The Ferguson Municipal Public Library hosted a candidate forum with the League of Women Voters Monday evening. All candidates except Lawrence Berry (Ward 1) appeared. It was confirmed the morning after the forum by the Observer that Mr. Berry has pulled out of the election. It should be noted that his name remains on the ballot as he has withdrawn too late to remove it. During the live forum, as many as 41 viewers were watching. Anyone who missed the forum can watch the recording on the Library’s YouTube channel at this link.
Louise Wilkerson of the League of Women Voters acted as moderator, and Susan Williams acted as timekeeper. The order of candidates was changed from question to question so that the first person responding would alternate. For those who prefer to read rather than watch, below are summaries of the opening and closing statements and transcripts (cleaned up extraneous words and phrases) of their answers to each question.
Ward One Candidate Linda Lipka: Lipka referred to herself as a “generational resident,” explaining that her grandparents moved to Ferguson and her mother, aunt and uncle were raised here. In turn, she married and raised her children here. She was first elected to council in 2016 and felt it was time “that we step up as citizens to really start working to rebuild and heal this community.” Lipka remarked on the large number of changes in city staff, especially the multiple police chiefs, and spoke about the struggle with budget constraints. She stated we are lacking in a lot of areas that need to be changed. Lipka stressed the need to increase safety by stopping gun shots, speeding traffic, vandalism, and theft.
Ward Two Candidate Heather Robinett: Robinett was first elected in 2016 and stated that one of her first goals when she ran was to make sure that that the city complied with the recently signed consent decree. The city was under intense budget constraints at the time and still is, and Robinett wanted to make sure that that we were providing the city with the necessary services while still revamping our police and court as needed. Since then one of the biggest issues has become traffic safety and she expected to hear more about that in the forum. Robinett has lived in Ferguson for almost 18 years and became involved with our community right after her family joined the neighborhood and they continue to do so as a family.
Ward Two Candidate TraVonne “Von” Walker: Walker grew up in Castle Point and graduated from Ladue Horton Watkins High School in the Ladue School District a few years ago. Walker has been a Ferguson resident for about five years and has served on his university’s Student Government Association. He was recently appointed to the city of Ferguson’s personnel board. In 2019 his car, with personal items, was stolen from in front of his home, leaving him with a compromised sense of safety in his community. “I am young, young enough to believe in change. You have enough to relate to and be young enough to connect with our youth. So many of the trials I have faced in my life, I believe has prepared me to serve.”
Ward Three Candidate Mike Palmer: Palmer said he is a lifelong Ferguson resident who attended Griffith Elementary, Ferguson Middle School, and McCluer High School. He went on to Florissant Valley Community College where he received ten associate degrees. He has worked extensively in Ferguson and especially in Ward Three. He has renovated over 140 homes in Ferguson, opened businesses in Ferguson, and he’s attracted dozens of other businesses to Ferguson in many buildings that he has renovated over the years. Palmer said, “I’ve always kind of stayed off the radar and did my thing and worked endless hours to make my community a better place.” But as he’s seen city council become ineffective and basic essential services like grass cutting, street repair and lawlessness he is compelled to run. “I’ve knocked on doors of people of all ages, genders, and races. [They] are terrified and lots of them are considering leaving.” Palmer believes that we need to improve the housing market and solve housing problems to ensure that people feel like stakeholders in Ferguson again.
Ward Three Candidate Fran Griffin: Griffin purchased her home at the age of 24 and has lived there since 2005. She’s a mother of three and was the chairperson of the Parks and Rec board before her election to council. Griffin stated that she provided recommendations for the use of force, body cams and dash cams. She was compelled to get involved when her oldest son came home after being stuck in a gravel road in the middle of the church lot in the Third Ward by the police with a gun to the back of his head for mistaken identity. Griffin stated “I’m into instilling hope in people that are most specifically are most disenfranchised and marginalized folks in the community.” She also stated that she was involved in introducing participatory budgeting with our ARPA funds.
Question 1: What course of action would do you think should be taken with respect to land landlords and owners who have derelict properties or lots in the city of Ferguson?
Ward One Candidate Linda Lipka: The course of action for derelict landlords and homeowners are two different paths. The landlords, we do have a renter’s program. They do have to pay a fee. The bottom line is we need more enforcement. And unfortunately the bottom line is we don’t have a very large code enforcement department and we do have a very large renting population and the renters deserve to be treated fairly. They deserve to be in homes that are safe. As far as what I have in mind, it would be that we need to look at our budgeting. See what we can do in terms of growing our city inspection department so that they can actually meet the demand of the calls. And that’s what we need to do and find if we can’t, we need to find technology that will allow us to meet the demand of the calls in a quicker, more concise manner that may help time management for our staff.
Ward Two Candidate Heather Robinett: So as far as the landlords go, like Ms. Lipka said, there is something that we are able to do. We can fine the landlord, that just needs to be enforced. So ramping up our city staff is I don’t want to say like she said, but ditto on that. As far as homeowners go with derelict properties. We need to make sure that we’re offering space for them and time for owners to get what they need done, and if they need assistance, to get involved with other entities that can provide assistance. We don’t want to be punitive to everybody. You know, go around and make people want to leave but we do want to make sure that the properties are kept up as they should.
