• Last modified 55 days ago (March 28, 2024)


Communities need to invest in themselves

Ask a certain group of people, and the answer will be resounding: This paper — and this writer— are way too critical of Marion and Marion County.

To an extent, it’s true. Perhaps familiarity breeds contempt. Perhaps unjustified raids — and lack of contrition afterward — don’t help.

But it’s not that I or anyone else at this paper has it in for the city or the county. Why would I have invested 26 years ago in keeping this paper locally owned? And why would I have decided two years ago to spend my retirement here?

At a time when senseless intra-county rivalries mainly seem a thing of the past, that group often labels me a Hillsboro lover or a Peabody lover, as if either was a bad thing. Truth is, I love both those towns — and Marion, too, along with the rest of the county.

One of the things about newspapers is that newspaper people have a penchant for pointing out ideas. It happened even 145 years ago, when editor E.W. Hoch lamented the lack of a public well on Main St. The public apparently didn’t agree, as the public may not agree with ideas I float — a residential tree-planting program, nature trails instead of walking paths, historical preservation at all costs, and greater governmental efficiency so we can pay for such things.

Like E.W., I don’t expect people to accept my ideas — just to consider them, and others, and maybe share ideas of their own. That’s how democracy flourishes, and any newspaper’s primary mission is to foster democracy.

At the risk of being labeled a Marion hater and a Hillsboro or Peabody lover, both those communities have taken steps recently that Marion should consider.

Hillsboro, once somewhat of a closed community, has become far more open. Rather than ban container homes, it has established and will uniformly enforce rules that make them not be the eyesore some think they are. Just this week, Hillsboro took another bold step, trying to bring businesspeople, educators, and students together to empower young people to stay in the community rather than feel as if they must flee for economic opportunities elsewhere.

Peabody has been extremely open in organizing residential renovation and making sure residents have had a strong voice in it. It also has encouraged highly specialized boutique businesses that will attract trade from urban areas and has civic groups that make available to start-up storefronts they might otherwise be hard-pressed to afford.

All around the county are success stories worth sharing. Tampa is downright exemplary. Goessel has things moving. Florence and the Centre area have accomplished things other communities might envy.

Things like that still happen in Marion, but not as often as they used to. As it has become dominated by government employees, Marion often loses its sense of making do with a few old and still serviceable things and wants to buy so many shiny new things and creature comforts that it ends up frittering away money that could pay for longer-lasting, more impactful improvements.

We don’t want to condemn any individual purchase or product — though heaven knows we have a few in mind. What we want to do is encourage those who pay the bills to be on the lookout for overspending for transient things at the expense of investing in long-term objectives.

If you’re looking for the one secret to making communities vital, that’s it.


Last modified March 28, 2024