Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Council Members Discuss Situation in Ferguson, Mo. ; Schmidt: 'Hard to Make Change When You're Not Involved in the Process'

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Council Members Discuss Situation in Ferguson, Mo. ; Schmidt: 'Hard to Make Change When You're Not Involved in the Process'

Article excerpt

Voter turnout was a mere 12 percent in the last election in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo., Topeka City Councilman Nathan Schmidt said Tuesday.

"It's hard to make change when you're not involved in the process," Schmidt told the council at its evening meeting.

Schmidt, Mayor Larry Wolgast and council members T.J. Brown, Chad Manspeaker and Elaine Schwartz all shared thoughts near the end of Tuesday's meeting about the situation in Ferguson, which has seen clashes between officers in riot gear and furious crowds protesting an officer's fatal shooting of an unarmed black teen.

Wolgast suggested Topeka has sufficient leadership and professionalism in place, both at the police department and in local organizations, that it would be ready if it ever encountered a Ferguson-type situation.

Brown agreed. He added that he considered this a good time to encourage people who aren't involved with neighborhood groups to get involved.

Manspeaker suggested that while Topeka doesn't share Ferguson's problems regarding law enforcement, both face systemic issues -- such as poverty, food deserts and high unemployment among African- American males -- that could "boil to a point where it's reasonable to be upset."

Manspeaker said Topeka needs to work as a community to give people hope and help them achieve success.

Schwartz said that along those lines, she had met Tuesday with Scott Smathers, vice president of economic development for the economic development organization Go Topeka. She encouraged fellow council members to "meet with Go Topeka about what's going on."

Schmidt then encouraged people to get involved in the political process if they have concerns.

The comments came near the end of a meeting in which the council also voted 7-1 to approve separate resolutions authorizing the issuance of $5.51 million in general obligation bonds and $33.39 million in temporary notes to finance projects previously approved by the council.

Schwartz dissented both times while Councilman Richard Harmon was absent.

Council members learned bids offered during auctions held earlier Tuesday provided the city lower-than-expected borrowing rates of 1. …

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