A sip of silliness
Relax, dear readers. We at times may question the wisdom of Marion’s exalted city council, as we do with its apparently illegal secret sessions this week. But rest assured that the mayor, council, and administrator haven’t yet gone completely off the deep end.
Contrary to what an ordinance summary they are publishing in this week’s paper implies, beer sales haven’t been universally approved in Central Park.
Although it seems at times as if the city is intent on having beer sold on every street corner, the actual ordinance — though not the summary published this week — makes it clear that beer sales will be allowed in the park only during certain hours on Chingawassa Days.
The city apparently thought it was saving money by declining to publish the full ordinance and instead publishing only the summary, which leaves out this rather essential piece of information.
The problem with trying to slip things through this particular legal loophole is that the summary, as submitted, takes up slightly more space than the full ordinance itself would. The cost to publish either the summary (which misleads) or the full text (which does not) would have been exactly the same — $89.70.
Unfortunately, that’s not the total cost to the city. That’s just the portion that we get. A city attorney also had to be hired to write and approve the summary. We don’t know exactly what he charged, but we bet it was somewhere near the same as — if not more than — what we received.
In the 43 business days from Feb. 1 to April 1, the city attorney’s office has billed the city 38 times at a total cost of $5,220 — a little more than $121 per piece of advice.
Spending $121 (or whatever the exact figure might be) to save absolutely nothing on a bill of less than $90 makes little sense — unless the goal really wasn’t to save money but rather to somehow punish this newspaper — and, by extension, its readers — for news coverage to which certain key people in city hall continually object.
At last week’s meeting, the city paid our newspaper a few cents less than $267. It paid a different newspaper more than 3½ times as much — $953.
We’re 100% owned by people who live and pay taxes in the City of Marion, and we provide paychecks for a dozen county residents. The other paper has no owners living in the county and no more than one or two employees who do. Their focus isn’t on Marion County. It’s on Newton, McPherson, and the Wichita suburbs. And their paper is filled with ads and inserts for distant competitors of local businesses to prove it.
But is this really about hating us? All you have to do is look at some officials’ postings on anti-social media. Virtually every week, like a poor version of Donald Trump, one particular official lambastes us for reporting what he calls fake news.
We’re sorry if our reporters sometimes mishear something in a meeting where it’s hard to hear. We try to promptly and publicly admit our mistakes when they happen even if they’re somewhat understandable because politicians have a habit of taking inconsistent positions, like promising voters they will fire someone then unequivocally supporting that person after the election.
Still, we think the main thrust of nearly all our news stories, often produced under very difficult circumstances, is correct — as our 40 statewide awards this week attest — even if someone tries to discredit everything we publish by finding a minor error.
Cries of fake news after minor gaffes remind us of a kid whose parents tell him not to play with matches and burn the house down while they are away.
When they return and find their home in smoldering embers, the kid denies wrongdoing.
“I wasn’t playing with matches,” he says, “I used a Bic lighter.”
Hopefully, we aren’t playing with either while debating the city’s future.
— ERIC MEYER