Shame on you, City of Marion. First you insist wrongly that the only way to pay for civic improvements is to substantially weaken voters’ rights to approve them.
Then, supposedly to save space, you publish in your newsletter a version of an ordinance that would do just that but conveniently leave out how rights would be curtailed even though you seem to be able to find enough space to add a veiled threat that anyone challenging the ordinance might delay improvements.
It’s high time to rid city hall of its bullying, and we charge Marion’s new city administrator with fostering an attitude of openness and honesty that will put an end, once and for all, to the disrespect city officials have shown taxpayers.
Saying that the only we can get civic improvements is by raising taxes (which the city already plans to do by exceeding its revenue-neutral rate) is a bald-faced lie, and any city official claiming otherwise is either incredibly devious or so inept he shouldn’t hold his job.
The only thing that needed to be changed for Marion to take advantage of a loophole allowing it to exceed its state-imposed debt limit was to allow the city administrator, not the city engineer, to present a list of needed projects.
The wisdom of such a change might be debated, but one thing is crystal clear: The law does not require that bond elections essentially be eliminated, replaced by a system in which taxpayers have an extremely short period to obtain an extremely large number of signatures challenging excess spending before being allowed to exercise their democratic rights to approve or reject the debt.
Claiming otherwise then hiding the truth in the city’s newsletter borders on malfeasance.
It makes reasonable people question other things city officials do. The projects seem to span the city, for example, but the only ones guaranteed of first-year funding, other than maybe a pet project or two, are just two blocks of streets not in the immediate vicinity of the city’s largely disused industrial park.
Will this be a repeat of a multi-year plan to repair downtown alleys, in which only the first alley on the list — one that happened to be behind the then-mayor’s business — was the only one repaired? Will money instead be diverted to modern equivalents of such pet projects as rarely used handball courts instead of being spent to fix the holes that dot virtually every street like a bad case of monkeypox?
We even wonder about the screw-up that Tuesday resulted in discontinued funding for the proposed 28 rental units planned for north of Marion’s ballpark. Was the “accidental” listing of a wrong location, the same one the city tried in vain to use for a dollar store, a real accident or a vestige of some earlier attempt to again try to get around laws and public scrutiny?
If the city had simply presented its list of projects without trying to curtail voter rights, voters could have approved all needed borrowing in November. Now, because the city tried to pull a fast one, those improvements are likely to be delayed until after petitions challenging the city’s move force an election that might have to be delayed past November and could then require a second election after that.
Any schoolchild knows that bullying typically backfires on the bully. Perhaps city hall needs to re-enroll in grade school.
— ERIC MEYER