By TOM HENRY │Blytheville Courier News as published on Friday, December 23, 2016.
“The mob rushes in where individuals fear to tread,” B.F. Skinner wrote in his Utopian novel, Walden Two.
Mobs bully and attack based solely on passion and emotion, but never on intellect. I once read a quote that said that the combined IQ of a mob is the square root of the number in the mob. That’s still not very smart. So, I am deciding to overcome the fear and tread on a very important topic that the citizens of this county need to address, fully aware of the probable consequences.
Knowing the people of Mississippi County like I think I do and knowing how white hot the topic of the courthouse and the county seat question can be, what was I thinking by writing about the courthouses and the “county seat question?”
The first reason I wrote about it is because I have had numerous people ask me to. They seemed troubled and offended that I had not already weighed in on what they believe to be the most obvious of facts – Blytheville is not a “county seat”. Well, their offense is not enough for me to write an article, but the multiplicity of their comments was enough for me to look into it.
Now, I’m a somewhat educated historian and if I have learned anything in life, it is that I don’t know everything. Therefore, I must remain open to considering what people say, even if it shatters my “sacred cows” (of course Blytheville is a “county seat” right?)…then verify. That kind of sounds like the responsibility of a reporter doesn’t it?
The more I dug into the question the more surprised I was and the more interested I became. The more I learned, the more questions I had and though newspapers can be dull and “just the facts” (like the old television classic Dragnet) at times, it can also be entertaining and educational. I truly hope my article was as well.
Educated people know to always ask themselves what bias does that piece exhibit? What is in it for them? What are they trying to talk me into?
Well, I one hundred percent agree that we need to always ask those questions from any news sources we read or watch. So let me answer those questions for you now.
I have no secret agenda other than presenting the facts as they are and then watching to see what the good citizens of Mississippi County do with them. What is in it for me? Not a darn thing. I stand to get grief for writing the article, but I don’t stand to gain anything (that I can see). What am I trying to talk you into? I am simply trying to inform you with the facts so that the voting public of the county can make an informed decision regarding county government and the courthouses.
So does that mean I don’t have an opinion? Anyone that knows me knows that I have opinions on everything…including this.
Now, let me tell you what I think. I think that the day of two courthouses in Mississippi County has long past and we are wasting money…lots of it! We simply can no longer afford two redundant courthouses. Two courthouses, and two judicial districts for that matter, were first created because it was so difficult to travel from one corner of the county to the other…and it took so long when it was possible. But those days are long gone. In my humble opinion, it is time to consolidate county government, eliminate duplicated services, operate one courthouse and save taxpayer money.
Do I have a preference of which city gets to remain open? No, I honestly do not care one way or the other which city wins out. I attempt to avoid going to any and all government buildings when at all possible!
Do I have a preference of which courthouse remains operational? Yes. I prefer the Osceola Courthouse. I love the majesty of the building and the grounds. I love the town square feel and the pure beauty of the lit dome at night. I also recognize how bad the condition of the Blytheville Courthouse is. Having said that, aesthetic beauty is not the only factor that should be considered when deciding a question as large, significant and impactful as this one.
Can I live with the judicial districts being consolidated and Blytheville losing its courthouse? Yes, but I feel almost sacrilegious for saying so. Can I live with the judicial districts being consolidated and Osceola losing its courthouse? Yes, but that honestly hurts a little more to me personally. Can I live with the status quo and both courthouses being left open and draining the taxpayers of Mississippi County just because special interests won’t allow the difficult issue to be confronted? Yes, because I’d have no choice, but not without an intense grudge for wasting my tax dollars.
Can I live with a new $22.5 million courthouse being built in Blytheville? Man that is difficult too, because it seems like extravagance. But, I’m just one man that happens to be allowed to write his opinions each week…but nevertheless, I am still just one man and I don’t have much of a say in the matter.
As long as there are two judicial districts in Mississippi County, it appears to me that the law requires there to be two courthouses. So THAT is another reason why I wrote the article on the “county seat question”.
Blytheville…please don’t forget that I still love ya’!