Phillip Tutor: The wise and dim-witted on the ballot
Mar 23, 2012 | 2456 views |  0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The calendar says Anniston will swear in a mayor in November. Sadly, my crystal ball is on the fritz: I have no idea who it will be.

Who should it be? What type of candidate — what type of person — does Anniston need?

That’s another matter.

Based on the number of signs I pass on the way to work each morning, it seems everyone on my street already has a favorite candidate. It also looks like they held a neighborhood meeting and chose solidarity over individuality.

I’ve found two supposed candidates who have Facebook pages declaring their intentions of running for mayor.

Thursday morning, I glimpsed another candidate’s campaign sign while waiting on a traffic light on Alabama 21.

And on a recent Saturday, I spied current Anniston Mayor Gene Robinson standing on the side of a McClellan road holding his own sign. He wasn’t trumpeting for his re-election. He was urging people to vote in the March 6 primary. Create a change, his sign said.

It was a sunny day. I should have stopped and offered him a lemonade.

Yet, all of that means nothing. Absolutely nothing.

The goings-on of the last three-plus years — well-documented mayhem — have Annistonians understandably intrigued by the August elections for mayor and City Council. Often I’ve thought Gurnee Avenue would be the perfect location to shoot “Mad Men” or an Alabama version of “The Walking Dead,” depending on whose side of the political aisle you happen to fall.

Nevertheless, without a shift in Anniston’s political universe, voters will see Mayor Gene Robinson’s name on the ballot. He’s the incumbent, he’s admirably passionate about the city, and there are people who like the job he’s done. (That he’s as subtle as a ball-peen hammer is obvious, well-known and irrelevant.)

He’s been elected once. He can be elected again. That he often seems the sane one on the council when compared to combustible Councilman Ben Little and former Councilman John Spain is no insignificant matter.

It’s up to voters to decide what — and who — is best for Anniston.

Blame the current curiosity on who’s running for those vital positions on human nature. We are like puppies that tinkle on the carpet; we can’t help it. The election is more than four months away, and yet we want to know who’s running against whom, who’s going to challenge Robinson and Little, who’s going to be on the ballot in Wards 1 and 4 — wards where current and former councilmen have been dogged by all sorts of trials and tribulations.

And we want to know now. Today.

Without delay.

Sloooooow down. Municipal elections aren’t presidential elections. Campaigns don’t last years; they last a few months. That clock hasn’t starting ticking in earnest — yet.

Annistonians who want the next four years to be better than the last four will have ample opportunities to give these men and women a trial run. It’s a small town where the phrase “everybody knows everybody” is mostly true. If you want to find Robinson, go to his Noble Street store. If you want to find Little, call his church. Call ’em at home. Attend one of this summer’s candidate forums. Be seen. Be active. Be involved. Kick their tires.

Voters today should focus on challenging these candidates. Don’t let them waffle on topics critical to the future. Don’t let them campaign solely on an incumbent’s foibles; that’s too easy. Look in their eyes. Gauge their worthiness.

Are they smart?

Are they dimwits?

Are they wise?

Are they compassionate?

Are they savvy?

Are they honest?

Are they trustworthy?

Are they spineless?

Would you want them to represent the city in a face-to-face meeting with Gov. Robert Bentley or U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby?

Anniston’s city elections have four months to percolate. It’s too early to drool over the possibilities. But get ready. They’re coming. It’s going to be one hectic, mind-blowing time.

Phillip Tutor — ptutor@annistonstar.com — is The Star’s commentary editor. Follow him at Twitter.com/PTutor_Star.
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