Column/STJ letters say it all

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 9, 2007

I have read with much interest and encouragement recently the letters to The Selma Times-Journal regarding the ongoing concerns and problems that we have with our city government and public safety in Selma.

These letters, mixed with several editorials in recent weeks, seem to indicate that many Selmians of both races are venting their frustrations, projecting an “enough is enough” attitude.

These frustrations, including my own, are the result of the continuous examples of almost no leadership concerning our crime and drug problems, the outrageous contentiousness displayed in the city council meetings, the Selma Police Department’s understaffing, the Water Board’s member dispute and the lack of code enforcement illustrated by the numerous dilapidated buildings around Selma, including the one across Water Ave. from the St. James Hotel.

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The good and exciting news is the current resurrection project going on at the St. James Hotel, which is under new management, and the plans for a “re-opening” sometime in October. Additionally, the planned renovation of the Tepper’s building, the Freedom Foundation project, is in process and hopefully will be completed soon.

Now, back to the letters written several days ago by Tom Bolton and Kincey Green. Mr. Bolton, a prominent Selma contractor/developer and president of the venerable and highly successful Cooper Brothers Construction Company, offered perhaps the most damning evidence as to why our once great community now finds itself, in my opinion, in a downward spiral on many fronts.

Bolton explained that after he and his family had lived in Selma’s Old Town district for over 20 years, the Bolton family made a decision to move into a home north of Selma four years ago, due to our downtown’s deteriorating conditions.

Further, Tom outlined the decline in his local construction business activities during the past two years, mentioning that his company’s business volume is now down to 20 percent only in Dallas County.

In his recent STJ article Bolton made it clear that the Cooper Brothers construction and development business “depends solely on the economic prosperity and a good business climate in the community. Without it I have to look for business opportunities elsewhere.”

The message is painfully clear, and 80 percent of Cooper’s business is now being conducted in communities other than Selma/Dallas County.

Kincey Green, a highly respected Selma attorney, has a keen sense of the Selma political scene and he nailed Selma’s crime problem perfectly in his STJ letter of Aug. 29, asking the rhetorical question, “What’s a “normal” level of crime?”

My answer is that there is no normal level of crime, and the amount of crime that exists in any community anywhere is always determined by the degree of leadership, money and effort exerted and expended in any given crime prevention program. It has been crystal clear for a long time that there is no serious interest, coming from the leaders at City Hall and the SPD, in controlling Selma’s crime and drug problems.

In his letter Green referred to Congressman Artur Davis’ comments at a recent Selma town hall meeting. When Davis suggested that “every community in our state has a crime problem,” it was, in my opinion, a pathetic, flippant excuse regarding Selma’s problem.

I feel sure that there are many Alabama municipalities that are dealing with crime much better than Selma. Kincey had it right; Davis’ answer to our crime problem was the typical liberal response – no solution, just everybody has the same problem. I find that response unacceptable.

Based on STJ reports, an anarchy-type situation erupted in an August city council meeting when a council member was ordered removed from the council chamber for disruptive behavior by Selma City Council President George Evans.

Later, a ruling was made by the council that rather than remove an out-of-order member, the president will simply gavel the meeting to a close.

Thus, a council meeting can be shut down, and the city’s business postponed until the next meeting for bad behavior on the part of any one council member.


As I have asked many times before: Where’s the leadership?

I was gratified to see that so many Selma citizens showed up for the Aug. 27 council meeting in a show of protest for the shenanigans displayed by certain members of the city council on Aug. 13. Also, the prayer vigil was meaningful and consistent with the many signs in citizens’ yards, “We are praying for our community.”

Prayer and divine intervention may be our only hope for the future. May God bless and save Selma.

Byrd Looper is a regular columnist for The Times-Journal.