COMMENTARY: Time to plan for the common good

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.

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 who 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. 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. 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 that in order to have economic and social advancement, they had to provide for guidance from below — a representative government.

Ben Franklin wrote the first draft of the Articles of Confederation and Thomas Jefferson promoted it. It was finally passed and was, ultimately, a dismal failure.

In 1787, the same people who put together the Articles of Confederation came together and they still represented the same groups. 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.

The 2050 Plan in Newton County 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 Jr.


Newton County