Friday, December 19, 2014
Tim Jones: People need, deserve answers from Nixon on Ferguson
As we continue to witness the heartbreaking and concerning images from Ferguson that have dominated national news in recent months, we have been reminded that our state has a significant leadership void that has made a difficult situation even worse. In a perfect world, our governor would have been active and engaged, and in communication with other public officials on all levels, in order to contain the destruction we saw in Ferguson. Instead he resorted to his typical tactics where he isolated himself and kept his decision making secret from those who were ready and willing to help.
One of the more disturbing facts that emerged from the riots was that the National Guard was sent to Ferguson to keep the peace, but then not authorized to take action on the first night when the majority of the damage was done. In fact, the mayor of Ferguson spent much of the evening trying to communicate with the governor to ask him to deploy the National Guard only to have his requests fall on deaf ears. I was personally in contact with the mayor and doing all I could to help him reach the chief executive, but our efforts were unsuccessful. It was this failure by our governor to work with local leaders in Ferguson that again raised serious questions about his ability to handle such a difficult situation.
The scrutiny of the governor’s actions was intensified when he then declared that a special session would be necessary to appropriate the funds necessary to pay the Guard and Highway Patrol. There can be no doubt that the legislature was ready and willing to help in this matter, but the governor was again completely non-communicative when it came to any details. After three days of no communication and a lack of requested information from the governor’s office, the House and Senate worked together to explain to the chief executive his own spending authority and the obvious fact that a taxpayer-funded special session was unnecessary. It was Senator Kurt Schaefer who was able to provide the kind of substantive budget information that the governor should have had before ever announcing his intent to call a special session. The fact that the governor did not know how to read his own budget speaks volumes about the leadership void that currently exists in the highest office in our state.
Despite the fact we will now not meet to discuss unnecessary appropriations, it is obvious that the people of this state need and deserve answers regarding the many poor decisions made by the governor’s office during the unrest in Ferguson, from August through the present time. As the news of a potential special session broke, I was contacted by numerous citizens, public officials and members of the law enforcement community who are eager to testify before the legislature about the governor’s numerous missteps. We owe it to the people of Ferguson and to all Missourians to conduct a thorough investigation into the governor’s actions that made a difficult situation into a disaster.
My colleagues and I have activated the Joint Committee on Government Accountability to thoroughly examine the governor’s decisions throughout the Ferguson situation, and to take testimony from the many concerned citizens who wish to make their voices heard on this important issue. The committee will be granted subpoena power as needed and as already conducted its first organizational and planning meeting. We expect the committee to begin holding substantive hearings in the imminent future.