Fed up with late arrivals, lack of quorum, summer violence hamster wheel

COLUMBIA, Mo 7/11/14 (Op Ed) --  A few weeks ago, I was driving down Sanford Ave. where a volley of gunshots hit two houses and a car Wednesday

Out wandered a familiar face, Marlon Jordan, in shorts, T-shirt, and his signature Ku Klux Klan hood (he's black, which is supposed to make wearing the hood a statement). 

He was filming police officers at the door of another house, apparently to let them know they were being watched, too.

Sanford is a sweet little street with a lot of cute homes and caring residents. 

But a coupla cons are outta the joint and back with ma or grandma or girlfriend.  Word on the street is the gunfire started at grandma's house. 
I used to get angry over the repeat-offender-on-the-streets scenario, or find Marlon's Klan hood bemusing. 

But any more, I find Columbia's summer violence hamster wheel and all the attendant theatrics -- from the breathless news stories to the citizen police watchdogs -- frustrating enough to see the day when I will finally say goodbye.  

A version of my frustrations surfaced at Wednesday's meeting of the Mayor's Task Force on Community Violence.
I slipped in after watching KMIZ anchor Joey Parker declare that "nothing, nothing at all" was happening thirty minutes after it started.   

The task force lacked a quorum of members, a problem it's faced at least twice before.   "For the very few residents who showed up [for public comment], patience started wearing thin after six o'clock," Parker reported

Task force members in attendance spoke out about the absentees.  "I'm angry and frustrated," Paul Prevo said.  "I want it on the record.   We're already being criticized as a do-nothing group." 

"It's embarrassing," Dan Hanneken added, noting members made a commitment to do an "important job."

Prevo's frustrations included the group's over-long lingering over their sole recommendation to date:  Ban the Box, an offender re-entry strategy that prohibits employers from asking about past convictions on an employment application check box.   This focus strikes many as one-sided, geared toward helping offenders with little concern about the kind of law-abiding folks who live on Sanford
Though Columbia City Council member and task force co-chair Michael Trapp generally agreed with Prevo, he had little to say.  An earlier lack of quorum was no big deal, Mr. Trapp told the Columbia Daily Tribune in May.  Co-chair and fellow City Council member Laura Nauser sat silently. 

Other task force members expressed dismay, even shock that so few people attended from the public, given the city's recent spate of gun violence.   Even scheduled speakers from the Columbia Chamber of Commerce failed to show

I'm not shocked, though.  Think about it. 

Mayor Bob McDavid
established his task force with no resources and no power -- a problem this publication addressed in April.  Knowing they can't do much except debate proposals like Ban the Box, members may feel little real need to attend every meeting. 

Mayor McDavid has meanwhile driven his administration into lame duckdom with highly unpopular policies -- Blight, EEZ, TIF, and now Opus -- backed by officially-sanctioned lies.   To many concerned constituents, our Mayor comes off as rude, off-putting, impatient, and aloof.  

As the chief purveyor of City Hall duplicity, city manager Mike Matthes has lost the public confidence and trust.    He, too, is a lame duck.  
"We're 100% out of infrastructure," Matthes declares.  Oh -- but we have enough to supply every Tom, Dick, and Harry apartment developer at the expense of everyone else. 

Council members Nauser and Trapp have tended to march in lockstep with Matthes and McDavid.  They, too, are in lame duck territory. 

And then there's the deja vu -- every summer, gun violence.  Every summer, more repeat-repeat violent offenders back on the streets

I remember one time Marlon Jordan -- in full Klan regalia -- took to the Mayor's official chair before a City Council meeting and wouldn't leave until two cops gingerly removed him.  

The world's only black Klansman, sitting in the Mayor's seat.  If that doesn't symbolize "lame duckdom," I don't know what does. 

Maybe Marlon has made his statement, after all.  

-- Mike Martin