commentary (2006-42)

A rigid land-use policy can come back to bite you

Read a Banned Book

TVA: Keep Some Flexibility

by Barry Henderson

A land-use policy that prohibits outright the sale or trade of TVA lands for residential or commercial uses is on the table for TVA Board of Directors’ consideration as early as next month.

Bless their hearts, the TVA directors, seven of which are new and part-time members, are responding to public sentiment to keep and maintain the agency’s public lands for the benefit of the general public into perpetuity.

It’s a noble ideal, but establishing any policy that flatly prohibits anything is…well…poor policy, and it doesn’t reflect good stewardship. It doesn’t necessarily promote the highest and best uses of the 293,000 acres TVA still owns.

Under review and subject to additional public comment until Nov. 3, it’s the kind of arbitrary policy declaration that is bound to come back to haunt the TVA Board in the future, if it’s not modified to include some flexibility.

There is bound to be a pitch from some valley, state or county, in desperate need of enhanced tax revenues, to support a bid for some kind of residential or commercial development on TVA land in that jurisdiction. The resulting property and sales taxes to be derived from that sale or swap of land and the subsequent development will be worth the attention of TVA. It may include a lodge or hotel that will make the commercial element or elements more open to public use, and it will be and should be tempting.

It will be important for the TVA board to heed the weight of present public sentiment against the proliferation of development when considering such an offer. TVA should be very careful with what it sells or trades. But these directors are full-grown, fully experienced people with the good of the valley in mind. And with an unyielding policy, there will be no room for consideration.

That is not prudent stewardship, and the board shouldn’t close the door before looking at any proposal that promotes a local economy without unduly infringing on TVA lands the public is using or may use for general recreation.

The directors should rethink this policy proposal a bit before adopting it wholesale. If any of you readers agree, be sure to participate, by engaging in the public comment that TVA is soliciting. You who have opposed all development have already spoken, and your feelings are understood and honored, up to a point.

Read a Banned Book

Books are banned or challenged by bands of blue-nosed critics of literature that they haven’t read or don’t understand, and it is the librarians and booksellers, primarily, who come to the defense of authors and their works. Blessed are those who keep censors from prevailing in our society.

So read some of what those censors want pulled from circulation. I challenge you, the reader, to use this week to see what the book-banners want taken away from you.

Personally, I would commend to you any of the works of Mark Twain, the great 19th century author/philosopher who best represented American literature in his day, and whose most acclaimed novel, Huckleberry Finn , has been challenged because of Twain’s accurate and sensitive depiction of racism in the Mississippi Valley of his period.

From the 20th century, I recommend anything published by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., whose writings represent one of the most compelling elements in American literature in the century’s second half.  Specifically, I’d read Slaughterhouse Five , to better understand the effects of war, or Cat’s Cradle , to get a feel for what nuclear proliferation means in today’s world.

But any literary work that has been challenged recently, including Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird , John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men , F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby , or George Orwell’s 1984 —to name a few American classics—will do.

Read any one of those, and wonder…who are these people who want such timeless works of art, chronicling the course of human behavior and thought, banned from bookshelves, and what in the world are they thinking?