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  • Last modified 1167 days ago (Sept. 3, 2015)

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Can we agree to disagree?

We at the newspaper say it all the time in personal discussion with civic leaders: “Sometimes our positions will force us to be adversarial, but that’s OK. It’s important that we maintain open communication.”

The same could be said for relationships between city council members or the city council and its administration.

Jerry Kline’s recent pattern of voicing opposition to council decisions way too late is indicative of a problem with Marion City Council meetings:

They feel slightly rehearsed.

Kline said he feels he’s the only one who will voice opposition to administrative suggestions, which an objective observer could contend is an assertion slightly generous to Mr. Kline.

If dissent exists, it is quashed before it ever surfaces. Council meetings are largely a dialogue between administrator and mayor, with an occasional comment — usually advocating the position being presented — from other council members.

Government isn’t supposed to be so easy. United fronts, great as they may be for public image, are unfortunately poor for democracy. The best decisions come from discussion that considers all sides.

Kline’s recent “nay” votes have been coupled with fair counterpoints, even if his most recent objection was as mistimed as it was ill-fated.

Maybe the $22,000 price tag is too much to pay for a huge grant to repair a park most of us have forgotten about.

Maybe parks and recreation should have nothing to do with cemetery responsibilities.

Maybe it’s a bit disingenuous of the city to emphasize that its budget “holds the line” on taxes, even though the city knows it could still end up requiring more of its taxpayers’ money than last year.

Then again, maybe not. On all three counts. I’m not saying I agree with Kline’s points, but I think they should be broached and addressed openly and not viewed as negativity, impeding Marion’s progress.

Kline should speak up earlier, but you can’t blame him for feeling as though it won’t make a difference. C’est la vie when one council member is the mayor, who holds significantly greater influence than any other council member, and the other councilors agree without raising questions most of the time.

It’s OK to disagree. It’s not inherently good or bad, though it’s certainly more democratic. Five-to-zero doesn’t represent how Marion citizens feel about using $22,000 to repair a park that most of us rarely, if ever, use. Ask around. Four-to-one is more like it, but see, without making an argument prior to casting a dissenting vote, the vote is a mere symbol of an argument that should have taken place.

We would encourage city council members to not be so simpatico when it comes to issues like this. Be tough to please. Be a thorn in the side of the flow, instead of just going with it.

And no, this isn’t a news reporter asking for more controversy. This is one asking that we get what we pay for: five voices on the city council, instead of one voice and the sound of a tongue being bitten.

The more possibilities considered in council meetings, the fewer unforeseen ones wind up wreaking havoc when important policies are put into practice.

I commend Mr. Kline for speaking his mind, and I would encourage him — and all city council members — to do so at a time when it could still make a difference. The citizens of Marion will be better off for it.

— ELIOT SILL

Last modified Sept. 3, 2015

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