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Posted: July 24, 2014 10:00 p.m.

Letter from J. Virgil Costley

Dear editor,

A number of years ago, in a land not so far away, a group of political and civic leaders met to establish order in the midst of great political and economic turmoil. The land they lived and worked on had experienced unprecedented change and though there was general agreement that this change was good, it had little focus and direction. They brought their best ideas and a few “experts” to create rules and procedures they desperately needed but few were aware of how great was this need.

In the midst of their deliberations, there was a shadow that cast its lengthy presence over the assembled group. The shadow soon became a thing of substance that feared a strong government. They wanted rules that promoted the common good but did not constrict individual rights.

These rule-makers had members from the tea party, the more liberal left and quite a few people that considered themselves centrists, or moderates. Very few, if any, wanted a strong government that did not have the right to tax, make rules regarding relations among the members and the groups they represented. The members from rural areas distrusted those from more populated areas and the populated areas did not understand what the fuss was about.
Their deliberations produced a product that had not much substance and left each small group the power and authority to make often conflicting and confusing rules and pronunciations. It was almost as if these rule-makers wanted their governing body to have no more than supervisory authority. It did not take but a few years for the lack of structure to cause some of the same members of the same group to meet yet again.

The next time these folks met, they represented the same groups: the tea party, liberals and centrists, but they had already had their say in the previous meetings and as they came together, they stressed that this time, they were creating a body of rules that addressed what some saw as power, or a lack thereof, and came up with ways to check any potential abuse. Several complained that they were tired of government telling them what to do.

These men had strong personal and economic interests that had previously hampered their ability to create something for the greater good. They finally put aside personal interests and recognized the principle that finally swayed them. They wanted an instrument of government under which they would benefit most. They understood that in order to have economic and social advancement, they had to provide guidance from below.

To govern from below means that the people must use those who have greater expertise, debate it and shape it to develop a set of rules that truly promote the greater good. This is called representative government and the people decide who will represent them.

The 2050 Plan meetings have been less rancorous than those who met in 1787 to adopt the Articles of Confederation that would bind the thirteen colonies into a governmental structure to protect them from another King George III. Benjamin Franklin wrote the first draft and Thomas Jefferson promoted it. It was finally passed and was, ultimately, a dismal failure.

The Articles provided a weak governing structure that could not make rules that promoted the common good. John Hanson, not George Washington, became the first President of this new Confederation but his only power was as a member of the Congress that had elected him President. When a group of Massachusetts farmers (Shay’s Rebellion) rose up to protest economic conditions and the lack of a central currency, the death knell soon struck the unorganized, unstructured government.

In 1787, the same people who put together the Articles of Confederation came together and they still represented the same groups: the tea party, liberals and centrists. But this time they realized they needed a body of rules that addressed what some saw as power, or a lack thereof, and came up with ways to check any potential abuse. The Constitution of the United States was the result of this effort and it stands today as the greatest document conceived by the minds of men.

The 2050 Plan is an attempt to correct the lack of structure and specificity that has plagued the zoning and land use rules that brought us into the 20th Century and stopped there. The Constitution has been amended many times and zoning and land use rules must continue to be updated. This plan is an attempt to do this and it is designed to promote the greater good. Be reminded that this is a first draft. It is now time for the citizens of Newton County to put aside their personal and economic interests that may clash with the greater good and recognize the need to be a reasonable part of rulemaking that emanates from the people.

It is not in the best interests of this growing county that we ignore growth and hope we shall continue to be like Mayberry. We have not been like Mayberry for a long time, and as much as I like to dream about country roads and very little traffic, that is no more, and sticking our heads in the red clay will doom us to the very things we are now so opposed to.

J. Virgil Costley

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