Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Barney Fife Was A Genius

COLUMN NOTES: Forced annexation is becoming a big topic in Southern Indiana. The Oak Park area mentioned in this column was part of a bigger annexation effort by the city of Jeffersonville. The other areas involved were newer subdivisions and in those areas the developers made a deal with the city for sewer hookups that ended up with the homeowners signing away any right to remonstrate a future annexation. Oak Park had no such agreement and tried to remonstrate. Unfortunately a deadline was missed. Sort of. The attorney evidently filed an amendment on time, but didn't turn in the actual signatures until a day or so later. Now Oak Park is suing the attorney for this error.

HARBESON: Nip it ... Nip it, good!

I’m convinced that Deputy Barney Fife from the Andy Griffith show was a genius. OK, he wasn’t very good with his gun, gosh darn it, but he sure gave good advice for people worried about government intrusion. He stated it very clearly in his uniquely shrill voice, “You’ve got to nip it, nip it in the bud!”

Residents of Clark County’s rural New Washington area took this advice to heart recently after they discovered that representatives of the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns met with a few people in the community to discuss incorporation.

The group that talked with the government representatives had met a time or two before, for the purpose of discussing improvements to the community. I’m unclear on what that means, but if they just wanted to pick up litter or collect some donations to plant a tree, I know I wouldn’t object.

Apparently the rest of the community felt the same way — until they heard about the meeting with the association. That raised red flags and concerned residents quickly spread the word about the next meeting so everyone could share their disinterest in incorporating. I think attendance was nearly equal to the population of Mayberry.

The people in charge of these meetings were annoyed at the reaction and said they just met with the association for informational purposes only; there were no plans to incorporate the area.

If that’s the case, I hope they don’t have any hard feelings for the folks who showed up. The concerned residents were absolutely right in being cautious and making sure they nipped this in the bud. We’ve seen way too many examples already in this county of governments coming in and exerting force and control over people and their property without their consent.

For example, we have the shameful forced annexation of the Oak Park area by Jeffersonville. Unfortunately Oak Park couldn’t nip it, so a lot of people spent time and money in an effort to remain free from another layer of government. The city of Jeffersonville never respected the people’s desires and after lots of maneuvering, Oak Park lost on a deadline technicality ruling.

The deadline issue is interesting because we’ve seen missed deadlines ignored, at least when it benefits and maintains the current government system. We need look no further than the recent Clark County Circuit Court election ballot fiasco for evidence.

In this case, also because of deadline technicalities, both major parties were battling over the legitimacy of their respective candidates. The deadlines were forgiven in favor of the supposedly bigger picture of not letting technical issues get in the way of “fairness and choice for citizens.”

Isn’t it strange that the same respectful thought process was not done for Oak Park’s forced annexation remonstrance? Why was no consideration given to “fairness and choice for citizens” when the people clearly wanted to determine for themselves whether they wanted to live in Jeffersonville? We all need to think about that.

Another recent example is the town of Sellersburg’s attempt to forcibly annex the Covered Bridge subdivision. Once again, no one asked to be annexed, it was the city, hungry for more money that started the process. The first step for the town, the required mailing to affected residents wasn’t even done properly. Shazam! That really instills confidence in their ability, doesn’t it?

People might laugh at Barney’s antics, but by golly, he’s right on this one. Go ahead New Washington, remain vigilant and watchful, particularly over any meetings or plans made when government representatives come to town and “Nip it, nip it in the bud!”

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson once shared Aunt Bea’s famous tonic with Floyd, Barney and Goober. When asked what happened next, she just says “nip it!”


  1. For "western states" (meaning any states west of the original 13), forced annexation is a huge problem. Folks in the east have no concept of "unincorporated land", so they can be forgiven for not understanding the scope of this problem.

    For newcomers: "Annexation" is pure democracy in action. Except instead of two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for lunch, the sheep doesn't even have a vote. The wolves merely agree on lunch, and the sheep is the unwilling guest of honor.

    I live in northeast Texas, and the major city in this region has frequently used forced annexation. A few years ago, the city council voted to annex an unincorporated area (where many affluent residents had fled the city limits, to a different Independent School District). The city manager, mayor, and council members were widely quoted about how "desperately" the city needed to annex this area, for the "increased property tax revenue".

    The annexation passed. Without the vote of the annexees, of course, because the couldn't vote in the city election.

    The very next year, the city put on the ballot, and managed to pass, a tax rate increase. They reason? The existing base couldn't pay for the increased cost of "providing services" in the newly-annexed area.

    Yes, the very same area they annexed for positive tax revenue.

    Insert rolly-eyes emoticon here.

  2. That seems to be the way it's headed here too Chabouk as I'm already hearing rumblings of not being able to provide services to the new area. Another thing about this is how the politicians like to talk about their cities growing, implying that lots of people are voluntarily moving there, when in reality they merely forcibly annexed those nearby.