Welcome to the longest post I have ever written on Geek Alabama! This over 5,200 word post will explain the frustrations of living in Anniston and Calhoun County for the last 10 years along with having an mental disability (Asperger’s Syndrome). It will also talk about 10 ways to turn this metro area around! Because if this metro area cannot get things fixed and turned around, I hope my mom can drive me to Atlanta, Birmingham, or some other nearby city for job interviews, and a potential move. Because I cannot continue to get my hopes up over potential opportunities, which then goes bust, it happens all the time it seems. And with the threats of cuts to SS disability and food stamps looming, I know I will not find anything where I live at now. So a potential move somewhere else it is.
As some of you know by now, if I need to go anywhere, I have to either use the public transportation system, which is really not well run, rely on my mom, or walk. And I do a lot of walking. When I am walking, I often see the big problems here in Anniston. I see plenty of abandoned buildings.
I see plenty of closed down businesses. In fact you can find plenty of closed down places along Noble Street, and other busy streets.
And former businesses with windows boarded up.
I often encounter people who are up to no good, including a person who just got out of prison, and a gay person who tried to hit me up along with kissing my hand and neck and asking about the size of my genitals, and both of these occurrences happened during the daytime.
I also see plenty of dogs who are homeless just running around town.
To sum it up, things are going horribly here in the Anniston-Oxford metro. I think the biggest problem in Calhoun County is the lack of good leadership. All types of leadership, from businesses, charities, and governments, mostly have not done a very good job making very good decisions that would benefit the people living here in Calhoun County. We have got some leaders who criticize and yell at other people to try to get things done. We’ve got leaders who are just plain lazy and are not doing very much to benefit the people living here. We have got leaders who have a “me first” attitude and won’t help others until they get their way first. We also have leaders, who are making some terrible decisions that will not help the people who are struggling living here in Calhoun County.
Quite simply, all places with leadership roles, simply need some better leaders. Leaders who can make better decisions that would benefit people who are living in this county. Leaders who would quit yelling at people and finger-pointing at other people, and instead working to making the lives of people better. Leaders who would share the wealth and opportunities with other areas. And leaders who are quite simply knowing what they are doing. Because as of right now, I don’t think many of our leaders in Calhoun County are making very good decisions. Because the Anniston-Oxford metro is near the very bottom of quite a few respectable lists.
According to the Milken Institute, the Anniston-Oxford metro is one of the 20 worst performing small metro areas in the country. The rates for the one-year job growth and income growth are near the very bottom.
According to New Georgraphy, the Anniston-Oxford metro is one of the 20 worst performing small metro areas in the country.
According to elogbooks, the Anniston-Oxford metro is on the bottom 20 list for America’s fastest shrinking cities. And in the chart below, you see that the per capita income is one the lowest in the entire country. That’s really sad!
Also, according to the Economic Innovation Group, the Anniston ZIP Code 36201 is one of the most economically distressed ZIP Codes in the entire country. Heck, the ZIP code is ranked 25,960 out of 26,126, which means the middle of Anniston is one of the worst ZIP Codes in the entire United States. The ZIP Code has a distressed score of 99.4. And with the poverty rate of nearly 35%, and over half of adults not working. What is going to happen when the Trump White House along with Congress cuts back on all types of welfare from disability, food stamps, and public housing? Keep in mind, I am one of those people who is relying on disability and food stamps, I don’t really want think about it. It’s going to be very bad!
And, according to the US Census Bureau, Calhoun County has seen over 4,000 people move out of the county since 2010. Every city in Calhoun County, yes even including Oxford, has lost population. The only exception is Weaver with a very tiny gain. And the population loss has meant Calhoun County has lost more people than any other county in Alabama since 2010. Let that sink in for a moment. The county I live in has seen thousands of people move away, mostly because of little economic incentives. When you can’t find a job, or have a job that pays very little, how do you survive? That is why a lot of people have moved away.
