Starting off 2016 in Montgomery

Photo by bayasaa

Photo by bayasaa

Regular readers of MML know that we love to do the classic “annual review,” sometimes jamming it together with forecasts, wishes and resolutions about the coming year. It’s fun to think back over the previous year, while throwing out some guesses about what may be in store.

Several years ago, we were ambitious and did “eleven wishes for 2011.” Not only are we not going to do 16 wishes for 2016, we’re not going to parse back through those desires of yesteryear. After all, we opened 2011 hoping that our city would “get this recycling thing dealt with once and for all.” We all know how that story ended up.

But last year, we did hammer out eight different things that we’d be watching in 2015. So let’s check in on how we did as a city, and offer a few more early January reflections (and resolutions) about what may be waiting for us in the coming year.

Local government: Two of the issues from last year’s list involved our municipal leadership. We were anxious to observe the first full year of our new police chief, and we also had a mayoral election. For the former, things seem to be going fairly well, although we don’t live in the part of the city that experiences the heaviest concentration of law enforcement activity. So although we don’t have daily interactions with our city’s police officers, their presence appears to be professional and effective. We hope local journalists will continue to stay on top of crime (and courts) stories, but overall, Chief Finley seems like he’s doing a pretty good job. We hope that continues in 2016.

Chief Finley’s boss, Mayor Todd Strange, was reelected in 2015, and it was by a pretty decisive margin. Although it was fun to follow the mayoral race (and the large volume of candidates seeking the office), we’re glad to have the election behind us. As a city, we can now turn our attention towards the non-glamorous aspects of civic participation required to confront the issues of the day.

Economic development: When 2015 began, we were anxiously awaiting the impact of the new apartments in Cloverdale’s 5 points neighborhood. We’re not sure how many people live there, but even if they aren’t at full capacity, the impact on parking has been notable. We’re now in multiple years of waiting to see what will happen with the other retail space in the neighborhood, but in 2016, we’ll be looking at competing for space with residents, Huntingdon students, and folks attending films at the soon-to-be-remodeled Capri. We’re on record as saying that our city needs to do a little more walking (adjusting our expectations of available parking spots accordingly), so we will be keeping our eye on the coming year’s impact for one of our city’s most beloved neighborhoods.

One important point is that all economic development isn’t the same. We’re excited about the addition of new bicycle friendly options to our city. Thanks Montgomery Bicycle Club! More like this, please! We’re also excited about the restoration and beautification efforts along Dexter Avenue and along the Civil Rights Trail in West Montgomery.

The arts: Speaking of The Capri, we’re thrilled with the prospects of a whole new interior of our state’s very best movie theater. Two screens? What?!? We’re excited for the grand re-opening of one of our best institutions. But we’ll also be keeping tabs on the other neighborhood purveyor of performance, the Cloverdale Playhouse. Longtime MML author Greg Thornton is leaving as artistic director and there’ll be a new hand guiding the ship (watch for news here on MML about that transition). Their lineup of shows remains impressive, as always, and we hope to continue to offer reviews and insight into their upcoming offerings.

As far as touring acts, we won’t direct too much attention to the Montgomery Performing Arts Center. Our big highlight of 2015 was that we got to see Bob Dylan perform there. It was amazing. The good news for MPAC’s 2016 is that Lewis Black is coming, and so are St. Paul and the Broken Bones. If you see other things on this list that float your boat, we wish you the best. Otherwise, we’ll do what we did for several other performers in 2015 and drive to Birmingham (where we saw Dave Chappelle) or Atlanta (where we’re going to see David Cross).

We will, of course, stay tuned to the happenings at the Shakespeare Festival and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. You never know if 2016 will be the year that we see something astonishing or provocatively edgy. And, as always, we’ll be keeping our eyes on the folks at the Alabama Roots Music Society and over at Helicity, hoping that they have something cooked up for us in the coming year. Also: Garrett Coliseum, we’re excited about pro wrestling and the Harlem Globetrotters, but we’re going to want something more than just rodeo and monster trucks for the rest of 2016.

Other mega-events: Our anticipation for 2015 was marked by the coming civil rights anniversaries, as well as another edition of the Camellia Bowl. I think it’s safe to say that our tourism industry had a good year. But we need to make sure that we do everything we can to make sure they have a good experience once they get here. We’ve got to make sure that our visitors go back home saying that our city is a place that they’d really like to visit again. Not all publicity is good publicity. For example, our favorite college football podcast did a preview of the Camellia Bowl, in which they had some fairly unkind things to say about our city. Let’s not forget that we’ve got a lot of haters and pessimists to convince.

Resolutions? Sure, why not? We’re resolving to write more often, and to bring a greater degree of precision and dedication to the writing process. We know this blog is free to read (and we don’t pay our writers anything either!), but we think that we fill a needed place in the Montgomery media ecosystem. And for that reason, we think we need to bring our best, every time we publish a post. We’re going to work to continue to bring honesty and optimism to our work, and unlike some media outlets, we won’t hide our old posts behind a paywall. You can read as many MML posts as you want every month!

So, please continue to check in with us several times a week. And like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter if you haven’t done so already. Social media is a great way to be notified when we have a new post published. And we often post all sorts of weird things that don’t make it onto the blog proper. So please join the online conversation and recommend us to a friend or three.

Overall, 2015 brought us some sadness (farewell, Capitol Book and News!), some deliciousness (hello, On A Roll!) and just about all the college football we could take (just one more game left!). Here’s to a great new year!

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with two cats, a dog, ten fish, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.


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