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A Thought for Today

by Terrell Tebbetts                  

In this imperfect world, almost everything we do has downsides as well as upsides. As individuals we might find the upside of a new job to be more freedom and higher pay, but the downside to be all the stresses of moving to a new community. As a society we might find the upside of a homeless shelter is that we meet the needs of our vulnerable fellow citizens, but the downside, according to studies, is that we increase homelessness by making it easier for some to give up trying to make a home for themselves. The same is true in reverse. The downside of bankruptcy is the shame that comes with personal failure and unpaid obligations, but the upside is the new chance to succeed. And the downside of the last decade’s burst housing bubble is underwater mortgages and evictions, but the upside is sounder lending practices and more realistic borrowing. This universal truth about the mixed results of all we do applies to Batesville’s proposed annexation south of the river. So far we’ve all heard the downsides, articulated in two big meetings and duly reported in the news. Let’s put those downsides beside the mostly unheard upsides that accompany them. First, annexation will mean losing some freedoms. City zoning laws and animal control laws will come into effect. So that’s a downside to some. If a neighborhood is zoned residential, a fellow won’t be able to buy the lot next door to his house and open a junkyard there, and he won’t be able to let his junkyard dogs run loose. But those are also upsides to most of his neighbors. They won’t find a junkyard on their block sinking the value of their homes, and they won’t find their neighbor’s dogs attacking their kids as they play in the yard or bike down the street. Second, annexation will mean paying slightly more in taxes. That’s clearly a downside, especially since folks in the annexed areas didn’t get to vote when Batesville residents approved the taxes to build our new recreational facilities. No one likes paying taxes, especially taxes they had no say on. But there’s an upside here too. Residents in the annexed neighborhoods will be benefitting from the facilities those taxes pay for. They, their kids and grandkids, their friends and neighbors will be using the ballparks and the aquatics park and community center. Surely most are self-respecting and self-supporting citizens willing to pay for what they use. Only members of the welfare class want others to pay for their benefits, and none of the residents I know living in the annexation fit into that class. We all want a strong county, one able to keep our employers here and attract new ones. No county will be strong with a weak center. Let’s accept the downsides as the price of gaining the upsides. Let’s support annexation. Terrell Tebbetts is the Martha Heasley Cox Chair in American Literature at Lyon College. He can be reached at