North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

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November 7, 2013

Breaking Away: Debate over property-tax vote migrates from face-to-face to Facebook

GARDENDALE — The issue of creating a new Gardendale city school system, and how that new system would be financed, has generated intense debate among residents.

But unlike past years, where discussions would likely be held at a barber shop or over a backyard fence, the forum of choice is now online social media — especially Facebook.

Much of the communication done by those favoring the new system and the increased property tax, such as FOCUS Gardendale, has come through Facebook. Mayor Othell Phillips and members of the City Council have also used the service extensively to promote the system and the tax referendum.

Additionally, the group MO Matters — residents of Mt. Olive who support annexation into Gardendale if the new school system comes to fruition — was also organized largely around a Facebook page.

In recent days, opponents of the tax increase — particularly businessman Jerome Cantrell, who has paid for advertising against the tax increase largely by himself — have also taken to the site to argue their case.

The North Jefferson News reached out to viewers of its Facebook page and Twitter feed, asking people to weigh in on how they stood on the system and the tax vote. Most responded that they support both, though a few sided with Cantrell in opposing the tax while supporting the new system.

But reaction on the NJN Facebook page is nothing compared to that conducted in a comment thread started Sunday by someone whose name is more closely associated with Fultondale.

John Douglas, the owner of Home Field Sports Grill who has battled Fultondale officials over rebuilding the tornado-battered business, is no stranger to social media. His discussion started with a simple request: “If you’re planning on voting, please post ‘YES’ or ‘NO’ and a short comment. Let’s be civil, please.” (Douglas added that he had no position on the issue.)

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