A bizarre piece of political theater was staged at the Washington County Commission last week when midway through the proceedings, Commissioner Roger Nave rose to read a statement taking County Mayor Dan Eldridge to task. Specifically, Nave accused Eldridge of lobbying in Nashville against annexation bills he said were supported by a majority of commissioners.
Not so, said Eldridge, who told the commissioner he visited Capitol Hill earlier this month as a representative of the Washington County Economic Development Council. In that regard, the county mayor said he had expressed concern with the danger of what he called a “one size fits all solution” to annexation disputes.
As Press staff writer Gary Gray reported in Tuesday’s paper, the county mayor’s explanation didn’t satisfy Nave.
“You’re not telling the truth,” Nave told Eldridge.
“Well, would you care to be a little more specific?,” Eldridge countered.
“That’s all I have to say,” Nave said.
Apparently, that was the end of Nave’s script. But it shouldn’t be. Debate on the annexation should be treated as more than just political drama. It’s an important issue to all Washington Countians — regardless of where they live — be it in municipalities like Johnson City or Jonesborough, or in communities like Gray, Lamar, South Central, Limestone or Fall Branch.
Limiting a city’s power of annexation hamstrings its ability to grow its tax base, thereby placing an additional burden on its current property taxpayers. Likewise, unchecked growth can damage the very qualities that once made a community so desirable to live in.
Perhaps annexation is an issue the County Commission’s newly reinvigorated city/county Liaison Committee should take on. The only way to insure success, however, will be if county commissioners from communities far removed from Johnson City and Jonesborough join the committee for a serious dialogue on annexation.