Mayor Vaughn Stewart said Thursday night he wants the Model City to model itself after places like Oxford, Miss., Little Rock, Ark., and Chattanooga, Tenn. — cities that have, like Anniston, faced some hardships in their recent past, but were all able, in one way or another, to bounce back in a big way.
“The thing all those cities have in common is a strategic plan,” Stewart said. “And they all started by going to their community and working with them to hear what they had to say.”
Stewart was speaking at the City Meeting Center for the kickoff event of the first of three strategic planning workshops for Anniston’s One City One Vision program. The workshop was a public meeting event, designed to get input from within the community on the direction residents want for Anniston.
“We brought Shakespeare to Alabama in the 1970s,” Stewart said. “We have world class museums, a world class mountain bike trail. Those didn’t come from city hall, they came from within the community.”
More than 100 residents showed up for the first session, and worked on brainstorming ways to improve the city, focusing on education, economic development and health and safety. Tables were set up for groups led by a city official or member of the One City, One Vision Steering Committee to facilitate discussion.
“I think the thing that impresses me is the leaders here who really care about Anniston,” said Jamie Greene, a consultant with ACP Vision and Planning in Columbus, Ohio, which is working with the Anniston City Council on the project. “This isn’t required. The council could have said they were doing their own thing.”
Greene said a lot of Anniston’s infrastructure problems come from poor planning, a common occurrence in a lot of Southern communities.
“But you can’t change the past and what’s already happened,” Greene said. “Sometimes the worst thing for a community is a memory.”
And for many in attendance at Thursday’s workshop, just an effort from their new elected officials was reason to be optimistic.
“I think the ball was set really low with the last council, but I do think they’re trying,” said James Wakefield, an east Anniston resident who’s lived in the city for two years. “They’ve brought a lot of positivity to the city.”
Teresa Reed, a resident of Rocky Hollow, said she’s been actively involved in neighborhood outreach program, and has been encouraged by the City Council’s efforts to speak to different communities in the city
“The listening tours they did were very useful,” Reed said. “They’ve done a good job communicating with the public.”
Two more public workshops are planned for Sept. 17 and 19 at Hodges Community Center and Carver Community Center. The council and One City, One Vision City will use input from the sessions to create an action plan that they hope to implement starting in November.
Staff Writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.