Democratic State Representative Courtney Curtis of Ferguson wants both presidential candidate to visit his district.
Curtis says he’s extending the invitation because Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will be close by for their debate at Washington University in St. Louis October 9th.
He contends a visit from the future president would be a significant first step in addressing the issues of race and social injustice in the country. “If you were to come to Ferguson, I’m sure there are people that are willing to help you, and that can help you open up the doors into the other affected communities to build a larger coalition of people, to really deal with these issues and address them, and come up with a real solution as to how to stop them and bridge the gap between community and police distrust.”
Curtis blames state and local officials for failing to take steps to help revitalize Ferguson and nearby communities. He faults Governor Nixon as well as Ferguson Mayor James Knowles, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger and the county council for neglecting the region.
Curtis is also frustrated funding through the federal designation known as “Promise Zone” hasn’t been robust enough to help lift up the area. “100,000 people in St. Louis city and 100,000 people in St. Louis County are part of Promise Zone” said Curtis. “But we’ve only seen roughly…$10 million to $15 million come in after having it for nearly 18 months. We have the Promise Zone for 10 years. Los Angeles actually received $52 million in Promise Zone money in its first year.”
Curtis thinks a visit by the nominees would help shine a spotlight on the problems which haven’t been solved since the Michael Brown shooting two years ago. “It’s more about the police being used to police the community, as opposed to protecting and having a meaningful relationship with the community, to make sure everyone is safe.”
Curtis says communities have used their police departments to boost revenues because state and regional leaders have failed to come up with an economic development plan. He notes legislation has now limited the percentage of revenue a city can derive from police fines and penalties, which increases the need to have a strategy for moving forward.
Curtis won’t say whether fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump, who’s been accused of race bating and garners scant support from African Americans, would best address the needs of Ferguson. “The best thing for me to do is reach out to anyone that has an opportunity, and see how we can work together going forward, in order to insure that my community, and communities like mine, are not in the same position two years from now, saying that ‘We had an opportunity when it came to (getting) the international spotlight, and we let people off the hook’”.