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The St Louis Contrarian

Providing Independent and Intelligent Insight on St. Louis Public Policy Issues

Archive for the category “Ferguson”

St. Louis American Article About the Significance of Bell Win

Elections are usually about the merits of individual candidates, but every now and then they’re about something more. Zeitgeist is a German word that means “spirit of the times.” It’s regularly used to describe what in a larger sense may be going on culturally, intellectually or politically. There are events and phenomena that one invokes as representative of a defined Zeitgeist.

One of the burning questions for people whose political activism was forged in the sixties is whether the progressive moment we are currently witnessing is a sixties déjà vu, or is seeing a relationship between Black Lives Matter, MeToo, Never Again and the sixties a case of hope triumphing over experience? Just as the Black Power and the Anti-War movements were examples of the sixties Zeitgeist, we believe Black Lives Matter, MeToo and Never Again will come to be seen as examples of the Zeitgeist of this generation.

It’s impossible to know how the August 7 Democratic Primary will be considered in the larger scope of history, but today it feels like a major paradigm shift for the St. Louis region generally and the black community specifically. August 7 has permanently changed St. Louis politics in the way the August 9, 2014 police killing of Michael Brown and its aftermath forever changed the St Louis region. In fact, you cannot understand what happened politically on August 7 outside of the context of August 9.

First, we congratulate Wesley Bell on his historic victory and commend him on a very well executed campaign. We judge candidates in a campaign like we judge young basketball players during a season: Are they learning, evolving, getting better? Wesley Bell, starting as a long-shot but closing like a sure-shot, did all three of those. The candidate who claimed the mantle of victory was not the candidate that filed for office in February. We expect this impressive growth to continue as this inexperienced prosecutor takes office and begins to make some of the changes he has promised us.

We also commend the activist community, not only for providing bodies, energy and legitimacy to the Bell campaign, but for their political maturity that made this victory possible. In order to make progress in the political system, you have to resist the urge to make the perfect the enemy of the good. When the best is not available, but better is, you take better and move the chains. As The Rolling Stones sing, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need!” The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri was especially damaging to McCulloch in educating the community about his record as a prosecutor in an unprecedented public education campaign.

Also, the larger, older African-American community of St. Louis County should be commended for a genuine willingness to pass the baton to a new generation by embracing Bell’s candidacy. For a community to remain healthy and strong, it must always have people willing to serve, but it also needs people who recognize when their service is no longer required and graciously accept the role of supporter. Bell’s absence of a primary challenger was a testament to restraint from many older, more seasoned attorneys who might have liked their chances.

August 7 also showed that the white community of St. Louis County in 2018 does not have the political will of the white community of 2014. Something happened. We doubted Bell when he told us that he was finding support among white voters, but there are not enough black voters to elect Bell as county prosecutor. For Bell to beat McCulloch 103,018 votes (56.62 percent) to 78,934 votes (43.38) in a county whose population is less than 25 percent black, clearly a critical number of white voters decided they have had enough of McCulloch’s tough (i.e., ineffective) on crime approach and his unapologetic arrogance in the face of a worsening crime crisis and over-incarceration. While Michael Brown’s death was a tragedy, how the aftermath of that tragedy was handled was an unmitigated disaster from which the region is yet to recover. Clearly, many county voters are ready to move on.

More than any other public official, Bob McCulloch became St. Louis’ official face for Ferguson. It was McCulloch who made the August 7 primary worthy of the attention of the New York Times the day before the election. White voters in St. Louis County realized they couldn’t restore the county’s reputation and their good name as long as McCulloch was their prosecutor. They moved on.

Oppressed people – the weak, the powerless, the disenfranchised – are taught from an early age about the moral superiority of forgiving those who have been responsible for their oppression. But in politics, the players – and voters – live by the brutal law of payback. We owed McCulloch, and we settled the score. There is nothing wrong with revenge, as long as it advances your interest. By the way, it’s best served cold. Enjoy.

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Ferguson

www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/four-years-after-michael-brown-was-killed-ferguson-neighborhood-still/article_3ef83c33-eb08-5016-9a83-2b7f7529355c.html

This article discussed the lack of improvement in the part of Ferguson where Michael Brown was killed.

Candlelight Vigil

On New Years Eve the organization Families Achieving Safe Streets held a candlelight vigil for the 200+ victims of murder in St. Louis. This event received a newspaper article or two but no where near the media coverage of the demonstrations related to the lack of conviction of a cop who killed a drug dealer trying to kill him.

