Has Ferguson truly moved forward with a progressive mission after the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown?
The important question was examined in a new “State of the Report: Tracking implementation of the Ferguson Commission’s Calls to Action” released Wednesday — four years after Brown was killed by white police officer Darren Wilson on August 9, 2014. There were some patterns of change and other patterns of stagnation outlined in the report.
Key findings acknowledged that there was some beauty that came from the ashes of Brown’s untimely death and the unrest that followed in the St. Louis County city: more youth job funding; the building of an education innovation hall; a fully funded City Affordable Housing Trust Fund; the creation of RedDough Money Centers that provide lower-cost alternatives for obtaining consumer loans and more ventures.
However, the report also shed light on three areas in particular where progress has been slower to come for racial equity.
The non-use of low-income housing tax credits
There was an effort led by former Missouri Republican Gov. Eric Greitens to end the practice last year despite the credits being viewed as “a necessary investment in underdeveloped areas,” including those where people of color live, the STL American reported. However, current Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, who took over for Greitens in June, said he supports the credits. Yet there was a problem with the plan to bring them back: Parson won’t try to reinstate the credits this year and said any restoration efforts would have to be tied to reforms.
An impediment to raising of the minimum wage
A Missouri state law that prohibits cities from allowing a minimum wage higher than the state went into effect last August that had greatly affected St. Louis workers, according to the Los Angeles Times. This Republican-led legislature passed the minimum-wage preemption law that cut hourly wages for more than 30,000 workers in St. Louis — many of whom are African-Americans — from $10 to $7.70 last year.
An unwillingness to enforce Senate Bill 5
Protecting Senate Bill 5, a rule passed in 2015 that caps revenue municipalities could generate from traffic fines and fees to civilians hasn’t been a top priority. A Missouri judge struck down the law — which would have improved law enforcement procedures with monitoring the way officers collect money through traffic tickets and court fees — in March 2016. The law was passed in the wake of the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation into Ferguson’s policing practices.
More progress is clearly needed, with the Ferguson activists working hard for a better reality. The city can at least see that there are bright minds who want to lead the city to change, including Wesley Bell, the upstart candidate who beat longtime St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.