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  • Last modified 80 days ago (Sept. 21, 2023)

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Signs of trying times

Normally, a soaking rain is needed before so many colorful items sprout in front yards. This year, however, giving the Constitution a good soaking appears to have had the same effect.

Across Marion, bouquets of signs are popping up, encouraging us to vote for candidates as if they will be herbs that magically cure us.

Also emerging are a blossoming array of signs suggesting, somewhat vaguely, that Marion would be stronger together.

Most things are, in fact, stronger together. And Marion would be no exception — provided “together” doesn’t mean discouraging anyone from voicing opinions or sharing facts contrary to the wishes of powers-that-be, especially when powers-that-be screw up and bring international scorn.

Over objections of virtually everyone else who works in our office, we’ve been offering “Stronger Together” signs to anyone who wants them.

We really do want Marion to be stronger and more closely knit, even if some on our staff regard the movement as an affront — asking them to turn the left cheek seconds after being sucker-punched on the right one.

More broadly, journalists tend to worry about communities being so “together” that everyone is forced into goose stepping lockstep with the jackboots of prevailing opinion.

In democracy, our role is to ensure that all facts and opinions, not just those that fit the fancies of people in power, are considered. Phrases like “together” raise specters of Albert Speer and Joseph Goebbels making sure Nazi Germany was “together” behind Adolf Hitler.

We pray that “together” has a very different meaning here.

Within our office, one of our staffers recently announced that she would avoid patronizing a local business, the co-owner of which had been quoted as saying newspapers should do nothing but be community boosters — rah-rah cheerleaders in a rose-colored world where never is heard a discouraging word.

Our staffer was right that the co-owner was wrong. But two wrongs won’t fix that.

Whatever the “this” might be, in a small town like ours, we’re all in this “together.” We might disagree, but we need to agree to disagree without retribution that amounts to surgically removing our nostrils to spite our countenance.

At the same time, we need to have reasonable expectations and not accept images of change as being actual change.

Four of five seats on the city council will be up for election in November, but that doesn’t mean weaknesses of our current council automatically will be swept away.

There are encouraging signs. Monday night, for example, city administrator Brogan Jones seemed to take to heart the notion that it’s more democratic, if not more productive, to broach a topic at one meeting and allow discussion of it both at the meeting and afterward before considering final action at a subsequent meeting.

Still, those who expect massive changes after the election may be in for disappointment.

Unless there’s an unprecedented recall and two unusually successful write-in campaigns, two of the three votes not to consider suspending accused Police Chief Gideon Cody still will be there come January, and the third vote will come from unopposed candidate for mayor who last week told us he didn’t know enough to consider suspending Cody.

In other words, a majority of not only this year’s council but also next year’s is unprepared to do what virtually every other city in the country would have done long ago.

Suspending an employee with pay doesn’t presume wrongdoing. It presumes that there’s an investigation, and until it is complete, the public can be assured there will be no repeats of whatever is under investigation.

What Cody did in raiding our newsroom, our co-owners’ home, and especially the home of Vice Mayor Ruth Herbel has been defended by absolutely no one, save for Mayor David Mayfield’s contorted defense that attempted to shift blame onto County Attorney Joel Ensey and District Magistrate Judge Laura Viar, both of whom face investigation as well.

Even worse than the prospect of the council yet again voting 3-2 against doing what’s right is the possibility that the vote might be even more lopsided.

Herbel, who has spent the past two years being lambasted, lectured, and now even raided without cause, has been the lone voice on the council willing to raise questions when things just don’t make sense.

She will be on the ballot in November, too, and if various households’ arrays of signs are an indication, a fair number of people seem intent on trying to oust the only person with demonstrated courage and dedication to seek truth, justice, and the American way.

Replacing Herbel with ditto-heads who stand for whatever seems to be blowing in the prevailing wind might make us more “together” but certainly not “stronger.”

Maybe if a few more council members were to put in her level of effort to keep the city on the straight and narrow, she wouldn’t have to be a lone voice, easily made fun of by those who want our community always to be in lockstep with their objectives.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Sept. 21, 2023

 

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