The public comment segment of city council meetings is an opportunity for residents to express their views on issues of relevance to the council. That encompasses a broad range of topics, and council has wisely chosen to leave it to the speaker’s discretion to stay within the boundaries of relevance and propriety. For the most part, residents have shown a remarkable willingness to meet this standard, reflecting the diversity of our community without abusing the privilege. This week’s comments were a notable exception.
We start with the ongoing spectacle of Annette Jenkins, evidently a faithful reader of these pages, who repeatedly brands herself “a truth speaker and justice seeker.” After accusing me of causing “much diversity and conflict amongst us”, Jenkins proceeds to say that “to be very clear, they have been racist in their comments and expression.” I challenge Ms. Jenkins to find a single racist word in these pages, and stand ready to remove even the slightest hint of racism in our writings. Ms. Jenkins, in contrast, coyly said that I “would not like it if I called him orangutan.” In fact, I like it a lot: I’m always amused by the spectacle that is Jenkins’ public comment, and particularly delight at her inclusion of a word which, had it passed from my mouth, would certainly have been branded as racist. Well done, Annette!
The crowning glory of Jenkins’ comment is her faux concession that “some people believe I have caused conflict and division.” In fact, Jenkins is an unthinking partisan who knows no blow too low when advocating for her ill formed perspective. She goes on to say, “My response to that is, there’s many people who feel like I do. I speak because I am a concerned citizen.” Ms. Jenkins’ language is an odd echo of the old White Citizens’ Councils, which justified their actions in precisely the same way.
We then heard from Mildred Clines. Ms. Clines, who has been very active in her neighborhood and worked hard as a member of the civilian review board, engaged in what amounted to a campaign speech supporting Fran Griffin. We will not speak to the merits of her praise at this time, but hasten to add that this was not the forum in which that praise should have been delivered. This should be a bright line, that the official meetings of city government are no place for electioneering. And Ms. Clines, who is Griffin’s treasurer and was the only monetary contributor to Griffin’s campaign on her last report who actually resided in Ferguson, is hardly the voice of an impartial, involved citizen. One might be led to question Clines’ political motives by her contribution of $500 to Travonne Walker, who is barely out of college, still lives with his parents, and has never held a regular, full time job. While we applaud Walker’s desire to be involved in public affairs, Ferguson city council is not the place for somebody who has no experience or knowledge. Clines apparently feels otherwise. Oh, and in case you missed it, she supports Fran Griffin.
Finally, there was the ugly spectacle of Representative Michael Person. Mercifully, the redistricting gods have placed Person into the same district as Raychel Proudie, who will soon banish him from public life. Proudie, who has marked the incredible achievement of being a Democratic legislator who chairs a committee and has a real influence on legislation, faces an opponent whose most notable achievement has been being photographed sleeping on the House floor. Person, who had barely a passing acquaintance with the recently deceased Cora Faith Walker, has deployed her ashes as a campaign prop. He attended her memorial service, attempted to push his way to the podium, but was blocked, then posed for photographs on the very platform of her memorial, and published those photographs to his campaign page. He then proceeded to address the Missouri Legislature, to whom his voice would have been entirely unfamiliar, and the Ferguson city council, before which he has never appeared to my knowledge, with a speech, credited jointly to himself and Mayor Jones, in which he claims that Ms. Walker was his “mentor.” I have the assurance of people who know her well that Person has fabricated this relationship.
Cora Faith Walker resided in Ferguson, and was a tremendous advocate for our community at many levels. Our city council was certainly an appropriate place for such a tribute. But Mr. Person was not the person to deliver this address. We can only imagine the displeasure Ms. Walker would find in observing his effort to fraudulently attach himself to a woman of tremendous impact and reputation, in an effort to make up for spending three years collecting a legislative paycheck, while accomplishing literally nothing for or in this district. He does this work with the encouragement and inspiration of Elbert Walton Jr. and his family of hucksters, not that of the brilliant public servant Cora Faith Walker.