Councilman Herbert Palmore brought up a collaborative effort between the city, the Anniston Housing Authority, Boys and Girls Clubs and Anniston City Schools to re-establish a youth group at the newly renovated Norwood Park.
“I’m concerned that young people don’t have anywhere to meet,” Palmore said.
Steven Folks, director of the Parks and Recreation Department, said the old Boys and Girls Club at the park was no longer usable, but could be brought back to a habitable condition.
“We need to combine our resources,” Folks said.
The council members unanimously approved the collaboration.
Folks suggested using community effort to renovate the club and approaching the community and businesses for help.
Councilman Ben Little also brought up a youth summit in Pennsylvania dealing with reducing violence and death among black men and boys.
“Really, it’s for everyone,” Little said.
Little asked that the other council members consider possibly sending some Anniston youth to the conference. It’s part of a national conversation about the homicide rates in cities of all sizes, including small cities like Anniston, he said.
Edward Sturkie, the assistant principal at Anniston High School, spoke to the council about the need to create a department within the city to deal with youth issues.
“As an administrator with the Anniston City Schools, we share in the success stories of a variety of students,” Sturkie said. “However, not all students have flourished after leaving school… Some drop out. Some have been charged with horrific crimes and if convicted they will face long prison sentences in our institutions. Sadly some have even showed up in an obituary in our local newspapers.”
He urged the councilmen to be the first local government in the county to create a body that would work specifically to impact youth. The department would advocate for youth and youth participation, gather information about youth programs and collaborate with other groups to create youth initiatives, Sturkie said. A city department could pull all the resources in the city together to most efficiently impact the city’s young people.
He suggested the department could take on youth-related issues such as teen pregnancy, gang violence, drug and alcohol abuse and teen unemployment. The stakes are high, Sturkie said, because the success of the city depends on the success of the city’s youth.
“If you are truly sincere about moving Anniston forward, we ask that you invest in our youth so that we can be assured that when we reach retirement, we will be taken care of,” Sturkie said. “A lot of the cities that have implemented such a program, the dropout rate has decreased and more importantly the crime rate decreased substantially.
Little mentioned that the National League of Cities has its own department of youth and could help the city set up a department.
“This is where the conversation should start,” Little said.
Palmore was supportive and suggested the department could work toward providing vocational education.
“That will correct a lot of our problems with our youth,” Palmore said.
Councilman Jay Jenkins also expressed support.
Councilman David Dawson though wasn’t so sure the city was the best place to have such a program.
“It seems to me that the bottom line of this is education,” Dawson said. “Have you talked to the school board about this?”
Sturkie said he had, but the school board could only address the educational needs of the children. The city could provide a more comprehensive program.
The members didn’t vote on the department, but Mayor Gene Robinson invited Sturkie to a May work session to discuss the department further.
In other business the council members:
-- Reappointed Mark Hearn and Willie Duncan to the McClellan Development Authority, with Little and Palmore abstaining.
-- Appointed Ricky Turner to the Transit Authority Board.
-- Appointed Bernard Thornton and Arlina Jones to the Parks, Recreation and Beautification Board.
Approved using Community Development Block Grant Funds to demolish blighted properties.
-- Approved entering into a mutual aid agreement with other local governments to respond to disasters and emergencies.
-- Approved 3-2 a resolution to incorporate the Anniston Commercial Development Authority, with Palmore and Little voting no.
-- Approved 4-1 voting districts within the newly created wards, with Little voting no.
-- Approved 4-0 two new liquor licenses in Anniston. Little abstained.
-- Approved a request to block 14th Street between Gurnee and Moore avenues for a concert on July 14.
-- Approved a bid for 45 gas golf carts and 2 gas maintenance vehicles from Yamaha Golf for $2,640.50 a month for 48 months.
-- Approved 4-1 a bid from Sunny King Ford for a new truck for $18,350 for the Parks and Recreation Department, with Little voting no.
-- Approved a bid from Zoll Medical Corporation for $27,813.60 for a monitor/defibrillator for the fire department.
Contact staff writer Laura Camper at 256-235-3545.