LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Suggestions for bringing needed healing to Anniston (opinion)


To Mayor Draper, Council Members Jenkins, Reddick, Little, Harris and City Manager Mr. Folks:

I am addressing each of you leaders of the city of Anniston as a concerned citizen. I moved my family to this area in 2002 and, until 2010, we actually lived within the corporate city limits, even though it was on the very most outskirts. In 2008, with the antics of the then-City Council and in what to me seemed to be "dysfunctional," caused me to start paying closer attention to the ongoing business of the city of Anniston. Although I now no longer reside within those corporate city limits, some may feel that I have no voice or concern in what happens in Anniston. But as I still conduct some personal business and shop in Anniston, I feel that any action or inaction taken by this government entity could still greatly affect my family and me, either positively or negatively.

This city has certainly seen more than its fair share of hatred and division over the many decades, and it seems that the hatred and division will continue here for many more decades to come. On Jan. 15, 2019, I attended, for the first time, an Anniston City Council meeting. I heard from some of the citizens and members of the council talk of some of the issues that plague this city. The issue of Black vs White was mentioned several times even though, at the same time, claims were being made that it shouldn't be “black and white,” but about ALL of Anniston. I have since attended either in person or watched on the Anniston Star's Facebook live-feed several other council meetings. Over the last several months, I have spent numerous hours reading over the minutes from past council meetings dating as far back as 2010 that are available on the city's website. In addition to that, I have read numerous archived articles from the Anniston Star dating back to 1968 and 1969. Anniston's problems have been going on for more than 50 years.

In an article from April 14, 2016, titled "Three words about Anniston" written by Phillip Tutor for the Anniston Star it starts out with: "You’ve been hired by the city of Anniston to develop its new marketing slogan, a peppy catchphrase for billboards and letterhead and business cards. Three words. That’s all you get. Three words to describe Anniston." A little bit later it mentions the long-recognized moniker of Anniston, which is "The Model City." I missed this article when it was first published, but with some of my recent readings and research I happened upon it and have thought of what that "slogan" or "catchphrase" could be. But I'll get to that a little later on.

There is a lot of name-calling, finger-pointing, arguing, personal insults and more happening here. This will never bring UNITY in the CommUNITY that needs to be brought together for healing. Over the many years I have lived in this area, it would seem that almost every couple of days or so there would be an article in the Anniston Star or even sometimes a story on a Birmingham television about lawsuits, assaults, arrests and claims of racism by or including other members of the council, including certain municipal agencies. Working with the general public like I do, I have met a lot of people and I have had several conversations with residents throughout Calhoun County on a variety of issues and concerns. Within some of those conversations with those people I have met over these 17 years, I have even heard them speak of past and current issues and concerns they have as Anniston residents. While I understand the reasons behind those who wish to de-annex, I personally do not think this is the best solution for all involved.

There is a solution, but it will take people from all across Anniston to truly work together for the common good rather than point fingers and lay blame for what is happening here. As an "outsider," all I can do is to offer some friendly advice. I have suggested the following as possible ways to make any significant improvements in city government for those who wish to see this city survive. One would be to have the Calhoun County legislative delegation in Montgomery introduce a bill giving Anniston voters the power to legally remove from office any person elected as mayor or council members when they do not act in the best interest of the city or does not truly represent the residents or continue to bring a negative impact on the city itself. Another would be to have legislation passed that would change Anniston's form of government to a Mayor-Commission-Manager form, which would allow a recall or removal of those elected for the same reasons. However, I don't see either one of those options ever happening. The city of Anniston will most likely continue struggling for years to come. 

And what about that three-word slogan or catchphrase? "The Muddle City." Of course the word "muddle" is defined as "to bring into a disordered or confusing state, an untidy and disorganized state or collection." Seems as if this could define the city of Anniston to a tee.

Don't let this be Anniston's last epitaph!

Tracy A. Stephens