Friday, February 22, 2008

Dysfunction follows city council killings in Kirkwood, Missouri

I don't know if dysfunction preceded the city council killings in Kirkwood, Missouri, but it certainly is occurring in the wake of those killings. I have to agree with citizens who want more than one name on their ballots for the upcoming mayoral election. A candidate who died was removed from the ballot, but her supporters want to be able to indicate their dissatisfaction with the one person named on the ballot.

The city attorney says the election can't be delayed. Okay, let me get this straight. Having one name on the ballot is okay, even though it eliminates democracy, but delaying an election isn't okay?

The spirit of the law is to bring about democracy. That's what the rules are for. When the rules start bringing about the opposite of democracy, it's time to come up with an equitable solution to the problem.

It appears that this city council doesn't know how to come up with equitable solutions. And it certainly shouldn't be blaming the dead woman's husband for it's decision. There's no law that says you have to do what surviving spouses want. I wonder if the bereaved man was pressured to agree to taking his wife's name off the ballot.

Here's an Associated Press article:

First City Meeting Since Killings Gets Ugly
Associated Press

The first City Council meeting since a gunman stormed City Hall and killed five people began with a sense of togetherness that didn't last long.

Residents and elected officials of Kirkwood, Mo., came together Thursday for the first City Council meeting since a gunman stormed City Hall two weeks ago, killing five people and wounding two others. Here, locals Lorraine Brown and Franklin McCallie greet each other with a hug before the meeting, which did not continue as amicably.

After opening with a moment of silence to remember the rampage two weeks ago, the meeting turned into a bitter fight over the how the St. Louis suburb will move on now that three city officials are dead and the mayor is incapacitated.

Police say 52-year-old Charles Lee "Cookie" Thornton entered the council chambers on Feb. 7 and killed two police officers, two council members and the city's public works director before police shot him to death. Mayor Mike Swoboda was shot twice in the head and remains hospitalized.

Among the dead was Connie Karr, an alderwoman who was running for mayor. Last week the city had her name removed from the ballot, leaving only alderman Arthur McDonnell listed.

Dozens attended Thursday's meeting to criticize the move, saying it undercut the voters' right to choose their mayor in the April election.

"I feel that with only one candidate, you're not going to have any discussion or debate," Kirkwood resident Karl Unsworth said.

Spectators booed and groaned during a long and disorderly public comment period; some yelled at city officials as they spoke.

State Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons, a Republican from Kirkwood, took his turn at the microphone to hold a moment of silence after particularly heated comments. He then led a prayer.

"God, I would ask that the people of Kirkwood learn how to address the struggles and challenges that we face," he said.

City Attorney John Hessel explained repeatedly that Karr's name was removed from the ballot at her husband's request. He said it was impossible under city and state law to delay the vote, except if a disaster occurred on the day of the election.

Hessel criticized many of the speakers who questioned his legal rationale and suggested he wasn't honoring Karr's legacy. He survived the shooting attack only after throwing chairs at Thornton to fend him off before police arrived.

"Connie Karr's death is all of our worst nightmare," Hessel said. "It is something that I live over and over."

Besides Karr, killed in the rampage were Officer William Biggs Jr., Officer Tom Ballman, Public Works Director Ken Yost and Councilman Michael H.T. Lynch.

Thornton had a long history of fighting with city officials over a litany of code violations, fines and citations.

1 comment:

mgb said...

I was perplexed by your confusion over what might be called a disconnect in Missouri election law. I then looked at your profile and noticed you were not a Missourian.

Most Missouri law is inconsistent. If you lived here you would think its normal. For good or bad the law cannot be changed retroactively.