City Council has begun the talks concerning Martinsville reverting from a City to a Town. Those talks are being conducted in private and are expected to remain that way until later this year. City Manager Leon Torwarnicki says members of Council want to be satisfied with a mandated study they ordered last year and understand it before the public can see it. That doesn’t sit well with many residents of the City or Henry County. I’m inclined to agree. Matters of public interest should be discussed in public because they are in the public interest.
Here’s the problem; Council deals with matters of public interest because we make them responsible for looking after our best interests. Make no mistake, our best interests (residents of Martinsville) are not the responsibility of Henry County, nor should they be. Henry County is responsible for the interests of the residents of Henry County. Obviously, when our best interests come at a cost to the best interests of the residents of Henry County, the communities and the governments will find themselves at odds with one another. It’s inevitable.
It’s also to be expected that Council will likely compromise our best interests by making public the discussions concerning an action that will come at a cost to Henry County. It is not wise to hand over your playbook to the opposing team. Calling for these preliminary discussions to be done in public would be comparable to such.
Eight months ago, Henry County Administrator Tim Hall told WSLS-TV the Board of Supervisors wants the State to give them the authority to refuse to accept a reversion should Martinsville decide to pursue it. He also admits state legislators are not likely to go along with the County’s request.
A county cannot dispense with the responsibility of the land within it. If the city prospers, the county benefits, and if the city falters, the county cannot make it go away. Hall is quoted as saying Henry County “should have some place at the table to say, ‘We don’t think we want this.'” That’s like saying to the heart surgeon who has just told you, you’re in bad shape and need heart surgery, “I don’t think I want this.” Of course you don’t want it, but that’s a choice you do not have.
Hall is asking for Henry County to have a choice when there is none. Martinsville should have reverted to a town years ago, but residents of the city have been under a similar delusion as Hall. Living in a house they could no longer afford, many residents complained to Council that they liked the house they couldn’t afford, and wished to stay.
Eventually, the reality of the situation brings about the inevitable. The city will move into a status it can afford and the county will absorb the impact of this change. The sooner everyone realizes this and cooperates with the process, the better we will all be.
For now, Council is wise to close the door. It will all be public soon enough.