On Saturday, November 29, we received our first correspondence from Governor Jay Nixon, when he requested a Special Session of the General Assembly. His purpose for this action is to provide “critical funding” for the ongoing operation of the Missouri National Guard and the Missouri State Highway Patrol in Ferguson and throughout the St. Louis region.
Governor Nixon declared a state of emergency on November 17, 2014, and activated the Missouri National Guard. The Guard’s job was to support local law enforcement in the Ferguson-St. Louis region in advance of the announced decision by the Grand Jury. The National Guard provided security to police stations, firehouses, utility substations, hospitals, shopping malls, and stadiums, in addition to providing patrols in the Ferguson area. Based on current estimates, the cost for these services has already exceeded $4 million for the National Guard and the $3.4 million authorization for other state agencies and the Highway Patrol. The fiscal 2015 state budget, which was approved by the General Assembly, included $4 million for National Guard emergency response costs and $3.4 million for the State Emergency Management Agency, including the Highway Patrol. These figures have already been exceeded and more money is needed.
The Governor’s stated reason for calling a Special Session is because he has neither the resources nor the authority to provide payroll for the National Guard or the Highway Patrol past December 15 for the work they have done in Ferguson. Financial obligations of these entities will exceed the appropriated state funding for emergencies.
Personally, I have no problem in supporting or paying the Missouri National Guard or the Missouri State Highway Patrol for their involvement and for their providing security to the residents of Ferguson. However, the Governor needs to answer some difficult questions (and we need to press him for those answers, if need be) regarding his deployment of the Guards and the use of state resources, as well as his actions taken in response to the rioting. Some of my own questions are as follows: Why was the Grand Jury’s decision released at 9 p.m. Monday night? Why couldn’t it have been released at 9 in the morning? Where were the National Guard members when twenty five-plus businesses were burned to the ground? Why was there no curfew in Ferguson? Was there a command center set up for the purpose of communicating with all law enforcement officers? Where was the governor Monday night when Ferguson Mayor James Knowles was desperately trying to reach him? And why did no one on the Governor’s staff even bother to answer the phone? These questions are not just mine. Numerous others are asking the same things and we are all wanting answers, yet the governor has not directly addressed any of these inquiries. While there may very well be good answers given, we just need to hear them. Perhaps this week will provide us that opportunity, since the governor has made a formal call for a Special Session and said he will provide more detailed information.
Unfortunately, substantial damage was done because of the disorderly conduct allowed to take place in Ferguson—damage that was very costly and will take years to overcome. Governor Nixon has come under intense scrutiny for his lack of a timely response and the manner in which the Guards were used. Since then he has outlined several state and federal programs to provide assistance to those owners of damaged or destroyed businesses in the Ferguson area, including financial assistance, insurance guidance, and mental health resources. Approximately $625,000 in funding remains in this Small Business Relief Program. In addition, other low-interest disaster loans are being made available to business owners and non-profit organizations affected by the rioting, looting, and vandalism that took place. Financial obligations of these affected businesses will most certainly exceed the appropriated state funding for emergencies.
Governor Nixon said the state also has additional emergency operations, such as debris removal it will need to fund. Unlike in other emergency situations, a Special Session is necessary for Ferguson-related operations in which the Governor must ask the Legislature to appropriate more funds. Additional expenses will be incurred with the Special Session.
The Ferguson incident is a very sad and tragic situation. We have a responsibility to all our state’s citizens to protect both life and property. It seems so senseless and appalling that innocent people should have to fear retribution and face the kind of property destruction that happened because of the few who chose to act in an unlawful and disrespectful manner (many who, reportedly, were not even from our state). As Missourians, we all need to work together and find solutions to tough problems before they become so heated they explode—as they did in Ferguson.