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Bridging the financial gap with the bridge

Living in Selma is interesting at the very least.

For several weeks, even months, some argument has gone back and forth about dancing on the bridge among city officials, volunteers of the Freedom Foundation who created Project Dance and the local Southern Christian Leadership Conference, who supports Project Dance. As most people know, the Rev. Franklin Fortier is president of the local SCLC. He supports the Freedom Foundation lead by Mark Duke. And, many of the members of the SCLC, even some high-ranking officers are volunteers of the Freedom Foundation.

A lot of people around here consider the Freedom Foundation a cult. There’s no warm water about them. People here either love them or despise them. Same thing goes for the SCLC’s local leadership.

Project Dance elicited a lot of back and forth. First of all, some of the Freedom Foundation volunteers who attended Samford University wanted the Edmund Pettus Bridge shut down for a unity dance. Initially, thinking it was a university-sponsored project, Mayor George Evans gave the nod. He said he was lead to believe this by the young people who presented the proposal. Evans checked with the university, which said it had nothing to do with the dance. Evans said he felt like the whole deal was misrepresented, so he pulled his approval. Protests of Evans followed. The group marched over the bridge and danced in Memorial Park in Selmont.

Representatives of Project Dance kept coming back to Selma City Council meetings and talking about dancing on the bridge on Aug. 6 to commemorate the signing of the Voting Rights Act on that day in 1965. The dance would show unity.

Evans balked, then agreed to close the bridge for a program, but forbade the group to dance. On Friday, they danced anyway. Some folks expected the so-called civil disobedience; others just shook their heads.

Because Selma is famous for the bridge, a lot of people were looking at what would happen. They also had reactions.

Here are some of the suggestions received from readers from afar.

One reader suggests because the city is in need of money, it should agree to shut down the bridge for any group that wants to use it for any reason. Only that group would have to pony up $1,000 per hour. The money would be used to pay police overtime for security and throw a little into city coffers.

Someone else said let the Freedom Foundation dance any time they wanted by giving them a contract, sort of like a Vegas one, charging at least $50-$100 admission to the unity dance. Let the contract run for at least three years and required the Project Dance to perform at least once a month and guarantee a draw of $1,000. The city could pocket the money.

Another person suggested the city sell naming rights to the bridge, much like famous stadiums have done. For example, Exxon could purchase the naming rights to the bridge for $10 million over two years. Then, Exxon could decide when, why and how the bridge would be closed. If this occurred, the city could make more money and the deficit over sales tax would end.

No matter what happens in the future, it’s a sure sign other folks are watching what Selma does — and many times those folks are laughing.

Leesha Faulkner is editor of The Selma Times-Journal. You may reach her at 410-1730 or e-mail her at leesha.faulkner@selmatimesjournal.com