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  • Last modified 133 days ago (Dec. 13, 2023)

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Yes, Marion,
there is a Satan clause

It’s not “Miracle on 34th St.,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” or even “A Christmas Story.” We nonetheless savor another cinematic Christmas classic — so nice it was scripted twice, as Episode 15, Season 2, of two series, the 1950s “Dragnet” and its 1960s remake.

Sergeant Friday and Detectives Smith then Gannon search for a missing statue of the baby Jesus only to find that a young parishioner — poor in money but not in faith — has fulfilled a promise by giving the statue the first ride in a new red wagon he received from a charity.

We’ve been going round and round in a little red wagon of sorts for the past four months. We haven’t been tempted to give baby Jesus a ride, though we’ve probably used His name in vain a few times while in talking about bumps along the way.

In public, because of the challenges our ride has posed for democracy, we’ve tried to provide just the facts, ma’am, and have spent four months trying not to shout, cry, or pout in telling you why all of us should be concerned about what happened Aug. 11.

As Christmas approaches, however, it may be time to begin making a list and checking it twice.

Clearly earning spots on our “nice” list are the tens of thousands of people who’ve donated, subscribed, emailed, called, or gone far out of their way to visit our office to show support.

Also making the list are those who lovingly have maintained the floral shrine to Joan Meyer outside our office and to the world full of journalists and other citizens who’ve not forgotten the sacrifice she made or the challenge to freedom posed by weaponizing the justice system with trivial and trumped-up charges aimed at political or personal bullying.

Despite our best efforts and those of other news organizations, we’ve been unable to get Marion or the state to live up to promises of openness enshrined in democratic traditions and specific laws.

As a result, our “naughty” list is hard to finalize. Suffice it to say we’ll be looking for volume discounts on lumps of coal.

We had thought about sharing our list here but decided, in the spirit of Christmas, to keep it to ourselves — for now.

Truth is, we’ve pretty much figured out what went wrong. There’s a key period between 6 and 10 a.m. Aug. 7 when it’s not entirely clear what roles various local politicians played.

Our attempts to gain access to texts and emails sent on private accounts during that period has been frustrated by the city’s insurance attorney and our state’s attorney general, who appears in his own dealings to have flouted the same openness laws we have been relying on.

We’re perplexed when openness is as misconstrued as it was at Monday’s city council meeting, when Ruth Herbel validly pointed out that if she did anything illegal — which she didn’t — David Mayfield and Brogan Jones were equally guilty by doing the same thing.

As usual, discussion turned into an attempt to confuse by brutal cross-examination, capped by a flip-flop from Zach Collett, who switched from accusing Herbel of sharing too much to labeling her as opposed to openness.

We also are disappointed that a commission made up mainly of judges seemed to find plenty of fault — but absolutely no consequences — in criticizing the role one of their own played in our case. Judges can’t be sued. The only check on them is whether voters opt not to retain them. But in this case, we don’t get to vote. The magistrate in question will face voters only in Morris County, even though she grossly failed to do her job properly in Marion County.

We’re left to wonder what could have stopped all of this in the first place. Surprisingly, the answer may come down to us, the voters.

At a time when Marion seems to be questioning whether an interim police appointment should be made permanent, we wonder what would have happened if two previous interim appointments had been made permanent.

We can’t see any of this happening if Larry Starkey had continued as sheriff or Duane McCarty had continued as police chief. We also don’t see it happening if John Wheeler had been elected mayor or if Darvin Markley had been elected councilman.

Decisions in those cases were made by narrow margins and only after significant numbers of people let others do their thinking for them. If we, as citizens, had been less willing to present a façade of being stronger together and had instead decided that strength comes from diversity, maybe we wouldn’t find ourselves in the mess we are in today.

Jesus’s birth was the start of a second chance. Marion also has a second chance, but only if it knows the truth, abandons its penchant for not challenging those in authority, and begins thinking less about getting along and more about doing what’s right and good.

If some of those on our naughty list would come forward and explain what really motivated raids Aug. 11, perhaps the Ghost of Christmas Future would be able to share more pleasant dreams with our community.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Dec. 13, 2023

 

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