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  • Last modified 40 days ago (Aug. 19, 2021)

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A penny for your
dollar store thoughts

Welcome to the new age, where image is everything and facts are meaningless details that merely get in the way.

As it turns out, not only is the land that Family Dollar and Dollar Tree want to build on legally reserved and necessary for proper drainage. It’s clear now that Marion promised six years ago, when rival Dollar General located a store here, not to sell any land anywhere to any similar store.

An opinion rendered Aug. 3 by Marion’s city attorney could find no such promises the city made. A day later, however, Dollar General had no trouble locating them — and letting the mayor know.

Troublingly, the mayor seemed to let no one else know. At least three of his four colleagues on the city council are finding out about the promise not from the mayor, city administrator, or city attorney, who apparenlty skipped over a portion of an original contract, but by reading this week’s paper.

They could have been told at a council meeting Aug. 9 or in the hefty packet of information they receive right before each council meeting. Typically, their packet contains all manner of material, including minutes not just of council meetings but also of unrelated county commission meetings.

Surely there was time and space to include Dollar General’s questioning of the land deal before council members were confronted by people protesting the city’s land sale to Family Dollar and Dollar Tree.

If not, council members surely would have wanted to know about this after protesters showed up, armed with a petition signed by every person the protesters had approached. But they weren’t. They’re learning about it just as you are.

Why? Because anyone anywhere who dares question such things as selling reserved land needed as a buffer and for drainage is instantly portrayed as being negative — an obstacle standing in the way of what a handful of insiders and their cronies regard as economic development.

Others are tarred with the same stick when they remind the city of long-established rules, established for a reason, about such things as construction and parking standards.

Why the city ever agreed to Dollar General’s original restriction on selling any city land to any competing store is a question worth asking. It’s not as if getting a dollar store is a huge coup these days. Peabody now has two of them, and Hillsboro is being asked to sell land land for a second store.

The fact that all these stores seem to want exclusive rights to not have a competitor in the area should tell us all we need to know. The chains, which open and close locations faster than most people open and close their refrigerator door, know that most communities can support only one. Like Johnny Appleseed, they’re scattering their stores to the wind and plan to keep long-term only the few that actually take root. If in the process a local grocer can’t compete and closes, why should they care?

An image of growth — regardless of cost — isn’t worth chasing. Facts, not image, should govern. But this is the same city whose mayor has been bragging about cutting taxes when the actual tax levy will increase and the tax rate might very well, too.

Last year, because of assessment changes, the city’s proposed tax rate increased 0.05 of a mill after the city adopted its budget. To claim that a 0.02 reduction this year is a tax cut — when total taxes levied will increase markedly — is pure image without fact.

The question is who’s really being negative — the people trying to hide facts or the ones willing to bring them out in the open and respect the intelligence of city residents?

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Aug. 19, 2021

 

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