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A Thought for Today

by Terrell Tebbetts                  

An Open Letter to Folks with an Open Mind on Annexation: Dear Friends, Please vote for a prosperous future. A prosperous future for Batesville and for Independence County. First: Look at this Tale of two Cities. City 1: Mountain Home. It’s a lot like Batesville. Neither one is on an Interstate or close to a big city. Yet with a population only a bit larger than Batesville’s, Mountain Home has numerous businesses Batesville lacks. Why? A larger town attracts more business. When my wife Diane was Main Street manager, she attended many business development seminars. They all had the same message. One of the data businesses look at in selecting locations is population—both of the market area and of the urban center. City 2: Walnut Ridge. Lawrence County divides its urban center between Walnut Ridge and Hoxie, making both smaller than they’d be if united. Neither of those towns nor the county has prospered. In fact, a quick drive over there will display all the decline and poverty that awaits Independence County in years ahead if we don’t come together and vote for a prosperous future. Which model do we choose? Second: A house divided cannot stand. Overwhelmingly, the voices raised against annexation have been negative, bitter, accusatory. They raise unsupported charges with no evidence to support them. Is this the way to convince the next Eastman-like plant to locate here? Nothing would do more good for Independence County than for the residents of Southside and of Batesville to vote in large numbers for annexation, showing that they’re not on two sides but on one side, the side of cooperation for a prosperous future with vigorous economic growth. Third: Arkansas law recognizes the importance of these two points—1) a growing urban center and 2) cooperation between those inside and outside the center. That’s why the law provides for the kind of vote we’re having, with the city and the annexation area voting as one rather than as two separate entities. Fourth: The annexation area is already part of Batesville in every way short of governance. It consists of highway commercial areas just like those inside the city limits and residential neighborhoods no different from North Heights and the Wolford Addition. But they lack the ordinances that provide for orderly growth within the city. Homeowners on a stretch of highway mostly filled with other residences have no way to keep a radiator shop from opening next door, lowering their homes’ values by tens of thousands of dollars. Businesses in a retail area have no way of protecting themselves if a noxious industrial operation plans to open across the highway, its odors sure to drive their customers away. Disorderly sprawl will repel site selectors for the next Eastman. Well-governed order will attract them. Our founding fathers knew this truth: United we stand, divided we fall. Please vote Yes on annexation. Terrell Tebbetts is the Martha Heasley Cox Chair in American Literature at Lyon College. He can be reached at g