Ward Two Candidate TraVonne “Von” Walker: I would echo the sentiments that already have been stated. I was an avid watcher of HGTV. So I understand that when you have beautiful homes it is going to raise the value of the area that you’re living in. And so I definitely have seen some inequity when it comes to the upkeep of homes in Ferguson. And so looking at what we can do to address that is of course, looking at our current staffing. And so actually one of the things that I’ve been focusing on is our question about from our city manager on the personnel board is how can we create and build employment, staffing, where although we have a fiscally constrained budget, we still want to value those employees and get them to stay in further since we can actually create some strategy to making sure that we can enforce these policies.
Ward Three Candidate Mike Palmer: A few people have alluded to the lack of employees in the code enforcement department which has been a struggle. On top of that, we have ordinances in place, we passed an ordinance called the responsible landlords initiative. And it’s never been used, the way it was intended to be used. And if it was used correctly, you would force landlords to actually do something with their property, whether that’s repair it, sell it, or get rid of it and sell to somebody else who will repair it. The city has not been holding, really anybody accountable to fix their properties, using the tools we have and getting some more staff with solve problems. But also, I’d like to, I mean, honestly it’s not always landlords and rental property. It looks bad. I just bought a property that was probably one of the worst and ward three that was an owner occupant for 20 years. So I think some housing grants with ARPA funds that are matched by the city to improve the exterior home would go a long way in the city, with hardly any resources to implement that because the residents are doing the work themselves.
Ward Three Candidate Fran Griffin: Thank you. I would definitely have to agree with what all of the panelists said. However, in addition to that, I would definitely take a look at our FNIP board. We have funds associated with that board that could be used to help as well as the ARPA funds. And then I’d also say approaching from a grassroots effort actually going to the homeowners and finding out know what are the reasons how can the community come together and be able to help assist the issue like actually addressing the issue? And so, those will be my two things. Definitely staffing. We definitely need to be able to be on top of it. We actually did provide. We did put in monies for a new system so that our code enforcement will be able to collect, receive and report different citations. And so I think in addition to that, I think, you know, we also need to make sure that we have people that can actually help address the root causes of the issues.
Question 2: There has been a lot of discussion about ethics for candidates, and officeholders. How far do you feel an official ethics standards should go and who should enforce it?
Ward Two Candidate Heather Robinett: So I would say that to be a candidate for city council or school board or anything, any local or municipal government entity? I mean, ethics, play a big role, and I think we should all be coming here. Trying to do the right thing for the right reasons. I have nothing to hide in my anybody can look in anything. You know, I believe that the checklists that we’re required to turn in and fill out and you know, check all the boxes as we apply to be a candidate those should be adhered to, and the Missouri ethics commission should oversee that or whoever. It doesn’t matter who oversees it, but it should be consistent across the area.
Ward Two Candidate TraVonne “Von” Walker: So I certainly agree, I think that ethics is really important when you’re going to be representing a really large amount of people. And so making sure that you are somebody who has integrity, showing honesty, all of those different things. I do recall on a recent city council meeting, there was some discussion about how do we delegate if the candidate is not filling out certain things by a deadline, who is responsible for doing those kinds of things and potentially removing them from the election and things like that. And so I do think that our city council needs to do some work around the, the, the, the, the delineating delineate, that’s the word delineating who does what because there was a lot of discussion and robust discourse around that particular matter.
Ward Three Candidate Mike Palmer: It’s a basic essential function for government to have leaders who are held to the bare minimum or even more, I always hold myself to a higher standard than anybody I would expect anybody else to live to. It’s very important that we follow rules. Rules are rules for a reason. And when one rule gets broken, all of them get broken. So the city definitely needs to do some cleaning of their ordinances to make sure they mirror probably the state ordinances. And then there needs to be a work session publicly done that determines who on staff determines who has or has not been vetted and met their basic requirements to be on the ballot somewhere that has fallen apart. I don’t know if it’s just being more scrutinized now. Or it wasn’t in the past or if it’s not being scrutinized at all, but it needs to be. Our ordinances in Ferguson need to mirror those of the state so there’s no question of which one we’re following and then somebody needs to be appointed, that decides, you know, who’s been vetted in that.
Ward Three Candidate Fran Griffin: Yes, thank you. In regards to ethics standards, I know we do have some that are currently in place. That we are required to hear by everyone regards to enforcement. I do think that we need a more spelled out version for who it is that actually enforces it within the city. That was a source of contention. I know when, when the issue came up, not too long ago. And so for us, I think it’s really important that we as a council, sit down and go over and fill in some of those gray spaces so that we’ll know exactly what that process is, versus waiting to right before an election to address it.
