Proposed deannexation map

A map being circulated in Anniston on Tuesday with the filename "annexation-area-revised-7-2-2019" appears to show an area that authors of a proposed bill want to have deannexed from the city of Anniston and drawn into Oxford. Click to enlarge. 

The “City of McClellan” has a nice ring to it. 

No pretension, no snobbery. Perhaps the type of city in which you’d want to live — named after a Civil War general, nestled alongside Appalachian foothills, designed as a municipal antidote to (or escape from) Anniston’s frustrations, created by a shadowy group of Annistonians who must have Alabama Sen. Del Marsh’s number on speed dial.

It’s a pipe dream, a farcical suggestion. Consider it DOA.

Nevertheless, that’s what the people who will maim Anniston if they remove half of its population through legislative shenanigans now want. Previously, those people — Forward 4 All is their nonprofit’s name — have sought Marsh’s help in deannexing mostly white Ward 4 and annexing it into mostly white Oxford and leaving Anniston with the reputational fallout. Now they want more.

This is what attorney Charles Turner, that group’s spokesman, wrote Thursday in an email: 

“If the legislature is of a mind to consider de-annexation, we propose that McClellan, East Anniston and Golden Springs be incorporated into the City of McClellan on the affirmative vote of a referendum election to be conducted in the affected area.”

I know. That’s a lot to digest.

But first. What happened to Oxford?

“It’s not that we aren’t interested in going into Oxford, it’s that Oxford’s City Council seems uninterested in having us become part of Oxford,” Turner wrote last week.

And what about joining Saks and Alexandria and White Plains as unincorporated parts of Calhoun County?

“We have talked about both incorporating and going into the county, though I think the latter is less appealing because the county lacks zoning authority,” Turner wrote.

So, to summarize, Forward 4 All’s grand plan to orchestrate a legislative land-swap between Anniston and Oxford has apparently stalled because Oxford has seen the light — that it has little to gain from this charade — and now the group is considering other options, all of which are detrimental to Anniston’s future and inherently divisive between the city’s black and white residents.

Given what is publicly known about this nonprofit, I’d be happy to consider their members Anniston property owners who think it’s best to grenade the city and flee — and ignore them. But Marsh, arguably the most powerful Montgomery politician, has asked Anniston City Hall for financial documents that “will shed light on the (Police and Fire Pension) Funds’ current viability and assist me as I continue evaluating the prospect of a de-annexation legislative proposal.”

Marsh’s involvement keeps this story afloat. He could kill it, and now, but he won’t.

The problem with a “City of McClellan” is the section of Alabama code — 11-92B-1 through 28 — that deals with the McClellan Development Authority. In that enabling legislation Anniston and Calhoun County incorporated the MDA as a public, nonprofit corporation charged with overseeing the redevelopment of the former Army post. 

An attempted incorporation of MDA-controlled land without the MDA’s legal cooperation would birth a mountain of legal challenges, perhaps even from the Department of Justice given that the property was federal land. And if the MDA dissolves, its assets and liabilities belong to Anniston — which, best I can tell, would consider McClellan an essential part of its future.

Like I said, DOA. 

McClellan aside, incorporation has always been F4A’s best option since Oxford was unlikely to play and nearly 10,000 former Annistonians living in newly unincorporated neighborhoods is a waiting disaster. My wife has already planned a response if our Ward 4 home gets deannexed into the county. We’re getting chickens (for eggs) and goats (for grass control) and a donkey (for kiddie rides) for the back yard. And maybe a pig, just to tick off our dogs.

Without empirical projections, it’s hard to estimate the damage this ill-planned, paternalistic scheme would cause Anniston. How many police officers and firefighters would be laid off? How many police and fire stations would close? How would that affect public safety? Plus, could this new municipality afford its own fire and police departments, or would it rely on volunteer departments and the Calhoun County sheriff? And I won’t even get into public education, though that’s the issue undergirding this illicit affair.

Ethics may require Marsh to listen to Alabamians’ concerns. But those same ethics and a good, long look in the mirror should convince him that maiming a city — his city — isn’t the answer. Anniston craves radical improvements in education and opportunities that help everyone, especially the poor and the jobless. Slicing the city in half to uplift those on the upper end isn’t one of them.

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

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