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  • Last modified 250 days ago (Sept. 13, 2023)

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Turning off
the powers-that-be

A month after the raid heard ’round the world, we have a suggestion for media who continue to cover our story.

If you want to show what Marion’s really like, don’t photograph our “Seized . . . but not silenced” front page. Step outside our office and photograph the floral memorial to Joan Meyer.

Yes, bad things happen here. But an entire community should not be tarred by actions of a few bullies whose abuse of power depends on a general public — and even a city council — being too afraid of retaliation to challenge them.

Marion always has prided itself on being a forgiving city. Imagine what would have happened if Gideon Cody or Curt Hasart had come here, admitted their past problems, and asked for a second chance. By hiding their previous failings instead, both have now lost any opportunity to ever rehabilitate their careers.

All of us make mistakes. Kind-hearted folks like the majority of people hereabouts are willing to forgive — but only if sins are confessed, not if they are covered up.

That’s what’s so troubling about Mayor David Mayfield’s refusal to at least consider suspending Cody with pay — as would have happened long ago in thousands of other cities.

The professionalism and suitability of County Attorney Joel Ensey and Magistrate Judge Laura Viar are also in question, as is Mayfield’s own involvement in this matter. Yet no one is coming forward to seek their suspension.

People in power tend to protect others in power. The rest of us are allowed to become victims of overly hasty, overly oppressive actions.

Forget whether raiding our office violated the First Amendment and federal laws barring searches of journalists’ work. The entire investigation of what turns out to be something that wasn’t illegal in the first place easily could have been resolved not by massive, coordinated raids but by asking a few simple questions.

Sending seven cops to invade the home for 70 years of a 98-year-old woman is oppression of the type only Vladimir Putin might appreciate. So is raiding the home of a political opponent like Ruth Herbel, supposedly to try to find out things she’d already told authorities.

Four of the five seats on Marion’s city council will be up for election in eight weeks. The prime issue should be whether people to whom we will give power will continue to turn a blind eye to others who abuse power.

Yet to date we have heard nothing from any of the candidates — save for Herbel — about what could or should be done.

The sole automatic holdover on the council, Zach Collett, already has revealed his colors by demanding, when we began uncovering serious questions about Cody, “Why are you still digging into this?”

Mike Powers, whose name will be the only one on the ballot for mayor, made similar comments a year ago when we were investigating a suspicious insertion of major amounts of material about a second, unsuitable site into proposals, now twice rejected, for Marion Ridge apartments.

We’re a forgiving city, and we won’t hold against them their past proclivity to conceal rather than reveal and to protect others in power, but only if they — and others who might be on the council starting in January — begin coming forward with more than just lip-service to the concept of openness in government.

It is, in the words of one resident, chickensh*t for any candidate to decline to state a position on how he or she will deal as a person in power with the misdeeds of others in power. Avoiding the question by saying it’s under investigation is a cheap political dodge.

We voters, who should have the real power in our community, must not cede it to a small group of self-styled powerful people. We must demand to know how, for example, our candidates are going to avoid situations like this month’s passage of a city budget — and, with it, taxes — without council members having even the vaguest idea what exactly that budget will pay for.

Otherwise, what our kind-hearted community will be forgiving and forgetting is the loss of democracy and its replacement by something called oligarchy — a political system in which a small group of mutually protective, self-styled powers-that-be control everything.

It’s what we fought a revolution to get rid of. Allowing it to creep back in and kill democracy would be the one sin that even a kind-hearted town should not forgive. The question is not whether we’re kind-hearted but whether we are courageous and patriotic enough to demand answers and have leaders, not “Fuehrers,” willing to provide them.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Sept. 13, 2023

 

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