The 16-member Ferguson Commission, created by Gov. Jay Nixon, met for the first time Monday in Ferguson.
“It’s a long meeting, but we needed to listen carefully and we needed to get the administrative processes of the commission in place,” commission chairman Rich McClure said of Monday’s six-hour meeting. McClure shares leadership responsibilities with chairman The Rev. Starsky Wilson.
On Wednesday, McClure told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh that the commission will address priorities identified by the community, and will give residents opportunities to participate.
“This is a rolling set of conversations and priorities,” he said.
Future meeting times also will vary to give more people an opportunity to attend. The commission’s next meeting has not yet been announced.
Based on feedback from Monday’s meeting, the commission’s top priorities are citizen law enforcement relations, and fines and fees from municipal courts, followed by education, economic opportunity and race relations, McClure said.
“Our challenge is to make sure we keep the focus on these critically important and serious problems in our region,” he said. “The overwhelming reaction we get from the folks that we talk to and are reaching out to talk to us is they want to see change, they want to see action, they want to move forward and they don’t want to let this opportunity move past us without taking action.”
By September, the commission is expected to produce a report of policy recommendations.
“They’ll go to a variety of folks who need to take action on them,” McClure said. “Some may go to local governments or to the county. Some may go to the state legislature. Some may call for executive action. I think it’s incumbent upon the commission and the people we rally around the causes and the solutions that we suggest to them create the engagement in order to get action, and then to monitor that.
“One of the key things that I think commissions so often fall down on, and we’re going to work hard not to have that same pitfall occur to us, is to establish implementation criteria and accountability and metrics that will last beyond the commission.”
Three hundred people applied for the Ferguson Commission. Of the 16 selected by the governor, there are business leaders, law enforcement officials, clergy members, attorneys, education leaders and community organizers from across the region. There are six women and nine men; nine blacks and seven whites. But there also have been complaints that the commission does not accurately reflect the community.
“I think that, first of all, we do have lots of people who have been on the street and on the ground level from the faith community, from the education community, and so they are there,” McClure said. “They’ll be very, I’m sure, articulate and very vocal about that point of view, so I think there is the ability to understand. To the extent that there are additional views that need to be heard, we’re going to solicit those and encourage people to share what they think.”
McClure also stressed transparency within the commission.
“Everything the commission receives, the comments provided, we’ll post that all out there just in its raw form so folks can have a chance to read it all,” he said. The transcript from Monday’s meeting has been published online.
So far, McClure said Nixon is leading the effort to fund the commission, which he expects to cost at least $1 million.
“The Missouri Development Finance Board has approved an initial contribution from their funds of $100,000,” McClure said. “I think we’ll see some foundation funding and some other state agencies or related state agencies chip in to fund the commission.”
Commission members are not being paid for their time.
McClure expects that successful initiatives adopted in the St. Louis region could expand to other areas.
“We ought to set high goals and high aspirations as a region, and out of this crisis we can do things differently in St. Louis,” he said. “It is one of our aspirations to create, in some of the spaces, that we’ll be in programs that can be, if proven successful here, replicated elsewhere.”
“St. Louis as a region has so many strengths, and it is important not to lose sight of those strengths during all of this crisis,” McClure said. “At the same time, it’s very important to acknowledge (that) the issues that are raised here are very serious ones and we need to address them.”
“St. Louis on the Air” discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.