Tax vote a tipping point for Walker County

James Phillips
Posted 8/13/17

“Look at the world around you. It may seem like an immovable, implacable place. It is not. With the slightest push – in just the right place – it can be tipped.”

– Malcolm Gladwell, …

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Tax vote a tipping point for Walker County

Posted

“Look at the world around you. It may seem like an immovable, implacable place. It is not. With the slightest push – in just the right place – it can be tipped.”

– Malcolm Gladwell,

“The Tipping Point”

Walker County finds itself at a tipping point.

If you're familiar with the work of Malcolm Gladwell, you will know that his definition of a tipping point is “that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.”

For much of the year that I have been back in Walker County, I have felt like our community is at a tipping point. Many may have referred in recent weeks to that same notion as a crossroads.

Citizens of Walker County have striven for years to make our area a better place for each subsequent generation. I grew up in one of the most rural parts of our county. I saw first-hand during my youth that people in our community work hard, volunteer together, give to each other and do what it takes to make the sum of our whole much stronger than our individual parts, no matter the burden it might take to get to that strengthened core.

This Tuesday is one of those times when I feel that we must join together to do something that we might not like, but we must do it because it is what is best for our community as a whole.

Tuesday will be the day that Walker County citizens vote on whether or not to pass a 1-cent tax referendum to pay off a county debt that was put in places 15 years ago and to also provide earmarked revenue that would go to a variety of services in the area including roads and bridges, volunteer fire departments and public safety.

When the idea of the tax was first mentioned several months ago, I opined in this very location in our newspaper that I wasn't too sure on if it should be supported or not. After talking with countless people with varied thoughts on the topic, I have come to the conclusion that I will personally vote in favor of the tax.

My family has lived in Walker County for at least five generations. It is my hope that future generations of my family will continue to call Walker County home. I have five children, and I care deeply about their future. I want them to live in a place that has opportunities for them like it has had for their parents, grandparents and family members much further back than those.

Back to the tipping point.

When something finds itself at a tipping point, there are impacting factors that can cause a small lean in either direction to become an outright fall to one direction or the other. I may be wrong, but I consider this vote to be a major impact on which way our community will fall.

In the last year, we have seen major positives for our area, such as the completion of U.S. Interstate 22, the growth of downtown Jasper, the opening of Yorozu (which will bring 300 or more jobs) and the opening of businesses in several areas of our community. We have also seen some negative things happen, such as the closing of hometown staples G. May & Sons and Bull Building Supply, as well as the possible dismantling of our mall with anchor stores Kmart and JCPenney closing.

Still, in my estimation, we have seen more positives than negatives in our area this year, and I feel like we are closing in on growth like we have never seen in our community. We've envied our neighbor Cullman for many years because of the growth that has happened there, but we aren't far behind their city, and they have a 50-year head start on us when it comes to having an interstate.

If our community is leaning forward at a tipping point, bankruptcy will be a major impacting factor that could wipe out any positives that we have seen in recent years. If the tax vote does not pass, bankruptcy is the next step, and it isn't as simple as declaring bankruptcy and we start all over. It will put our community in a hole that would be difficult to climb our way out of it. I have no doubt that we would find our way out of the hole, but I would rather us not put ourselves there.

When taxes are being discussed, the business community is typically against new taxes. During the lead up to this vote, the local business community has been overwhelmingly vocal in support of the tax. That is another reason to ponder voting in favor. As a business leader myself, I do not want to have to pay more taxes, but I can stomach the idea knowing that it sure beats the alternative. The Chamber of Commerce of Walker County, as well as the Walker County Industrial and Economic Development Board, have both come out in favor of the tax. There are businesses, retail and industrial, looking to move to our area on a weekly, if not daily, basis, but as a part of their thought process, they look for any reason to cut a community from their possible locations. Bankruptcy would be a big reason to cut us.

The Daily Mountain Eagle has used a lot of ink over the last several weeks to give our community as much information as possible concerning the tax vote. It is our hope that, whether you are for or against the tax, that our coverage has provided you with the information needed to bring you to an educated decision. As a news organization, that is what we continually strive to do.

Whether you agree with my thoughts or not as it relates to the tax vote, the most important thing is for you to actually go vote and express your opinion. We will also be voting on the U.S. Senate seat that formerly belonged to Jeff Sessions.

While voting on our next senator is an important decision, I don't think that check mark will be nearly as important to our community as our decision on the tax question. Go vote!

James Phillips is editor and publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He may be reached at 205-221-2840 or james.phillips@mountaineagle.com.