There is a lot going on in the metropolitan area west of Redstone Arsenal these days. An entirely new retail opportunity has entered the Huntsville market and provided citizens local access to products only available to us online previously. Welcome, Duluth Trading Company.
The Rocket City will once again offer families access to minor league baseball. One of America’s last bastions of wholesome family entertainment at a price point most can still afford, the Trash Pandas should not have much trouble filling their stadium with entertainment-starved west siders.
Residents are anxiously awaiting the opening of a brand new multi-use complex that promises a significant increase in the quality of life for area neighborhoods. No more trips to the other side of the arsenal to enjoy mix use venues like Providence, Campus 805, Lowe Mill or Stovehouse. Town Madison has the potential to bring a unifying element to the random hodgepodge of underserved west side neighborhoods.
Unfortunately, not one of the aforementioned quality of life increasing ventures is within the City of Huntsville. More disturbing, the thousands of Huntsville citizens residing south of I-565 have only about 10 retail businesses with which to do business in all the square mileage between County Line and Zierdt Roads.
Roughly 10 retail businesses paying taxes and fees to the city. Approximately 10 retail businesses, all but one small businesses, potentially providing jobs for west side residents. These numbers put our beloved Huntsville neighborhoods on par with the City of Triana. No offense to Triana, but Huntsvillians deserve better considering the tax burden we shoulder.
If investment in west siders and the wellbeing of our families was the only metric, many would say the City of Madison cares far more about west side Huntsvillians than our own city government. However, we know better. We know Mayor Tommy Battle cares and has invested heavily in upgrading city streets to accommodate the needs of west siders.
We know the Velvet Hammer cares. She cared enough to spend her political clout to remedy another west side road issue, one that will definitively prevent the loss of property and potentially human life. Thank you, Councilwoman Frances Akridge!
We know Council President Devyn Keith and Councilwoman Jennie Robinson care. Both have worked tirelessly to ensure a smooth and efficient appointment process to replace outgoing District 5 School Board Member Pam Hill.
Oddly enough, the only person in local government who has shown absolutely no concern for west siders is the man elected to represent us. Make no mistake, the man does care about Huntsville — north Huntsville. This is by no means a bad thing. He does represent north Huntsville. I just wish he would represent the west side as well; after all, we are a part of his district too and some west siders even voted for him.
Given west siders are effectively without representation and have been for years, the time has come for the City of Huntsville to acknowledge the blatantly obvious — west siders need their own city council and school board representatives.
A council member cannot effectively balance the needs of north Huntsville and west Huntsville residents. Their issues and concerns are just too distinct.
For instance, not a single north Huntsville resident has a Madison or Harvest address. Consequently, they could not care less about the issue and the negative impact having a non-Huntsville address has on emergency service response times.
Not a single north Huntsville resident has water service provided by Limestone County authorities and could not care less that those residents pay significantly more than north Huntsville customers of Huntsville Utilities. Nor do those calling north Huntsville home care that west siders don’t have a city library, ballpark, gymnasium or pool. And north Huntsville children aren’t forced to spend hours on a bus every day getting to and from school.
The westward expansion of Huntsville has created a unique set of issues and reality of life for those who live on the wrong side of the arsenal. The current configuration of District 5 promotes animosity between the residents of north and west Huntsville — the haves and the have nots.
The creation of a sixth district in the city of Huntsville, with council and school board members focused exclusively on the unique needs of west siders is the only way to ensure parity for all Huntsvillians.
John Meredith is recognized as one of America’s most influential black Republicans. Son of civil rights icon, James H. Meredith, John earned two national lobbying awards in Washington, DC before relocating to Huntsville where he provides political commentary for Alabamians through radio, television and print media