While the 2016 presidential election is making headlines, some groups are focusing their efforts a lot closer to home. Everyone may know who the president is, while fewer know their mayor’s name, but the fact remains the majority of laws Americans live under day-to-day are written and enforced by state and local governments.
Likewise, Alabama’s cities haven’t been immune to many of the fiscal and societal struggles of the last several years. Questions of job recruitment, school funding, and community priorities are raised at nearly every city and town hall across the Yellowhammer State.
Many of Alabama’s municipalities are holding their own elections Aug. 23, and in the Birmingham suburb of Trussville a group of citizens are taking it on themselves to reclaim the conversation from the elite few, and focus on giving power to the city’s rapidly growing population.
“‘Take Back Trussville‘ is a product of the growing concern that a small and shrinking group of people were making the decisions that affect everyone’s lives and they were doing it with less and less input from the citizens,” the group’s founder, Butch Cole, told ALToday. “Also, I had a personal experience with a few of them and after years of people telling me we couldn’t do anything about it, I felt like we had to stop and re-evaluate the types of businesses that were coming and the problems they may bring. I saw my hometown starting to turn into a place to shop in and leave instead of a place you want to stay and live. One of us may go to a council meeting or get on Facebook with a complaint or possibly get a minute of attention from those in power, but hundreds of us will get things done to better our lives. We have to make sure the choices made in this election and with the redevelopment of downtown are the right ones.”
A forum in Trussville last week highlighted the issues about which most of the city’s politicians were concerned — job growth coupled with an emphasis on keeping the community family friendly and broadening the tax base — but TBT seeks to introduce more accountability and transparency into the process.
At the top of the ticket in Trussville is the mayoral race, where two gentlemen, City Council President Anthony Montalto and fellow City Council member Buddy Choat, are challenging 20-year incumbent Eugene “Gene” Melton.
Cole makes no secret of the fact the group wants to see a new mayor, saying “20 years is too long for anyone to be in office,” but came short of revealing if TBT is outright endorsing one of the two challengers.
“We hope to ensure that we have a new mayor and he is held accountable and transparent. We want to make sure from the start that we see transparency. We want the City Council to know that they are held accountable and they need to work to bring to fruition the promises they have stated. We didn’t get to this point by the mayor’s decisions and actions alone, some council members and other current decision makers have also made questionable decisions.”
Cole said he believes his efforts will pay off Aug. 23, as the people who have gotten involved with TBT turn out in droves.
“We’re making sure the people are informed, empowered and that they have a voice. That scares a few of the more entrenched people, They won’t benefit from a big turnout.”