Tuesday, August 30, 2011


I’m going to be accused of it so I might as well jump right in. I’m going to beat on a dead horse.
Actually, the reason I’m flailing away is that the horse isn’t really dead. I’ve been whacking him for years now, but in spite of my heroic effort he keeps coming back to life. My critics must be having a field day. They’re probably saying to themselves, “This fool thinks he’s smacking an old nag around. He doesn’t understand that our horse is actually more like Seabiscuit.”
The horse I’m talking about is the cultural and political divide in this town. On one side of the divide are those who say that everything in Emporia is fine. Their contention is that there’s not much we need to do to fix the things that ail us other than shop a little bit more here in town. They seem to hold the high ground and feel the defenses they’ve erected are impregnable.
They might be right, but I think I’ll keep it up, sort of like Ulysses S. Grant did at Cold Harbor. I’m thinking that if I can somehow remain ambulatory I may win out in the end.
Who’s the nag I’m beating on? It’s the divide between Emporia’s important citizens/decision makers and its rank and file.
I got back from a meeting last week and found a school district pamphlet called the “Clipboard,” dated June 22nd. There’s was a news brief on the cover page circled that read, “The policy also shifts two of the 11 paid holidays from Veterans Day and Good Friday to additional days during Christmas.” That was it.
I called the school district this morning to figure out how the decision to shift the holiday had been made. The process went something like this. In the past, teachers and administrators used Veterans Day as an in service day. Those who worked on Veterans Day got paid for the holiday, which meant they had to work a half a day to earn their holiday pay. This year the “calendar committee” decided to eliminate the Veterans Day holiday and add that day to the Christmas break. They forwarded their recommendation to the school board, the recommendation was approved. It’s now district policy.
As far as the decision makers are concerned it’s a done deal. Then, why am I beating on a dead horse? Actually, I’m not. I’m beating on the old nag named Disconnect. He’s very much alive.
Some questions occurred to me as I listened to the explanation. Did anyone on the calendar committee consider how Emporia’s veterans might feel about the change? Could the committee have found another day on the calendar that would have kept the Veterans Day holiday intact and still meet the requirement for an in service day?
My critics might have a couple of questions for me. “Why are you getting so hot and bothered?” “Isn’t this much ado about nothing?” And therein lies the problem. The disconnect in Emporia is palpable. It’s as deep and wide as the Grand Canyon.
A couple of weeks ago city leaders were busily trying to convince USA Today that Emporia was America’s most patriotic city. I think there was a disconnect there. I think patriotism was misused to further narrow political and economic interests. Now we’ve got some of Emporia’s leaders all but saying that a day set aside to honor veterans means little or nothing. And, they wonder why Emporia’s average guy feels the deck is stacked against him. They wonder why the “little people” refuse to turn out in droves on Election Day.
I suppose veterans are not that big a constituent group. Besides, they’re too busy dodging RPG’s up in Tora Bora to complain.
The disconnect probably seems quite small. But, when you add all of the small disconnects in Emporia up the number becomes almost unmanageable.
How is it, for example, that someone can assume the city has pockets deep enough to treat $23,000 an acre like it was chump change? Maybe it’s easy when you hold 65 Emporians over the fires of economic hell as collateral. Do you think the average hourly sweating out the weekly paycheck might be feeling like he’s being held hostage in this game of economic chicken? I do!
I’ve spent years wondering how this city’s slumlords get away with what they do. They must be politically connected. I’ve wondered why city leaders keep saying, I’m fixin’ to work on the problem….tomorrow….or the day after tomorrow. It’s a lot easier when the slumlords’ victims have decided to bite the bullet or they’ve just given up.
The end result is that we’ve got a lot of people who’ve become invisible to leadership. And, until they become visible nothing else here will change for the better.

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