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  • Last modified 265 days ago (Dec. 24, 2018)

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Saying bah to humbug

We’d love nothing more than to be able to deliver shiny new lumps of coal to the Christmas stockings of the three not-so-wise men (two men and one woman, actually) who interminably hold court across the street in the courthouse’s meeting chamber.

The spirit of Christmas is upon us, however, and rather than put Curley, Larry, and Moe on our naughty list — where they’ll soon be joined by newly elected colleagues Shemp and Curley Joe — we’d like to offer a message of peace and goodwill this holiday season.

Yes, it’s true commissioners went so far out of their way to preserve their own seats and a rural majority on the commission that they violated key “contiguity” provisions of the federal Voter Rights Act and U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

Although Kansas doesn’t specifically forbid it, federal rulings repeatedly have said it’s illegal to chop districts up so confusingly that you might have to drive half a dozen miles through a different district to get to another, separate part of your own district.

That’s exactly what will happen with not one but two of the five new districts in Marion County. Even Kansas law, which doesn’t mention “contiguity” but does require “compact” districts, probably is being violated.

Yes, they also may have broken faith with us by deciding to hire an administrator after we said no at the polls and by being prepared to spend another mill or more of our tax money on yet more political bureaucracy.

But it really isn’t their fault. It’s our fault for letting them be the only people willing to step forward and try to do something to make this a better place to work, live, and do business.

Marion County’s biggest problem isn’t its commissioners. It’s that the only people we’ve been able to persuade to be commissioners are the Curleys, Larrys, and Moes of this world.

Santa may have a fair number of county residents on his naughty list and a fair number on his nice list. But he has darned few on the list that’s probably most important — the willingness-to-be-a-leader list.

Not every idea everyone puts forward is going to be great, of course. If you want evidence of that, just look at how the City of Marion rolled over and said, sure, it’s fine to break both Marion and Hillsboro into two commissioner districts, forgetting that Hillsboro will be a majority in both of its districts but Marion will be a minority in both of the districts into which it has been gerrymandered.

Council members, at least in Marion, proved they may not be any brighter than commissioners.

Still, all of us have to pause every now and again and applaud those who are at least willing to put forward ideas, stupid as they may be, knowing full well that they will be left open to the type of vicious ridicule that always seems to accompany any attempt at demonstrating leadership in the county.

It’s not just commissioners and elected officials — or even newspaper editors — who verbally are tarred and feathered for stepping to the foreground. It’s people like those who tried valiantly but in vain to lead such things as Marion County Community Economic Development Corporation.

Time was, society honored people who were both smart and aggressive. Now, we all too often look at them with suspicion. Instead of smart people, we get Curleys, Larrys, and Moes, plus soon-to-be-added Curley Joes and Shemps, as the only people willing to subject themselves to public service.

Perhaps it’s time we give our leaders — and ourselves — a bit of a Christmas present in the form of thanking them, if not for their ideas, which we still can and should oppose, but at least for their willingness to put those ideas forward.

Otherwise, one of these days, we’re going to find ourselves without any leadership stockings to hang by the chimney with care. And when that happens, all those lumps of coal are going to start congregating on our own mantels, with no place else to go.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Dec. 24, 2018

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