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Bristol area governments: Can't we all just get along?

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Long-time Bristol residents may have noticed that the spirit of cooperation between the area governing bodies is not what it used to be. Many years ago, the only conflicts between Bristol, Va., and Bristol, Tenn., took place around a football game one week a year during V-T week. The two cities now find themselves in direct competition with two similar shopping center projects in progress only a few miles apart. Things have gotten kind of ugly, with Bristol, Va. accusing Bristol, Tenn., of "unwarranted aggression."

Many residents question the area’s ability to economically sustain two such shopping centers even taking tourists on Interstate 81 into consideration. Would it not have been great if one gigantic shopping center could have spanned both cities and included Washington County, Va.? The three entities could have worked together to promote the shopping venue as one of the largest in the South. Instead, the Twin Cities have been jabbing at each other and even Washington County was placed on the defensive in the whole affair, and you can read about that here..

All over the city there are examples of joint efforts made in the past by the Twin Cities toward making both Bristols "a good place to live." The Bristol Public Library, the Bristol Chamber of Commerce, Food City Race Night, and the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion are just a few.

In recent years, establishing Bristol's designation as "The Birthplace of Country Music" has been a successful venture, and the new museum in Downtown Bristol is coming along well. (See attached photo) The whole "Downtown Bristol" concept, an effort by businesses and leaders from both cities, has been very successful over the years to keep the Downtown area alive. It seems, however, that a sour spirit has spread in Bristol, spoiling the spirit of cooperation that has previously been the norm.

In the realm of industrial development, Bristol, Tenn., lured Belk, an anchor store in the Bristol Mall on the Virginia side of town, to locate across the state line in the Pinnacle, which may spell the demise of the Bristol Mall. Also, both cities have acted a little aggressively toward neighboring Washington County, Va. Bristol, Tenn., lured U.S. Solutions from the Business Incubator in Abingdon after the state-funded program helped them get established. Bristol, Va., lured Lowes into the new Falls Shopping Center, although they will compensate the county until a new tenant is found.(This brings to mind a whole other topic being discussed about why Bristol, Va., is pumping so much funding into The Falls.)

It may merely be a sign of the times that growth in the Bristol area will obliterate the sense of common interest among the city and county governments. Perhaps the struggling economy has created a more desperate environment than has been encountered in previous years.

You may remember when the Bristol high school kids burned rival football player dummies in effigy at their bonfires? There were even old automobiles that they decorated and destroyed with a sledge hammer, but that was about as "aggressive" as it got.

In the words of an old 1950s song, "Ain't That A Shame?"

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