Ward One Candidate Linda Lipka: I would say that the ethics for the candidates has to be unquestionable. If there is a list of rules that have been established by the state of Missouri and we’re all required to follow those rules, then we’re all required to follow those rules. You have to follow the rules to create a foundation of a thriving healthy community. And if you cannot trust your politicians, your candidates to follow the rules, how can you trust them to make them, that’s what I want to know. Because it there’s no difference. I mean, there’s no room for error there. We also have a charter. So if our charter is being broken by anybody on city council, that has to be enforced as well. If we’re not doing that we’re not following the charter. We don’t really have a strong town. So we need to follow our charter. We need to follow our ordinances. And if our ordinances require to enforcement by a city clerk or city manager or a city attorney, and they cannot do that the ordinance is lame. It needs to be removed or it needs to be rewritten and reworked or it needs to be turned over to the state of Missouri to take over in those areas.
Question 3: “And this voter says, quote, the mayor initiated a Charter Commission and the voter alleges that the mayor would not state why. I don’t know if that’s true or not. But anyway, that’s what the voter is saying. So the voter wants to know from you, do you believe there is cause to study the charter and, in particular, to consider changing the form of municipal government?”
Ward Two Candidate TraVonne “Von” Walker: So the first thing I will say is the last time that the charter was amended or revised, I would like to know how often or frequently that happens. And then I do want to add this as well. You know, even with our United States Constitution, there’s many different ways that people interpret that constitution. And so whenever we do make amendments to the charter, we need to be involved and making sure that people actually can speak up if they disagree kind of process because of that specific thing. And so making sure that if we do revise the charter, that people get a chance to share what they feel if they disagree, or if they agree.
Ward Three Candidate Mike Palmer: I feel that government transparency is important in all aspects, whether it’s legislation, we’re working on charter amendments, current new policies with housing, or traffic stops. It’s good to be informed and have your residents be informed. Because nobody wants to be in the dark. When people don’t know what’s happening, a lot of rumors start to spread and that’s when things can get dangerous, and that can divide communities in a lot of different directions. So I don’t know what the purpose of the Charter Commission is, but I do know you should always be working to make your government better and function better. So if that’s the purpose of it, we should know that as residents. I’m currently not on council, I’m a resident. I was aware there was a Charter Commission, but I don’t know what they’re working on. And it would be good to know those things. As far as the size of our government and changing it, typically, US government of our size, a town of our size is run by a city manager form of government, that’s the most efficient way. But if there’s any other data that would suggest otherwise, I’d be willing to look at that.
Ward Three Candidate Fran Griffin:
Yes, thank you. Well, yes, the Charter Commission the whole purpose like it, like Mr. Walker said that that charter has been in place for a long time. We have rules that have been in there since the 1800s at this point, so we definitely need to update and look at some of those things. We talked about boards and commissions. We talked about consolidation of some of those that we talked about the need as of right now. I’m not interested in copying the same process that has left a lot of people without a voice. And so there is a need for us as the council to be able to have more say solve on some of those issues. I do believe that some of the responsibilities are left up to those who don’t live or are invested in our community and so I have full confidence in the Charter Commission. We have some really great people on there that are knowledgeable and are going to be able to put something better and put something in place that will help us in Pearl
Ward One Candidate Linda Lipka:
First of all, I would just correct that it [the city charter] is not something that’s been there since the 1800s. It may have been originated in the 1800s. But we have evolved it through the years and it’s been involved because of charter review committees. So I would also state that we should probably stop calling it a Charter Commission. And we should actually call it what it is. It’s a review committee. And a review committee actually just sits down they look through the charter, they look to see are there changes that need to be made? Are there things that we need to update to reflect society as it is now? We have gender issues that probably need to be reflected in that. So when we are and I’ve already talked about the ordinances that are clashing with the charter in regards to conflict of interest in elections, we already know that that needs to be changed or updated. So as far as a charter commission, I think reviewing the charter, I think it shouldn’t be a commission. It’s that’s confusing people. It needs to be a review committee looks at over looks to see if there’s anything we can update and then presents recommendations.
Ward Two Candidate Heather Robinett:
Yes, so, the actual Charter Commission, I don’t find anything wrong with it. We should be looking at the charter periodically to make sure that it is kept up to date and any changes necessary are implemented or brought before Council in the city at large. I do want to talk to the the form of city government that we have. I do not agree with changing the form of government. We have a city manager form of government. And what that does is we hire somebody that has the background and the skill set that understands how a city works. There are no politics at play. It is a apolitical, and then the City Council represents the people too, to oversee that and make sure everything’s right. So, as Mr. Palmer said, I think it is the most efficient form of government for the size of our city.
Question 4: This voter is says that he or she fears that Ferguson is in an infinite loop of destruction, because this voter says traffic violations are not being addressed, that they’re not being enforced, and that this lowers revenue, which in turn lowers the city’s ability to find traffic, law enforcement. So I don’t know if you agree or not that there is this cycle. But the question is, how would you break the cycle if it exists, and how would you go about helping to improve public safety?
