Anniston and Oxford, it’s your move.
Last week, the right-leaning Alabama Policy Institute in Birmingham used easily accessible data to determine which of Alabama’s 50 largest cities were the most business friendly. If you’re a cheerleader for Calhoun County, it was an epic fail.
The county didn’t fare well. The API poll listed Anniston near the bottom at No. 48. Oxford, widely seen as Calhoun County’s undisputed leader in all things fiscal, wasn’t much better. It came in at No. 43.
Nothing was surprising about the API numbers. The data the research group used has been widely reported by The Star: graduation rates, crime rates, school test scores, population growth, median incomes and transportation issues. Truth be told, we’d be more surprised if Anniston had ranked in the upper half.
Our point: In varying degrees, our cities have serious issues in some of those categories. The API poll says little informed Calhoun Countians didn’t already know.
Which gets us back to the issue at hand: Improving our cities so that we no longer live amongst the bottom-dwellers the next time a research group mines data to rank Alabama’s best and worst.
In Anniston, at least, there is movement afoot. New City Hall management seems to be making a difference. A more-involved populace helped shape last year’s elections. New facilities for several agencies and departments — police, Department of Human Resources — give off the impression that yesterday’s stagnation is beginning to thaw, which it is.
But it can’t stop there.
If there’s any worth to the API report, it’s as a reminder of the obvious. The entire county is speckled with successes and deficiencies, particularly in public-school graduation and dropout rates. We can’t allow others to write our narrative; that’s risky and foolish.
Taking control of that narrative means improving education and lowering crime rates, reducing poverty and recruiting industry. That’s how we write our own story and turn negative data into positive points.
It’s not time to cry. It’s time to make opportunities happen.