• Last modified 551 days ago (Dec. 22, 2022)


Naughty or nice?

Among the hard-working, under-appreciated teachers who this week are sharing with us heart-warming letters from kids in their classes, one managed to make the annual task of fessing up and submitting gift specs to the Jolly Old Gent from Up North a bit more straightforward.

Students still had to compose actual letters, not texts and emojis. Their epistles often are accompanied by painstakingly drawn, attention-compelling artwork, some of which we’ve preserved for posterity in this week’s keepsake Dear Santa section.

Putting crayon to tablet helps young people learn. So, dashing off a note to Dasher and friends at ZIP code 2IC4U is more than just another opportunity to make a convincing case for a Red Ryder BB gun or whatever else a young heart may desire.

What made it easier was that some students were able to start, as nearly everything else in our society seems to do these days, with a form, complete with check boxes to indicate whether they had been naughty or nice.

As proof of the intelligence of Marion County young people, not one of them checked the “naughty” box.

We’re pretty sure that’s because they actually were nice. After all, how naughty can young people be when still counting their age on less than all the fingers of two hands.

Still, there might have been a few out there — future politicians, no doubt — who realized that checking “naughty” might be a bit too honest, even if it meant having less work to do because the only thing they would have to add to their list of items desired would be “lump of coal.”

We wonder what would happen if everything in society had to begin with a simple form asking whether the action was naughty or nice.

Tuesday’s referendum and its deafening defeat by a 10-to-1 margin of an attempt by Marion’s city council to deprive its citizens of their right to vote on bond issues definitely checks the “nice” box, while the original attempt to sneak the measure past voters and use half-truths to defend it most definitely did not.

We’ll have to wait to see which box will be checked by the sudden resignations of Marion’s two top cops — half the entire force — and its city clerk. All the secrecy surrounding the matter merits at least consideration of making a tick mark on in the box calling for coal.

State law is clear — and opinions by multiple attorneys general have reaffirmed — that it is not sufficient for any governmental body to say only that it is discussing personnel matters when it throws the public out of its meetings. It must also state a topic. Almost equally clear is that topics involving top appointed officials don’t have the same claim on privacy as do issues involving lower-ranking government employees.

The problem with Kansas law is that citizens must continually fight to preserve their rights. If we want to keep our right to vote, we have to go out, hire attorneys, circulate petitions, and show up at polling places in the dead of winter to defend what no one should have tried to take away in the first place.

The same is true regarding the current mass resignations. If they involve allegations of wrongdoing, either by some other official or by the officials who tendered their resignations, citizens have a right to know.

We taxpayers pay the bills — not just in property taxes but also in sales taxes, inflated utility rates, and taxes paid to all manner of governmental units who launder our money and return it in the form of grants.

Whatever allegations led to the resignations, we the people paying the bills have a right to know what’s going on. Did some official get caught in a grievous error? Did people we elect to oversee that official handle the situation properly or act like a loose cannon? How can we ever know how to vote if we don’t know what the people we are voting for or against are doing?

One thing is clear: The typical small-town manner of dealing with things by sweeping issues under the rug won’t work. The resignations happened. That bell cannot be unrung. Refusing to accept them or hiring the individuals back, with or without taking disciplinary action against anyone else, would destroy now and forever whatever leadership structure the city might choose to operate under.

The city council, which just wasted more than $4,000 by not pulling the plug on Charter Ordinance 22 and insisting waiting for on a predictably lopsided referendum to reject it, will have to decide which box it plans to check before it once again goes behind closed doors Friday to exercise power they have only because we the voters gave it to them.

— Eric Meyer

Last modified Dec. 22, 2022