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  • Last modified 66 days ago (Aug. 11, 2021)

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Selling our
community short

We’d love to write about successes this week, but Marion’s week has been dominated by failures. Our water failed. Our power failed — again. Most important, our city council failed.

Are we going to learn from these failures or will we be doomed to repeat them?

We’re still not sure enough attention has been paid to nursing the last few weeks of life out of a crotchety circuit that failed early Sunday downtown and on the north hill. But at least its replacement is on order.

Sunday morning’s extended failure — including two potentially damaging power “bumps” that should have been avoided — may be among the last times our city gets a black eye for having so many blackouts.

A current water project won’t fix incorrect mapping of water mains that led to most valley customers losing water and many others having brown water Tuesday. But engineers and public works officials vow that the project will set a better example and keep much better track of where pipes are buried elsewhere in town.

We’ll resist temptation to remind that the city’s master plan says new power lines should be buried, unlike what will happen with the electric update. Instead let’s focus on the third, most serious failure of the week.

Confronted by more than a dozen protesters armed with signatures from more than 60 others, the city council did absolutely nothing Monday to address a mistake it made two weeks earlier in voting to sell land legally set aside for drainage and as a buffer abutting a residential area.

State law is clear. When land is subdivided, portions of it are permanently set aside. It’s then impossible to convey clear title to such land. Yet the council, according to its minutes, voted two weeks ago to do just that despite ample questions that already had been raised during an extremely brief period in which the public was allowed to know a smattering of facts about the matter.

After having more time for research, residents confirmed from topographic maps and personal experience that a huge portion of drainage from Marion’s north hill funnels, sometimes intentionally, into the area a store wants no longer to be set aside.

They found that excessive traffic on a street never designed to provide primary access to a retail store already had taken a toll that could become exponentially worse.

A citizen tried to get on the agenda for Monday’s meeting but was told she was too late even though two weeks earlier, the public wasn’t told about the issue until much closer to meeting time.

Presented with such concerns, the council’s answer was not even the buzzing of cicadas. Two of its members claimed not to have agreed, as their minutes indicate they did, a sale agreement. Senior staff seemed to ignore advice reportedly given by responsible city committees and officials before the meeting two weeks ago that issues such as these needed to be addressed before action was taken.

Why the rush? If it were a transformative project that would guarantee many high-paying jobs, expand the local economy, and represent something of a coup for the city to get, we might understand it. But all this was for a store we don’t really need, with a history not of expanding sales but of undercutting competition and the jobs competitors provide, at a location we need for multiple important reasons.

Learning from this failure may require more passing of petitions — not just against zoning or platting changes, which the city seems intent on doing as quickly and quietly as possible, but perhaps to see whether we have the right officials leading our community.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Aug. 11, 2021

 

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