So below, I have listed 10 ways for Calhoun County, Anniston, and Oxford to get back on track, and allow the people living here to live a comfortable life without having to worry about finances or crime. Because let’s face it, people having to worry about being robbed or shot, or people that have to worry about how they are going to pay their bills, get very stressed out. People should not have to live in a stressed-out world, they should be able to live comfortably while living a healthy life. This is something that is very hard to do here in Calhoun County. So let’s get started!
This is mainly focused on Anniston. So this recently happened. I was walking down a street in the middle of the day when a guy walks up to me, starts kissing my neck and hand, asks about the size of my genitals, and talks about Alabama football. Yes, as you guessed it, this was a gay guy trying to hit me up. Keep in mind this was in the middle of the day in Anniston.
As some already know, Anniston is in the news often over some crime issues. No matter if it’s a shooting, robbery, or something else. One sees that Anniston is in the news for some crime issue quite often. The crime has gotten so bad the FBI has said that Anniston has some of the worst crime statistics for a city its size in the entire United States. And, as for crime percentages, Anniston ranks as bad as some cities in Venezuela in the terms for crime problems.
So, we know that Anniston has a crime problem. What can happen to turn the crime problem around? Could Anniston attract higher paying jobs instead of these low-wage crap jobs. Could Anniston provide kids with a better education so kids can earn a living instead of robbing other people? Can Anniston provide lower cost housing so we can get homeless people off the street? Could Anniston spend more money so our police can be better paid and not move on so quickly?
Anniston’s police is poorly paid, and after some time on the force, many move into better paid police jobs elsewhere. If we had more police on the streets, the crime rate would probably not be as high as it is now. Second, some people are struggling because they can’t find jobs, are homeless, or not being paid enough. People get desperate, and when some people don’t have the money to pay their bills or feed themselves, they might turn to stealing other things to make a quick buck. And what about Anniston’s major homeless problem? That needs to be improved too! The current homeless shelter on South Noble St. is really outdated. And with the Chief Ladiga Trail soon to be extended to the train station, where the homeless shelter is only a few blocks from them. Nothing is going to say “Welcome to Anniston”, while a homeless person is harassing a cyclist or trying to get money from them.
Anniston can really do a better job with its crime problem. And keep it better under control inside the city, and keep the crime from spreading into other towns like Oxford, where they have had some sad crime events committed by people from other parts of Calhoun County. The crime problem is hurting Anniston to gain new businesses, keep people living in the town, recruiting better paying jobs, and making Anniston a better place to live.
Oxford City Schools are really good! Calhoun County Schools are very good as well. But what about Anniston City Schools? We keep throwing more money at the schools, and the results don’t improve much if any. Some of the city schools have been placed on a failing school list. Anniston spends some of the highest amount of money per pupil in Alabama. And Anniston High School is in the bottom ten of high schools in Alabama for graduation rates and recently got an “F” grade from the state. Getting the picture, something is not right with Anniston City Schools.
Yes, I know the city schools have more poorer students than the other school districts in the area. But it seems like Anniston is okay to continue to throw big sums of money to the city schools to hope scores and grades gets better. Recently, the latest battle was giving students a computer for their school work. I have no problem with that, in this day of age, students needs the technology to do their school work. But, will the new technology make the students perform better? Or will Anniston City Schools continue to fail the students its supposed to serve?
I have got some radical ideas to make sure the students who attends Anniston City Schools gets a better education than they get now. How about trying something new like a charter school? Looks, I know some are against that, but the city schools needs to try anything to help the students get a better education. Also, how about the city give up the city school system and let Calhoun County Schools take over? Think about it. If the students from the city schools get to go to the county schools, they can enroll in better classes, better tech courses, they can go to the technical school, and so on. Every child deserves the best education they can get, and I feel like the students in Anniston City Schools are ending up very short, something needs to change!
