An agenda for Marion County
A week and a half ago, veteran journalist “Buzz” Merritt came to Marion to talk about the First Amendment. As a registered Republican (albeit not one of “those” Republicans), I’ll overlook that his visit was sponsored by county Democrats. Some of my best friends are Democrats, just other misguided friends actually root for K-State and teams other than the Green Bay Packers. As even a part-time resident, however, I dare not overlook his message. Nor should you.
Democracy works best when everyone is engaged, and part of any real newspaper’s duty is to foster public engagement. That means, as county clerk Tina Spencer suggests in a well-written letter this week, that when you read about suspicious purchases by county employees, you should check them out. Her generous offer to help should be accepted by any and all who might question why county employees need so many cell phones, buy potting soil and seat upgrades at county expense, and drink costly bottled water that the county pays for.
Tina wrote her letter after we were discouraged by public comments she made that some items listed in last week’s editorial (and, presumably, one two weeks before that) were in error. We offered her a chance to list any inaccuracies. She responded instead with the letter below. We take that to mean that our facts were right, though perhaps citizens might need to know some context before jumping in. We agree wholeheartedly. Often, what we write is merely an attempt to provoke thought and involvement. Rarely do we try to push a particular agenda.
Until this week, that is. Herewith we offer an agenda for Marion County, one we think would make the county the type of vibrant place people like University of Illinois journalism professors might eventually want to retire to.
Honestly, our agenda is completely impractical and full of holes. It’s probably no better than what might come from our journalistically inspired cat, whose favorite sleeping spots are desk trays filled with stories awaiting editing. If you feel that way, too, great! Shoot down our plan — and maybe, in the process, consider coming up one of your own instead. It’s a heck of a lot easier tearing down than building up. Building up is a challenge for which we all share responsibility.
- Sell bonds to finance construction of a full-blown resort, with destination restaurant, spa, hotel, and condos, in the pristine area east of the dam at the south end of the county lake, then hire one or more contractors to operate it.
- Adopt an iron-clad rule in municipalities that each tree cut down must be replaced by two new ones and that city yards should not become salvage yards and parking lots.
- Understand that we have a moral obligation not to be transients who use a place like the historic Bowron Building for 24 years then abandon it because it needs a new roof and a new air conditioner, both of which have expected lifetimes of less than what the county already has milked out of them.
- Merge the county lake with the city of Marion and embrace the challenge of improving lake access roads by using special assessments for affected property owners.
- Take a clue from Hillsboro, which unlike other municipalities brings in outside professional management, wants more than just vague platitudes before it commits economic development money, and is considering ending a regressive sales tax after it pays off a capital project rather than redirecting the tax to other purposes.
This is a time to bring the public in rather than shut the public out, as the Marion-Florence school board did Monday night, conducting more than half its meeting behind closed doors, quite possibly in violation of state laws.
We can’t move forward by staying where we are. Challenging times call for bold ideas, and no one — politicians or journalists — have monopolies on ideas. Accept the challenge. Talk up your own goals.
— ERIC MEYER
Last modified July 12, 2017