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  • Last modified 67 days ago (Aug. 9, 2018)

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State of the community

Tax and spend, snipe and yell, boycott and conspire — then complain that everything gets worse and do absolutely nothing to make it better. It’s a game we as a community have become caught up in.

We can spend more than a million on a revamped way-station for trash. We can spend thousands to come up with statistics “proving” why the best-paid people in the county need even more money. We can talk about beautifying streets but can’t seem to keep the power on for the stores on them. We can get caught up in what sort of big-dollar administrative structure is best for economic development — and spend years developing nothing by disagreement. We can even mess around with piles of silage and limos parked in protest. And all the while we can kill the messenger for conveying the message.

The first step in fixing a problem is identifying it. And none of these things — nor the plight of small businesses and farmers, the increasingly secretive nature of government, nor the declining caliber of our neighbors — are the real challenge facing Marion County.

Our real challenge — we won’t call it a problem but rather a solution waiting for an answer — is one thing: leadership.

People who think they are leaders too often are firebrands who shoot from the hip or schemers who retreat behind closed doors only to pout, hands on hips, when they don’t get what they wanted.

The solution doesn’t involve waiting for someone else to come along and be a leader. It requires that each of us come forward and do whatever we can to focus all of our efforts not on feathering our own nests or making our lives easier but on looking to make our community a better place not just for today but for 25, 50, 100 years from now.

That means fixing up old houses and businesses rather than letting them run down and using them for storage or as slumlord properties. That means helping neighbors who slip and fall rather than expecting a costly ambulance service to respond. That means buying from locally owned businesses even when it costs a few cents more. And it means letting ne’er-do-well neighbors know that it’s never OK to get drunk or high and beat up on people living with them.

It means refocusing government on things only government has the bankroll to accomplish — like saving our decaying infrastructure, including stately buildings, tree-lined streets, and rural roads that have become mud bogs and rutted dust bowls. It means putting money into actual education not extracurricular trips all across the state and whatever fancy gizmos salespeople push.

More than that, it means making your voice heard — not in a negative sense about what you don’t want but in a positive sense about what you do instead.

Imagine, for example, where we would be with economic development if every business in the county had joined a countywide chamber with minimal dues and let that chamber, rather than politicians, determine how to grow economic development holistically.

Imagine, as well, what might happen if instead of constantly being hit up for donations to events and monuments, we donated instead to projects like fixing historic buildings.

Everyone has excuses why he or she won’t step forward, and some are quite valid. But if we continue down the leaderless path we too often seem to follow, we’ll end up not where we want to be but wandering aimlessly, frittering away the legacy we inherited instead of creating a new legacy for our progeny.

We have no desire to dictate ideas, but we do want to facilitate discussion. Drop us a note saying what you think the community needs to do and how you personally will help it do that. Maybe, just maybe, we can help by publishing ideas that will help move conversation into a more positive direction.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Aug. 9, 2018

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