Ward Three Candidate Mike Palmer: One minute is quite brief for this but, yeah, a lack of law enforcement of basic laws is a huge problem right now. And people have been actually dying, innocent people. Not just traffic, but just basic preventative law enforcement, and it’s directly attributed to a dangerously low level of staffing in our police department. Very dangerous. If the people knew how low it was, they would be scared even more than they already are. We have got to work harder to hire more police officers that are qualified to do the job. I don’t think ticketing should be a revenue source, but all the money from the tickets instead do work programs to work off your fines. Put the money right back into the neighborhoods, tear down derelict homes with it. But we have got to hire officers and we have to do multiple methods of recruitment other than posting on the city’s website. You also don’t have a human resources manager right now. That makes it tough to hire cops and you don’t have somebody in charge to hire them.
Ward Three Candidate Fran Griffin: I would say specifically in regards to the infinite loop of destruction with the traffic. I think there’s different things that we can implement. I know the city of Ferguson is currently in conversation with St. Louis County now. Thanks to the organizing of people in the community. There was a grassroots push, which pushed on the city to do what we needed to do to make sure that some funds are available from St. Louis County to be able to address some of these issues. On top of that, there were things that were mentioned, the city manager mentioned in terms of things, alternative ways, that we can slow down traffic that wouldn’t involve the presence of an officer, because we know nationally that there is a shortage. We know nationally that that is an issue. So it’s not it’s not just left up to the city of Ferguson. This is something that’s happening everywhere. We introduced social workers to address root causes of the violence that’s happening.
Ward One Candidate Linda Lipka: We got to start with the basics, and like my colleagues said, we don’t have a lot of police officers. We need something to happen now. We can’t wait. We do need more police officers. That’s what we’re working on it. It’s a slow process. We have to do something now. What can we do now? I’ll tell you what we do. I am I am the traffic commission as Council rep. When I got that commission, there was nobody on there. It wasn’t doing anything. I had ctizens who had been on Facebook who had been in the community who had had direct contact with violent driving, and had been a part of criminal collisions. I don’t call them accidents when you’re doing 90 and a 35. That’s a criminal act and you had a collision. It’s a criminal collision. The traffic commission was brought together. They have been working very, very hard. What we need to do right now we need to put speed bumps in. We need to do stops. We need to have some lighted stop signs so that at nighttime you can see that stop sign with no question. We need to start giving tickets to expired license please. We have to get to the basics.
Ward Two Candidate Heather Robinett: I’d like to point out and I hear this quite a bit in the community. There’s a people think that because we’re under the consent decree that that our officers are not supposed to give out tickets for traffic violations and nothing could be further from the truth. The problem that we have right now as others have said is we don’t have enough officers to do traffic enforcement the way we would like to do traffic enforcement. And traffic enforcement does not have to be a revenue stream. Traffic enforcement is just that, Safety Enforcement for our residents. I know this is not this is not just a Ferguson problem. This is this is an area problem in the St. Louis County area and further so getting qualified officers on our staff to actually write tickets for those people who are breaking the law. I think the more that people see that that’s happening, the better that people will feel and they’ll slow down on the streets.
Ward Two Candidate TraVonne “Von” Walker: [Walker started by asking for the question to be repeated and the moderator rephrased/repeated the question.] So I would say for starters, we have a real struggle with coordinating different meetings. And I’ve honestly been looking at a calendar day for Ferguson where there are meetings that overlap. We have a traffic commission meeting at a certain time and then we have another meeting that overlaps with that meeting. So I think that starting with a shared governance kind of model, making sure that we can actually hit we have a lot of great ideas. I’ve heard a bunch of ideas on this particular topic right now. And so I think that what we need to do as a city is to bring some strategy behind actually achieving these solutions. We vote for the county government was about to get close to $200 million in ARPA funding, and we vote for that in person. Ms. Days is our representative right now. And so we need to bring stronger collaboration and coordination to actually get some of these things across the finish line. And I believe that that’s what I would do when I’m in that seat.
Question 5: If you’re elected and you’re on the city council, could you name your top two priorities?
Ward Three Candidate Fran Griffin: My top one priority is definitely taking a look at any processes, policies, procedures, or protocols that negatively impact our most disenfranchised and marginalized people. I think that is one of the things that is a top priority, there are things that are layered within our system that have a negative impact and I do believe when you take care of our most vulnerable then you definitely take care of everybody. The second one would have to be creating alternative solutions to public safety. As I mentioned, organizing on the ground is very important and in so encouraging people to organize, went around issues of importance to put that push on the community, on local government, on county government, etc., is something that I definitely encourage in all aspects because that’s what gets things done.
Ward One Candidate Linda Lipka: So my top two priorities would be the traffic control as my top priority, as a parent who has buried a child who died in a car accident. It is very important to me that we get this done, that we get it done quickly, and we get it done in a manner that not only addresses the issues now, but is a long term solution for the future. I also believe that we need to create a recruiting program for police officers so that we can expedite the completion of the consent decree. Steven Garrett was on council for a while and he has come up with an idea that is very valuable, and it’s an idea that we go and start recruiting from the School of Social Work and Social Psychology, and then invite them and encourage them to go through the Police Academy because then you will start creating a police department that has trained social work social psychology officers on the streets, working with the community. If we could do that, and recruit from those areas, we would move this along much quicker and we would create a new breed of police officers that would allow this community to be the example that the government wants us to be.
