Selma once more a hot political spot

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The issue: Sen. John McCain has come and gone, visiting an area Republicans generally

do not consider.

Our position: Once again, Selma is in the national spotlight. How can we improve upon our reputation?

Email newsletter signup

We in Selma cannot deny our history.

We have taken negatives and turned them into celebrations.

In the 1860s, we were an armaments supplier to the Confederacy during the Civil War &8212; the Lost Cause.

Yet, during the weekend, visitors from all areas of the country stayed in our hotels and ate in our restaurants. They celebrated the Battle of Selma, a lesson in history.

About 100 years after the Battle of Selma, a group of freedom fighters defied an injustice and walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The result: People who wanted to exercise their voting rights as citizens in a democracy were pummeled by police authorities.

Just about a month ago, visitors from all areas of the country stayed in our hotels and ate in our restaurants. They celebrated the Selma-to-Montgomery march, another lesson in history.

And shortly after that, our great Victorian houses in Selma flung their doors open wide in celebration of architecture and craftsmanship. And visitors from all areas of the country came to stay in our hotels and eat in our restaurants.

On Sunday, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and the presumptive Republican candidate for the presidency, stepped off the bus and greeted well-wishers in the Downtowner. He ate dinner there.

Later, Sunday evening, the candidate spent the night at the historic St. James Hotel. McCain brought more with him than just a few tag-alongs. He brought the national press corps, and as a result, a nation turned its eyes toward Selma.

It seems almost ironic that as McCain stood in the shadow of the porch of the Bridgetender’s house and talked about the future of the country, he looked over into the ugly side of Selma.

Right there, across the street from where the crowd gathered to hear a man who might become president, a building &8212; half a building &8212; gapes wide open. Its guts spill onto the ground below.

That is so much who we are right now &8212; half completed.

On Sunday, people walked the streets of downtown, staring into many empty storefronts or in search of a restaurant downtown.

Instead of empty buildings in disrepair, this downtown should be bustling with artists, musicians, boutiques, cafes and coffee shops.

Some brave people &8212;

Back Alley Art, the Frame Shoppe &8212; have opened up along Water Avenue and have given it some life.

Others took the initiative several years ago and have settled in downtown.

But we need to dig down deep and move forward in meaningful ways. We need to clean up these buildings and put in galleries or places to throw pots or T-shirt shops or cafes that serve deli food. Even an independent book store would bring more to our community.

Our visitors want a Sunday brunch or late lunch or something cold to drink as they explore our downtown.

We have the history. We have the attractions.

We need to put on our best appearance and become a destination.