Roy Moore allegations place uneasy spotlight on Gadsden (Real-Time News from AL.com)

Roy Moore allegations place uneasy spotlight on Gadsden

http://bit.ly/2zVFD0t

More than a week of national media attention is getting to Gadsden.

Since a Washington Post report earlier this month alleged that Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with teenage girls about 40 years ago while a 32-year-old prosecutor in Gadsden, satellite trucks have been a regular site in the Etowah County city.

There was one outside Back Forty Beer Co. tonight, as reporters from CNN and NBC showed up at a community gathering sponsored by the brewery.

A common theme emerged among those who spoke – to them, Gadsden is a bigger, better story than the allegations that have rocked Alabama’s senate campaign.

“This has broken my heart,” said Kim Back, standing not far from a television camera. “I’ve lived here 30 years. I love this town.”

Jason Wilson, the owner of Back Forty Beer, said he was interested in a dialogue among citizens on a regular weeknight. So, as patrons bought beer at the bar, he invited people up to the microphones to share their feelings. All he asked was that they remain responsible, honest and humble. About 100 people filtered in and out of the brewery over two hours.

“This is the function of a public house,” Wilson said. “This is something that has gone on for thousands of years. People gather and you have these three, four, five, six person conversations.”

Turns at the microphone were mostly taken by candidates running for local offices. They spoke about issues confronting other cities around the country – lack of infrastructure, the opioid crisis, trying to attract industry and development.

Morgan Cunningham, a candidate for circuit judge, said the current headlines “don’t make Etowah County look good.” But he and others avoided directly addressing the Moore story, saying only that the city has already had enough bad headlines.

Wilson, an entrepreneur who grew up in Gadsden, said his story mirrors that of others. Growing up, he never expected to come back and form a business. The area, he says, suffers from a gap in leadership, because of a generation that moved away. Others, like Back’s husband Kent, spoke of Gadsden’s steadily declining population over the last half century. 

In 1960, Gadsden had almost 60,000 residents. In those days, it was an industrial town bookended by the Goodyear tire plant and a steel plant. Now, it has about 36,000 residents. 

Curlie DeRamus, a 70-year-old who said he has lived in Gadsden his whole life, didn’t approach the mike but grew animated when he talked about his hometown. He said Gadsden is full of people who are in low wage jobs, trying to make a better life for themselves.

“We can’t cover up things, since there’s so many things that are way out of whack,” he said. “My closet isn’t clean either, but there’s problems.” 

The Rev. K. Solomon Williams, now a pastor in Piedmont, said he led a church in Gadsden for three years. He echoed DeRamus’ comments, saying people need to hold leaders accountable.

“We are a great city,” he said. “Don’t allow this great cloud around Roy Moore to overshadow everything. What he’s done, he’s done. But we have others who live here who are trying to make a difference every day. The media wouldn’t be here if there was some accountability.

“When this cloud is over and the media is gone, we’re still living here. Stop trying to do what is expedient and do what’s right. Integrity counts. This is the Bible Belt. Why don’t we at least act like we read the Bible and do what’s right?”

Alabama

via Real-Time News from AL.com http://bit.ly/2zzWl2c

November 20, 2017 at 07:00PM