Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Propaganda and Half-truths in Vincent, Alabama and the Shelby County Reporter

This recent story in the county newspaper was presented as a "news article" but reads more like an ad for the city of Vincent and a publicity piece rather than a substantive news item. Why is this story appearing at this time and is there some hidden agenda behind it? Is the city of Vincent using this media source, in combination with a slick, full-color insert about Vincent, (courtesy of the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce SCCC) that was recently included in the Shelby County Reporter newspaper, to represent an inaccurate picture of growth to assist them in trying to apply for grants that could be worth millions?

The SCCC full page writeup was glowing in its description of Vincent and discussed the "economic opportunities," the desirability of Vincent as a place to live and its enticing "small town feel." The latter is now appearing in print as their new catch phrase along with "Vincent is a hot topic right now and people are trying to find out more information about Vincent." It's a hot topic we agree, but not for the reasons Council person Bridgette Jordan-Smith states in the "article"--it's a hot topic because of the dictatorial way the entire quarry project has been conducted. Whispers of corruption and back-room deals permeate the community and cast long shadows of doubt over the entire town.

What was also missing from the SCCC slicker was the fact that an 886 acre quarry had just been approved by the Town Council. Maybe we're confused but "small town feel" and massive rock quarry don't seem to be compatible with each other. It would appear that the SCCC may have had the same thought and realized if that information was included, it may negate the rosy picture they were attempting to portray to readers and prospective home buyers.

In fact-checking this August 2 article we found the following misinformation that raised our suspicions:

1.The Wyndsor Trace development has 11 homes built not the 14-16 claimed by the Mayor. That is a 27% difference. This development recently went from new home sales to lease purchase in an attempt to attract buyers and the value of the homes has depreciated. We allow that the housing market is down, but you don't get that impression from this story.

2. The Census numbers used for 2009 are speculative and add 97 persons to the total for that year, which states that the 2000-2009 population increased in Vincent from 1,853 residents to 2,024 residents as reported by the newspaper article. The true 2009 numbers will come out in 6 months, so why was it important to publish this story before the actual recorded numbers come out?

3. The 380 acre development is the ideological vision of one man, Bud Weber, not the highly-credible Weber Group that comes up prominently in web searches. Any reader trying to learn more about the group from the article might inadvertently arrive at the latter and be impressed that this company may be coming to small town Vincent. 

4. The proposed development has no Master Plan from several recent checks of Vincent City Hall records, but again, in the article, which is quoting the Mayor, it seems to imply the possibility of one by including so much detail.

5. Breaking down the Census numbers dispels "good growth" claims:
171 people in a nine year span is 19 people per year. 
Some of that increase could be attributed to children since humans do have a tendency to propagate. 
Growth in a city by only 19 people per year is hardly the definition of "good growth" by anyone's standard other than this particular newspaper's view and the Mayor of Vincent.

Most small communities want to grow, improve and support enhanced functionality between the citizens and their local government, we don't dispute the positive aspects of any of those things. But, as we have discussed in this forum before, transparency has been absent from this community for a long time and the quarry has been a huge controversy from the start. Many citizens are of the opinion it will kill the small town atmosphere and not move it forward it as a family community. Given the nature of mining and heavy industry, we understand their real concerns and agree with them.

The news media holds a powerful position in its ability to sway and form public opinion and they serve their readers best when their stories hold both sides accountable. Of course, many times that does not happen as we all know, but we want them to at least try, don't we? Trying means more than just making a deadline; it means you have to do some work and confirm the information is valid, or at least make a concerted effort to represent both sides of the issue equally and fairly.

That's what the citizens of Vincent feel they have been deprived of throughout this long ordeal involving the quarry--no one has asked the tough questions and fact-checked the numerous claims made by all involved with White Rock Quarries Vincent Hills project.

Elected officials have denied the citizens any input other than strictly timed five-minute statements in the few public meetings that have been held in the last 15 months and in some of the monthly city council meetings. They have not answered any questions and taken no meetings with the townspeople, but they have met with the quarry reps and the county planners regularly on dozens of occasions.

The community has not been allowed to be privy to any negotiations and had zero input on the final zoning ordinance recently adopted by the Town Council, which is against a number of city frameworks we have checked that welcome and value their citizens involvement in planning and zoning.

What the opponents have received is unfair ridicule by having descriptors applied to them such as; "fear mongers, no-growth zealots, bizarre, nonsensical, slanderous, arrogant, etc." by the quarry reps, coupled with complete disrespect from their leaders by being shut out of all conclusive discussions and meaningful debate. In addition, the media outlets have failed them because they have been either incapable or uncaring of doing a probing story on serious issues that were raised time after time.

This is not at all a welcoming place full of friendly rural southern charm that this latest campaign seems designed to portray, it's about as far from it as you can get and that is the real tragedy, because it did not have to happen to Vincent. This town could have become a wonderful model for small town change, but once greed and absolute power walked in anything resembling friendly took a hike.

Vincent is now a town divided and inflamed, a community without any form of true representation that accurately reflects the hopes of its citizenry. The local media outlets should be ashamed that they are complicit in this perpetuation of half-truths and propaganda in light of what these citizens have had to endure.
(Many thanks to the citizens who contributed some of the information for this post)

***Update: We have learned that Alabama Senator Richard Shelby will be in attendance at this Thursday's SCCC luncheon in Columbiana, Alabama which is "spotlighting" the City of Vincent. With all this increased activity since the Vincent Town Council approved the quarry zoning ordinance, it seems to raise additional questions about what might be being discussed and/or planned and with whom, once again, without the input of the citizens that will be most affected by this.
Bookmark and Share

No comments:

Post a Comment

IP tracking & BS detector is enabled.
Don't set it off.