By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Over the years, I have interviewed Mayor Ronnie several times pertaining to the subject of budgets, and almost always I comment about the fact that he is one person who genuinely enjoys the topic. This past Monday morning was no exception, and September is the kick-off of the process of “grappling with the green” and where it is going to be spent. The entire city council of Athens works hard to be good stewards of our tax dollars, and with the fact that no one is new to the process, the mayor feels it will go well.
As always, much of the discussion regarding the allocation of funds is going to center around our growth as a city as well as a county. How do we prepare? What can we do to get ahead of anticipated needs? What needs to be shored up in order to handle growth well, and what needs to be completely rebuilt or built for the first time? These are not small expenditures when you consider adequate levels of fire protection, police protection, and other first-responder categories.
Another situation that needs to be addressed is choosing a City of Athens police chief, and making the promotion permanent. Chief Floyd Johnson retired earlier this summer after over four decades of service on the force. Captain Anthony Pressnell has been serving as interim police chief. He has served our city since 1989. The City Council will decide whether to promote in-house or seek applicants from outside the city.
The U.S. Census is inadvertently affecting the life and decision-making responsibilities of our city. In 2010, our population was 21,897. In 2020, it had grown to 25,400. Now it is estimated to be at 30,000. What that does is require the City to redistrict for the City Council, and most folks are not aware that the whole purpose of re-districting is to do whatever is possible to keep the numbers in each district as close to the same level as possible. “The purpose is representation based on the population as a whole,” said Mayor Ronnie. He also added with a laugh, “If you are going to run for city council, you need to make sure that you live in the right district.” What he is referring to is the debacle during the 2022 election in Alabama where people were not aware that the lines had been redrawn and they were campaigning in the wrong district for a position for which they could not technically be elected. Redistricting in Alabama as a whole has gone to the Supreme Court level, and there are new guidelines that need to be followed. “We will have public hearings to make sure this is done the right way,” said the mayor.
Mayor Ronnie also wanted people to know that he has established a task force to address the complicated and controversial topic of homelessness. It is made of citizens and officials, and will look at every equitable angle possible to balance the demands and promises of the Constitution as it pertains to property ownership and how best to help those who for a number of reasons find themselves unsheltered. It is a gnarly topic, indeed; one about which we prayed. And then, once again, it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner