and justice; that with steadfast purpose they may faithfully serve in their offices to promote the well-being of all people; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. #prayers#community#anniston

But, still. Don’t kid yourself. 

Anniston doesn’t hold the patent for this stuff.

 

Email: ptutor@annistonstar.com

Phillip Tutor — ptutor@annistonstar.com — is a Star columnist. Follow him at Twitter.com/PTutor_Star.

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