An effort to de-annex the nearly 10,000 residents of Ward 4 from the city of Anniston has a slew of challenges, many of which have been highlighted through reporting by The Anniston Star newsroom.
Some of those challenges include how to carve out businesses that were recruited to Anniston by tax incentives; how to handle Ward 4 property, like Norwood Hodges Community Center, that belongs to the city of Anniston; how to address opposition to the idea from city leaders; how to prevent leaving the police and fire department retirement plans unfunded, among others.
Despite those challenges, the plan’s small group of organizers don’t appear deterred. Forward 4 All spokesman Charles Turner has described the plan as deannexing Ward 4, which includes Golden Springs, and bits and pieces of wards 1 and 3 from Anniston, and annexing the entire area into the city of Oxford. They’ve asked state Sen. Del Marsh to introduce a bill that would accomplish the feat legislatively.
No vote of the Oxford or Anniston city councils. No vote from residents.
Turner said supporters of the move are concerned that low property values won’t allow them to sell their homes for as much as they paid for them. They blame Anniston’s crime rate, political division and public school performance. But, instead of moving to Oxford, they plan to make the existing southeastern part of Anniston the new northeastern part of Oxford. They believe this will increase their property values overnight.
What’s curious is whether any of those who have concocting this plan have spent any time trying to sell their intentions to residents on the other side of town.
When was the last time any of them were at Anniston High School during school hours?
When was the last time they sat on a front porch in west Anniston and talked to residents there about their shared goals and challenges as Anniston residents?
The Anniston Star Editorial Board did that this past week, and what we found was interesting.
Once they considered the context of losing Anniston’s most affluent neighborhood, residents in west Anniston were disappointed but not surprised.
“That’s messed up,” one man said as he helped his grandmother and his daughter from the car on a sweltering Friday afternoon, “but what can you do?”
He said critics unfairly target the school system.
“It’s not the schools, it’s the parents,” he said, adding that his daughter attends pre-K at Cobb and will one day attend Anniston High. He said he’ll take responsibility for making sure she gets a good education, and that it’s available at Anniston High.
At another house in northwest Anniston, a husband and wife and their friend were eager to sit on the front porch and discuss the merits of Ward 4 possibly exiting to Oxford.
Questions about the implications of the deannexation were met with a sense of being helpless to avoid the potential damage.
“We don’t have the money. We don’t have the wealth. We don’t have the power. We don’t have a vote,” the husband said. “What can we do?”
Asked whether it would be good or bad for Anniston to have a majority-black, or possibly all-black City Council, he said, “I don’t look at things in black or white. We need to do what’s best for the city.”
The friend said he wasn’t surprised by the Forward 4 All move, and that it will devastate the Model City.
“Over time, it’ll turn Anniston into Hobson City,” he said. “Blacks and whites need each other. We need to work together.”
The takeaway from all three was that residents in west Anniston and residents in east Anniston should come together to work out differences and seek solutions as one city.
By no means was it a scientific sampling of what everyone in west Anniston thinks. But we did talk to real people and got their real reactions.
Can anyone who’s a part of Forward 4 All say the same?