News Channel 4 photos burnt-out van of Rev. Elston K. McCowan. Photo by Don Fitz, March 31, 2009
The election for mayor of
The online Saint Louis Beacon reported that "McCowan was the most aggressive of the three, repeatedly challenging the mayor’s performance and accusing the mayor of doing more harm than good." The story detailed how McCowan, a black minister who preaches a fiery environmental sermon, hammered away at Slay for snubbing a stimulus package meeting with President Obama so he could attend a Mardi Gras parade. McCowan, who is also Public Service Director for SEIU Local 2000, denounced the mayor’s role in attacking public schools and the teacher’s union as well as heightening racial tensions by unjustly firing the City’s first black fire chief, Sherman George.
Mayor Slay had insulted the black community by refusing to participate in the primary debates at the historically black
Later that night, McCowan, his wife Joyce, and their children, Sikudhani (13), Janey (11) and Elston Jr. (10), were awaken as their van burst into flames 30 feet from their home. Next door neighbor Christopher Jackson, whose yard also sports a Green Party "McCowan 4 Mayor" sign, reported that he heard a loud "Boom!" and saw flamers pouring from the van and a white Malibu "flying" around the corner as fire trucks arrived.
Rev. Elston K. McCowan interviews with neighbor Christopher Jackson, children Sikudhani, Janey & Elston Jr and Green supporters Sauda Imiri, Joe Civettini & Tim Kaminski. Photo by Don Fitz, March 31, 2009
When news of the attack went out, Mayor Slay’s campaign manager Jeff Rainford snapped that any suggestion that the mayor might have anything to do with it was "asinine" and "stupid" and that it was a waste of their time to have to respond. Absent from his diatribe was any concern, compassion or pledge to vigorously investigate who might be behind the attack.
It’s not at all certain that the mayor’s team is above such tactics. The day after Maida Coleman announced that she would run against Slay as an "independent" (Coleman was a State Senator and on the Democratic Party’s State Committee), a family member had the windshield broken out of his car. A few weeks later a teacher who was passing out Coleman literature was attacked by five unidentified men.
The series of incidents are the basis for the request for an investigation that McCowan is sending to the
Concern that the fire bombing might be more than a random act is heightened by the vigorous nature of McCowan’s campaign. As a labor organizer, he has conducted an activist campaign stepping on quite a few toes.
A sore toe on Slay’s political footing is childhood lead poisoning. It has a perverse intertwining with the mayor’s efforts to privatize education by replacing public schools with charter schools. Allowing lead to remain in older public schools provides an argument for shutting them down.
When the elected school board would not do his bidding, Slay manipulated behind-the-scenes to remove its power by replacing it with an appointed Special Administrative Board (SAB). In October, 2008, Slay’s SAB representatives heard from parents questioning the movement of the
Green Party candidate McCowan organized a December 2 picket at Roe to draw attention to the crisis. His press statement pointed out that at the same time the unelected SAB was claiming that no money was available to remove lead, Francis Slay was caught spending $2 million to "beautify" the
Two days after the picket, the SAB suddenly announced that they were looking in earnest for the $4.5 million needed to remove lead from 27 schools. On March 17, 2009 they announced they had found funds for lead removal, a discovery that would not have been made without Green Party pressure.
The Green Party has also ruffled the feathers of Ameren UE, which holds a monopoly on
CWIP refers to "construction work in progress." In 1976, by a nearly 2 to 1 margin,
"If Ameren gets its way on this,
St. Louis Greens believe that government should encourage new businesses to produce solar and wind power. Renewable energy companies can be started with a relatively small amount of capital. In contrast, power plants require billions. McCowan repeatedly explains that the two are incompatible: "Every dollar you throw at nuclear power is a dollar you take away from renewable energy."
Neither the current mayor nor the "independent" Democrat see any need to make connections between a bloated military budget and decay in US cities. But the Green Party has been quick to link the destruction of
On December 28, 2008 McCowan joined the Instead of War Coalition for a rally outside Missouri Senator Christopher ("Kit") Bond’s office. He spoke of
Along with other Green Party and Instead of War activists, McCowan worked to organize a January 10, 2009 march. The event attracted hundreds, including many Palestinians worried about their relatives and friends in
In the 2005
Slay works closely with real estate developers to grab homes and businesses from low income owners who are largely black. The Green Party has hosted numerous events with a focus on "No eminent domain for private gain!" While the other candidates fret that "The mayor cannot stop evictions," McCowan pledges "a moratorium on evictions, foreclosures and utility shut-offs." He vows to use the authority of the mayor’s office to instruct the sheriff to refrain from putting anyone out of their home.
The McCowan van was burned the same day that a third of
The McCowan-for-mayor campaign is not exactly popular with corporate shills like Civic Progress. Did one of them take time off from union busting to burn the McCowan van? Or was it a Slay crony? Or was it just someone wandering the neighborhood looking for a church van to burn?
At this point, we can’t be certain who torched it. But we do know that
For the full platform of the Green Party of St. Louis or to learn more about the campaign, go to mccowan4mayor.com.
Don Fitz is Editor of Synthesis/Regeneration: A Magazine of Green Social Thought and is a senior advisor to the McCowan Campaign.