March Madness and April Fools
What’s more surprising than a team coming from a record 16 points down to win March Madness?
Proud as we are of Monday night’s thrilling victory by the Kansas Jayhawks in the NCAA basketball tournament, we’re equally puzzled by what might be considered delayed April Fools jokes locally:
After firing its chief, Florence fired most of its firefighters even as KU was mounting its firestorm of a comeback against North Carolina’s Tar Heels.
Regardless of allegations about drunken behavior and scoffing over a former chief’s dress uniform, it must be hard to fire volunteers who are paid the princely sum of $1 to risk life and limb and who then promptly donate the money back to the city.
Restructuring may make for a stronger department, but we would hate to see it go the way of Florence’s ambulance, which now has too few volunteers and may no longer be certified to transport patients.
Just before KU’s tipoff in New Orleans, city council members in Marion voted to approve yet another monthly installment in annual bills totaling the equivalent of nearly 2 mills of property taxes to rent 50 cell phones.
That’s right: 50 phones for a city workforce that, at last count, had only 23 full-time employees.
Maybe there’s a reason the city needs more than two cell phones per employee. Perhaps employees listen to calls from the city’s ample number of land lines in stereo — one phone for each ear.
But for a council whose mayor has urged saving money by avoiding publishing public notices in a locally owned newspaper like ours, it seems only prudent that at least one council member might ask for an explanation.
An explanation might also be in order for why the city is spending an annualized equivalent of 1.33 mills sending out unreadably colorful bills and newsletters.
Diligent work by sheriff’s deputies resulted in a significant drug bust a day before tipoff on Indigo Rd. south of Hillsboro.
Noticing odd behavior by a late-night driver and sticking with an investigation until a significant cache of serious drugs was discovered shouldn’t be considered among potential April Fools jokes.
Rather, it was excellent policing by deputies Joel Womochil and Matt Regier, with help from Hillsboro assistant chief Randy Brazil.
What must be a joke, however, was the name of the registered owner of the vehicle. The Chevy van was registered to something called Wichita Area Teen Community Health. Better health for kids via illegal drugs? That’s an air ball of a shot if ever there was one.
A similar disconnection from reality happened back in Marion a day later when the same city council that didn’t question cell phone bills also didn’t question what it was doing with rezoning, a conditional use permit, and a property sale in the city’s largely neglected industrial park.
After taking matters into their own hands and voting to override planning and zoning commission recommendations, council members reversed course Monday and accepted those recommendations, making it unclear exactly what rules apply to portions of the industrial park that planners didn’t want rezoned but council members did.
Actions also were taken by resolutions, which need not be published in the newspaper, rather than ordinances, which do, raising questions about their validity since state law and city code seem to indicate that ordinances are required.
If a series of dealings, dating back to last summer, in the industrial park weren’t so sad, they’d be funny.
What’s a person to do about all of this?
Monday night, Marion council members met in secret under the overly broad fig leaf of discussing non-elected personnel. We aren’t privy to what they actually discussed but can only imagine it had something to do with reappointment of officials from the city administrator on down. Their appointments usually come up in April.
Last year, administrator Roger Holter was reappointed by the narrowest of margins, a 3-2 vote. New this year has been a new relationship with a new city attorney, whose bills have been swelling from almost daily consultation but who sends a neophyte surrogate in his place for actual council meetings.
We voters don’t get a direct choice in whether to reappoint these officials or others. But now is the time for all good men and women to discuss — not behind closed doors, but in face-to-face talks with council members — whether we’re happy or unhappy with the performance of officials up for reappointment.
As was proved last year, a single vote can spell the difference between regime change and more of the same. Voters can’t exercise that power directly, but they can let those they voted for know how they want to be represented.
— ERIC MEYER