Ward Two Candidate Heather Robinett: No surprise, safe streets is one of my top priorities. The speeding down side streets in residential areas is terrifying to our community. And it’s not just a ward two issue or ward three issue when it’s all around. So definitely traffic enforcement and ramping up our police department is one of my priorities. The second is neighborhood stabilization. And I think a big part of that is making sure that we’re getting homeowners into houses, working with FNIP and some of the other programs that we have in place for property restoration. Making sure that we’re tearing down hazards before they scare off other current homeowners. That’s another big priority for me.
Ward Two Candidate TraVonne “Von” Walker: I would say also public safety. Hopefully by the time we reach our amazing Ferguson 2040 plan, we don’t have to say that that’s one of our top concerns that needs to be addressed. But what I will say is public safety is something that most of the people who I’ve talked to say that is a huge concern. And so I will say focusing on what we need to do to continue increase in those policing practices, making sure that we have a robust department that’s ready to respond to all different concerns is important for me. And then the second piece for me is making sure that we have an engaged community where we can actually make decisions that are community centered. I went to the ARPA funding meeting, and we have about 20,000 people who live in Ferguson, and there were about 15 or 20 people there. That’s a very small percentage. And so I think that we need to do some serious work around engaging our community and if they are not going to those meetings, we need to be able to knock on these people’s doors, or be outside of Schnucks or Walmart and see if they can take a survey.
Ward Three Candidate Mike Palmer: My first priority would be a fully staffed police department that constitutionally enforces the laws of our community. My second goal would be we need lots of work in the neighborhoods. We have got to take a large, aggressive stance on vacant and dilapidated housing. There are probably three to 500 vacant homes in ward three alone. Some streets are half occupied. We have got to get that under control. It is an attraction for dumping, for vagrancy, and for all kinds of crime and it’s a disincentive for anybody who’s a stakeholder in the community who cares to do anything to their home. Now when you live next door to burned up houses, why do you want to spread mulch or paint or clean your gutters? Every dollar spent it’s kind of a wasted dollar. You’re just looking for an exit strategy. We got to stop that vicious cycle with housing.
Question 6: Do you believe the Charter should be changed to increase the Mayor’s powers?
Ward One Candidate Linda Lipka:
No, not at all. We have a small city to correct you and Mr. TraVonne, we’re actually 18,000 due to the last census, and with the size of our city we need to be we need to maintain the charter with a city manager format of government. The city manager format of government walks in with the CEO attitude, and their job is nonpartisan and it is designed to create the best services, the best business atmosphere that can possibly be done within the boundaries of this city. We now have great leadership we have a new city manager by the name of Eric Osterberg. He is young, he is smart. He is just everything we need. And this man I didn’t even vote for him at first when it came to hiring, but I’m so glad that I was wrong. I am happily the most wrong person because this guy is awesome. And we need to give him a chance to do this work. And I think that this guy can actually, really turn Ferguson into something that everybody knows it can be.
Ward Two Candidate Heather Robinett: In answer to the question, should the charter be changed to give the mayor more responsibility? The answer’s no. And I mean, I think we kind of answered this in a previous question, but the the city manager form of government is more efficient. They have the qualifications, the background, the education schooling, the know-how of how departments work far more than anybody becoming elected and stepping into that. So I trust that the person that we hire, I think someone said it as the CEO of our of our city, has all of that background necessary to lead the city. So the answer’s no, I would not change the charter.
Ward Two Candidate TraVonne “Von” Walker: So I wish I could have a conversation with this person because I want to know what exactly they’re saying when they say should the mayor have more power. To my knowledge right now, the mayor is working in conjunction with the Council. She doesn’t have two votes, and then they have one vote. They’re working as a team. And so that’s what I’ll be focused on City Council is getting things done, making sure that we have deadlines that we meet those deadlines as council person. I think it is all about working together and making sure that when we have disagreements that we can still move forward as a community.
Ward Three Candidate Mike Palmer: Well, the question is quite vague. No offense to the person who submitted it. If said power was to wave a magic wand and install speed bump, yeah, they should have that power. If it’s to be paid six figures to run the city, no, they should not have that power in my opinion. So I would need to know the list of what these new powers would be before I could make an educated guess or opinion on what if I was in favor of that or not. But a city our size generally doesn’t have a full time mayor. Because sometimes you might not get somebody who has the background or the experience to run your city in that position. And that’s what I have to say about that.
Ward Three Candidate Fran Griffin: I definitely would have to know exactly specifically what the person who proposed the question was talking about. In terms of power to the mayor. I do know that some boards and commissions are appointed directly by the mayor, whoever is sitting in that seat and I do believe that should be something that should be left up to council to spread out. However, there are things that I do believe this is the mayor’s position is a full time job. I think anyone who has set anyone who has sat in that position and has worked as hard as the mayor and council could be able to attest to that. So I don’t know without knowing if we’re talking specifically around salary or just additional responsibility, it will be hard to answer that question. I would be open to seeing what the charter committee or commission actually comes up with in terms of recommendations before making a decision.
Question 7: the question is, in your opinion, what is Ferguson’s greatest strength and what is his most significant weakness?
