Advise the council
Some of its members may have good intentions, but Marion City Council continued its recent practice Monday of acting first and thinking later.
Changing two city ordinances after previously approving a beer license that violated them, council finally closed the book on a shameful chapter in which business owner Johsie Reid and council member Ruth Herbel were wrongfully vilified .
He then quickly opened a new chapter, this time unnecessarily villainizing the unpaid and unappreciated members of the city’s planning commission.
At the heart of both chapters seem to be power-hungry figures who want to be seen in behind-the-scenes dealings as speaking with ultimate authority over city affairs before even consulting anyone else.
When such dealings come to light, if anyone dares to suggest that the laws and procedures be followed, they are immediately branded as a negative force, opposed to progress.
The bullying tendencies of key council members are then flattered and the council – convinced that its own authority is being questioned – is told to move forward without ever seeing where it is going.
Members may believe they’re cutting red tape, but what they’re actually doing is creating massive grunts that could leave the city on the wrong side of the lawsuits.
Reid’s beer license is a good example. He was never told that the proper course of action would have been to suggest changes in the order that would allow this. Instead, the license was bullied without these changes.
When problems were found, the license was upheld not because it was proper, but because the city had acted improperly in approving it. Canceling it after granting it abusively would have exposed the city to a lawsuit.
It’s not that Reid would have sued. She is a community-minded businesswoman who has shown time and time again that she is more than willing to take on any challenge that may come her way. If the city had told her about obstacles, she would have dealt with them. But the city wanted to be portrayed as removing all barriers, even though it had no authority to do so.
The result was the sudden need Monday night to approve several changes to the city’s code without any discussion of what might have driven their inclusion in the first place – such as the idea that drinking places could be a little safer for guests if they have separate bathrooms for separate people. genres.
The same situation seems about to happen with zoning laws in the city’s underutilized industrial park, where fanciful dreams call for the construction of all sorts of imagined but unlikely improvements.
Bringing issues forward and removing them from a panel that by law is supposed to review them is only legal if you believe in a tortured timeline presented by city staff. The city’s new legal counsel was careful to point out that his opinion on removing the case from the panel hinged on the accuracy and completeness of what he was told by city staff.
Rather than investigate to see if that timeline was accurate, council members moved forward without anticipating the consequences. If their actions are ultimately revealed as inappropriate, the fig leaf used to cover them will be the same: it would be unfair to undo what has already been done, even if it was done incorrectly.
Rather, it’s reminiscent of a famous quote Richard Nixon gave to interviewer David Frost: “When the president does it, it means it’s not illegal.” This appears to be a new creed of some council members and city staff. It comes with a corollary: “Everything is legal until it is challenged in court.”
The real question the board members never asked Monday night is why they are jumping through the hoops created by the developers of a new Family Dollar/Dollar Tree store project.
The developers, who still have not closed on the lands they committed to purchase last fall, acknowledged in their purchase agreement that a conditional use permit would be required and that it was their responsibility to obtain it. Now they’re coming to town saying they want the store up and running by summer and they need permission now, even though they only submitted paperwork this week asking for authorization.
Bowing to their pressure and not wanting to appear accountable to anyone, city workers now want to shut down the entire process, eliminating the need for a permit by rezoning various spots in the industrial park. Because planners wanted to think things through before taking such a broad step, they now want to take the matter out of the planning commission and do everything without public hearings, notice to neighboring landowners and other legally required safeguards.
Other than the fact that the egos of city officials are in full control of every element of the process, why rush? What will Family Dollar / Dollar Tree actually bring to the community?
This could bring in a few relatively low-paying jobs of the type that local businesses are already struggling to fill. This will create sales tax revenue, but most of the gains will come from displacing sales from other businesses like Dollar General, Carlsons’ Grocery, and Marion County Ace Hardware. Local contractors can do some of the work, but they are already doing it for developers in other cities across the state.
Of course, there will be property tax revenues. Make the overly generous assumption that the new store will be worth twice the value of Marion’s existing Dollar General. This means he will pay less than $10,000 a year in municipal property taxes. It will be nearly a decade before the money Marion has promised to spend to create a driveway for the business will be paid back from property tax revenues.
We are not opposed to the store. We object to giving him special treatment just to make sure that some public servants don’t lose face.
Reporting it will surely get us into trouble at the newspaper. Already, the mayor of Marion wants to remove the legal notices (which cost the average taxpayer less than 43 cents a year) from the newspaper and put them on a city-controlled website, where 35% of the city’s residents will not be able to read them. see and no one will know when to look for them, much less be sure that someone has not touched them.
Such is life on the banks of Luta Creek, where we no longer need to sandbag during floods but regularly during city politics.
— ERIC MEYER