Anniston has a really tough time keeping up with the infrastructure. I mean, the street I live on, Wilmer Avenue, has a section where the road paint lines have faded so much that you cannot tell that there is a center lane available for cars turning left.
The same thing applies to other roads in Anniston. The city crews have a hard time knowing the proper way to paint road lines on the pavement. This is at Greenbrier Dear Road, where there should be a break between the yellow line and white line.
And this was Coleman Road, where you see some of the worst re-painting jobs you might ever see.
Another problem is Anniston along with ALDOT has a very hard time maintaining traffic lights. I have posted multiple articles along with videos and pictures showing traffic signals that has something wrong and needs to be corrected. I mean, it shouldn’t take years to fix the traffic light problems mostly along Quintard Avenue. You have one light at the AL-202 / 8th Street intersection where it’s not synchronized. And sensors on one side were not installed after it was repaved.
There are multiple ped signals burnt out or even missing at every intersection on Quintard Avenue that has ped signals.
The signal at Greenbrier Dear Road allows for a long green light for Greenbrier traffic even if no traffic is present.
The signal at Blue Mountain Road is not synchronized when it should be.
And for the lights along Quintard Ave. at 10th, 11th, and 12th streets. And the signals on AL-202 at Wilmer Avenue and Noble Street, the synchronized lights stay on 24/7, when the synchronization is supposed to go off overnight because of the lack of the traffic. This is me sitting outside at one of the lights after midnight, and I see cars running red lights all the time, because they don’t want to sit there for no reason.
And Anniston has problems with road signs that are faded beyond most recognition. From stop signs, do not enter signs, and more, I am guessing with Anniston without a public works director, stuff like this below goes unnoticed.
And with Anniston not repaving any roads for a couple years now, this is pretty embarrassing. I mean, potential new industries or businesses look at things like the roads, and infrastructure like the traffic lights, and when they see that the city or the state does not give a crap about maintaining its infrastructure, it puts the city in a very bad light. And that’s not good, because when the city shows everyone that it cannot maintain its infrastructure, it makes us look like were some run down city. So maybe, let’s get this fixed for once, shall we?
Something has puzzled me over the past few years, why does the Anniston/Oxford metro area keep shooting itself in the foot? Over and over again, stories from this area have gone on to make national and worldwide news and it’s often not good. For example, I am sure you remember the Monsanto PCB case that polluted West Anniston with PCB’s. That led 60 Minutes to name Anniston the most toxic city in America. But, recently this area has made the news in stupid stuff!
For starters, the City of Oxford made national news over using dirt from a hill that was used as an Indian burial mound to build a shopping center. Nothing says we don’t care by screwing Indians by building something for shopping.
Then in early 2016 the Oxford City Council passed that bathroom bill in response to policies that Target started. Nevermind Target has a family bathroom in their store, what Fox News Channel said probably influenced most of the council. A few weeks later after the ordinance was rescinded after major nationwide and worldwide backlash.
Then a few months ago, The Center For Domestic Preparedness, which is right here in Anniston, reported that around 10,000 first responders were exposed to Ricin. Yes, that story once again made the national and worldwide news and put yet another black mark on this metro area. Nothing says were number 1 by exposing our EMT’s, firefighters, and police to a deadly chemical!
And now Anniston has two city councilmen, Ben Little and David Reddick, who are constantly threatening to shut down the city, block things that would make the city better, or sue just about anyone to get their way. While they do this, people from this area and from around the country are looking at this, and are shaking their heads about this area. And even now, the Roy Moore controversy is putting even another black mark on this area. Shows like The Daily Show and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert are coming out with stories and videos about this area that makes us the laughing stock of America. Here are some examples.
Welp, The Late Show With Stephen Colbert put out a parody Gadsden Mall commercial last night. pic.twitter.com/RZMS09EKS1
— Nathan Young (@nvyoung) November 15, 2017
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) November 16, 2017
This nationwide embarrassment just continues to put a black eye on this area, and messes like this does nothing but harm this area. How about this for a change? How about this metro area quit shooting itself in the foot? It would lead to everyone having a better life!
