Say this much about Anniston City Councilman Ben Little, who represents Ward 3: His inventory of improvement projects for his ward isn’t just a garden-variety wish list. He is — pardon the financial pun — going for broke.
“All I’m asking for Ward 3 is just give me about $5 million,” Little told residents at a sparsely attended ward meeting Thursday night. “That’s all. I don’t consider that robbery.”
Robbery? No, councilman, that’s not robbery.
But it is a sign of the disconnected nature of Anniston government, which rarely speaks with a unified voice, rarely seems to have a well-thought-out plan, and often succumbs to the worst parts of ward politics.
This isn’t a case of downplaying the need for substantive improvements to Little’s ward. The councilman is right to look out for his ward’s best interests, particularly on everyday maintenance issues such as roads and basic infrastructure. There’s no doubt that Ward 3 contains some of the city’s neediest locations.
But this is an example of what’s lacking on the Anniston council — or, in another sense, what plagues it.
The improper path would be to honor Little’s request with the allocation of $5 million in bond money for Ward 3 without additional and larger discussions of what’s best for the entire city. If Little and his fellow councilmen feel there are worthwhile improvements that bond money could address, then that’s a debate the council should have — today.
That would be good governing, the type we don’t see often enough.
If Anniston considers million-dollar projects, it should be the work of the council and not a single councilman who trots out a bloated wish list of 27 items, not the least of which is the construction of a senior-citizens center in west Anniston. Little is a boisterous critic of the city’s recently opened senior recreation center at McClellan.
Going at it this way, with a solo mentality that needlessly pits wards against one another, isn’t the proper approach.
By definition, Anniston’s wards are widely different by diversity and income, by economic opportunities and growth potential. There isn’t a universal template. And a fair, productive council discussion about spending money for capital improvements might prove extremely beneficial to Little’s ward, since its basic needs are well-known.
A $5 million check isn’t a petty-cash transaction in this town. It’s not often that Anniston’s council speaks as one, but it should before it signs that check.