But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. No shakeup is guaranteed.
Nevertheless, often downplayed in local politics is the once-a-decade reworking of the city’s ward lines. The structure of Anniston’s four wards affects who runs for which City Council seats, who runs for which school board seats and — not insignificantly — changes where Annistonians vote.
The wards also play a role in how we often judge the city’s regions. Wards that in recent decades have been majority black (wards 2 and 3) and majority white (wards 1 and 4) only strengthen the stereotypical labels that come with neighborhoods delineated strongly by race.
At bottom, what this city desperately needs is five leaders — a mayor and four council members — who will think of the city as a whole, and not as four small fiefdoms. The entire city must move forward. Now. That should be the theme of August’s elections.
Regardless, the job at hand is for the city to reconcile the results of the 2010 Census with its ward boundaries. An article in Wednesday’s Star laid out the reasons why: reasons political, legal and, in the case of Councilman Ben Little, racial. The city is changing; so, too, are its wards. Yet those new boundaries are only now being sent to the Department of Justice for approval.
What’s more, the filing deadline for August’s elections is the first week of July.
This isn’t an apocalyptic warning. Even with Little’s promise to challenge the new lines, our assumption is that the Justice Department will not need the allotted 60 days in which to approve the lines and neither the filing deadline nor the elections will be adversely affected.
Of course, it’s easy to chalk this up as another case of Anniston doing its politics the hard way. Assigning fault is another discussion altogether.
As reporter Laura Camper’s story explained, the City Council approved the ward-line changes Feb. 14 and the new polling places April 24. Dawn Landholm, principal planner at East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission, even told The Star that “we’re definitely going to be pushing it as far as preclearance goes,” though she’s confident the process won’t adversely affect the election.
We trust she’s right.
Today, there are members of the Anniston Board of Education who don’t know which seat they’re eligible for because they don’t know which ward their residence will be in. In an odd twist, incumbents may run against incumbents. Or, in a worse-case scenario — Justice questions the proposed ward lines and doesn’t give its approval in time — the existing lines could be used for August’s vote and the new ward lines could come into play in the next election, four years from now.
We’d rather not focus on those possibilities.
Instead, we’d rather believe the system will work: that Justice will give the redrawn lines a thumbs-up with minimal alterations, and that Little’s promised challenges won’t derail the process. Of course, a lot can happen between today and August.