March 23, 2018

Ferguson City Councilman Answered the Call to Serve

   The Starbucks in the suburb where a police officer gunned down Michael Brown during the summer of 2014 is one of the most visible and celebrated signs that Ferguson is making economic headway, attracting new businesses and sustaining others. The indicators of increased trust between community and police are not as easy to identify. But, City Councilman Wesley Bell believes there is progress.

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Center called ‘powerful first step’ as Ferguson still mends

...The centerpiece of the Ferguson Community Empowerment Center is the Urban League’s Save Our Sons job training and placement service. It also will house offices for the Salvation Army, Lutheran Hope Center and the University of Missouri Extension Service.

At Wednesday’s opening ceremony, Ferguson City Councilman Wesley Bell said building it at the former QuikTrip site was symbolic of how Ferguson is rising.

“This building has to mean something,” said Bell, a black man elected after Brown’s death. “It has to represent something.”

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How Ferguson heals: beyond police chief, need for deeper change

...Though Moss has experience as a beat cop and homicide investigator, he appears to have been brought in principally to repair relations between the police and the community.

“He has experience in pretty much every level of policing,” says Wesley Bell, a Ferguson city councilman. “Having had the chance to talk to him, he seems to get it. He’s very experienced in community policing – which is very important to myself, as well as the rest of the council and residents.”

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Ferguson consent decree will likely be brought back before City Council

...A member of the Ferguson City Council says his colleagues will likely reconsider a sweeping consent decree implementing major changes to the beleaguered city’s police department and government.

The move comes roughly a month after the council rejected aspects of the decree, which came about in the aftermath of Michael Brown's shooting death.

“I think those who are concerned with finances can now have assurances,” said Ferguson Councilman Wesley Bell in a telephone interview with St. Louis Public Radio. “And then those who understand that these reforms are much needed and are in the best interest of the city and all of our residents are also going to be happy with the outcome. I would say it’s a win-win.”

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City Council Races Offer Change in Ferguson After Months of Upheaval

...On April 7, Ferguson will cast its first votes for local leaders since Mr. Brown’s death in August, testing whether the anger and calls for reform rising from Ferguson’s streets will translate into higher voter turnout and a new direction at the ballot box. For years, local leaders in Ferguson ran unopposed in elections that drew 12 percent of registered voters, only single-digit percentages of black residents and almost exclusively white candidates.

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Profile Response: Wesley Bell, City Council member, Ferguson, MO

In 2014, Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teen, was shot by Officer Darren Wilson. Wilson was exonerated. Riots erupted. Ferguson became a national byword for police brutality or African-American overreaction, depending on where you land on the political spectrum.

“I was never interested in running for office, but the unrest and issues behind it related to my expertise. I had support and the qualities that could address the issues.” Wesley won a three-year seat from Ward 3 in April 2015, the first election cycle after the shooting.

We met outside City Hall and had a far-reaching conversation on a beautiful Saturday afternoon when Ferguson, Missouri was tranquil as any town in America:

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Ferguson made the right call on Judge McCullin

As Missouri Supreme Court Appointee Judge Roy L. Richter's term in Ferguson Municipal Court was expiring in June of 2015, the City of Ferguson faced a serious dilemma with respect to its much-maligned municipal court. Not only was it important to continue the progress underway, but considering recent unrest and calls for court reform, it was more important to get the right person as the city attempted to move forward.

I called recently retired Circuit Court Judge Donald L. McCullin and asked him to apply.

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Muni court reform law takes effect Friday; many warrants, fines are being canceled early

As a gesture of goodwill before a major new municipal reform law takes effect on Friday, thousands of warrants and failure-to-appear charges are being canceled across a number of courts in St. Louis County.

Court officials say it’s important to show they are following the spirit of the law, even if there are still many questions about implementing its changes.

Meanwhile, there’s disagreement on just how far the legislation called Senate Bill 5 goes toward protecting people’s rights in the most problematic municipalities.

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Ferguson faces financial challenges after split decision on taxes

If pre-election scenarios about two proposed tax increases were accurate, the city will need to eliminate more than 13 percent of its workforce, including the positions of seven police officers.

While voters approved a half-cent sales tax increase on Tuesday, they rejected a city plan to increase property taxes. Both measures were intended to offset a $2.9 million budget deficit.

 Even if both tax increases had passed, the city still planned to cut employees’ pay by 3 percent, reduce the number of workers by 5 percent and increase the amount that employees pay for health benefits by 15 percent.

Ferguson prepares to elect 3 new City Council members as focus shifts following Brown shooting

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — Small-community municipal elections don't typically merit much attention, but Tuesday's City Council race in Ferguson has attracted intense media coverage and efforts to boost voter participation with help from national organizations.

The election is the first since the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer last summer put the St. Louis suburb and its law enforcement under a microscope. A St. Louis County grand jury and the U.S. Department of Justice cleared Officer Darren Wilson, who is white, in the death of the black, unarmed 18-year-old. A separate DOJ report found racial bias and profiling in the Police Department and a revenue-generating municipal court system that disproportionally targets black residents.

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Ferguson's new council members take their oaths — and face tough challenges

Right after Ella James, Wesley Bell and Brian Fletcher were sworn in as new members of the Ferguson City Council, one of the legislative body’s veteran members provided some advice — both for his new colleagues and the people of Ferguson.

After the aftermath of Michael Brown’s death brought nationwide attention and scrutiny on the St. Louis County suburb, Councilman Dwayne James implored the new council members and the general public to be accountable.

He said it was the only way for the city to move forward after months of strife and scrutiny.

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Wesley J.C. Bell, assistant professor of criminal justice at STLCC, revealing student potential

“It’s said if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life,” says Wesley J.C. Bell, assistant professor of criminal justice at St. Louis Community College – Florissant Valley. “From the first moment I stepped into a classroom as an instructor I knew it was what I wanted to do,” explained Bell, who is also practicing attorney who’s had his own law office for 11 years.

As if that isn’t enough to fill his calendar, he also serves as a Municipal Court Judge in Velda City, Missouri and recently ran in the primary for St. Louis County Council. Representing District 1 as a Democrat, he made a solid impact, receiving 39 percent of the votes.

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