In less than three months' time, a Facebook Group begun in opposition to a plan to finance a new bridge project for the I-10 corridor between Mobile and Baldwin Counties has grown from a handful of the plan's skeptics into a grassroots movement of just under 50,000 members. By the time officials release their updated plans in late August or early September 2019, the group's membership will likely top 50,000 and could even begin approaching 100,000.
The bridge project sparking the group has been discussed and planned since the mid-1990's. For about a quarter century transportation planners, business leaders and elected officials have contemplated a fifth route over the estuary separating Mobile and Baldwin Counties (I'm including the I-65 "Dolly Parton" bridge). Only very recently was the possibility of a toll bridge even whispered about, and even then only in small circles. In 2018 the whispers became a rumor. In early 2019 the rumor became a reality and the boldfaced announcement of a $3 to $6 cost has led to revolt.
Alabama State Auditor was the primary originator of the group, acting on his own time and through his personal Facebook profile. He's enlisted the support of a few assistants but the group discussion essentially runs itself. It's like a 24/7 townhall meeting or non-stop assembly in the public square.
Keep in mind that the American Revolution was a movement that transformed world politics and it all began from a tax dispute. The United States of America owes its existence to the determination of a bunch of unruly, ungrateful and unsophisticated simpletons who believed that their alleged betters most certainly did not know what was best for them. No, this rough-hewn bunch of rednecks had different ideas, and the faraway elites were either going to pay attention or pay a price.
Despite all of the high-minded ideals of equality, neutrality and secular social welfare propounded by today's pointy-headed progressives, the one thing that Americans still love more than anything else is a good old-fashioned rebellion.
No one in the Facebook Group is advocating an armed revolt. The people of Alabama's only coastal counties are peaceful and law abiding ladies and gentlemen. But facing the unfair burden of a $6 fee for the simple privilege of traveling from one side of Mobile Bay to the other is just too much to bear.
As I am writing this, there is breaking news of a public opinion survey of the two affected counties. According to a sample of 1,495 registered voters, 77% are opposed to the toll bridge plan and 23% support it. There are about 300,000 registered voters in the surveyed population. At least 50,000 of them are motivated enough to have joined a social media group to show their opposition. That number is growing by hundreds each day. The group is active and vocal in their stance. The people have an unfiltered voice and they're speaking loudly.
"No Toll!" stickers and yard signs are popping up everywhere on both sides of the bay. Call-ins to local radio talk shows are all about "that toll bridge." Local TV stations have at least one segment on the subject in every broadcast and have dedicated sections of their websites for stories related to the bridge. It will be the most talked about item in the news for 2019. It will certainly carry into 2020, a Presidential election year that turns out voters in big numbers.
No state or local official who hopes to win reelection or reappointment ignores public sentiment like this. The current bridge and bayway plan may make perfect sense to perceptibly faraway officials in much the same way that the 1765 Stamp Act and 1773 Tea Act made perfect sense to Parliament and King George III.
Whether you are reading this as one of the three-fourths opposed to the plan or the one-fourth in favor, You have to marvel at the fact that the American public's penchant for speaking up and taking action is alive and well.
Tell a bunch of Americans to do what they're told and they'll tell you to go to hell and help you get there.
It's a beautiful thing. It's America, baby.