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  • Last modified 2239 days ago (Aug. 1, 2012)

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Surest way to lose is by not playing the game

With Marion County assured of having no county resident representing its interests in the legislature, there’s a grave temptation to avoid voting.

Nothing could be worse. With the northern half of the county grafted onto one district and the southern half grafted onto another, Marion County could very easily be ignored by both of its state representatives unless the county shows its strength by turning out in huge numbers at the polls.

It’s sad to say, but whom you vote for may matter less than whether you vote at all.

Although there is no competition in the southern half, a hotly contested race rages in the northern half. Marion County votes could prove decisive. Even if not, we’ll be assured of at least two years of careful attention if the turnout in our portions of the two districts prove that we can be a force to be reckoned with.

Rather than endorse either of the candidates in the northern district, we’d like to offer what we believe are the best reasons for voting for either of them.

Both are personable, intelligent men who boast of many years of public service. John Barker is a stockman and retired magistrate judge whose prior career was in military law enforcement, not as a lawyer. Doug Lindahl is a long-time school board and rural electric cooperative board member who runs a vocational rehabilitation consultancy.

Barker is perhaps more attuned to the brand of conservatism espoused by Gov. Sam Brownback, the tea party, and current leaders of the legislature. His apparent links to sometimes stridently pro-gun and anti-tax movements might leave him less likely to be cut off from power the way his predecessor, Bob Brookens, sometimes was.

On the other hand, Barker’s association with such radical power brokers as Koch Industries and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce might leave him open to toeing the party line regardless of circumstances — something Lindahl seems much less inclined to do. Like Brookens, he appears to be more of a moderate independent thinker than an ideologue.

Although both admirably indicate they would have to study issues further before adopting positions on some issues likely to come up in the 2013 legislative session, both troublingly seem to favor governmental consolidation that could spell the end to Marion County.

Already in a previous legislative session, strident anti-tax forces attempted to enact legislation that would dramatically reduce the number of counties in the state, attaching smaller counties like Marion to larger neighboring counties, much as the county has now been split legislatively.

Some consolidation is needed. We can see merging the county’s five school districts under a single superintendent, preserving current school attendance centers. We can see having countywide fire, public works, economic development, and sanitation departments, reducing the need for costly equipment, underemployed staff and amateurish leadership of some efforts in some communities. Combining counties, however, would be too radical a solution.

Now is the time for all good voters to come to the aid of their county. Stand up, be counted, and cast votes in sufficient numbers that, regardless of redistricting, politicians will continue to take us seriously. Then, maybe, 10 years from now, we can get our district back.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Aug. 1, 2012

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