Ward Two Candidate Heather Robinett: I would say Ferguson’s greatest strength is its ability to get back up after it’s been kicked down. I mean, we have seen since I’ve been here in 18 years, I’ve seen multiple tornadoes. We had the unrest in 2014. We have this ability as a community to rally and gather and look out for each other even in the early days. The pandemic, I mean, people looking out for each other and making sure that, you know, kids that weren’t going to school were getting fed and all of these things that that people stepped up to make sure were happening. That’s community. Our largest weakness right now, I would say every not everybody feels safe right now because of the egregious traffic violations. I think that’s our greatest weakness and our biggest thing that we should go after to make sure folks feel safe on the streets.
Ward Two Candidate TraVonne “Von” Walker: The strength that I see the greatest strength in Ferguson is, I’m not going to say some of the some of the housing stock because I feel like I could find something more important, but I will say Ferguson has some amazing homes in Ward two and some of the best homes in Missouri, honestly. But I’m not going to use that. What I will say is the great strength in Ferguson is people who really want to see Ferguson be reinvigorated. I’ve talked to a lot of people in Ferguson and they still have hope for our city. And so they’re looking for what are the ways that we can greater engage our community. How can we increase it in neighborhood association meetings? How can we reinvigorate? Like, I live in Jeski Park and our association has been sitting dormant for some time now. And so I think that it’s time for us to look at some strategies that we can use to get our community back in some way, shape, or form, engaged. Weakness, I would say is just that we’re not engaged as a community.
Ward Three Candidate Mike Palmer: Our biggest strength, I’d say, is that our residents and their resiliency to the events that have that can come up. You know, we’ve everything from demonstrations, protests, fires, tornadoes, people still are proud to be Ferguson residents. For every person I’ve met who’s been here for 40 or 50 years you find someone who just moved to town. I always ask him what led them to our community. And I’m always impressed that we are still attracting people that do want to be a part of our community. So I think our residents are our greatest strength. That’s always been our greatest strength. Our greatest weakness I think would be a lot of our division within our council, which makes it hard to implement policies to staff because our staff is extremely new. We have hardly anybody experienced within city government, and a lot of vacancies, Chair positions, your Finance Directors gone, our human resource director has gone, our Public Works directors here less than three years in the job. Our economic developer has been here less than five years, our city managers less than a year. Now, it’s hard to get traction when you had that kind of turnover.
Ward Three Candidate Fran Griffin: I would say our greatest strength is definitely just us as residents having the desire to want to create change. us having love for the city that we live in and love for the residents that live next to us having compassion for each other. I definitely think that’s something that is a strength for our city and for our residents overall. I would say in regards to our greatest weakness, it will be actually implementing the change that’s needed. We have a really fun time at Council, reiterating words that we’ve read in books in terms of equity, but in terms of actually implementing it. It’s always a push back. And I think that’s one of the things that hinders us as a community as a whole is that we are not able to actually implement the change that we say that we’re looking for.
Ward One Candidate Linda Lipka: When you said that question I immediately wrote down our citizens, our citizens are our greatest strength, and I go to the things that have already been mentioned. I was among those organized with Jeff Ahrens and Gale Ahrens and Ferguson Baptist Church, for the tornado cleanup and we brought in people from all over the country to help us with the chainsaw crews and everything else. I personally went walking door to door to door to every single house that was affected by the tornado and asked them if we could come on their property and cut down these trees. And we did quite a bit of work. Millions of dollars worth of work for free. But the community came together after Michael Brown. I was at Paul’s market. I got out of my car, a lady who didn’t look like me and I didn’t look like her looked at me and she goes, “Can I hug you?” and I said “Absolutely!” And we hugged each other. This is what the community is about. This is why I love this community. And as I said earlier, I have roots for generations deep in this community. Now what is the greatest weakness, the greatest weaknesses, the fact that we don’t value that more? The greatest weakness is the fact that we don’t communicate more and we have to do that to keep continuing to grow this community.
Question 8: If you are an incumbent, what motivates you to want to continue serving on the city council, if you are not an incumbent but what motivates you to want to be and to serve on the city council?
Ward Two Candidate TraVonne “Von” Walker: So what inspired me to run for this position was attending the city council meetings. I think that there are a lot of good things happening right now, policies for our city in regard to the property restoration programs and a number of other things. But I think the reason that inspired me to run is like I said, not a lot of constituents know about these programs. And so we have a lot of great things that people can take advantage of, but when I’m knocking on doors, when I’m talking to residents, they’re like, Oh, that’s pretty cool. Can you send me the link? And so I think that that’s a really, that’s a weakness, right? Everybody should be able to be a forum and know what’s going on in their community. And so that’s what inspired me to want. I want to empower and inform people who live in Ferguson.
