We can prevent same mistakes

Published 10:46 pm Saturday, January 28, 2012

As full disclosure, I think it’s important I share my mother was a high school history teacher and I was one of her students during my junior year in high school.

It was a tough advanced placement class and having your teacher at home every night — a teacher who knew she gave you homework, reading assignments and writing assignments — made it a little tougher.

But, what it did was instill in me a love of history. And, when I first moved to Selma in 1998, the history of this town was awe-inspiring.

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I remember the first time I walked the Edmund Pettus Bridge, standing at the apex of the bridge. I saw before me, as a I looked toward Selmont, the same scene I saw in history accounts of the Selma-to-Montgomery march and the depictions of the earlier Bloody Sunday events.

To say the least, I got chills.

Such history is all around us in Selma and it is easily the single biggest attraction we have here. Our history is not only valuable to us and our heritage, but it is also valuable to us because it brings millions of dollars into our community in the way of tourists.

The ongoing battle over the old YMCA is truly disappointing.

On one hand, we have a series of owners who — whether they admit it or not — failed in their responsibilities for such an iconic building. On the other, we had a city government — through multiple administrations — who failed to enforce the codes on the books to protect such history.

Now is the time for us to learn from our mistakes and to learn from history.

I will admit that I do not know the mechanics of such an idea, but that does not take away from its importance.

The city of Selma should commission a study immediately that identifies each of the historic buildings in downtown Selma, its owners and clearly documents the condition of that building.

The information should be used to spotlight those buildings that are at the most risk and be used to develop an action plan that — if nothing else — stabilizes any problem buildings from deteriorating more.

We cannot let one of the biggest assets we have — one of the biggest economic drivers we have — crumble away through neglect and age. If action is taken now, the soap opera that has surrounded the old YMCA building and will no doubt surround the Teppers Building at some point, can likely be avoided.