#5 Sunday Alcohol Sales In Oxford
Over the past few years, many cities here in East Alabama have passed laws that allow the purchase of alcohol on Sunday afternoons. Many cities big and small have done it, but the city with most of the restaurants and retail keeps saying they won’t allow Sunday sales because of moral reasons. I mean, what a stupid and idiotic statement there! With Anniston wanting to become this cycling mecca,, people visiting will want to have a cold one on any day of the week! And Oxford has most of the restaurants in Calhoun County, it does not make sense!
And consider this, the owners of Mellow Mushroom in Oxford have said they are losing out of up to 10% of total sales and have people walking out of the restaurant on Sundays because Oxford thinks moral beliefs trump people making a living. In the restaurant business, losing 8-10% of total sales can be the difference between staying open and closing. There are restaurant chains like Buffalo Wild Wings that wants to come to this area, but won’t until Oxford’s laws change. And some restaurants like Lone Star Steakhouse have closed up shop.
And just recently, McAlister’s Deli has closed.
Here is the bottom line, I would think Oxford would want more tax revenue. And people visiting here would love to enjoy some local restaurants. Those chain sit down places like Applebee’s or Logan’s are quickly going out of style by us Millennials and younger people are preferring local restaurants. Who in their right mind would even consider opening a local restaurant in Oxford? There is just a handful of local non-chain sit down restaurants in Oxford, and it will stay that way until Oxford I guess gets permission from God from praying to allow Sunday Alcohol sales. Man I can’t make this stuff up!
And now with the Quintard Mall being bought up by a mall firm, they are wanting to spend money to improve the mall and bring in new businesses. Some of those businesses will be restaurants, and they will want to serve alcohol on Sundays. Unless Oxford changes their laws, you will see little to no new businesses move to the Quintard Mall. So Oxford, it’s up to you! I would imagine you want new businesses and tax revenue!
#6 Truck Stop
If you drive a 18-wheeler, and if you come to the Anniston/Oxford metro area, and you need to find a place to park, good luck! The only truck stop in Oxford along I-20 is a Circle K in front of the Wal-Mart. The place only has around 15 truck parking spots. Yes, only 15. For being along an Interstate that has some of the highest amount of truck traffic in the United States, only having 15 parking spots is nowhere close to enough!
So then you are saying, those trucks could park at Wal-Mart, they can’t. The Wal-Mart in Oxford has banned overnight truck parking and there are numerous signs saying that. Trucks for years were then parking at a closed down Chinese buffet behind the Shoney’s, until whoever owns the land decided to put up barricades to block any parking.
So then truckers have been trying to park at other shopping centers until the owners of those centers have banned them as well. Get the picture, where do truck drivers park at? Mostly everything is either shipped in or out by trucks in today’s world! Sometimes a truck driver might get to town early, or another truck driver needs to park to rest for 10 hours. If the Anniston/Oxford metro area wants to attract new industries and business, it MUST get a truck stop built with numerous truck parking spots. Every other metro area in Alabama has one or more major truck stops, why not this metro? There is land in Oxford near the former Outback Steakhouse. How about turning the old Food World in South Anniston into a truck stop? Bottom line is truck drivers need to park somewhere!
#7 Relying On Retail
If there is one thing leaders in the Anniston/Oxford metro are doing the most, it’s begging people to go shopping. I mean, it’s like we are dogs, and leaders are holding that treat! Here is the problem, the internet is gaining steam and many more people are buying stuff online. Sure, cities are getting a little tax revenue from those online sales. But, we are becoming reliant on a 10% sales tax that will eventually become non-reliant. And there have been talks to raise the sales tax rate even more to pay for things like a jail renovation, that would be the death nail for this area. Anniston has numerous closed down buildings, and those buildings are not coming back. If you look in downtown, Quintard, or anywhere in Anniston, you can not miss those closed down buildings.
