A newly incorporated board named Forward 4 All has proposed deannexing all of Ward 4 and parts of Wards 1 and 3 from the city of Anniston, and redrawing that defined area into the city of Oxford.
The initial response from Oxford officials was that they’ve not been approached.
“The first step would be to come talk to us,” Councilman Mike Henderson said in an article by The Star’s Tim Lockette. “It would be foolish to deannex and find us not willing to annex.”
In Anniston, the response has been more pointed.
“It’s the pinnacle of racism,” said Anniston Councilman Ben Little, who is black.
The area being discussed for annexation is majority white and mostly upper middle class. The remaining Anniston wards are majority black and low-income households.
The council is largely defined by racial division, with Little and Councilman David Reddick often labeling the three white members of the council as racist. Little was captured on video during a work session screaming at Ward 4 Councilwoman Millie Harris about Little’s travel expenses.
Indeed, the proposed deannexation presents a picture of a mostly white ward fleeing a mostly black city and school system, conjuring up memories of the white flight that occurred during the 1960s and ’70s after desegregation laws began to be enforced in the South.
The optics are not good.
Beyond the mystery of who all is orchestrating the Forward 4 All effort are questions about why they’re doing it; what are the legal hurdles to making it happen; and what would be the economic, social and political ramifications for Anniston and Oxford and their schools systems?
There’s been no shortage of reaction to the news, and much of Anniston, Oxford and beyond was abuzz last night and this morning with speculation about what might happen.
What do you think? Especially if you’re an Anniston or Oxford resident, we’d love to know whether this is something you support and why.
Below is what some of our readers are saying on social media about the proposal:
— Brett Lloyd One thing you failed to mention, and what state leaders need to heed and recognize is, the city agreed to and pays a substantial percentage into the retirement system for police and fire. The police and fire departments are on a private retirement. If the city loses that tax base of those properties and businesses, they fold and quit paying their contributions into the retirement fund, killing it. You would see a mass exodus from both police and fire departments which would result in no coverage from either for the rest of the city. Worse yet, all the retirees in that system would stop getting a check and their livelihood when the fund ran out. At the end of the day this is childish. It puts people’s livelihoods and what they’ve worked for for decades at risk. There’s an easy solution. If you don’t like where you live, then move. My wife and I did just that in 2013. We lived in another part of the county that had declined significantly over the years. I didn’t like the crime, so we moved. Problem solved. I didn’t stop anybody’s retirement check because of a temper tantrum.
— Tracy A Stephens While deannexation may be an option, it may not be the best solution for the problems that Anniston continues to face. Perhaps if the voters would encourage their Calhoun County legislators in Montgomery to introduce legislation that would give them the power to have removed any members of the City Council when they do not act in the city of Anniston's best interest. The only other way to make any possible significant impact on how this city is run would be to change to a Mayor-Commission-Manager form of government. And that too would require special legislation.
— Paul Street There comes a point when it’s just not worth fighting anymore.
I live in ward 4 and am tired of the embarrassment a couple council members bring to the city along with high crime on the other side of town along with the terrible school system killing our property value. Golden Springs is a great place to live. The only negative thing bringing it down is the rest of Anniston and the school system.
My property value would probably jump 100k if we were part of Oxford. Anyone would have to be insane to not want to leave with the turmoil going on thanks to a couple council members and their mob. If someone calls that racist then they are either ignorant or the real racist. I think people are getting numb to the race card. The desire to leave is about property values, school system and city government leadership, not race.
— Curtis Lewis The reason there are no white kids in the system is because white parents pulled their kids out. It has nothing to do with gangs because Oxford as well as surrounding county schools have them, too. It's not about drugs because Oxford has … drug-related incidents in the area ... It's about race, namely the two morons on the city council. It's about poor school performance, which Anniston high and middle schools are constantly on the failure list. I can name legitimate reasons for this stupid move that makes sense, but annexation is not the answer. I can promise you Oxford doesn't want you, and I doubt if the lawmakers will put their name on such a segregation move, so this will only cause further decay of the city. So be it.