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Pookas and pants on fire

Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, “In this world, Elwood, you must be”— she always called me Elwood — “In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.

— Elwood P. Dowd in “Harvey”

Alas, Marion’s mayor appears not to be a fan of the 1945 Pulitzer Prize play that went on to become one of Jimmy Stewart’s classic cinematic roles.

Instead, he seems intent on being oh so snookered by others and oh so much a bully that he resorts to falsehoods and to trying to silence those who don’t see whatever six-foot invisible white rabbits (“pookas,” according to the play) might obscure his view of democracy and reality.

With an unusually large crowd of a dozen or more spectators waiting Monday to discuss a charter ordinance that needlessly would eliminate their guarantee of being able to vote on city bond issues, he fussed and fumed about a council member’s attempt to let them speak before the council acted.

He then followed up with an outright lie, metaphorically setting his pants on fire by claiming, “We’ve never had an earlier public forum,” despite such forums at every meeting for eight years, up until a few weeks ago.

He quickly was corrected by one of two council ditto-heads, who otherwise seem to vote as he does without bothering to think for themselves. The forums were dropped in August, without public debate, ensuring citizens’ opinions ineffectually will be heard only after the council already has acted.

The mayor and his ditto-heads apparently don’t care what citizens think. They’re not even polite enough to let them go first when there’s a crowd waiting. The meeting would have taken just as long — 39 minutes. Council members might have heard something that changed their minds. But perhaps that’s the goal: avoiding giving anyone any sort of opportunity to interfere with a monopoly on power wielded by the mayor and his cronies in a self-styled elite that views itself as running everything.

The same disdain for the public having a voice in what its government does is at the root of concern over Charter Ordinance 22. After again trying to confound discussion of it with irrelevant minutia, the mayor metaphorically set his pants on fire a second time, claiming this newspaper neglected to report how the charter ordinance was the only way to pay for fixing city streets.

Truth is, we neglected to report it because our research with attorneys discovered it’s a lie. Not only are there options other than the capital improvements one the ordinance espouses. Selecting that particular option in no way requires reducing voters’ rights. That was an add-on, written and pushed by a company that profits from increased city borrowing and pitched without critical review to a mayor and ditto-heads intent to keeping all power to themselves.

Ironically, the dozen or so spectators challenging the ordinance with a petition had to wait while the sole person presenting a petition about downtown signs was allowed a slot on the agenda.

Whether signs should stick out over sidewalks is less interesting than the timing of the installation of one at her storefront. Just weeks after one of the ditto-heads talked about changing the hanging sign ban, along cames the first sign in years to challenge the rule. Coincidence? Maybe. Put-up controversy? Possibly. And the council’s reaction to sending the question to the city’s planning commission with a reminder that the council can overrule whatever the commission might recommend was yet more evidence of the disdain the power elite has for views other than its own.

There’s even a lie of sorts behind the promise of street improvements new bonds would pay for. Only one street outside the immediate area of the city’s disused industrial park would be repaired in the first year, according to council documents, and it is in front of the county’s transfer station and VFW post.

Don’t let yet another lie confound matters further. Having an costly election to block the charter ordinance isn’t what protesters want. They want a return to citizens having a right to have their voices heard. Declining to schedule an election on the ordinance and instead scheduling a less costly one on the bonds is what they seek.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Oct. 20, 2022

 

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