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  • Last modified 82 days ago (Sept. 27, 2018)

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And the stink goes on

Walk up and down Main St. and count the number of portable signs you see on city sidewalks detailing today’s specials at various businesses. Did you know that every one of them is illegal?

They’re not the only ones, either. City code appears to make no exceptions for signs advertising soup suppers, houses for sale or rent, or yard sales. There’s no special allowance for signs wishing someone a happy birthday, advocating election of a political candidate, or taking pride in a child who is a member of a sports team. If they appear on a frame anywhere along any public way, they’re illegal.

Ever watch a group of kids tossing a ball across a street or bouncing it against the wall of their house or garage? That’s illegal, too.

Drive through residential areas and count the number of vehicles parked on unpaved spaces of front or side yards. Every one of them is breaking the law.

So, too, is every dog or cat you see that’s not on a leash or inside a fence. When you open the door and let Fluffy out to roam the neighborhood, did you know you were breaking the law?

It isn’t just average citizens who legally fall into the category of public nuisances while doing everyday things. Next time the city council meets, follow council members as they pull up to the city building and watch as one of them driving north on 3rd St. routinely makes a J-turn to park in front of the council chambers. That’s illegal, too.

There’s good reason for most of these laws to be on the books. There also are commonsense reasons not to enforce them as if they were handed down on stone tablets — even though the city might want to take a few of them off the books if it never plans to enforce them.

What never should happen is for laws to be used only against people who somehow tick off the people in charge. That’s the kind of crap that happens in tinhorn dictatorships, not in American democracies.

Now put into the equation an impish gentle giant of a man who owns a feedlot in the northern part of the county and has a penchant for needling elected officials.

He’s not exactly blameless in the current three-ring circus that has developed over the pile of silage he stored at property he bought for other, more plutocratic reasons on the west end of town.

He so craves public attention that he probably would set his own beard on fire if we promised to run a picture of it on our front page. But this surprisingly soft-spoken and uncannily crafty man has found a better way to get public attention — by emphasizing how easy it is to get under the skin of Marion’s overly controlling mayor.

It takes two to tussle, and although the official score sheet would show that the mountain of a man has scored precious few victories, the petty vindictiveness of his opponent has clearly been revealed.

One of the mountain man’s latest stunts, offering incentives for customers to move their accounts out of the bank where the overly controlling mayor serves as president, may not have hurt the bank that seriously.

But after the mayor sicced city police on the mountain man in a childish attempt to show who’s boss, even a vain stunt like this scores points in a different ledger — one that reveals the true character of people in charge.

We’d bet our bottom dollar that if the mountain man were to break any of the seldom-enforced laws listed here, he’d be getting not oral warnings, which is the custom for people city police like, but actual tickets, normally reserved for out-of-towners and people the police, and especially their boss, the mayor, don’t like.

Our mountain of a man from the flatlands may seem unique. He’s not. One of the challenges of being an effective public official is in knowing how to take a needling without overreacting. But to date, the mayor has reacted to our mountain man’s minor flare-ups by trying to douse them with gasoline.

It isn’t the pile of silage on the west end of town that will discourage potential economic development in town. It’s the overreaction of city officials to what in essence are stunts worthy of an inventive, rebellious teenager.

We wonder how he’ll react to this editorial.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Sept. 27, 2018

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