Let's get ready to rumble
We’d long been expecting a veritable sweeps week of entertainment from this week’s round of governmental meetings. After all, Curley Joe and Schemp were poised to join Larry, Moe, and Curley on the set of what’s usually the most hilarious meeting in town.
What we didn’t expect was a special Monday night edition of “Smackdown!” to emerge as counterprogramming a few blocks away and a few hours later at Marion’s city council meeting.
The county commission’s now Five Wise Men (including one woman) from the East side of 3rd put on what generally was a lackluster performance — befitting, perhaps, an actual county commission meeting instead of the normal vaudevillian insult shtick we’re usually treated to.
Seizing the opportunity to outdo, one the few remaining episodes in this season’s version of city council “Smackdown!” on the west side of 3rd showed that at least one soon-to-be-retiring member of the cast had little intention of going gentle into that good night.
Football helmets weren’t involved. Otherwise we might have expected to see one ripped off and pounded onto the head of either the mayor or a complaining citizen — until, of course, level-headed police chief Clinton Jeffrey, absent a zebra-striped uniform, stepped in to ensure peace without having to throw a flag.
In pro football, helmet-smacker Myles Garrett has proved in the past to have a bit of difficulty controlling his rage against the dying of the light in quarterbacks’ eyes.
In local politics, mayor Todd Heitschmidt has had similar proclivities, at one point last year ago siccing police on tormenter Mike Beneke after some gentle needling by the genial giant.
Previous tantrums happened mainly outside council chambers, unlike Monday’s episode, when another regular thorn in Heitschmidt’s side — former zoning appeals chairman Darvin Markley — combined with Heitschmidt to create tense moments Jeffrey had to defuse.
Markley had labeled Heitschmidt’s often very controlling approach to city government as dictatorial.
The epithet wasn’t because Heitschmidt had attempted to cut off a scheduled public forum. Kansas law is so antiquated that such attempts, illegal in most states, are perfectly fine here.
Rather, what Markley was objecting to was how the city was circumventing its own ordinances, merely because outsiders had told them to, by waiving a requirement for a conditional use permit before allowing installation of a cell phone antenna on the city’s old water tower next to Marion High School.
School board members attended the meeting to see how the council reacted to their letter of opposition to the antenna, which was only briefly discussed. We sincerely hope their reason was concern about whether the tower might fall — something that hearings about a conditional use permit might help lock down.
If their concerns were about supposed radiation hazards, we would suggest that they stick to calling themselves a school board rather than a board of education. Anyone with any sort of education can clearly see that radiation concerns about cell towers are social media myths based on voodoo science and innuendo.
Obeying their own legally adopted procedures never has been a strong suit of Marion’s city council, including when the city tried to ram through an oversized radio tower at the county’s new jail, ironically adjacent to property owned by Markley.
Exactly why the city is so willing to accept outsiders’ assertions that city laws are overly restrictive isn’t clear. The city has every right to be more protective of the public than what other cities might allow. Decisions to ignore the law shouldn’t be based on how fancily those making such requests are dressed.
You’d think that a banker like His Honor the mayor would be a stickler for details. Then again, wasn’t there this thing about bankers pushing every rule to its breaking point a decade ago, creating an uncontrollable recession that ended up costing us trillions?
Whether cooler heads will prevail and the current tempest remains confined to the teapot of an enlarged meeting room remains to be determined.
Either way, it’s great entertainment for a dreary autumn week, though it may also be entertainment seen in a different light by serious people who could bring serious economic impact to the region but don’t really want to become unwitting stars in comedy shows to do so.
One thing is apparent. It’s becoming abundantly clear why governmental bodies hereabouts have to spend so much money on lawyers to extricate taxpayers from messes that otherwise entertaining public officials create.
— ERIC MEYER
Last modified Nov. 21, 2019