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EDITORIAL: Plenty to love, hate about Marsh’s deannexation meetings

Anniston City Limits

State Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, announced meetings set for Jan. 28 and Jan. 29 for the public to discuss a proposal to split off part of the city of Anniston.

State Sen. Del Marsh has scheduled two public meetings at the end of this month to discuss a proposed deannexation of Ward 4 from the rest of the city of Anniston.

The meetings will be at 6 p.m. Jan. 28 at the City Meeting Center and 6 p.m. Jan. 29 at Norwood Hodges Community Center.

In summer 2019, a small group of residents operating as a nonprofit called Forward 4All crafted a bill that they asked Marsh to introduce in the Legislature.

The bill proposed deannexing all of Ward 4 and parts of Wards 1 and 3 from Anniston, and adding that swath of as many as 10,000 mostly-white residents to the city of Oxford. The plan would have deannexed Ward 4 legislatively, without a vote of the people affected.

Forward 4All argues that the split is warranted because Anniston’s school system is struggling and its property values are low.

Since The Star made the proposal public, Oxford has expressed its lack of interest in the plan; Anniston officials have called it detrimental to the city’s existence; one Anniston councilman called it racist; and a separate small group of residents have started a counter-movement called Save Our City.

Seeking to gauge where residents stand overall on the proposal, The Anniston Star commissioned JSU to conduct an independent survey of Ward 4 residents on the deannexation question. A majority — 53 percent — of the 325 respondents said they’d rather stay and work to make Anniston better than abandon the city they call home.

Marsh promised months ago that he would hold town-hall-style meetings to establish his own gauge of where residents stand on the proposal. His two public meetings, which will come just days before the 2020 legislative session begins, give cause to be both hopeful and frustrated.

On the hopeful side, it never hurts to hear directly from those affected by proposed legislation before it’s introduced, much less passed.

Also, Marsh was clear that there would be no deannexation without there first being a referendum where residents would be allowed to vote. This is the heart of democracy — allowing residents to make their intentions known through the power of the vote.

The downside is there was no clarity about who would get to vote in that referendum. It’s not uncommon in Alabama for local matters to be put to a vote of the entire state, or even for one city’s issues to be decided by everyone in a particular county. We would hope that any vote on a proposed deannexation from the city of Anniston would be contained to the residents of the city of Anniston.

The Anniston Star Editorial Board’s position on this proposal is a matter of public record. We’re against it. We believe it’s cowardly to suggest ripping a city in half because it might increase your property values.

Anniston’s property values have been what they are for decades, before many of the Forward 4All organizers bought their homes in Ward 4. The advantage of buying a house at a lower price is always going to be balanced out when that buyer decides to sell. That’s no reason to destroy a city. If you don’t like where you live, do like the rest of us — move!

The noble ones are those who appreciate and enjoy what’s good about Anniston and choose to work to fix what’s broken.

The downside to the entire matter is that Marsh has to consider it at all.