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A Thought for Today

by Terrell Tebbetts                  

When folks aren’t already dead-set against a change, when they still haven’t firmly decided how they stand, I’m always willing to share my thoughts and see if I can win them to the side I favor. That’s why, two weeks ago, I wrote for Southside friends living in the areas Batesville has proposed annexing. I hoped they’d agree that they have only a little to lose and more to gain from coming into the city. This week I’m writing for friends who live in Batesville. We’ll be voting on the proposal too, and the votes of Batesville’s 10,000 residents and the votes of the annexation area’s 2,500 are counted together, not separately, so we’ll have a big influence on the outcome. So why should Batesville residents support annexation despite the opposition we’ve seen? First, though the opposition has been loud and sometimes bitter, plenty of residents of the annexation area want to come into the city. Many of them are the voters who rejected Southside’s failed incorporation vote a few years ago, voting “no” while Southside voters farther out voted yes. When they voted against incorporation, many did so because they preferred becoming part of Batesville. Second, the annexation areas are already part of Batesville in all but name and governance. They’re identical to College Heights and Quail Valley. Any other city would have annexed them already, as Batesville may have if the rejected incorporation proposal hadn’t arisen. And their residents? Well, they work in Batesville, shop in Batesville, dine out in Batesville, use Batesville’s parks and pools and ball fields, and drive Batesville’s streets, and some attend Batesville’s schools and colleges. Third, the area’s residents, along with Batesville’s citizens and the whole county, will benefit from a successful annexation. A larger population will bring jobs. Size counts when businesses gauge where to locate. Look at Mountain Home. Its location is even farther from metro areas than Batesville’s, yet with a population over 12,000 it has attracted many national businesses Batesville lacks. Those businesses will come here too if we grow, and Batesville, Southside, and the whole county will benefit from the jobs those businesses create. A population on the rise will further attract new businesses. Helena-West Helena and Forrest City are both larger than Batesville, but with the stagnant and even declining population in the Delta, they’re very unattractive sites for new business locations. On the other hand, the more growth Batesville shows, the more attractive it will become to new businesses, and the more businesses we have locating here, the more jobs we’ll have for everyone in the county. It’s time to lay aside old town-county rivalries and do what’s best for the future of our whole area. If we want our kids and grandkids to be able to work and thus live here, we’ve got to have new jobs, and one of the best ways to get them is to show growth. Terrell Tebbetts is the Martha Heasley Cox Chair in American Literature at Lyon College. He can be reached at