Listen, learn, govern
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Jan 07, 2013 | 2799 views |  0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Anniston mayor Vaughn Stewart smiles as he listens to public comments at a city council meeting. Photo: Trent Penny/The Anniston Star
Anniston mayor Vaughn Stewart smiles as he listens to public comments at a city council meeting. Photo: Trent Penny/The Anniston Star
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As Anniston’s first-year City Council members embark on their listening tour, we offer them advice they’ve surely heard before:

You might not like everything you’re told.

Anniston is, after all, a city in widespread transition. The political troublemakers of recent years are out of office. A new mayor and three new council members are in place. The city’s public schools don’t lure in new residents. Its population is stagnant. Its low-income neighborhoods are in deep need.

Yet, it has concrete opportunities — for ecotourism with the Coldwater Mountain bike trail, for industrial job-creation at McClellan, for any number of retail opportunities that have in recent years shunned Anniston for other sites in Calhoun County.

When given the opportunity to bend a council member’s ear, Annistonians could say any number of things:

What are you going to do to keep the city’s talented young adults from seeking greener pastures elsewhere?

What’s your retail development plan for south Quintard? For Golden Springs? For Lenlock?

How about our schools? Same-old, same-old, or something different?

Engaging the public can be a messy job.

Hand it to Mayor Vaughn Stewart and the council; they seem sincere in their willingness to listen to residents’ voices and, in turn, enlist their assistance. If communication is a cornerstone to success — which it is — then Anniston’s new City Hall is headed down the proper path on these early days of the new Gurnee Avenue regime.

Or, as Councilman David Reddick told The Star, “It’s for us to listen to our constituency — their hopes, their goals and their dreams for the city.”

Wish them luck.

Eventually, the time for listening tours and canvassing neighborhoods will become secondary to the job at hand: governing. Anniston spent the last four years in civic limbo; its City Hall provided scant leadership, its opportunities went unrealized, its populace became disgruntled. Put simply, it was a demoralizing, disappointing time.

Voters didn’t vote out former Mayor Gene Robinson and the others elected in 2008 in order to get representatives who would listen to their concerns.

Voters dumped Robinson and the former council because they didn’t lead the city.

We agree that it’s valuable — and noble — for City Hall to embark on a listening tour of the city and ask residents to serve on task forces. Voters’ opinions are important. But the day will approach in 2013 when residents will want to see council members make concrete decisions and pilot this ship in a cogent direction.
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