The Herald Bulletin
The first major challenge to Anderson Mayor Kevin Smith’s vision for the future came as the City Council recently voted down his annexation plan.
In fact, it may have been more than a major challenge; it was a massive one that drew attention to some important deficiencies in the approach to such paradigm-shifting plans.
Smith had proposed that Anderson annex nearly 21 square miles into city limits. Anderson would have, in one of the proposals, reached to Hamilton County along Interstate 69.The annexation would have helped stabilize a diminishing population base and capture the economic prospects of I-69 south of Lapel.
The Anderson elected body voted down the southwest proposal 6-3.
Heading the other direction, a proposed annexation reaching northeast was voted down 7-2.
The annexation should have moved ahead as a way to explore opportunities for Anderson to maintain an economic base.
The project, known as Anderson Fast Forward, moved way too quickly for residents. It clearly was too swift for Smith to garner a consensus from the council.
City Council President David Eicks, D-at large, had proposed an alternative to the administration’s plan. In it, a much smaller strip annexation would have allowed the city to capture more I-69 frontage.
And there were Democrats (Smith is Republican) who were willing to give some aspects the go-ahead. Anthony “Ty” Bibbs, D-at large, and Russ Willis, R-District 1, voted for the northeast annexation. Bibbs, Willis and Rodney Chamberlain, D-at large, voted for the southwest annexation. The public should commend those voting in favor of the plan, particularly council Democrats, for their willingness in seeking ways for Anderson to progress.
This all may point to a mayor’s lost chance in seeking consensus before a major vote. When the necessary support wasn’t coming, shouldn’t Smith have held up the plan until the votes he needed were secured?
Smith’s hopes for Anderson can’t be a singular vision. He needs to spend time to get elected officials and residents on board. There will be calls for negotiation, as Eicks suggested.
An issue as contentious as forced annexation has a shot at success when the need is clearly articulated and key voices are on board. Smith needs to develop a vision that welcomes challenges and has an eye for negotiation.
Mayor Kevin Smith seems to have a vision for Anderson but he needs to find consensus for his plans.