And more and more places keep closing down. With an extreme poverty rate and many jobs paying a little above minimum wage, people can not afford to spend money at local businesses. So who in their right mind would open up a small business? I know I would not! Then look at Oxford, along their main corridor US 78 you can find many closed down businesses as well. And then look at the Quintard Mall. The mall is over halfway empty, the Sears is gone, JcPenney will probably be gone soon, and the few businesses left inside the mall will not last for long.
The mall has changed hands several times and will continue to flounder. So what does this all mean? How about quit relying on the sales tax to run your cities! For starters the 10% is very high, one of the highest rates in the United States, and for a metro area with extreme poverty and many low wage jobs, it helps no one! What will replace the sales tax? I will leave that to our leaders to figure that one out. More people today are not spending their money on material things, they are spending money on experiences, and that leads to the next point.
#8 The Lack Of Experience Stuff
So what is there to do in the Anniston/Oxford metro? I’ll give you a few seconds? Stumped? I am too! Sure, if you had the money to purchase a bike, you could ride on some bike trails. If you enjoy being bored, you can float down a creek. If you never visited the Anniston Museum of Natural History or Berman Museum of the World History, go visit them. But they don’t change things enough to keep going back. To sum things up, this metro lacks severally things to do to have a fun experience. Places like Gadsden have much more cool things you can do! You can visit a fun park, see farm animals, and ride the train!
You can visit The Factory and your kids can have fun in their trampoline park!
You can visit Virtual Realms, which is a virtual reality arcade!
Get the idea! Students from JSU can have a more exciting time in Gadsden versus Anniston. Wonder why JSU is building that student recreation center? There has been talk of seeing some experience things opening up, but nothing ever gets off the ground. If this metro can not commit to getting a dog park built, you will have a hard time seeing something experience wise opening up. And something needs to open up and quick! Because more money is being spent on experience things versus material things. This metro seems like it’s stuck in the 1980’s and keeps thinking buying material things is the only way to go. Boy that is going to bomb hard!
Cycling is one very expensive hobby! Good bikes can easily go over $1,000. And for a metro area that is in extreme poverty and with numerous low wage jobs, people are looking for experience things that do not cost a lot of money, and kids can have fun at the same time. Walking around a lake or floating down a creek is not my idea of kids having fun. Something needs to change so people can enjoy experience things here! How about upgrading the current Moore’s Center in Oxford to the 21st century?
How about Oxford upgrades their current swimming pool. If smaller cities including Piedmont have upgraded their’s, Oxford is long past overdue for a new pool facility!
Get the idea, we need experience things!
#9 Extreme Poverty
Anniston has another major problem, its extreme poverty rate! Over 30% of people living in Anniston are in poverty. That’s a really big number! And when you add in those just above the poverty rate, you could say over 40% are not living well money wise. Why is this? For starters, Anniston is not doing a good enough job attracting higher paying jobs to the area. The former Fort McClellan has barely been developed, West and South Anniston continues to die off, and the only thing Anniston is good enough in doing is attracting low wage fast-food and retail jobs.
But only attracting low age jobs is not the only problem. There are many including myself who rely on food stamps or SNAP to survive. In fact over 20% of people in Calhoun County has food stamps, one of the higher rated counties in Alabama. And let’s also include those living with TNAF or Social Security disability. If you have been living under a rock, you know that the Trump Administration has submitted a budget that severely cuts food stamps, SSDI and SSI, public housing, and other welfare programs. If Congress passed this budget not only I am screwed, many others living here will be too.
So then you say the food pantries can help out! And I laugh in the background. The food pantries here are already struggling with keeping up with the demand. If you add on a lot more people who will need help after their food stamps and disability have been cut off or reduced, the food pantries will have nothing to give away. The 36201 zip code is already one of the most economically distressed zip codes in the United States. Want to make it worse, cut off welfare to those who need it. Why has hardly anything been done to reverse this trend? This leads to my final point!