Ward Three Candidate Mike Palmer: As I mentioned in my introduction, I always kind of just stayed on my own and worked my butt off on my own and didn’t really do much publicly. And I’ve come across 1000s and 1000s of residents of Ferguson since I’ve been here my whole life. People always kind of said, Hey, you should run for office. And I said, No, I don’t have time for that. But then somebody did once tell me they said, you know, hey, when you do something you might not have time for but it seems like when you personally do something, you give it 110% And that’s true. I will never take on a task half assed I will give 110%. Every day, every hour, I have to make things better. And with my experience in the community, knowing where we’ve come from good and bad. I have a lot of knowledge and abilities to bring to the table. My specialty, my career is housing. I spent 100 hours a week in housing in Ferguson, who better to work with housing programs on the city council, you know, and people have asked me for years to put your name in the hat and that’s why I decided.
Ward Three Candidate Fran Griffin: The people. The people invigorated me to want to run again because I still see that there is a need for representation for those who don’t normally have a voice I still see that when we pass policies that negatively impact those least fortunate when we create a comprehensive plan that talks about development with it within the city over the next 20 years. And then we put a policy that does the opposite of that. It actually makes it harder for people to be able to thrive and so I see there’s a need to continue to push the envelope forward to have uncomfortable conversations with people who, you know, normally we either wouldn’t get a second motion we would even have a discussion. There still a need for me to be in this seat and I intend to do that as long as I’m here.
Ward One Candidate Linda Lipka: The reason I decided to run for a third term is, one, that work isn’t done. Two, I absolutely believe in this community. And three, you know, when I look at it from my personal perspective, my heart, my daughter’s friends are now in their 30s and they’re now married. They have kids, they’re moving back to Ferguson. And what I want to offer them a lifestyle that is was as wonderful as theirs or better. They move back because they love their town. They want to raise their kids here because they love the town. We’ve got to get the streets fixed. We’ve got to get the shooting to stop. We’ve got to slow down the traffic. We’ve got to make sure we have all of our city services at top notch performance. We’ve got to make sure our parks are enjoyable and exciting for all the kids in the neighborhoods. We have to create this community and we can, but we have to do it together. And as far as communicating and getting the word out. We have to we have to create something that people want to know about. We can’t shove information down their throats if they don’t want to keep up to date. We got to make it exciting. We got to make them want to keep up to date. So that’s what we need to create.
Ward Two Candidate Heather Robinett: So what motivates me to run for a third term? I think some folks know I have an engineering background. So I’m very pragmatic. I’m practical. I’m a budget hawk. And I’m a natural problem solver and Ferguson is no stranger to problems that need to be solved. I approach council from a volunteer spirit and I serve as a volunteer, I have not accepted any money from the city whatsoever. I turned down the stipend. I want to encourage other people to step up and volunteer. I want people to get out of their comfort zone and have hard conversations with neighbors they wouldn’t otherwise, and to get involved in a commission or a board. I just want to keep that spirit alive and I’d like to do that with one more term.
Ward Three Candidate Fran Griffin: I definitely would love to have the support of each and every third ward resident in the city of Ferguson on Tuesday, April 5, election day, and my work isn’t done. You know, I got into this position, because I wanted to make a change. I wanted to be part of a team where we would be willing to create that change in real life. When I talk to residents in the community all the time. They tell me that they haven’t seen that change and so I want to continue doing my part. So that one day when I knock on the door of a resident in the Third Ward and I talked to them they can say hey, you know what, I’ve seen this play apart like I’ve been impacted in a positive way by what the council has put in place. We still have a consent decree that needs to be completed. We’re currently working with social workers already in formerly Canfield, now Pleasant View apartments. I’ve had conversations with the Chief of Police and he’s definitely interested in having social workers ride along. These are conversations that were initiated not because of the rest of the council, it was it was created because there was somebody like myself pushing to have those conversations when both didn’t want to have them at all. And so it really pleases me to hear the some of the council members and some of the candidates actually now speaking in regards to that, because that’s something that I have pushed from the very beginning. So I just want to thank everybody for the opportunity for hearing me out. And if there’s anything else that I need, I’m always going to be around I’ve always said even with the last election, whether I win or lose, I’m going to continue to do the work. And I would appreciate the rest of the residents in the community continuing to work with me as we as we go along.
Ward Three Candidate Mike Palmer: Again, I appreciate the opportunity to be here this evening, to answer the eight questions. I wish there had been more. That kind of gets back to our issue of low participation rate. I’m not on YouTube, but I would imagine less than 100 people are watching this out of a town of 18,000. That’s pitiful. We’ve got to get more people involved. People have talents, all over Ferguson. We need to use those talents. People are willing to volunteer. We have to get those volunteers to come out and help to make the change that we want to see. I’m all about getting conversation started to make improvements, but I’m a doer. So once it gets past the conversation, you’ve got to actually implement changes. And if you haven’t seen change after a while, you’ve got to change your strategy. Been here my whole life. I don’t want to move. I’m starting a family here this summer. And I’m prepared to be elected if I’m so fortunate and I’m ready to hit the ground running and make the change we need to see so that our residents feel safe in the community. They can go out at night they can enjoy the parks. Don’t worry about getting run over. Don’t get worried about getting gunfire. Got to get these things under control so people feel safe and they want to move here. They want their families to move here and they want to enjoy the assets we do have in the community.
