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  • Last modified 16 days ago (Sept. 15, 2022)

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The art and craft
of small-town life

Thumbs up

If we were Siskel and Ebert. . . Well, we’d be long dead. But our bony thumbs still would be pointing heavenward toward the ever-brilliant North Stars of Marion County’s tourism season.

Aside from the year-round impact of the county lake and federal reservoir, this weekend’s arts festivals are the county’s biggest draws.

They’re not just fun for local residents. They’re also our best opportunity to persuade the type of people we want as neighbors to join us. And maybe, just maybe, they might bring their businesses and jobs to our communities, too.

The original fair, Hillsboro’s Arts and Crafts Fair, sets a pitch-perfect tone for the weekend with its admirable planning to ensure that it is a great experience not only for fairgoers but also for the community they are visiting.

We’re unsure why Marion chose to abandon a process it copied from Hillsboro, in which vendors were vetted to make sure they weren’t selling flea market and multi-level marketing junk.

It definitely makes Hillsboro’s fair the classier of the two acts and leaves Marion trying to serve an audience that quite likely will feature a few more red-tinged necks than highly placed brows.

But there’s more to Hillsboro’s planning than that. Ever-frugal Hillsboro always is careful to make sure vendors pay their fair share of sales tax. Unlike Hillsboro’s forms for exhibitors, Marion’s don’t seem to make a push to ensure that the host community is treated fairly by its visiting vendors.

Now that Marion, with its new administrative regime, seems to be experiencing a renaissance of not changing rules to fit whims as they arise, it might be worth revisiting tax enforcement and vendor standards for Marion’s fair.

It’s not anti-Marion to admit that Hillsboro, the county’s largest city, often provides a model.

Hillsboro is pursuing a water treatment loan — really, a grant — that Marion easily could. It has well-established monthly events — and advertises them prominently and locally. Marion only now is trying. And it’s largely without immediate success, perhaps because it lacks the same commitment to local advertising that not only brings more people but also helps support coverage of local news.

Although you’ll read about its Newton beer parties in another paper distributed in the county, you’ll rarely hear that Hillsboro is gripped with the type of rancor going on in Marion over exactly who is going to be able to sell the most beer to people attending the following weekend’s Old Settlers Day.

The country club wants to do it on Friday. That One Place and JR Hatters, with its otherwise admirable street dance, want to do it Saturday night. We imagine Zach Collett wouldn’t mind showing off his impressive beer wagon, too.

But we’re puzzled why drinking seems to have become regarded as a key attraction for anything going on in Marion, particularly when alcohol and other drug abuse takes such a great toll on our society.

All of this, detractors might say, is not supportive of Marion as a community. The more open and intelligent among us understand it’s intended constructively.

Issues don’t get resolved unless they are thought about — by everyone, not just power elites. Democracy doesn’t function if everything is viewed through rose-colored glasses that can obscure correctable mistakes power elites are too embarrassed to admit but the rest of us have to pay for.

The county’s apparently wasted purchase, without any price negotiation, of a potential new home for its health department, which now finds the building unsuitable, comes to mind.

So, too, do such things as Marion trying to disenfranchise voters over bond issues, its botched investigation of a serious accident, its secretive pushing of unsuitable real estate that may end up costing us a housing project, and even the county attorney’s incredible refusal to charge a drunken part-time cop with drunken driving.

Thumbs down

Are these negative? Sure they are. And the power elites responsible for them will constantly try to prevent us from serving you, the reader, by pointing them out so that you can, if you choose, do something about them.

It happened last week in Marion when a Kiwanis Club member decided to end decades of tradition and refuse to talk to our advertising salesperson or to place an ad for next weekend’s Old Settlers Day.

All she would say was this short email: “We have not felt support for our community from the paper for some time, so we have taken a different route for our club and community.”

We don’t know who her “we” might be or how the “we” is able to take a different route for the entire community. Nor do we understand a completely contradictory excuse another Kiwanis member offered as to why the long-standing Old Settlers ad, half of the cost of which we donate, was being canceled and replaced by posters that distant readers, whom Old Settlers would hope to attract, could never read.

What we do understand is that people who think they control Marion want to preserve that control by carefully screening everything everyone hears about the city.

We stand in the way of that and therefore should be bullied into providing only the type of positive “Newspeak” that the totalitarian regime depicted in the book “1984” uses to subvert democracy.

We’re Marion’s second-oldest business, recruited here by community leaders who understood that strong communities needed strong newspapers and vice versa. The notion that we would ever seek to weaken a community to which we are joined at the hip is so illogical Star Trek’s Mr. Spock would have a meltdown.

Siskel and Ebert may be dead, but we’re not. We respect you, the reader, too much to censor what’s happening and give you only happy news — though, in truth, we’d also prefer it if all news were happy.

We won’t let a Kiwanis member’s personal animus sabotage Old Settlers. So in this week’s Explore section, you’ll still find an ad, the same size as Kiwanis always ran, conveying the essential facts. We had planned to sell it at cost — half price. Now we’re covering the full cost ourselves.

We obviously can’t do that with everything. We’re not government. We can’t just increase taxes and hide behind mumbo-jumbo such as “revenue neutral” to claim we didn’t. We need to be able to pay our employees, who probably earn less than government workers.

But as every school child knows, if you duck your head and run away from bullies, they’ll never stop. You have to stand up to them — not by resorting to their forms of intimidation but by shining light on the darkness of their practices.

So when our thumbs no longer are pointing skyward, you may catch a glimpse of our index fingers pointing at people who want to censor the news and perhaps even pointing at you, our readers, asking whether you want us to continue serving you by reporting all the news — good or bad — or by reporting only the news that self-styled political elites want you to know.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Sept. 15, 2022

 

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