A small group of protesters, mostly non-residents, have become a regular fixture at the Ferguson City Council meetings. Many, individually, are very nice and those that are residents seem to care about our City in their own way. As a group, unfortunately, it seems they feed off of each other, competing to see who can be more hateful and rude. At the April 26th City Council meeting, the protesters put on display almost all of the things most residents dislike about them.
They did yet another performance art piece. We continue to be baffled by what the protesters think they are accomplishing with performance art like the “Construction Workers” vests or the “Lost Dog” posters. For this meeting they did a “Group Reading” of the recent Post Dispatch article unfairly attacking Stephanie Karr. They made a show of reading their copies of the paper, and then during public comments five or six of them read through the article during their two minute speaking times.
They apparently don’t read anything from the City. The meeting agenda noted a first reading of a modified version of the property tax for the next election. When it came up the protesters were shocked, angry and very loud.
They act as if the normal rules of a meeting don’t apply to them. When the Council began discussing the tax increase, the protesters started rudely shouting and even cursing at the Council and Mayor. The time to express their displeasure would have been the public comments portion of the meeting (when they apparently were too busy with their art project to pay attention to what was actually going on). Instead, they chose to ignore meeting rules and even common courtesy when it was our elected officials’ time to talk.
They seem to think that there is only one acceptable position for every African American, and they alone decide what that position is. The protesters regularly attack African Americans whose opinions differ from theirs, in this case Ella, Laverne, Wesley and De’Carlon. The protesters really seem to think that they and they alone speak for every African American in the City of Ferguson, and that any divergence from their position by other African Americans is somehow proof of race betrayal.
They use terrible, hateful language to attack Ella, Laverne, Wesley and De’Carlon. It’s almost shocking hearing some of the things the most hateful of the protesters say. Everything from suggesting that our African American officials are too stupid to understand the numbers for themselves to calling them Uncle Toms to questioning their integrity by suggesting they have sold out their own race. Truly hateful language from people that claim to be fighting for human dignity and respect.
They made more mean spirited attacks against Stephanie Karr and Jeffrey Blume. This is probably the most disappointing of all. The protesters have gone out of their way to make the attacks against both very personal and mean, questioning their character and ethics. All Stephanie is doing is her job. And Ferguson wins awards for its financial management and transparency under Blume’s guidance. No person just working for a living should have to endure this kind of meanness; protesters should be ashamed of themselves for acting like grade school bullies.
They can’t see the irony of their position. Before we signed the Consent Decree, when we brought up the fact that the costs would have to be paid by our mostly African American population they suggested we were just against the Decree. Now that the City is actually proposing a tax increase to pay for the Decree, they are calling it a “Black Tax”. Did they really, really believe that the magic unicorn would come in and pay for everything?
Our hope is… that at some point the protesters will realize their antics aren’t helping to achieve their goals or helping the City move forward.
It’s been a trying couple of years, particularly for long-time Ferguson residents; it was hard to read the lies written about Ferguson, one of the most diverse, progressive cities in St. Louis. But the worst of the storm has passed. The cleanup will take a while, but we will get there – the Ferguson we know and love will continue.
We will get the finances figured out. Facing over a million dollar budget deficit is daunting, and will require hard choices. However we have to keep it in perspective – it’s about 8% of our budget. A lot of money, but nothing we can’t figure out. Probably every person in Ferguson has gone through a time where they had a drop in income, or a spike in expenses and the vast majority of us managed to figure it out. We might have had to defer the landscaping project in the back yard or shorten the vacation, but we made it through. Ferguson will make it through as well. Citizens might have to chip in and help a little more and it might mean the parks aren’t quite as well maintained for a year or two, but we will get it figured out.
Improving public safety will close much of the budget gap. It’s touchy to talk about traffic fines revenue, but this is a big part of the answer. Before 2011, when the City made a conscious decision to increase traffic fines, the City averaged about $1.3 million in annual traffic fines revenue, about average (all cities have traffic fines as part of their budget). From 2011 to 2014 traffic fines increased to $2.6 million. After the protests Ferguson pulled back from enforcing the traffic laws and it has had a significant impact on public safety, both anecdotally and statistically. Residents now regularly complain about people speeding dangerously through their neighborhoods and there are more traffic accidents. Traffic fine revenue is now about $400,000 a year. Ferguson is getting back to enforcing traffic laws, and not only will this make us a much safer community, it will also close much of the current budget gap. Breaking the law is breaking the law.
Property Values will also come back, and with it higher property taxes for the City. North County property values are slowly starting to come back. As importantly, nothing that happened in the last two years has changed what is one of Ferguson’s greatest strengths – it’s physical beauty and great housing stock. It’s not homerism to say that Ferguson, with its rolling hills and hundred year old historic homes, is one of the most beautiful communities in St. Louis. Ferguson home prices have stabilized and are slowly starting to increase.
The Truth about Ferguson will eventually come out. Mark Twain had a quote: “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes”. If ever there was an example of this saying it was the press’ treatment of Ferguson. But the truth does always eventually win out, and it will do so here in Ferguson as well. Please be assured that we will keep on fighting this fight, and over time will clear Ferguson’s name.
Ferguson will be okay. Everybody take a deep breath. The storm is over, the cleanup has begun. The wonderful, kind people that make Ferguson such a special community are still here. Ferguson will survive, and yes thrive.
Help Ferguson Get the Truth Out
Beginning with Eric Holder announcing the Department of Justice’s “searing” report, the DOJ has selectively collected and presented information to paint Ferguson as racist and abusive. Ferguson Truth was formed to push for transparency and truth from the Department of Justice, to counteract this distorted narrative that the DOJ created.