Top 10 stories

If you’re a fan of uncertainity and an enemy of social civility, 2016 was a great year in many respects. It didn’t help that 2016 was an election year for the country, with a trickle-down tsunami at the state and county levels.

Even so, it is our tradition in this “Year in Review” edition to offer our list of Top 10 news stories for the past 12 months. As always, we consider the immediate impact of the events, but evaluate them with an eye for the long-term effect as well. If that doesn’t work, we pick them out of a hat.

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1. Presidential predicament. Forced to choose between two of the least likeable candidates in American history, Marion County voters embraced the inexperience and unpredictability of Trump over ethically challenged insider Clinton by better than 2-1. Only time will tell whether we were cutting edge, or cutting our throats, on Election Day.

2. Return to reason. State­wide, the fall election delivered a strong message that Gov. Brownback’s “live experiment” is over. Kansas voters elected 45 new members of the House of Repre­senta­tives, which has 125 members. One-third of the members will be Democ­rats, one-third moderates and one-third conservatives. Finally, a return to Kansas common sense.

3. Road rage. Marion County commissioners took heat for the lack of cold, hard cash needed for road and bridge repairs, particularly in rural sectors. To top it off, 190th Street, the primary travel artery between Marion and Hills­boro, was closed Sept. 1 because the roadway was being undermined by river erosion.

4. Local political participants. In this election year of discontent, the two county commissioners up for re-election, Randy Dallke and Dan Holub, were challenged—first in the primary election, and again in the general election. Given the county’s financial challenges, Holub might be considered the real winner by coming in second place Nov. 8.

5. Economic developments. Not long after the city of Marion hired Randy Collett as its new eco-devo director, a Wichita State research report projected Marion County would lose two-thirds of its population by 2064 if current trends continue. County commissioners gathered volunteers with business experience to create an economic development committee that might plot a better financial future for the area.

6. Construction boom. Hills­boroans may remember 2016 for five privately funded building projects collectively valued at around $32 million: the long-awaited new hospital, the fine arts center at Tabor College, an office headquarters for MB Foun­dation, a pharmacy location and six twin homes that should address the city’s need for affordable housing.

7. Down on the farm. High grain yields combined with low grain prices and high input costs contributed to financial challenges for farmers and farm-related businesses, including the closing of the Straub Inter­national dealership in Marion July 31. “These are historic times we are going through right now,” said company president Ron Straub.

8. A pass on unification. A proposal from the board of Cooper­a­tive Grain & Supply to unify with the larger MKC cooperative failed to meet the required two-thirds vote for affirmation by CG&S owner-members in Novem­ber. General Manager Lyman Adams, who delayed plans to retire after 31 years at the end of 2016, said, “Coopera­tive Grain will continue as it has been operating.”

9. Tabor team titles. In late winter, Bluejay teams won the men’s and women’s basketball regular-season and tournament championships. In spring the baseball team made it to the NAIA qualifying tournament in Hutchin­son. In fall the football team won its second consecutive KCAC title and the volleyball team qualified for postseason play for the first time in program history.

10. Justices comes to Marion County. Marion High School hosted a presentation in September by two of the state’s highest-ranking jurists, Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawson R. Nuss and Associate Jus­tice Marla J. Luckert, who engaged students from eight area high schools as they explained the structure, history and function of the state and federal court system. Coincidently or not, both justices were among five justices that political conservatives had targeted for removal at the behest of the governor. The motion was overruled by the electorate, however. Case closed. —DR

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