Clayton Township Democrats kick off new year discussing progressive movement, community policing

UNIVERSITY CITY — The political season has begun and the Clayton Township Democrats kicked off the new year by focusing on the progressive movement in 2018 and beyond at their monthly meeting Thursday night.

About 30 local residents met at the University City Public Library to hear from Adam Kustra, the leader of Mobilize Missouri, who also managed Sen. Bernie Sanders’ primary campaign in Missouri in 2016. Kustra spoke about some of the most pressing issues Democrats face this year.

“Why I got involved was not about a party or a candidate, specifically, but more about issues that are important to me,” Kustra said. “I think most people in this room probably find them important as well. Better access to healthcare, better access to education, better access to services in the modern society that we feel we should have. We look at Mobilize Missouri as an organization that can encourage political involvement and political engagement so that we can make educated decisions and move us in the right direction.”

Mobilize Missouri is a member-driven, grassroots political and activist organization born out of the growing progressive movement in Missouri that is committed to the dismantlement of socioeconomic and racial injustice through the democratic means of electoral politics, policy and activism.

Mobilize Missouri aims to further progressive goals by organizing inside and outside governmental systems to influence policy and empowering volunteers, according to its website.

In addition to discussing the progressive movement, those in attendance heard from Ferguson City Councilmember Wesley Bell and his friend and North County Cooperative Police Captain Clay Farmer, who spoke on community policing.

Bell is an attorney, professor at Florissant Valley Community College and a former municipal court judge in Velda City who beat Lee Smith in a contest for Ferguson’s Ward 3 seat, where 18-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot by Officer Darren Wilson, in April 2015.

“When you get down to it and you really think about how we can address one of the significant issues of how we police and build that relationship between law enforcement and particularly poor, African-American communities, community policing is the way to go,” Bell said. “It starts with those relationships between law enforcement officers and members of the community. At it’s essence community policing is about communication going two ways.”

Those in attendance also heard from Bill Ray, a real estate agent from U. City, who recently became the third contestant in the race for St. Louis County executive.

“I recognize that is not going to be any easy mountain to climb, but we’re willing to do the work,” Ray said. “I think what you’ll find is that I’m the only progressive in the race. And I think what you’ll find even furthermore, is I’m quite possibly the only Democrat in the race.”

Mark Osmack, an Army veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan and is running for Missouri’s 2nd District against Republican Ann Wagner, also spoke to prospective voters at the meeting, laying out his path to a win.

“Believe it or not this used to be a truly blue state and this wasn’t 100 years ago, this was in this generation, 10 or 12 years ago,” Osmack said. “Democrats lose, not because of lack of money. I don’t have it and it’s the worst kept secret in the district. We win this progressively by being who we are. I am pro union, I am anti right to work, I am for addressing courageously gun violence issues. Those messages will reverberate.”

The Clayton Township Democrats will hold their next meeting on Feb. 27 at the University City Public Library, followed by another on March 29 and a candidate forum in April.

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