John Eligon, New York Times, April 7, 2015
In the first municipal election here since a black teenager was shot to death by a white police officer last year, voters elected two black candidates to the City Council on Tuesday, increasing the number of African-Americans on the governing body to three.
But in a blow to the protesters who had pushed for sweeping changes to the city’s law enforcement and judicial policies after the shooting last August, voters rejected several candidates who had the direct backing of protest activists.
One of the black candidates elected on Tuesday, Ella M. Jones, a critic of the city government, will be the first black woman on the Council. The second victorious African-American candidate, Wesley Bell, had the backing of several current council members. The third winner, Brian P. Fletcher, is a former Ferguson mayor who started an “I Love Ferguson” campaign after the unrest sparked by the shooting.
Tuesday’s election was a test of whether the activism and advocacy for change sparked by the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown last August would translate into action at the ballot box. Turnout was just under 30 percent, still far shy of presidential races but nearly three times the turnout for the last Council election, two years ago.
The race attracted eight candidates, four white and four black. It pitted some candidates who were viewed as representing the Ferguson establishment against newcomers with little or no political experience, but who were riding the wave of national discontent over law enforcement tactics sparked by Mr. Brown’s killing.
The next Council will have to decide critical matters of the city’s future. It would be responsible for hiring three of the most important positions in the city: a new city manager, police chief and municipal judge–three officials who resigned in the wake of the damning Justice Department report that documented widespread instances of abusive and discriminatory policing in Ferguson.
In addition to changing law enforcement policies, the Council, in order to avoid a lawsuit against the city, will have to negotiate a settlement with the Justice Department over the abuses federal prosecutors said they found during a monthslong investigation. Many of the changes recommended by federal authorities could be very costly.