When it comes to living in the St. Louis metropolitan area, this isn’t my first rodeo.
I covered that a few weeks ago.
Nevertheless, I know first-hand how dangerous St. Louis City can be at times because I lived there for a few years while commuting to my job as a reporter for a newspaper in Southern Illinois.
As much as I loved my time living in the city, the homicide rate in St. Louis in 2015 was one of the highest in the country. The medical examiner’s job was one of the easiest in the city, because it was pretty easy to determine the cause of death for the vast majority of the victims: gunshot wound to a vital organ – or organs.
No one in their right mind disagrees something has to be done about the violent crime rate in the city, and getting as many of these murderers off the streets permanently is paramount.
However, is it the attorney general’s office’s job to do that? District 2 Sen. Bob Onder thinks so. The Republican from St. Charles sponsored a controversial amendment to House Bill 2, legislation concerning the admissibility of witness statements. The provision would grant original jurisdiction to the attorney general’s office to prosecute homicide cases in the City of St. Louis.
Clearly Onder and Senate Republicans are targeting one area – St. Louis City – and one prosecutor – St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner.
The Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys considered Onder’s amendment, which was passed under the cover of darkness on Sept. 3 after contentious argument, a grave and politically motivated overreach.
Now you’re probably asking right now, “what in the #@%! does this have to do with any of us in Lincoln County?” I’m glad you asked.
I’ve lived in nine states during my lifetime, both red and blue, and believe it or not, the people in both areas share one major thing in common: neither area wants politicians in the capital meddling in their local affairs.
Even though the amendment failed to garner enough votes in a special session because it failed to gain any traction in the House, it is still bothersome Jefferson City is willing to strip power away from a locally -elected official.
Since the people of St. Louis City overwhelmingly elected her, state legislators are essentially saying the people have no idea what they’re doing - and only those sitting at the Ivory Tower of the Statehouse know what’s best for them.
Also, the amendment sets a dangerous precedent that can be applied to any county office in the state. If a county official does something the state doesn’t like, legislators will now have justification to usurp power from that local jurisdiction.
Imagine the Missouri State Highway Patrol taking all criminal investigations away from the Troy Police Department or the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department.
What if the Secretary of State doesn’t like something the Lincoln County Clerk did because they don’t share a political party?
What if the attorney general’s office attempted to take homicide prosecutions away from Mike Wood and the Lincoln County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office?
Or worse yet, what would happen if the governor appointed “emergency managers” to run Lincoln County, instead of the mayors, aldermen, alderwomen and county commissioners elected by the people?
We’ve already seen this happen in Michigan, with disastrous results. See the Flint Water Crisis for evidence of that tragic debacle.
Also, just prosecuting criminals isn’t the only way to solve violent crime in an area. That’s like installing a security system in your home or office after burglars stole all your belongings.
A good idea is to reach people at their youngest. Give them valid reasons not to turn to crime, and get them to see a legitimate future ahead of them.
Frederick Douglass said, “it is easier to raise strong children than to repair broken men.”
Once these people are in the justice system, it’s too late, whether they live in the City of St. Louis, Troy, Elsberry, Winfield, St. Charles, Hawk Point or Wentzville.
Every person in every area wants to live in a safe area where their children can play outside without fears of predators or stray bullets.
However, Onder’s amendment completely misses the mark – and sets up consequences, which could damage the entire state for years to come.
Local decisions in Missouri should be left to county entities, not state politicians. Lincoln County, as well as St. Louis City, knows more about how to handle the problems facing these areas than Jefferson City does.
Local affairs need to be kept local, simple as that.
Today, it’s St. Louis City. Tomorrow, it could be you.