PRINCE CARTER GETS CANNED: At a recent forum at the Clifford Wilson Sr. Community Center, noted AM-radio gadfly Richard "Onion" Horton made a lengthy plea to Prince Carter. As is often true with Horton, he injected himself into his spiel, talking about how advertisers hung him out to dry, how former listeners abandoned him when his show was dropped by a local station. His past, Carter's future they were all part of the same pattern.
The message was clear enough: Horton was saying that Carter, 35, and his family would suffer if he continued his political activities. Carter's group, Citizens Against Police Brutality, has made a very public statement by protesting in front of Mayor Clarence Harmon's home every Sunday evening. Horton was also implicitly saying that his own community would forget about him once the damage he foretold had come to pass.
Well, now's the time to find out. Carter has been fired from his job as an auditor in the treasurer's office.
Carter's high-profile protest against police shootings can be traced to the killing of his nephew Garland Carter, who was shot in a controversial 1996 case. The telling chant during those protests was "Shot in the back, guns in the trunk" Garland Carter was shot in the back, and possible "throw-down" guns were found in the trunk of the policeman's patrol car. Citizens Against Police Brutality increased its activities in recent months when several police shootings made the talk shows and page one. Two weekends back, the group joined the Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression, an umbrella group that includes some two dozen participants, big and small, ranging from the Nation of Islam to the Freedom Road Socialist Organization.
"I had a nephew that was shot," Carter says. "After that I made a commitment to aid and assist people going through that on the same level. I wanted to share what I learned. Our group is one of the only groups in the coalition not to have dues, initiation costs. It's a free organization, strictly voluntary. Anyone's free to join. Most are family or friends of people killed by the police."
Carter is mixed in his assessment in some of the top officials whom the group is targeting. For example, he is not critical of Police Chief Ron Henderson, but he has made it clear by his demonstrations at Harmon's Compton Heights home that he feels the mayor should do more. For instance, Carter wants a meeting with the mayor. Meanwhile, the heat will not fade. Carter is planning to protest at Harmon's home on Sundays and Mondays.
Carter blames Harmon, along with higher-ups in the treasurer's office, for his firing. A spokesman for the treasurer's office "unequivocally" denied that Carter was let go because of his political activities. John Boul, a spokesman for the mayor, says Harmon was unaware of Carter's firing. Carter says the most of his initial conflict was with supervisor Roy White, who declined to comment on the firing.
Carter says he was suspended for three weeks after he and White exchanged words. The suspension was later reduced to one week. "He provoked me," claims Carter. "I used some foul language responding to him." He feels that his problem with White was exacerbated by the protests at Harmon's residence.
"They raised false accusations for refusal to work," Carter says. "It's a bunch of hogwash. They needed something on paper, and that's what they put. I was well aware that what I do my free time, if you step hard on the wrong toes, you can get victimized." Carter is confident that after a hearing he'll get his job back. "If an individual goes in on time and does their job, there should be no problem," Carter says. "It's part of my mission to let people know that."
In the time he's been off work, Carter says, he's been odd-jobbing, "cutting lawns. Anything to make an honest dollar and put food on the table." He's also been present at the Ellen Reasonover hearing and has been touching base with the organizers of protests over the Interstate 70 bridgework on the North Side.
"He's been involved and been on the frontlines of how police officers deal with our community," says Zaki Baruti, a main organizer of the coalition. "It's typical of him to be outspoken."
Carter goes one better, saying with no small touch of drama, "I was well aware of the consequences prior to getting involved. I'm willing to sacrifice a job for what I know is right. I'm willing to sacrifice my life."
No doubt Horton would tell him to choose such words carefully. (TC)
FINALLY, EVERYONE'S SINGING ON CUE: When the 21 members of the East-West Gateway Coordinating Council's board of directors saw the light, it was not at the end of a tunnel, it was at grade and it was an oncoming train.
After weeks nay, months of consternation and public mud-wrestling, a route was approved unanimously by the council's board for the next stage of MetroLink, the shiny new train that so many seem to love but so few want to make room for.
After ringmeister Les Sterman made his spiel in front of a standing-room-only crowd in a ballroom at the downtown Marriott, various public officials weighed in with their rationales on the route compromise. The crowd of several hundred, it bears mentioning, did not look at all like what you would find on a Bi-State bus: too many white people, too many suits. But those riding the wayward buses or even the shiny new trains had other things to do last Wednesday morning, other places to be work, for instance. One public official, not a board member, half-joked after the pow-wow, "What am I doing here? I've got four cars."
On the upside, County Executive Buzz Westfall has seldom sounded better, coming off like a cross between a suburban Solomon spouting realpolitik and a rail-splitting Abe Lincoln varying the "can't please all of the people all of the time" maxim to "when you try to please everybody you please nobody." This is particularly true when you have a county with more municipalities than common sense.
Then there was Clarence. Mayor Harmon must have had a burning-bush experience immediately before the meeting. Gone was his request for a 30-day delay of the decision. His earlier opposition to at-grade tracks, announced out of the blue at a public meeting in April, also evaporated like so much bus exhaust. Maybe even quicker than that.
As he spoke before the voice vote, Hizzoner began his remarks by saying that his position on the MetroLink route had become "historic." Apparently another word for his earlier positions was "irrelevant." After the meeting, Harmon was telling the media that he was entitled to change his mind on the basis of new information. And one compromise that may have sweetened the castor oil for the mayor and West End residents was the promise of below-grade underpasses at Skinker and Big Bend boulevards. But most of the route remains at street level. And there will be no tunnels in Clayton, or a route through the middle of downtown Clay-town instead, the trains will run along the Forest Park Parkway.
Harmon's foxhole conversion disappointed at least one City Hall courtesan, who, on leaving, admitted there was hope among the snide that Harmon would argue against the compromise until the end, thereby providing some entertainment by being "the skunk at the party."
For the record, the 21-member board includes the mayors of St. Louis and East St. Louis and the county executives/commissioners of St. Louis County, the Illinois counties of Madison and Monroe, and the Missouri counties of St. Charles, St. Clair, Franklin and Jefferson. The group includes four "regional citizens," too. Also on board are Francis Slay, St. Louis' aldermanic president, and the presidents of the St. Louis County Municipal League and the South Illinois Council of Mayors. So this is not exactly a Trilateral Commission, an impenetrable star chamber just elected folks and heads of community groups, trying to come to some type of conclusion. And they did. And it'll do.
Of course, as long as there is a Yellow Pages with 75 pages of listings for attorneys, there will be lawsuits. They'll fail. This train's coming down the track. (DJW)
Contributors: D.J. Wilson, Thomas Crone
Is anybody out there in the abyss? Anybody with irritations, trenchant observations or just plain catty chatter, please e-mail evidence of life to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 615-6711. Thank you.