Ward Two Candidate TraVonne “Von” Walker: The land that I will bring once elected will certainly be informed by my personal experiences and hardships. But more than anything, it will be by the people that are listened to and commit to listen to every day. I truly believe that these times require activist leadership to ensure that each and every resident is informed and empowered. When my family and I moved to Ferguson some years ago, we were quickly welcomed with letters from our neighbors on the street saying welcome. Here’s our number if you need anything please don’t hesitate to reach out. This was something that we never experienced living in St. Louis, and it truly exemplifies the heart of Ferguson that is still there. Ferguson has great potential and with major development projects coming to our city, we must have an informed and engaged community to truly reach our peak. I will never grow complacent to the disparities and hardships our residents face. The Ferguson 2040 plan is a robust one that will take intentional action to achieve. I am ready to be a part of that action. If anyone follows local politics, you may recall a very large development project that was nearly passed by the Webster Groves City Council. The community of Webster Groves organized and sought council to not move forward on this plan. After a grassroots campaign, this $320 million development plan was halted. Here are some data points on North County community engagement, and if you haven’t noticed so far, I love data, so don’t know if you don’t know it yet. So St. Louis County has recently received close to $20 million in ARPA funding. This may be the largest sum of money from the federal government in our lifetime to date. In our district that Rita Heard Days represents, in our district, only 191 People have filled out a survey for how the money should be spent in her district is composed of over 100,000 people. Our local government in Ferguson can equip our citizens with the tools to remain informed, engaged and hope for the future of our city. On April 5, cast your vote for change Vaughn Walker Ferguson City Council.
Ward Two Candidate Heather Robinett: Like Mr. Palmer said I wish there were more people watching this play out. One of the things I really interesting conversation that I had with a fairly new resident here lately. He had moved from St. Louis County and there was a problem property that we were addressing. And our neighborhood organization is trying to revamp, I think Mr. Walker talked about some of the neighborhood organizations need to be re-energized, and he was letting me know that he had these talents that he wanted to bring to the table. He just needed a way to get plugged in. And I told him, I said, “Well, one of my superpowers is exploiting other people’s superpowers. So if you let me know what you like to do, I will find a place to get you plugged in,” and so that started what was initially kind of a tense conversation about a problem property turned into a really good exchange. And now we have someone who’s willing to step up in the neighborhood that is new to the area and really wants to make a difference. So it’s having these conversations it’s not just hearing from your echo chamber that the things are going great or, you know, what you’re doing is on point. The people who challenge us and the people who challenge our ideas are the people who help us grow the most. And so I think it’s always been important to listen to what everybody has to say whether or not you want to hear that directly. It does matter and it is worth listening to and so I hope that on April 5 Ward two residents will elect me again for my third term to Ferguson city. Council.
Ward One Candidate Linda Lipka: I am running again because I really, really, really want to finish my work. I feel like when I got into this I went I was not prepared to do this. I was like, Okay, I need to step up. I need to help. And 2016 I really felt like we needed to help. I was, as I said, I’ve worked in helping the community in so many different ways. So running for council was a whole new experience. And when we talk about uncomfortable Yeah, I was very uncomfortable. But it was a quick learning experience. And the more I learned the more I love it, and I’ve always known from day one that I’ve been I’m here for the citizens. When I’m sitting on council, I know that I get I get crazy, I get fiery, I get fierce when I get up there and some people might misconstrue that as me being mean or something like that. I’m not, I am just so passionate. I’m adamant that we can make change. I’m adamant that we can work together. And I know that there’s a better Ferguson that’s just around the corner for all of us. And when I’m looking at this, you know, to answer Mr. Palmer, we’ve got a new city manager. We’ve actually been working with temporary city managers way too long. We’ve been working with multiple police chiefs way too long. We now have a police chief. We now have a city manager, we’re so close, I think we’ve already hired a finance director. I think we’ve already hired a human resource director or we’re pretty darn close. But we’ve got a city manager who is capable and is ready to start doing the work and when you’re just holding things together with duct tape and spit, and then you finally get somebody that can do it with nails and concrete. We got to give him a chance. So as far as being on City Council, I want to help him get that going. I want to see our programs that were working in partnership with the state of Missouri, with the United States with our local communities around us. We’ve got a Highway program or a street program that’s going to come into us with street funding to repair our streets very soon. We’ve got ARPA, we’ve got the highway program right now that’s happening as we speak, that’s going to improve the safety and the lives of people coming off the highway in our community. We’ve got the West Florissant development program. We’ve got the Greenway program. There’s so many things that are on the cusp. We’re so close, and I just want to get this work done. I love this community. And even when people think “Oh, she doesn’t like that council person,” if you really know who I am. I love everybody on council. We’re awesome women. We are getting the job done. We need some men in here, but I’m telling you, we’re awesome. And, you know, I just really feel like there’s another area too that I want to address. We have got to stop thinking that diversity means black and white. Diversity means that we need to create a community and Environment of Business and lives and homes and neighbors. That is all different ethnic groups. We need more. We need more ingredients is what we need. And we need to make it a welcoming atmosphere. And I just feel like this is something I want to be part of and I want to keep working on. Please vote for Linda Linda Ward one April 5. I appreciate it.