Tuesday, March 8, 2011

EYE-CANDID: Mitch Richards for 1st Ward Columbia City Council

An Internet trail from a growing dynamic of savvy, young Libertarians
COLUMBIA, 3/8/11  (Beat Byte) --  Given their passionate opposition to the government power grabs that threaten to rob this community of its soul, I'm starting to think Columbia's young, vocal Libertarians might be our political -- and dare I say, moral -- salvation.  
First Ward Columbia City Council candidate Mitch Richards (left) is part of that group, which includes both Libertarian Party members (which Richards says he is not) and people with Libertarian ideas and ideals.
How sad is it to see a community that claims to be so devoted to basic human liberties give itself over to red light cameras, downtown cameras, eminent domain games, blight declarations, palatial government buildings, and unpaid citizen commissions deprived of a real voice in civic affairs by a well-paid management that muzzles nearly every contrarian utterance.
(The most recent example occurred when the Columbia city manager single-handedly overturned a Citizen Police Review Board decision).
All this while the bad guys -- the thugs, the gang-bangers, the peddlers, the pushers, and the grifters -- descend on this community in droves, evading these liberty-depriving tools, which seem aimed not at the law breaking but the law abiding -- persons able to pay camera fines, enrich city coffers, and support politicians uttering hollow demands for increased public safety in exchange for donations and re-election. 
Onto this perilous playing field marches Richards, running for a Council position in a Ward that desperately needs a real voice at City Hall:  the First Ward, where segregation lingers, neglect is the name of the game, and stagnation has supplanted progress for generations. 
Richards hails from the Keep Columbia Free crowd, a mostly younger group of techno-media-savvy freedom fighters "dedicated to defending the Civil Liberties and Natural Rights of the citizens of Columbia at the local, state, and federal level," according to their mission statement.
These folks are, in the words of Malcolm Gladwell, mavens and connectors who've done a powerful job of getting their message across in a remarkably short time.  Witness the story of Liz De Foe-Thomas, subject of a Heart Beat series last year, who exemplifies this new dynamic. 
Richards spoke against Columbia's big surveillance push in a moment captured on YouTube, reminding our town that our rights are God-given -- not government driven -- and that with every wink, nod, public ballot, and Council roll call in favor of Orwellian oblivion, we're kissing those rights goodbye drip by bitter drip.
"In a very short period of time, we have installed red light cameras to take pictures of us when we drive; we have a group of private interests working with public officials and the government to install surveillance cameras  -- something right out of Orwell's 1984.   And in addition to those surveillance cameras and in addition to those red light cameras, we're talking about outfitting patrol cars with license plate readers," Richards tells a crowd of onlookers.
In another moment caught on Youtube, serious applause greeted Richards when he challenged Citizen Police Review Board member Susan Smith about comments she made equating a suspected marijuana dealer to a terrorist with a fertilizer-fueled bomb.
Ainterview with Boone County Sheriff Dwayne Carey proves that Richards isn't afraid to challenge the paid authorities either, as he turns reporter, peppering the lawman with questions about recent raids many people condemned as too heavy handed. 
Richards brings up a great point during the Carey interview:  As the locally governed, how much are we willing to give up to the Federal government?  How much power, authority, and sovereignty are we willing to sacrifice in the name of the almighty Federal grant dollar?  
Carey has sought Federal money for iris scanners, license plate scanners, and other equipment, perhaps without regard to the strings that inevitably come attached to Washington's largesse.

How accountable is the Sheriff -- or any other local official -- to local folks, if they get so much money -- not from us, but from the Feds?   "Money is influence," Richards tells Carey, who defends his position in a way that reveals a growing community dilemma:  How can a little town turn down big bucks?
The interview runs long for my taste, but provides serious food for thought during several discerning moments, suggesting that the Young Lions of Liberty are starting to arrive.

1 comment:

  1. This has been brewing for a while, and has greatly accelerated, coming out of an activist meeting back in late 2009. Out of that, and friendships formed and strengthened, came: he local red light camera protests, the formation of Keep Columbia Free, a Free-Market Book Club, a film series, and now a candidate for public office.

    And it's just beginning.