Behaving like bullies
We no longer have to look to Washington to find politicians behaving badly. We have our own right here in River City.
Dismissing a fire chief in the middle of his one-year term should be reserved for the most serious of transgressions. Failing to kiss the ring of the mayor before preliminarily looking into the cost of replacing a broken-down piece of equipment isn’t sufficient cause, especially when the chief already consulted with townships that his department also serves and that were willing to pay the bill.
Trying to dismiss the chief not just as chief but also a member of the department — which the mayor and council do not have the power to do under city code — is overkill.
Doing it in a week in which the chief and his fellow firefighters, a majority of whom signed a letter in support of him, spent hour upon hour battling an almost unprecedented outbreak of fires is rude and unappreciative.
Unfortunately, all of this is hardly out of character for the current regime attempting to run the city of Marion with the intimidating, always-in-control, iron fist of a state trooper stopping a law-breaking motorist in the dead of night, miles from civilization. Attitude might be understandable in that dangerous circumstance. It’s not understandable in what should be civil discussion of civic issues.
Marion’s school district similarly was bullied over funding for the community’s Sports and Aquatics Center after the city became ticked off over some minor points.
Although the mayor says all of this was blown out of proportion by the Record and social media, he also is the one who wrote in a secret memo to council members, obtained for an outrageous $163.22 fee under the Kansas Open Records Act:
“Since 2005, the city has invested $2,053,000 in the community asset in land, aquatic features, operation, and debt service. This asset is valued at $879,000, of which the city does not have an equity position. Lacking a participation position in this partnership, it is believed that discontinuing this annual donation program is in the best interest of the citizens of the city of Marion.”
That’s not a friendly invitation to cooperate in discussions, which is how the mayor characterized it. That’s a downright threat.
So, too, was a letter sent to a council member after she casually inquired whether other buyers might be interested in a building, the sale of which has been delayed interminably.
“Your actions could result in the mayor admonishing you before the entire council,” the letter states in part, after raising the specter of the council member being sued for offering to sell the property even though that’s not what she did.
Clearly, the mayor, the city administrator, or both have a desire to take control of everything, including raises well above the cost of living for city workers who never had to fear losing their jobs during COVID-19 shutdowns at a time when city taxpayers will be struggling to pay soon-to-be-soaring utility bills.
They’re right. Someone needs to be in charge. That “someone” is the voters, not bullies elected by them or appointed to serve them. It’s time to return civility, trust, and respect to city government.
— ERIC MEYER