Thursday, November 8, 2018
Policing in America: Problems, Perspectives, and Priorities
Speakers: Dr. Tobias Winright, associate professor of health care ethics, St. Louis University, and former law enforcement officer; Rev. Darryl Gray, community liaison for the Ethical Society of Police and associate pastor, Greater Fairfax Missionary Baptist Church, St. Louis
Dr. Winright, who has written extensively about policing in America, explained how a military model of policing supplanted a “social peacemaker” model. A photo of police pointing rifles at Ferguson protestors from atop an armored vehicle starkly illustrated his point. Historically, he said, police focused on their role to “protect and serve” their communities, and in earlier times American police forces were not armed. But militarization grew, driven by slave patrols in the South, gangsters in the 1920s, and “wars” on drugs and crime in the 1970s and 1980s. The latter mainly targeted African Americans, encouraged extreme use of force, and fostered an “us versus them” distrust between police and community members. Acknowledging that there are now more guns in society than citizens, Winright said the times call for a policing model in which police and community members work together.
Reverend Gray, a prominent civil rights activist, said African Americans want policing that is fair, just, and equitable. He recommended ways to change the “siege mentality” that is felt in black communities, where African Americans are disproportionately arrested and police testimony is often considered unreliable:
- Using technology such as body and surveillance cameras as a tool to hold police accountable and protect both the police and community members
- Training police to de-escalate conflicts without gun violence
- Ensuring that police departments reflect the racial makeup of the communities they serve by ending race-based discrimination in hiring and advancement opportunities and by actively recruiting people, who may be reluctant to apply because of departments’ racist history
Responding to an audience question, Gray said that only three of the Ferguson Commission’s 189 policy calls to action have been implemented. He blamed lack of political will on the part of elected officials. “They won’t move until we start calling them out,” he said, and urged the audience to contact their elected representatives.
Thursday, October 11, 2018
Homing In On Housing Policies: Moving from Segregation to Diverse, Inclusive Communities
Speakers: Jason Purnell, PhD, MPH, associate professor, Brown School, Washington Universityand director of Health Equity Works;Molly Metzger, PhD, assistant professor, Brown School, Washington University and author of the forthcoming book “Facing Segregation: Policy Solutions for a Stronger Society.”
Segregation, with all its destructive effects, is still very much with us in St. Louis, one of the most segregated cities in the country. The speakers at our October meeting work to focus attention on the history of unfair policies that cemented segregation in St. Louis City and County and what can be done to solve the resulting problems. Dr. Purnell explained to the audience of about 100 attendees that discriminatory policies pushed many African Americans into crowded urban neighborhoods and housing projects. The Federal Housing Authority gave loans to housing developers on the condition that they would not sell to blacks. Restrictive deed covenants (in which white homeowner associations prohibited sales to black buyers) and zoning prohibiting multi-family housing meant that many African Americans could only obtain affordable housing in areas far from jobs, education, and health care. We have not built the transportation infrastructure to enable people to access opportunities, Purnell said.
Dr. Metzger proposed possible local solutions:
- Mobility strategies that help people move to areas that offer opportunities. These include allowing those with housing choice vouchers to obtain housing in the private rental market.
- Investment strategies that improve existing communities. These strategies include requiring new housing developments to set aside a percentage of units for low-income families.
Both speakers agreed that the best solution would be to create consciously inclusive communities that strive for policies that are fair and equitable for people of all races, ages, and income levels. When asked what we as interested citizens can do now, they recommended that we:
- Support organizationsworking to “dismantle the divide”—including Arch City Defenders, Empower Missouri, Beyond Housing, Ascend STL, Team TIF, Community Builders Network, and St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council (EHOC). Donate to them and follow them on social media.
- Pay attention when hearings take place in our communities and ask questions about TIFs, special business districts, and housing developments.
- Go to stlouisco.com/housingtrustfundto learn about St. Louis County’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund Task Force and fill out their survey to identify housing needs by December 12, 2018.
For more information: Dr. Purnell is one of the authors of “Segregation in St. Louis: Dismantling the Divide,” a new report describing a century of housing policies intentionally designed to exclude African Americans from access and opportunity.https://forthesakeofall.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/SegregationinSTL_DismantlingDivideReport.pdf
Thursday, September 13, 2018
Here Comes the Vote: Ballot Ballyhoo and Redistricting Ramifications
Speaker: Nancy Miller, co-president, League of Women Voters, St. Louis Chapter
On November 6, we will go to the polls to vote on a daunting number of candidates, amendments, and propositions—some local, some national–that will have critical consequences for our lives. Nancy Miller helped us untangle the state issues, beginning withAmendment 1, which is also known as “Clean Missouri” because its goal is to clean up Missouri politics. Among other things, it will limit campaign contributions, stop the revolving door of legislators becoming lobbyists, and curtail gerrymandering of legislative districts through a transparent, nonpartisan process. See www.CleanMissouri.org. Women’s Voices and the League of Women Voters support this amendment.
Miller clarified the confusing three medical marijuanainitiatives on the ballot. Proposition C and Amendment 2offer similar pricing and protections, she said. But sales tax revenue raised through Amendment 2 will go solely for veterans’ health programs, whereas under Proposition C, a small portion of the taxes would also fund drug treatment and early childhood education. An important factor for voters to consider is the difference between propositions and amendments. The state legislature can change or not implement propositions that are passed, but the legislature cannot change amendments. Women’s Voices and the League favor medical marijuana. However, neither organization supports a third option–Amendment 3—because it directs sales tax revenues to an entity that will be created and overseen by one wealthy individual who would control the funds.
Another problematic initiative is Proposition D: Gas Tax Increase. The tax increase will raise more than $288 million, but the proposition does not clearly specify how the new funds would be used to benefit Missouri. The tax is also regressive, putting greater burden on low-income individuals. Because of these concerns, neither Women’s Voices nor the League supports this measure or has taken a position on it.
In November, we will also vote on judges. Christine Bertelson, communications director, St. Louis County Circuit Court, urged us to inform ourselves about the 21 judges who are up for retention. Go to www.mobar.org; www.yourmissourijudges.org; and https://wp.stlcountycourts.com to learn more. She also recommended that we learn about the Missouri Plan (www.MissouriPlan.com), a method of choosing judges that keeps politics out of our courts and is used in 30 other states.
Also of note: Miller said the League is suing the Missouri secretary of state for not complying with requirements that help people obtain photo IDs and register to vote. See www.showit2vote.com for information on what forms of ID are needed and how to obtain a free photo ID or register to vote (which can now be done online with a tablet, mobile device or other touchscreen device at https://s1.sos.mo.gov/votemissouri/request).
All Women’s Voices positions on these and other ballot initiatives are available here.
Find out how to get involved in voter efforts (education, engagement, mobilization, protection and registration):