Garbage Can Government

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We are a few weeks from city council elections, and one thing is clear: Our city government has gone from bad to worse in recent years. Parts of Ferguson are rapidly being transformed from modest but livable areas into garbage heaps. Meanwhile, we have gone from an acting city manager that many opposed, to the temporary deployment of the fire chief as city manager, for reasons that won’t be publicly disclosed because they are personnel issues. And we have a mayor who proudly presides over food pantries and university commencements and ribbon cuttings, but has been unable to preside over city council meetings to move the city in a positive direction. We have garbage can government, and it shows.

The result of failure at the top is now failure in every possible measure. The city is overrun with crime, and reckless drivers zoom through the crumbling streets of neglected neighborhoods. A shorthanded police department can’t get the job done, but we hear the same excuses year after year about why they are unable to hire the officers for which we’ve budgeted. Last year, residents of one neighborhood had to mow a city park because the city hadn’t gotten around to it.

But the worst failure of all is the complete abdication of responsibility for the appearance of the city’s housing stock. This afternoon, an angry resident of South Harvey posted in a popular Ferguson Facebook group. She was tired of looking at the growing pile of garbage at a home on the corner of Harvey and Suburban, and indicated that she planned to leave Ferguson soon. She’s a gainfully employed, quiet person, who takes good care of her home and her yard, which is to say, she’s one of those people you would like to stay around. The next people who live in her home will be somebody who can’t find anything better. Her departure is a loss to us all, and it is happening because city government is failing.

The very survival of this community is in real jeopardy because of the incompetent leadership with which we are now burdened. So I hope that those who seek to serve on council will tell us what they will do to fix things. We need a fully staffed police department which protects the community without returning to previous patterns of abuse. We need a city manager and department managers who are attentive and transparent, who take pride in doing a great job for this once great community. We need city staff who come to work wanting to give our community their very best, and managers who demand nothing less.

Those of us who live, work, shop, play, and pay taxes in Ferguson are not getting our money’s worth. As clearly shown by the slideshow at the top of this article, taken this afternoon on South Harvey, we have a city government that is consuming millions of dollars a year, with little to show for it. Let’s elect council members who demand change, who will be aggressive in advocating for the future of this city. It’s not about how many food pantries and non-profit ribbon cuttings we can have, but rather, safe neighborhoods, clean streets, and responsive government. In this election, let’s make that happen.