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Questions
in search of answers

Call me stupid — something that hate-mongers are sure to do on anti-social media even without an invitation — but I just don’t get certain things:

Bailing out on logic

When convicted criminals are jailed for failing to appear in court a second, third, or fourth time, why do judges reduce presumptive bail and let them out on their own recognizance?

Why sign a failure-to-appear warrant for their arrest in the first place if the plan all along was to let them out with an unsecured promise?

If they promise to pay — without posting money or buying a bond to secure that promise — will the amount they promise ever be forfeited?

Is that even possible for defendants who contend they are so poor that we taxpayers have to foot the bill for their lawyers?

Fool a judge or prosecutor once, shame on you. Fool them twice, shame on the rest of us for re-electing them.

Hoping for a sip of wisdom

I’m not the teetotaler that fabled Record editor E.W. Hoch was, but I don’t see why most events these days has to be accompanied by beer, overconsumption of which was blamed, in part, for the Dark Ages.

I particularly don’t understand why people think campers at Marion Reservoir will go elsewhere if they can’t buy a couple of dozen more brewskis before noon on Sundays.

Even if they do decide to go elsewhere, what’s the loss? A less crowded reservoir? Fewer pennies in sales tax that won’t come anywhere near paying for the police, fire, and ambulance services drunks seem to use with increasing regularity?

Wouldn’t we be better off trying not to attract people who need to get high before high noon? Ask any expert: Our community’s problems with meth and pot pale in comparison to its problems with alcohol.

A prescription for confusion

Try as we might, we’ve never been able to understand how the so-called 340b program that’s caused so much of a hullabaloo around St. Luke Hospital and Lanning Pharmacy actually accomplishes its goal of making drugs less expensive for patients of modest means.

All we hear is that, when poor patients buy certain drugs, the hospital and the pharmacy get what amount to kickbacks, but we don’t see how any of this money finds its way back into the pockets of patients.

There’s nothing wrong with government providing financial help to hospitals and pharmacies in small towns. They could provide help to small-town newspapers, too, but that’s another matter.

What we don’t get is how patients get lower prices as a result. Aren’t most out-of-pocket prices for drugs already fixed by insurance or the government and applied uniformly to all?

Stamping out ill will

Yes, Father Kapaun spent a good portion of his military career at an air base near Herington. But when he got his mail at home in Pilsen, it was delivered by the Marion post office.

So why has the Herington post office been chosen to be renamed in his honor? Was Marion asleep at the switch? Or did the staff of a congressman, knowing that Marion no longer would be in his district, opt to give the honor to a town that would remain in the area he represented?

Drawing the line on districts

Speaking of areas moving from one district to another, laws require us to change the boundaries of congressional and legislative districts whenever a new census comes out, but why don’t these same laws seem to affect county commission, school board, and hospital board districts?

The Marion-Florence school district has gone out of its way to ensure that places other than Marion have representation. The hospital district apparently hasn’t — something it should correct along with switching to real elections after its club-like balloting this Tuesday.

The county commission’s map is so gerrymandered that an isolated island of Marion is attached, like an underrepresented ethnic enclave, to a district six miles away that’s dominated by much smaller towns and rural areas.

The person who crafted the county’s gerrymandered plan, apparently to ensure that she and another commissioner who lived nearby wouldn’t be forced to run against each other, no longer is in office, but her gerrymandering lives on, even after new census data have become available.

Secrecy and trust

So, has Marion picked a new police chief or not? A retired Kansas City officer confirmed to the Record on April 14 that he had been offered the job and accepted. Nearly five weeks and multiple closed-door city council meetings later, there’s still no official acknowledgment from the City of Marion.

A raft of rumors floated by anonymous sources — none willing to go on the record — have offered varying reasons. But we don’t understand the need for so much secrecy, just as we don’t understand why the county commission on Monday had to exclude citizens and taxpayers from its discussions on nine separate occasions.

Politicians want the press and the public to trust them. Wouldn’t it be nice if they trusted us, too?

Engineering solutions

Back in the Jurassic age, when county roads weren’t the butt-jarring potholes of all jokes, the county had an engineer to help ensure that proper procedures were followed.

We understand that finding an experienced engineer would be difficult and costly and that a road designer might not be skilled in how to keep employees in line, but whenever we look at county bills and see the massive amounts we are paying to engineering firms, we have to wonder why we don’t hire our own engineer rather than send individual jobs to separate private firms. The same holds true for those who maintain the county’s information technology infrastructure.

But the real reason roads haven’t improved, with or without engineers, has less to do with departmental leadership and more to do with micromanagement by commissioners.

We simply don’t understand why commissioners needed to spend meeting time talking about whether rock has been applied to specific stretches of roadway and precisely how that rock was scooped up off gravel piles. Such discussions occurred just this week.

If we ever hope to get any benefit out of having a county administrator, commissioners must be willing to give up such micromanagement and tell constituents to submit their concerns directly to departments rather than inserting them into the commissioners’ burgeoning agendas each week.

___◆___

And that’s just a week’s worth of our questions. With each week come more. What don’t come are answers — unless, of course, people paying the bills for local government also begin asking questions — and demanding answers.

As we salute patriotic sacrifice this Monday, perhaps it’s time for all of us to have a little more courage and do our patriotic duty of keeping government accountable.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified May 25, 2023

 

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