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The St Louis Contrarian

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

Archive for the category “Racism”

Video Cameras for Police

An article today in the New York Times demonstrated that police wearing video cameras did virtually nothing to change the behavior and especially the use of force by police. The study was done in Washington DC and contrasted the behavior of police with or without cameras. The results were almost identical.

This could be a major setback for those of us who have argued that cameras will make a difference. There is no solid evidence as to why these results occurred. Written by Paul Dribin

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How Will Self Driving Cars Affect our Future

Self driving cars are on their way. They may be here in a few years or 20 years, but they will be here. They will have a dramatic effect on the world and on communities such as St. Louis. Here are some thoughts:

1. Public transport systems will suffer, go bankrupt, or go out of existence. Why should people ride buses or trains when they can dial up a car and go door to door in minutes?

2. Further investment in metrolink is absurd.

3. A good strategy would be for transport companies to develop their own ride sharing programs.

4. Roads should be less crowded.

5. There will be far fewer traffic injuries and deaths. Police can be freed up to fight crime.

6. There could be a real problem of equity for poor people. If someone has bad credit or a criminal background will they be allowed to order a car? If not, will poor people once again have trouble getting to work? Right now taxis and Uber are reluctant to go to the inner city. Will the same policy exist for self driving cars?

Written by Paul Dribin

New St. Louis Public Safety Director

Mayor Krewson has appointed Judge Jimmie Edwards as Public Safety Director for the City of St. Louis. This is an excellent selection. Judge Edwards who is African American has been a progressive judge, specializing in providing youth in trouble alternatives to prison. He started a school to attempt to educate students who had been expelled from St. Louis Public Schools. This effort has been a real disaster but the fault is mainly with the school system. Judge Edwards seems as if he will strike a proper balance between the police and community activists. It is a good small step in starting the healing process in St. Louis. Written by Paul Dribin

HUD to Defund Fair Housing Grants in Missouri

Missouri passed a law about six months ago which made filing a discrimination or fair housing complaint more difficult. Many in the know advised against it primarily for moral reasons, but also because of the potential for lawsuits and possibility of listing federal funding. Well, the predictions have come true. HUD has written that if the law is not changed by March 2018 federal funding for fair housing enforcement will be terminated. That is because the state law is no longer “substantially equivalent” to the federal law. It would be just deserts if Amazon opted not to come here due to our redneck ways. Written by Paul Dribin

Lyda Krewson

I usually don’t get into politics, but my first public administration class pointed out you can’t separate politics from policy. Elliot Davis of You Paid for It Fame on tv wrote a passionate facebook post in which he postured that Mayor Krewson the first woman mayor of St. Louis is not up for the job. He provided a number of good examples.

Unfortunately, I would have to agree with Elliot. She seems like a nice person but is just going through the motions of being mayor. She has not leadership skills. If I was a police officer or member of an officer’s family, I would have been outraged after her comments making nice to the demonstrators and indirectly criticizing the police. She has done nothing substantive to address crime, job loss, or racial inequality. The Mayor likes to have feel good meetings and is using that process to take 9 months to hire a police chief. I also think the effort to lure Amazon here is a waste of time and money. Written by Paul Dribin

A More Balanced View of Protests in St. Louis

I have grown tired of the characterization of some in the protest movement here in St. Louis that police actions alone or mostly are the cause of problems in the black community. Let’s look at the data. To date there have been 144 murders in St. Louis to date. Of these 135 of the victims, or 93.75% are African American and all the suspects are African American. Police might kill a handful of people a year, and most of those killings would be considered justified by an impartial party.

The focus of the protests have been on the police. Even if the police totally cleaned up their act and never killed anyone, there would be a big murder and crime problem in the black community. Through the years when I have worked with impoverished African American communities, when asked what they need, residents asked for more police. If the police were so terrible, why did they want more of them?

Finally I am concerned that the community expects a level of perfection from police that is not possible from them or anyone else. Sometimes they will say stupid things or act harshly. There is no question the police, too often act prejudicially and inappropriately with members of the black community. Protesters have done a real service in pointing out the injustices of the municipal court systems. But even the prejudicial behavior can be somewhat explained because usually what the police see is criminal behavior. We all need to be a little tolerant, understanding, and mindful of the facts. 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

Racial Divide in St. Louis

An excellent article by Tony Messinger in the St. Louis Post Dispatch

Why St. Louis?

The question comes from friends and family. It is asked by national reporters and newcomers.

Why, twice in three years, has the St. Louis region been rocked by racial discord displayed on national television for all to see as protesters face off against riot police?

