Columbia City Council needs to address gang, economic problems

Thursday, March 13, 2008 | 9:58 a.m. CDT; updated 10:45 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 4, 2009

“ ... And the truth will set you free.” — John 8:32

“How ya’ doin’?” has become an all too common greeting in our society and one never expects a real answer. “Fine, and you?” is the autoresponse ending this well-formatted exchange. Of course, I have to challenge the norm and answer the question with a question: “You want the truth or a lie?” I tend to make people very nervous.

Most people are taken aback, scared that they will be somehow harmed by “The Truth.” They usually respond that it is my choice, but I return with “You asked, you get the choice.” I see fear swell in the eyes of my target. “Tell me the truth only if it is good.” Why not the bad?

What is it about the truth that seems to scare the living daylights out of us? People become scared, even defensive, when I ask if they want the truth. Maybe we have seen too many horror films and believe that something devastating will occupy every synapse nerve left operational after a day at work. You have your own problems, and now you will be saddled with a long, sad story that should be placed in the “Too Much Information” file.

In many ways the city of Columbia is also afraid of the truth. KMIZ/17’s Jacqueline Lapine reported that “Columbia police are on high alert after four consecutive days of gang activity.” The city later revised its position, saying that these were not really gangs, but just a bunch of wannabes, according to the report. The denial of the truth is imprisoning.

According to the Columbia Police Department, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be an armadillo in a duck costume trying to imitate a duck. The difference is that the armadillo does not sell drugs, engage in violent turf wars and seek out illegal activities that cause millions of dollars in harm and loss of life. Armadillos will eat your tulip bulbs. Devastating, but not life threatening.

I have been following the First Ward candidates for City Council and the questions being asked by the citizens of Columbia as reported in the newspapers — concerns about compensation for council members, street neglect and repair, and assistance to low-income residents for their heating bills. But I have read little about the rise in violence and gang activity in Columbia. I have heard little about the creation of economic ventures to bring in more manufacturing and service businesses that pay living wages. The economy is hitting Columbia hard. If you don’t believe me, read the economic indicators reported by the Columbia Business Times: Crime goes up as the economy tanks. And, believe me, the economy is tanking; look at the housing market and job loss with the bottom still far below.

Here’s the plan: Admit there is a gang problem, fix the local economy and the crime rate goes down. Gang recruiters will have a harder time finding new “wannabes.”

If the truth will set you free, it will also allow you to deal with the illness that is causing the growth of this cancer in Columbia. The increased violence, the increase in drug activity, the loss of living-wage jobs — these are all things the council needs to address and are all economy-based. These are issues the candidates need to be discussing, not as “politicians” but as activists for the citizens ­— all of the citizens — of Columbia.

On behalf of the citizens of the First Ward and of Columbia, I want to know from each candidate and each city official how they intend to deal with the failing local economy and the accompanying increase in gang and violent activity in Columbia. Be specific, with budgets and time frames. Please tell us before the election on April 8.

Admitting the truth begins the path of fixing the problems. Admitting the truth, no matter how bad, is a freeing experience.

David Rosman is a business and political communications consultant, professional speaker and college instructor in Communications, Ethics, Business and Politics. He welcomes your comments at

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