#10 Bad Leadership
I keep hearing that the leaders of Calhoun County are working together to make things better. If that is the case, then why is Calhoun County losing the most people than any other county in Alabama? Or why the Anniston/Oxford metro is one of the worst ranked performing metros in the United States? Or why Anniston and Hobson City is some of the most economically distressed zip codes in the United States? In short, the leaders are not doing enough to bring this metro and county out of the dumps.
It’s been this way for a while, the former mayor of Oxford wanted everything for himself first before anyone else. Two councilmen in Anniston are running their big mouths which is doing nothing to help those who need help. The commission to re-develop the former Fort McClellan is running out of money to hardly anything to show for it. And is committed to spending $600,000 on bike trails instead of recruiting higher paying jobs to the area, what a joke! Piedmont has lost most of its industries and is doing hardly anything to stop the bleeding. I can go on and on.
This county and several cities has horrible leadership. And in Anniston, two councilmen, Ben Little and David Reddick, are determined to run Anniston into the ground and let their ego’s get in the way of any potential progress. They have even threatened people like me for trying to help those who need it. They even threatened a videographer I know on Facebook, how stupid!
Anyways, I think leadership in all of Calhoun County needs a dramatic wake up call! For starters, I wish every leader, from government, business, charity, and churches, would ride the Anniston ACTS Trolley system like I already do and talk to the drivers and passengers. You would be in for some rude awakenings from the people riding or driving the buses.
Second, any leader must go out into the poorer areas of towns and talk to people. I don’t think the leaders are understanding on how people think things are being run here. Many do think governments here are run on a good ole boy kickback system and only certain people are getting the benefits while many suffer.
And last, this area needs a change of thinking. It seems like Anniston and Calhoun County have gone all in on bike trails. It’s like we are playing a high stakes game of poker, and we have pushed all of our chips in, hoping to double up. But I am afraid the river card will go against us, and we go bust! We have forgotten to know when to fold them!
Spending $600,000 and more on some bike trails is helping no one except for a few people. This money instead needs to be going to hire police, fix streets, improve the well-being of people, recruiting jobs, and so on. Anniston has been trying to compare us to other cities like Bend, Oregon or Duluth, Minnesota. These areas have many high paying jobs so people can afford to ride those bike trails. Here in Anniston/Oxford and Calhoun County, we are building the bike trails but many can not afford to ride them. Someone is getting some serious kickbacks here!
To sum things up, this area is lacking good leadership and this area should be begging for someone with experience in running a good city or county to come here, and fast! Anniston will soon have a new city manager, maybe this person will be the one to get things turned around?
So there it is, my list of ten things to help fix and turn around the Anniston/Oxford metro area and Calhoun County. We have some really bright people here who have some really good ideas to make this area better, myself is a very good example. But, instead of people like me who wants to make this area better, we instead have people with extremely big ego’s who are determined to keep things the way they are. I mean, if you enjoy continuing seeing this metro area constantly being near last in every major category, let’s keep things status quo.
But, if this metro area and county wants to change for the better. Where people are getting out of poverty, where crime is going down, where students are getting a better education, where more businesses are opening and thriving, where people have more things they can do, and so on. If we want to make the Anniston/Oxford metro area and Calhoun County better, change must happen! People here need to quit fearing change, change is a good thing! If we don’t change for the better, more people who fall into poverty, more people will move away, more will continue to struggle. And seeing people struggle should be something no one should tolerate!
If something does not get better soon, you will be seeing this sign a lot more across Calhoun County, Anniston, and Oxford. It really does not make sense, we have the infrastructure, we have great water services, we have got brand-new roads, we got people begging for jobs, and we have the land available for jobs. Along with being in between two major cities, and located along a major interstate corridor, we should be doing a heck of a lot better!