Where are our priorities? Almost every day there are murders, sometimes of innocent bystanders, and nobody says anything. If a cop gets a little out of line all hell breaks loose. That’s why we struggle as a city. Written by Paul Dribn

New Police Chief in St. Louis

St. Louis has gone through a long and consulted process to find a new police chief. Who knows why it has taken so long. I read information about the remaining candidates in the Post Dispatch over the weekend. I was disappointed to see that they are all mediocre at best and some seem terrible. One gentleman received a vote of no confidence from the police officers of his home community.

I supposed it is not surprising St. Louis is facing this dilemma. Why would a top notch candidate come here to face the exceptional crap that goes down. Crime is really high but if the police get aggressive in solving crime they are criticized. A refreshing approach would be to do as Chicago did many years ago and reach out to academia for someone. Chicago hired OW Wilson who turned the department around even though the cops hated him. Maybe we should try the same thing. Written by Paul Dribin

HUD Loans in St. Louis County

The St. Louis Post Dispatch wrote today in a critical manner that St.Louis County had not utilized some $24 million in HUD loans intended to help distressed areas. These loans commonly referred to as 108 loans from the section of the housing act they fall under are part of HUD’s Community Development Program. HUD has threatened to pull back the funding if the money is not used.

It is not quite fair to be too critical of the county in this regard. First, the interest rates on the funds are only 1% lower than market and contain much more paperwork. Second, they do not work well on small projects such as housing rehab. The county needs to come up with one or two big projects for their utilization. Third they are loans not grants and the borrowers must be creditworthy. Finally, these loans are borrowed against future block grant funding, and in fact reduce the future funding by the amount of the loan.

The county had request a waiver for use of the funds and has not received an answer from HUD despite repeated requests for a decision. This whole thing smacks of HUD covering their collective asses. Written by Paul Dribin

Amazon Deal Will be Killed by Social Unrest

Reuters ran a story today which said that there would be no chance to St. Louis to be selected by Amazon for its’ headquarters due to the social unrest here. This of course is not a surprise. Written by Paul Dribin

St Louis Can Really be a Good Place to Live

St. Louis is taking it on the chin, much of it deserved. There are demonstrations in the streets, unjust policing, crime, murders, racial strife and more. I believe much of the criticism of our city is on target but unfair. Much of the national coverage makes our city seem as though our problems are unique; they are not. I don’t need to run statistics for most of you to understand that other cities share our problems. We have a lot of good things and people in St. Louis and have first rate cultural attractions, sports, universities, and restaurants. Our problems are not unique, are positives are. Written by Paul Dribin

The Ferguson Effect?

The so called Ferguson effect is the premise that crime has increased in St. Louis and other large cities because police are not aggressively going after criminals; fearful that aggressive action will get them in trouble. This theory was promoted by former FBI Director Corey and denied by former President Obama.

I have two pieces of information, one data driven and the other anecdotal that supports the Ferguson effect as valid. First the data. I know an attorney who has made his living defending down and out criminals. He received his clients by buying a list of people arrested in St. Louis County and sending letters of inquiry to these individuals. After Ferguson, the names on the list of arrestees dropped significantly from a long list to a short list. His business is hurting to the extent he is seeking other types of employment.

The second piece of evidence concerns by conversations with two female African American St. Louis City cops. I had counseled both of them in a SCORE mentoring session in which they were trying to start a new business. After the conversation I asked them if Ferguson had an effect on policing. Their answer was that it most certainly did, and that cops would now only go by the book and not be aggressive. They also said that aggressive policing is what captures major criminals.

So I believe I have two good pieces of evidence to show that the quality and quantity of policing has diminished since the Michael Brown death. Written by Paul Dribin

Ferguson Relived

I attended the Cardinals game Saturday night. Upon leaving out on the street a group of white protestors who are members of Black Lives Matter. They were obnoxious and confrontational, with obscene signs including some that called police murders. I am sympathetic with the general cause but this is not a way to win friends and influence people. Written by Paul Dribin

Ferguson Again

Another thought about Ferguson.  There was a high powered Ferguson Commission that had prepared an extensive report with significant findings for improvement. It received a lot of publicity. What has happened to the outcomes from that report?  Written by Paul Dribin

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