Typically, a local city council election would not garner much attention from anything outside of the local news media outlets. But the last eight months has been anything but typical for the city of Ferguson Missouri. In turn, a lot of attention is being drawn to their upcoming city council elections. The election has the citizens of Ferguson focusing on what they hope to be a big change in the makeup of their local government.
The election will be the first in Ferguson since the deadly shooting of Micheal Brown by police officer Darren Wilson last summer. Darren Wilson who is white, was cleared of any charges in the death of the unarmed black 18 year old by a Grand Jury and the US Department of Justice. The announcement of the dropped charges sparked racially fueled rioting and chaos in the days that followed.
Two thirds of the town of Ferguson is black. This is not reflected in their local city council that has a white mayor, and out of its six seats, only one black counsel member. These upcoming elections bring about the opportunity to potentially double the seats held by African-Americans.
The Council races have also brought a lot of outside attention from national groups such as The National Working Families Party, and MoveOn. These groups have either made donations, or have sent volunteers to canvas door to door for the candidates. Local groups too, like Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment estimate they have knocked on about five thousand doors, and given out eight thousand pieces of literature.
Even though this is a local election, the people of Ferguson recognize the national implications. Ella Jones, an African-American candidate in the election says that she has raised over 13 thousand dollars. About one and a half times the amount of her competitors. She attributes this to her realizing from the beginning that this particular election was going to be much bigger than the local small-town campaign that it usually is. She took it upon herself to run ads in the paper, and the radio too as a result of the increased coverage. If Mrs. Jones wins the election for her district, she would be the first African-American woman to hold a seat on Ferguson’s City Counsel.
It appears that it is not going to be just the City Counsel in Ferguson that will be in line for a shake up. In the next few weeks, the Department of Justice is going to start negotiations on the restructuring of the police department. The police have been under fire for engaging in practices of racial discrimination. The report from the DOJ shows a police department that used excessive force during illegal traffic stops to prey on it’s own citizens. The courts in Ferguson were also cited as being corrupt. According to the report, the courts would levy excessive fines on the citizens of Ferguson to ensure that they would be arrested and convicted, even for the most minor of offenses.
Dwayne James, the current sole African-American member of Feruson’s City Counsel says that he is very excited about all that has been going on. He is proud to see the way the people of Ferguson have become more engaged in their community. The city has been needing change for quite some time now. The ensuing elections could bring about the very change that the citizens of Ferguson have been hoping for.
By Alec Rosenberg
The Seattle Times
Photo By: velo_city – Flicker License