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Anniston council again votes to remove Confederate monument

Anniston’s City Council voted once again Tuesday to remove a monument to a Confederate Army officer from the median of Quintard Avenue. 

The measure passed 4-1, over the objections of one councilman who said the action violated the state’s law against disturbing monuments. 

“Is it legal to knowingly and willfully and intentionally violate a law?” asked Councilman Ben Little.

The council earlier this summer voted to remove an obelisk that stands in the median of Quintard, the tree-shaded thoroughfare that carries much of the city’s north-south traffic. The monument bears the name of John Pelham, a Jacksonville native who was killed in the Civil War.

The monument is “inextricably intertwined with the South’s historical support of slavery” and is being removed to create a more inclusive environment, reads the resolution the council passed Tuesday. The resolution authorizes the city to move the monument to Janney Furnace, a Civil War-themed park in Ohatchee. 

Anniston has been a majority-Black city for nearly a decade. There’s a monument to Pelham in Jacksonville, and that city’s main street is called Pelham Road. 

Little, who is Black, has criticized the monument move as distraction from other issues that affect the Black community. He has also pointed out that Alabama in 2017 the Legislature passed a bill that blocks removal of some monuments without approval of a state-appointed monuments board. The resolution passed Tuesday sets aside $25,000 to pay the fine for removing the monument. 

The council voted on the same measure in August, with the same 4-1 result, but Little later challenged the move on procedural grounds, saying the measure needed to be approved with a public reading followed by a vote at the following meeting. The Tuesday vote was held to address that concern. 

At the Tuesday meeting, Little grilled city attorney Bruce Downey, asking whether the city could legally pass such a measure and whether it was legal to pay the fine with taxpayers’ money.

“You can’t legally violate a law,” said Downey, who spoke to the council by speakerphone. Downey said it was legal for the city to use city funds to pay a civil fine. 

The rest of the council voted for the removal without comment. 

Budget windfall

Council members found more agreement on a last-minute round of amendments to the city’s proposed budget. 

City staff earlier this year put together a $40.4 million budget for the 2021 fiscal year that begins in October — not much changed from the $40 million budget the council passed for 2020. 

Council members on Tuesday added another $1.7 million in spending, mostly on capital projects, all of it from the money the city expects to have on hand after refinancing $15.7 million in debt to take advantage of low interest rates. 

Among the expenditures in that proposal are: 

— $200,000 for amenities in Randolph Park

— $200,000 for resurfacing of West 15th Street

— $250,000 in seed money for the proposed Satcher Institute in western Anniston

— $175,000 to extend sidewalk in  Golden Springs

— $100,000 for additional grass cutting and lot clearing

— $50,000 for road repair in alleys

— $50,000 in assistance for small businesses

— $25,000 for emergency home repairs

Council members approved many of those changes in an amendment proposed by Jenkins at an earlier meeting, but some changes, including the alleyways, business assistance and home repair, were proposed by Little on Tuesday. 

Council members voted 5-0 to give initial approval to that budget, but because amendments were added Tuesday, the budget will require another vote. Mayor Jack Draper said the council would likely convene next week for that vote. 


Cyber course proposal

In a work session before the meeting, the council heard from Phillip Brown, CEO of the Detroit-based cybersecurity firm CYBOC, who has asked the city to help fund a cybersecurity class for both children and adults to be held at the city’s airport. Brown and a colleague came to a meeting in early September to propose both the cybersecurity course and a course for would-be aircraft mechanics.

“It’s $60,000 per program, but there’s a discount if you do both at the same time,” he said.

Councilwoman Millie Harris asked how long the programs would last. Sixty to 90 days, Brown replied, though a 120-day program could be possible.

Brown said he hadn’t discussed the proposed course with the city’s school board. Councilman David Reddick said he discussed the matter with two board members.

Council members expressed support for the idea but took no action on the proposal Tuesday.

In other business, the council: 

— Approved an amendment to the current year’s budget to allow the city to give $40,000 to Anniston High School’s band for new uniforms.

— Approved an alcohol license for Indian Oaks Country Club. The country club is in Saks but is within the city’s police jurisdiction.

— Agreed to move its Oct. 6 regular meeting to Oct. 13 to avoid conflict with the Oct. 6 city runoff election. 

Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.