Meacham Park Residents Not Satisfied with Kirkwood Race Reconciliation

A "mediation agreement" that was supposed to ease racial strife in Kirkwood was greeted with a cool reception yesterday from residents in the predominately African-American neighborhood of Meacham Park.

The agreement, facilitated by the Department of Justice and signed by Kirkwood leaders last week, comes nearly two years after Charles "Cookie" Thornton, a black resident of Meacham Park, went on a deadly rampage in Kirkwood's City Hall. Thornton killed five people (a sixth victim -- Kirkwood's Mayor Mike Swoboda -- died from his gunshot wounds months later) over what he saw as racial slights committed against him and his business.

The "mediation" lists three key strategies that Kirkwood leaders vow to practice in order to heal the lingering wounds from Thornton's rampage -- and to prevent any similar attacks in the future. Those strategies: 

  1. Improve transparency, efficiency and public confidence in the citizen complaint/request process.
  2. Create, expand and/or focus on specific Kirkwood Police programs and joint programs administered by the Kirkwood Police and specified community members.
  3. Address the perceptions and misconceptions of the TIF process and emininent domain issues, that have been used to blight areas of Meacham Park for commercial development.
Yesterday, Harriet Patton, president of the Meacham Park Neighborhood Improvement Association told the Post-Dispatch that she and others have not had time to review the mediation agreement (available on Kirkwood's website) and that City Hall was not an ideal place to discuss the issue.
"The City Council chambers are not welcoming to many African-American citizens of Kirkwood," Patton told the daily. "Sad, but true. We need another venue for the first public hearing or most Meacham Park residents will not attend."

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