Staff Editorial

Endorsement: Marion City Council faces growing pains

Traffic moves along 7th Avenue in the Uptown Marion District in Marion on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Traffic moves along 7th Avenue in the Uptown Marion District in Marion on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Marion has seen enormous growth in the past decade. Inevitably, that comes with some growing pains.

This year’s city elections cast light on the apparent tension between the pro-growth consensus at city hall and some longtime residents who worry the city’s small-town character is being lost.

AbouAssaly: Overcoming divisions, building consensus

Atkins: Democracy thrives in local government

Brandt: Clean, safe neighborhoods for everyone to enjoy

Harper: Foster ongoing growth and vibrancy

Hogan: Citizens demand transparency for new projects

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Pazour: Too little transparency, too much debt

In the elections for mayor and City Council seats in Ward 1 and Ward 3, we endorse the incumbents — Nick AbouAssaly for mayor, Collette Atkins for Ward 1 and Will Brandt for Ward 3. Their record of attracting new residents and businesses to Marion has been overwhelmingly positive. In general, we support the way the current council and city staff have expanded the tax base and brought in new amenities.

AbouAssaly said under his leadership, the city is no longer waiting for new businesses to come to town, but instead driving where and how that growth happens.

Council members Atkins and Brandt agreed the city is moving in the right direction and demonstrated a deep understanding of the issues facing the city, including plans for a new library, infrastructure improvements and ongoing development in the central corridor. It’s clear that the current council shares a common vision for good governance in Marion.

However, we also caution city leaders not to dismiss the criticisms presented by challengers this cycle. In meetings with The Gazette editorial board, incumbents sometimes seemed too quick to attribute critics’ concerns to the critics’ own misunderstandings.

A common theme in the criticism lobbed by challengers — mayoral candidate Mary Lou Pazour, Ward 1 candidate Dwight Hogan and Ward 3 candidate Mike Tope — is that the city’s decision-making process is not transparent enough, and that many residents don’t understand the rationale of spending and development decisions. While they didn’t earn our endorsement, they all exhibited a genuine passion for the Marion community.

To that end, the City Council should recognize that passive transparency is not adequate. Public servants have a responsibility to be proactive in reaching out to all community members. If constituents feel left out, it is elected officials’ problem to correct.

Despite these concerns, Marion has made impressive progress on business development, housing and municipal services. We are confident the mayor and sitting council members have the ability to improve community outreach and make inroads with their naysayers.

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In the at-large City Council race, The Gazette makes no endorsement because incumbent Paul Draper was unable to meet with the editorial board. Opposing candidate Grant Harper is far more amenable to the city’s growth strategy than other challenger candidates are, and he impressed us my emphasizing the need to build better relationships with neighboring governing entities.

Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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