The Herald Bulletin

March 4, 2014

Editorial: Failure to annex could haunt Anderson for decades

The Herald Bulletin

---- — Good politics can bring new life to a community. Bad politics can cast a dark pall over its future.

Politics killed Anderson's opportunity to annex land to secure a better future for the city.

Anderson Mayor Kevin Smith, faced with stubborn political opposition from city council, has finally given up on his "Anderson Fast Forward" program.

Smith's plan, first revealed a year ago, was to annex two tracts of land, totaling about 21 square miles of unincorporated rural area, into the city. The annexation would have included four square miles on the north side of the city, with the rest being a strategic swath of land to the southwest to absorb into the city prime real estate along Interstate 69 at Exit 214.

But the Democrat-controlled council opposed Smith, a Republican, at every turn. In the end, the opposition was based on an acute case of political nearsightedness. Smith's annexation would pull a disproportionate number of traditionally Republican voters into the city, thereby threatening Democratic elected officials and their appointees in city government.

Smith claims that his sole motive for the annexation was purely a brighter future for the city, and in fact he was willing to negotiate with the council to annex an additional portion of land that would help achieve a better political balance among new city voters.

But the Democrats on council, led by first David Eicks and now Pam Jones, never gave Smith a chance. Most recently, Jones declined to call a special meeting of the council to reconsider annexation.

Meanwhile, the towns of Ingalls and Pendleton have laid their own annexation claims to the prime real estate at Exit 214.

Smith realizes that Ingalls and Pendleton had beaten Anderson to the punch. Last week, he finally laid Anderson Fast Forward to rest.

Smith, by the way, is not blameless in the failure of his vision. Great leaders congeal support, drawing in opponents by force of persuasion. The mayor came up against a brick wall of Democratic opposition and banged his head against it rather than finding his way around it.

Anderson has missed a great opportunity to expand and add a rich resource of real estate. The community could pay the price for this missed opportunity for decades to come.

Eicks said in an article published Sunday in The Herald Bulletin that Anderson, Lapel, Ingalls, Pendleton and other local concerns should work together for development along I-69 for mutual benefit.

He's right about that. The entirety of Madison County should gain from the development of new commerce, industry and housing along the interstate.

But the fortunes of Anderson, as the county seat and by far the most populous city in the county, will continue to play a key role in dictating the plight of the entire area.

When Anderson suffers, Madison County suffers. When Anderson prospers, so does the county. The death of Anderson Fast Forward leaves the community floundering along a path to an uncertain future.

In summary Politics killed Anderson's opportunity to annex land along Interstate 69 to secure a better future for the city.