Election fatigue; negativity; stores coming and going; festival changes


By Gary Abernathy - gabernathy@aimmediamidwest.com



It’s over, thank goodness

As it always does, election fatigue set in long ago for local races, and the overwhelming comment I hear from everyone involved is, “I can’t wait for this to be over.” The wait is finally over.

When it comes to races for local offices like city councils or, in some years, county-wide offices, there is usually no overtly negative campaigning or advertising. Instead, “whisper campaigns” are conducted behind the scenes, in one-on-one conversations, or, these days, on social media platforms. Nasty comments, accusatory rhetoric and unfounded allegations are too often the norm.

Particularly unfortunate this year is the timing of special city council and committee meetings on the eve of the election to discuss issues which have become unnecessarily politicized. For example, the Employee Relations Committee scheduled a meeting to discuss “professional deportment,” which sounds like it might have something to do with illegal immigration, but in fact relates to the effort by some on council to “do something” about Mayor Drew Hastings.

Another hearing on the Downtown Redevelopment District — which would otherwise be the most non-controversial and positive thing council could do all year, if not for the effort to make an election issue of it — was also set for Monday. Here’s looking forward to the election being over and council returning to city business superseding political drama.

Negativity and snippets

In this internet and social media age, one thing you can depend on is chronic negativity. Sometimes I’m amazed at the capacity of some people to be endlessly negative.

You could announce the most positive news in the world, but someone, usually using a fake name, is going to post a negative comment about it. It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. Fortunately, our website is not the primary landing place for the majority of negative anonymous commentators.

Another disturbing trend, locally and nationally, is in regard to people who apparently only get their news from scanning Facebook or other social media feeds.

“When is this happening?” “Whose idea was this?” “How much does it cost?” People will post any number of questions that are clearly answered in the actual story itself if people would just click on the link. Often, helpful readers will respond to such questions by posting, “It’s in the story,” and I want to say, “Bless you.”

Whether locally or nationally, more and more people are getting their news by relying on the short bursts of text that happen to come scrolling across their social media feeds, rather than taking two extra minutes to click on links and read stories in their entirety. We live in a McNews society, which contributes to kneejerk reactions based on just enough information to generate uninformed decisions.

Maybe every Facebook post should include this advisory: “WARNING: What you are reading here is a snippet of information. It should not be used to form opinions, make accusations or jump to conclusions.”

Good guessing

When rumors first circulated – days before the company confirmed it — that the Orscheln Farm & Home store might not happen (or was being put “on hold,” as the company eventually said), Drew Hastings told me, “I’ll bet Kmart is getting ready to close. You know who always takes over old Kmarts? Rural King. I’ll bet Orscheln found out Kmart is closing and Rural King is coming in.”

I thought it sounded far-fetched. But sure enough, a few days later Orscheln officially notified the city that its plans here were “on hold,” and Kmart announced it was closing at the end of January. We were able to reach Rural King the next day, and a company spokesperson confirmed its interest in buying the old Kmart facility, although no deal has yet been made.

It’s important to note that Orscheln insists its plans are merely on hold and has not stated that the Kmart closing with a possible Rural King arrival has anything to do with it. Hopefully, that’s the case, even if Rural King ends up coming in.

Festival changes

Let’s talk briefly about the Festival of the Bells. Monday’s announcement that the festival will relocate to the campus of Southern State Community College sounds like a good plan.

It could also be an opportunity for the festival committee and the city to perhaps partner with the Hillsboro Uptown Business Association to create a concurrent event in the uptown business district during the daytime hours. Stores could be encouraged to do sidewalk displays and special sales without High and Main Streets being blocked, with perhaps some home-grown entertainment and events on Gov. Foraker and Gov. Trimble Place, with SSCC serving primarily as the big concert site each evening.

Back in 2013, John Levo, who, along with many others helped start the festival back in the 1980s, told me he had noticed a big change from the festival’s original purpose. “It’s no longer a festival,” John said. “It has taken a different direction. It’s a concert.”

Obviously, there are people who love the concerts, and the college will be a good venue for them. So why not the best of both worlds? The uptown business district could return to something closer to the original intent of a small-town festival promoting Hillsboro’s local businesses, along with more emphasis on the talents of local artisans, crafters, entrepreneurs and performers.

Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.

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By Gary Abernathy

gabernathy@aimmediamidwest.com