Why not Detroit, Denver, Cleveland, Baltimore, Chicago, Boston or Memphis?

Why St. Louis?

The answer is as old as the city.

On Tuesday, after an interfaith prayer service and march down Market Street, a group of pastors stood on the steps of City Hall next to one of the ubiquitous birthday cakes that three years ago were placed around the city to mark its 250th anniversary. It was then, in 1764, when Pierre Laclede and August Chouteau, slaves in tow, established St. Louis as a trading post.

Racism in one form or another has been with the city ever since.

Why St. Louis?

Look to 1876, and the “Great Divorce” when the city of St. Louis separated itself from St. Louis County and planted the seeds for the white flight that would follow decades later, with 90 separate municipalities forming over time, many of them originally with restrictive covenants meant to keep out blacks.

St. Louis didn’t accidentally become one of the most segregated cities in America. It was designed that way. It was a feature, not a bug. The region’s geopolitical division exacerbates racial division, highlighted by that most parochial of St. Louis questions — where did you go to high school? — which can mask a thin veneer of classism and racial division.

Why St. Louis?

Blame the ’60s. When the civil rights movement was at its peak, when riots were forever changing Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago, they didn’t quite spread to St. Louis. There were marches, yes, even police shootings that bear a remarkable resemblance to the stories of today.

October 1966. Russell Hayes was handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser. He was black. He was shot and killed. Police said he somehow had a gun they missed. Protesters hit the streets for more than a week. They marched to the mayor’s house. Detectives were cleared.

That same year a Washington-based think tank studied school districts in St. Louis and Kansas City and found widespread disparities between the education available in public schools for white and black children. The study spurred a statewide commission — the Spainhower Commission — that called for the school districts in the St. Louis region to be consolidated so that taxpayers in the white parts of town were invested in the success of black students. The commission’s findings were ignored. Racism was the culprit.

“The only place where the report was weak,” James Spainhower told me a few years ago, “was in the thought that people could get over their biases.”

Also in 1966, a University of Missouri law professor published a white paper outlining problems with the municipal courts, calling them the “misshapen stepchildren” of the judicial system. Missouri turned a blind eye.

Until Ferguson, in 2014.

Why St. Louis?

Because three years after Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown, not much has changed. The Ferguson Commission documented decades of racial disparities and pointed to a path forward, but few of its proposals have been adopted. There has been incremental progress made in municipal courts, some push for more transit to be built where blacks live in the city’s north and south sections, an increase in racial equity awareness, but no sustained movement. On Friday, in response to protests, Mayor Lyda Krewson endorsed some of the report’s conclusions. But she lacks the power to put them into practice.

The commission itself on Friday urged adoption of many of its calls to action. Without such action, the commission’s report could end up like one produced in 1969 when community leaders gathered at the Fordyce House at St. Louis University to discuss the city’s racial disparities. By 1990, as he was gathering community leaders for “Fordyce II,” the Rev. Paul C. Reinert, then chancellor at SLU, lamented another report on race put on a shelf to gather dust.

“The good will generated at that conference 21 years ago was largely dissipated because no follow-up procedures were established,” Reinert wrote.

After Fordyce II there was the Fordyce Education Conference two years later, which discussed the racial divide in education examined in detail by the Spainhower Commission, and again decades later, the Ferguson Commission.

In 2017, the racial divide — in schools, in policing, in economic opportunity — persists because St. Louis is good at talking about it, but not so good at enacting meaningful change. The region lacks a convener — either in government or the corporate world — who can bring disparate voices together.

Today’s protests, like those three years ago, started because a white cop shot a black man, but anger is about much more than the bullets that preceded death.

“Think about the peace that children don’t have when they go to inadequate schools,” pleaded the Rev. Cassandra Gould at the prayer service Tuesday. Without education, there is no opportunity. Without opportunity, there can be no equality.

Why St. Louis?

The words are right. The inflection is wrong. Change will not come until we answer a more introspective question.

Why, St. Louis? Why?

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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

Character Based Loans

I read an article today in Shelterforce Weekly which talked about “Character Based Loans”. This type of loan would be made by a financial institution to individuals who did not quite meet up to credit standards but had good character, whatever that means. As the article points out, loans of this nature used to be made all the time in a racially discriminatory manner, never to people of color. It seems to me this program is simply grasping at straws to get people into homeownership who do not deserve it.

With my work at HUD, I can say with certainty that bad credit scores were a strong predictor of failure. Loan officers should and do consider mitigating circumstances but cannot overlook really bad credit. Written by Paul Dribin

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