Wed, Feb

Contemplating a wise man's final thoughts

COLUMBIA, Mo 9/10/13 (Letters) -- Our story about Lee Henson's advice that Columbia look to economic integration as a way to combat crime brought responses from community leaders across many walks of life. 

All generally agreed with Henson, who earlier this year sent the Columbia Heart Beat a treasure trove of articles on the topic.  Henson, who directed the University of Missouri Chancellor's Initiative on Accessibility and ADA education, passed away late last month.  A former civil rights attorney, he believed economic segregation was the biggest threat to public safety, in Columbia and elsewhere.
Here's what we heard about Lee Henson's last suggestion.
I agree with you on our late Lee Henson's views, which are poignant and invaluable for a contemporary America facing a rapidly-transforming demographic imperative, and an alarmingly widening wealth disparity (in CoMO and elsewhere).

Like Lee so eloquently posited, as long as there is economic segregation, whether it be in white, yellow, red, brown, blue, green, rainbow or black communities, the relentless search for less crime will find only a mirage.

While it is easy for some to cry out "race card", crime follows economic segregation, with its under-privilege, social deprivation, lack of human dignity, and lack of the justice that accompanies satisfaction of basic human needs.

Mayor Bob McDavid is one of my most respected physician colleagues. I hope our CoMo Crime task force -- assembled through his noble intentions -- will meaningfully address the truism that crime follows economic segregation, and steer away from the distraction of race or similar "cards" some opportunists like to ballyhoo about.

Meanwhile, I am a non-English speaker transplanted to the USA from Asia, well later in life. As a member of the Columbia Apartment Association, I have come to much respect your wonderful Columbia Heart Beat.

Damascene Kurukulasuriya, MD, FACP, CMD
Dr. Kurukulasuriya is president of the Missouri Association of Long-Term Care Physicians

I agree with you, John Roman, Richard Florida, and Lee Henson on these issues, and I wanted to express my appreciation for this story.
Chip Cooper turned me on to Florida a couple of years ago. What you and the others are describing is integral to the goals and vision of the Community Action network across the country.
At a recent meeting of the City Council, County Commission, and School board, the issue of police coverage/expansion came up and I articulated several of these points, though probably not as well.

Basically, I said that while more police may appear to be a short term solution to crime, the bigger more permanent solutions come from different kinds of investments in our community, and are more related to human capital than economic capital.
Ironically, I also think these investments would be less expensive.
No single entity can do it alone, obviously, and often red tape, bureaucracy, and politics get in our way.

Darin Preis
Executive Director
Central Missouri Community Action

Great job! Very good writing.  I had some great conversations with Lee. He was very informative and nice to me.

When there are no pockets of ghettos in CoMo, we have made progress. I am pretty sure I said that to the Diversity Breakfast crowd in 2010.

Blessings to your life, your movement and your legacy.

Tyree Paladon Byndom

Residential economic integration also materially reduces disparities in academic achievement, so it ought to be a core priority of city planning and school location.

Phil Peters
University of Missouri School of Law

Thanks a million for the Lee Henson article Mike. I wish I had been able to meet him. Martin Luther King, Jr. was saying the same thing before he was assassinated.
Columbia's real estate interests capitalize on the exploitation of all citizens based on manipulation of space, economics, race, and the judicial system. If any committee fails to consider this, they won't be able to begin to address violence.

William E. Robertson
Professor Emeritus
University of Missouri

I found your comments about integration of place -- with different economic levels intermingled -- interesting.
It made me think about how much housing is different in a small town like the one I grew up in (Edina) or a bit bigger one like Moberly.
In Moberly, you find some pockets of isolated poverty. But often you will find homes on one street that vary greatly in value, and the residents varying greatly in income.  There might be a stately older house with a comfortable professional next to a smaller house with a low-income family and the next house might be subdivided into apartments with mixed socio-economic singles or students.
Moberly's black population is probably 8-10% of the total, but scattered in all four wards of town (although probably less represented in some of the newer fringe subdivisions).

I would hope that the Mayor's task force will do some work with longtime educators in Columbia, who often have a good grasp of the issues involved through their many years dealing with students and families.
Finally, an observation from an avowed feminist: the crime task force in Columbia is very heavily weighted male.

Nancy Copenhaver