Although there were lofty capital improvement plans discussed at the council meeting on Feb. 3 and a long presentation on tourism prior to the council meeting, much of the meeting itself was devoted to three separate discussions on quality-of-life issues. This is good. It is what Talladega needs to focus on.
First, there was an important discussion on the Eastside center. Many residents were urging the city to take ownership of the Eastside building and to transform it into a multipurpose community center. This is exactly what the community needs! A well-run community center serves as a thriving hub of activity for youth, families, senior citizens, civic organizations and more. This would be an important start to address crime and gun violence in Talladega and for the city to support the city schools. I hope the city not only takes ownership of the building but also assists the residents with their desired programs. I urge the city to do the right thing and get this done.
Second, there was a discussion on transportation. Much of the discussion revolved around transportation for seniors and those needing dialysis. This is a crucial need; however, the transportation needs in this city go well beyond medical appointments. There is a large number of working non-drivers in Talladega. We desperately need transportation options in the evenings and weekends. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it will generate tax revenue for the city. We have repeatedly heard our city leaders urging us to shop in the city. We have been told every gallon of gas and every loaf of bread sold in the city will help the city do more for the residents, such as capital improvement projects, road repairs, etc. The blind community and other non-drivers cannot spend their money in the city if they work all day and have no way to shop in the evenings and weekends. Please help us help you, Talladega! We are right here; we are not invisible!
Third, there was a discussion about Talladega taking over the Waldo water system at the request of the Waldo mayor. It seems like the right thing to do, to help our neighbor, but can we afford to do it? I don’t know.
Finally, the capital improvement discussion. I like to dream big. The plans for West Battle Street were exciting, and I love the talk of sidewalks and improved pedestrian travel on West Battle Street. But, I was disappointed in the lack of consideration of the blind and low vision community. I propose we also add sidewalks from West Battle Street down Fort Lashley to E.H. Gentry and to the Alabama Industries for the Blind (AIB). There are hundreds of adult students every year from across the state who attend Gentry, the adult training facility of AIDB.
These adult students walk to town all the time. They are our guests wanting to spend money in Talladega. In addition, AIB has employees who walk to work. It is difficult to put into words and accurately describe the walk. I am extending an invitation to the City Council members, the mayor, and the city manager to walk with me from the pedestrian bridge on Fort Lashley to the square. If any are feeling particularly adventurous and are willing to wear sleep shades for the walk, I will buy you lunch when we get there. I think this will help you better understand the blind community, and we can generate more tax revenue together.
Talladega chapter president, Alabama Council of the Blind