St. Louis Public Radio News
9:47 am
Mon February 8, 2010

Kirkwood residents to meet again with hope of easing racial tensions

St. Louis – Kirkwood residents will meet again Wednesday to discuss the racial tensions that remain two years after a fatal shooting at City Hall.

Last month, city officials and Kirkwood residents signed an agreement mediated by the U.S. Justice Department aimed at improving race relations in the city.

It was an effort prompted by the events of February 7, 2008, when Charles "Cookie" Thornton, shot and killed five people before he was killed by police. Former Kirkwood mayor Mike Swoboda died of his injuries seven months later.

Thornton lived in Meacham Park, a largely black neighborhood that has had tense relations with the city. And some residents, including Meacham Park Neighborhood Improvement Association President Harriet Patton, say the city seems unwilling to alter that dynamic.

"They refused a citizen review board, they refused to do a survey on the community," Patton said.

Among other things, the Justice Department agreement asks the city to work with community groups to get high school students into jobs and paid internships.

Patton said she wants to see the report rejected and negotiations begin anew.
Members of the mediation team declined to comment until after the meeting.

But last month on St. Louis on the Air, mediation team member Ron Hodges said the programs need a chance to work.

"We've done our job," Hodges said. "And if we can't get the people to get involved, it's not our fault, and I don't think it's all on City Hall, and I think some people in our community need to accept that it's not all on City Hall."

The meeting will begin at at 7 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall. The mediation team will present the report, then residents will be able to submit written questions.