A hill worth dying on: Oxford should rethink decision
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Jul 01, 2009 | 4265 views |  14 comments | 45 45 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The city of Oxford is fond of building things: shopping malls and storefronts, high school additions and a swanky public library, not to mention its bank account.

Too bad city leaders aren't as fond of building their reputation for doing what's altogether right and appropriate.

Oxford's decision to bulldoze a portion of a hill that contains a Native American stone mound and possibly human remains is a condemnable act that says much about some city leaders' priorities.

Needing fill dirt for construction of a Sam's Club at Oxford Exchange, the city agreed to provide the dirt instead of buying it from a third party. A sound decision, on the surface. And, yes, a large hill — made of dirt suitable to fill in a construction site — sits conveniently and directly behind the Exchange.

By Oxford standards, it's an easy decision aided by an apparent tin ear to conversations of compromise or correctness.

Build, build, build.

That archaeological experts are adamant that Native Americans used the hill's stone mound for religious purposes has been ignored.

That the hill may include Indian burial grounds has too easily been discounted.

That Oxford Mayor Leon Smith and City Project Manager Fred Denney say the hill was used only for sending smoke signals is a boorish, offensive comment that unfairly stereotypes Native Americans.

That the hill, if preserved and beautified, could be used as a cultural attraction for Oxford's many Interstate visitors is a possibility City Hall seems to think is worth far less than that dirt itself.

Oxford calls this progress — more retail development, another store to provide city coffers with more sales-tax and property-tax revenue.

Others, including this editorial board, call it a blatant unwillingness to preserve a historical site and recognize a people's ethnic value. It is a decision that should be reversed before such a valuable, historic site is dismantled for the sake of a membership card to Sam's Club.

Oxford's leadership decided long ago to use retail development as a prime way to move the city forward. In some ways, it's worked: Oxford is the unrivaled destination for Calhoun County shoppers who don't want to travel to Birmingham or Atlanta.

In turn, Oxford gets wads of cash, and local bargain hunters haven't far to go for their shopping sprees.

But this time, Oxford's build-it mentality is out of bounds. There has to be another way, a compromise way. If so, city leaders would be wise to take it.
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A hill worth dying on: Oxford should rethink decision by The Anniston Star Editorial Board

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