Resounding election wins are often seen as a mandate for everything the candidate stood for while campaigning.
Understandable, but that’s an ego-driven view still treading on campaign spirit. Assuming a statewide role requires new alignment.
Eric Greitens will be governor for the state of Missouri. Governing effectively means not ignoring the needs of residents living in the two major cities, along with more rural and suburban communities.
That, governor-elect, is your daunting challenge.
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There is a We’re All In This Together truth here. Certainly not in every instance, but too often, legislation is passed with rural voters in mind that can negatively affect cities.
Rural-versus-city frameworks too often pit policies and laws designed to please nonurban people over the realities that others live. That is a recipe for bad governance for everyone concerned. Because one side often merely hears pleasing platitudes, and the other suffers harmful impacts.
Greitens will need to reconcile how he speaks so strongly for the dignity of police, and yet has lined himself up to dismiss what police and prosecutors from Kansas City and St. Louis have pressed for from the legislature. Greitens supported eliminating requiring training and permits for a concealed firearm, a position that both the Missouri Police Chiefs Association and Missouri Fraternal Order of Police opposed.
Kansas City needs a governor cognizant that criminals can benefit from laws intended to please the law-abiding. We need a governor willing to look more closely at how firearms shift into criminal hands, and not inadvertently aid in the exchange.
In recent years, the leadership of Kansas City — political, police professionals, clergy and the community — have received scant attention from the Missouri legislature for such concerns. In fact, they’ve been summarily dismissed. Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto was their only defensive. Now, with a Republican governor, that help has evaporated.
Fighting crime shouldn’t be partisan.
Too many people in Kansas City know the horrors of gun violence as victims, as grieving families of the murdered, as those living in neighborhoods terrorized by crime. Greitens leans toward tougher sentencing, a punishment-foremost model that seems to ignore approaches that might prevent crime in the first place.
Criminologists are clear. A sole tough-on-crime focus doesn’t tend to create policies effective in reducing crime. This doesn’t mean that criminals shouldn’t be punished. But it’s prudent to address how people chose that route as well.
Greitens would be welcomed in Kansas City to learn more about the underpinnings of the Kansas City No Violence Alliance. NoVa uses a far more holistic and targeted look at violent crime, including swift punishment. Significant police and prosecutorial resources have been committed to it, and it’s due for an assessment.
Greitens’ predecessor, Nixon, was criticized for his reactions to the unrest in Ferguson following the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer.
Kansas City needs to hear how well Greitens understands Ferguson beyond the basics of the initial shooting and the community backlash. How much time has he spent with the Justice Department report that dove deeply into the dysfunctional city, police and court systems of Ferguson at that time, problems that drove the unrest? The reasons why Brown’s death resonated nationally are contained in that document.
Greitens will have a decisive role in Kansas City’s police department. Four police board commissioners are appointed by the governor, with the mayor serving as the fifth. It’s a highly unusual arrangement, one that has long been mulled for pros and cons. It’s the system we have, by state statute.
Election days come and go. What doesn’t cease are factors entwined with crime: mental health and the often related addictions, mindsets groomed toward revenge killings, domestic violence and its relationship to guns, along with the horrific ways that those living in poverty suffer from criminality at rates not experienced elsewhere.
It’s the first days after the election, the period to offer the necessary and earned statements. You won, Mr. Greitens, best wishes for success.
But it’s OK, even preferred, to dig deeper and shift if necessary when it comes time to govern.