Dropping Science On ‘Ferguson Truth’, Pt. I

I took a philosophy class in college called “Introduction to Logic”. It was all about syllogisms–you know, “If this, and that, then…”, that kind of thing. The “necessary, but not sufficient” stuff. You need to have certain ideas in place to make an argument, but they are not sufficient by themselves to reach the conclusion you wish to make.

The idea is to tighten up your thinking, your reasoning, so that when you posit an argument to someone else you have enough evidence or rational support for what you are saying. Often, we think we are saying one thing when we are actually communicating something else, or transmitting less than we thought we were. We believe we have made a sound argument while our logic is fallacious; we did not sufficiently support our case with the information we brought to the table, so to speak.

I was reflecting on this when I found a screenshot on my computer that I saved in early 2016 when I was running for Ferguson City Council the second time. The screengrab was of a letter circulated by a group calling itself “Ferguson Truth”. The letter was addressed to the Ferguson City Council. A member of the City Council died in January 2016, and the Council now had to decide on a replacement for the deceased. In the letter, “Ferguson Truth” advised the Council on the type of person who should take the spot opened by the death of Brian Fletcher, the former two-time mayor who topped me in Ward 2 in the all-important election of 2015.

“Ferguson Truth” was (is) an ad hoc committee founded by local resident Blake Ashby, who has political and financial ties to old-liners in the City. He stands to benefit from his connection to a firm that may be responsible for storing recorded video from Ferguson police body cameras. I’m not suggesting he will literally profit from it, but he and his cohorts could drum up business because of the arrangement.

Having run for the office the year before, and having received the most votes ever by a loser in a contested race, I officially applied to take Mr. Fletcher’s seat. A team of Council members interviewed me that February. They led me to believe that they were open to my candidacy, and that I had a fair shot to get it.

During this stage in the process “Ferguson Truth” sent the letter. It never mentioned me by name, but the thrust of the message was that the replacement for Fletcher should be someone who “loved” Ferguson. Without saying “Bob Hudgins hates Ferguson,” the letter strongly suggested that it would be a grave mistake to give the post to someone like me, a protester, or to me.

It developed that multiple constituencies arose to assert themselves in the process of deciding who should replace Fletcher, and for what reasons. One group, ostensibly stating “We should honor the result of the election,” but just as forcefully anti-Hudgins, (don’t try me!), said the Council should appoint someone whose views were as closely consonant with Fletcher’s as possible. That voice was a loud one which carried a lot of weight in the Council’s deliberations, as you shall see.

Another group, which I fronted, said in light of my vote total, my work ethic, and the obvious need for change, my voters should be respected. I should get the seat. It would show my 636 voters that their efforts were rewarded; they could see results from this organic movement for change in Ferguson. We could begin to break up the old guard on the Ferguson City Council.

That’s not what the old guard wanted. They, (meaning Mayor Knowles, Ward 1 Councilman Mark Byrne, their many sympathizers, plus new Ward 3 Councilman Wesley Bell), had several constituencies to placate, and they had to think more strategically. The vote on the consent decree with the Department of Justice loomed, which would have lasting implications for policing and the courts in Ferguson, and the financing for such, for years to come. To the Council, it was a cover your ass moment. How could they solve the problem?

This is when the Council called in LaVerne Mitchom for an interview for the open seat. Mrs. Mitchom is an African-American woman who lives about a mile and a half northeast of me as the crow flies. She is 60ish. I had seen her at some protests and we had talked over the months. We were simpatico, but she was an incrementalist, a take it step-by-step type, where I was, admittedly, a firebrand anxious for a sudden power upheaval in Ferguson.

When the Council sized up LaVerne they saw that she was inclined to go along and adjudged that she would be malleable to Mayor Knowles’s designs. They found their Eureka Solution: We can get a Fletcher, and he’s a black woman! By selecting Mitchom, they solved two problems (they thought) in one fell swoop: They could present her to the African-American community as living evidence of substantive change in Ferguson, (and tipping their caps to my voters),  while simultaneously exchanging private high-fives with the establishment, who understood that Mitchom would be on their side when it counted.

This is a complete digression from whence I began, but I think you will see where I am taking this in Part II of “Dropping Science On Ferguson Truth”.

(I took the photo above. It is of a protest of the consent decree decision at the Ferguson Community Center in February, 2016.)

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