By Barrett Gilbreath
Far too often, politicians from both parties – Republicans and Democrats – have run for office by seeking to divide our community with invented controversies, false accusations, and broad-brush labels that divert our attention and prevent real problems and issues from ever being discussed.
By pitting one group against another and alienating anyone who offers needed solutions to the problems we face, these politicians often win office, but they prevent any progress from being made and cause cities like Montgomery to stagnate, wither, and die.
But the municipal elections scheduled for August 22 provide us the opportunity to reject the messengers of division and embrace the words of Abraham Lincoln, who said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
As a candidate for mayor, I choose to focus my campaign solely on the issues that unite and affect all of us who call Montgomery home, whether we are liberal or conservative, or black or white.
All of us are affected by the crime erupting in our neighborhoods, stores, and even our schools.
Everyone who is reading this column has likely been directly touched by the crime running rampant in Montgomery or knows a friend, neighbor, co-worker, church member, or other person who has.
Montgomery’s uncontrolled crime has forced retailers to lock up scores of items that shoppers could once conveniently pick from the shelf and carry to the checkout.
It has caused all of us to feel threatened on now empty streets that were once growing, active, and safe neighborhoods.
It has allowed too many among us to fall prey to the illegal drug trade and become victims of a deadly serial killer known as fentanyl.
It has robbed countless families of loved ones and erased futures before they could begin because of senseless murders that have become almost routine.
And it has thrust Montgomery into national headlines about an eight-year-old who recently stole a car and led police on a high-speed chase while carrying a loaded gun.
All of us are affected when city services fall by the wayside because of understaffing, lack of funding, and a vacuum of leadership.
Neighborhoods across the city have gone weeks without trash or debris being removed, which allows it to pile up and result in basic safety and health concerns.
Piles of trash that sit unmoved lessens the quality of life in communities and offers strong evidence that city leaders no longer care about those they should seek to serve.
Our sanitation employees work hard, but they do not receive the support they need from City Hall, and they, too, often feel unsafe while doing their jobs.
Just two weeks ago, a Montgomery sanitation worker suffered injuries when his city truck was struck by gunfire while picking up trash on his route. The injured worker drove the truck and his sanitation crew to the nearest police substation, where he reported the incident and summoned medics, who treated his wounds.
The individual who fired the gunshot remains at large.
All of us are affected when city streets are not repaired and maintained, and simply driving on some roadways can result in damage to your tires and vehicle.
Cracks, fissures, and potholes cover the roads in many Montgomery neighborhoods and subdivisions, and on rare occasions when repairs are made, they amount to little more than temporary duct tape and bailing wire fixes rather than more permanent repaving projects with lasting, long-term results.
Sub-par infrastructure and streets in disrepair lower property values in neighborhoods, slow commerce because goods cannot be transported, and give visitors to our city the impression that Montgomery is in serious and irreversible decline.
I outline the issues above and dozens more like them in my discussions with Montgomerians on the campaign trail not to divide us, but to unite us toward implementing solutions and rebuilding a city in which we can all take pride.
We can solve these problems and put Montgomery back on the right track, but it requires all of us to work together for a brighter and more promising future.
And, most importantly, it requires all of us to ignore those who engage in the politics of division, discord, and disagreement and respond, instead, to a message of unity, hope, and mutual respect for one another.