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COVID in Columbia

Greetings faithful reader. I hope you are well keeping safe and practicing social distance. It is strange times and everything is changing. My thoughts go to history and the apocalypse easily anyway. I’ve been indulging in some free floating anxiety and too much time on Facebook. I’ve been distracted but the times allow for it and I have the space for it and I feel like I am due.

My friend Harry posted Rainbow Signs by mewithoutyou. I’ve listened to the album Pale Horses but had never made out the words. Great song and I’m listening to Pale Horses (appendix) and it’s nice to have some dreamy distance to all the weirdness.

I was asked to speak at a press conference put on by the United States Tiger Foundation (USTF). They have carved out a niche of raising money and donations for Veteran’s dogs, advocating for increasing ventilator capacity, honoring bravery in the struggle and offering their office for satellite services and the like. It was really sweet.

The USTF formed to remember a forgotten moment in history Operation Tiger. In preparation for D-Day a giant practice exercise was surprised by German subs with huge loss of life. The Navy used to ship out people by area and Missouri had a huge loss of life. So the USTF formed to build a memorial and stuck around to honor folks in Military Service, Veterans and First Responders. There big annual event is a snazzy awards banquets for the best from all of the Missouri military bases.

I have always tried to do a good turn for Vets, like most people but I am an unlikely champion for USTF. I am motivated and attached to communities, regions, and the planet as a whole. Nation states not so much. But when the last conservative got voted off of City Council I realized I was going to need to go to the banquet to read the Proclamation. The Mayor was unavailable (you could do nothing but go to events in your ceremonial capacity and still have to say “no” to some things) and I didn’t want the Assistant Manager of the Conventions and Visitors Bureau or something representing our community.

I might feel a little bad about my fundamental lack of patriotism if I hadn’t spent a good chunk of my professional life helping homeless Veterans. It’s easy to put a yellow ribbon on your car or post some bullshit on your Facebook page but it’s a bit different to roll up your sleeves and get side by side with someone to get them on a path up.

So I gave a good speech from the heart and it became a pretty much annual thing. Reading excerpts from the proclamation, welcoming the generals and honorees and dates to Columbia, slipping coins in a handshake ritual, all the stuff. I am oriented towards peace but I appreciate sacrifice, professionalism, service and bravery. I’m not to much of a critic to show gratitude. As a peace activist I honor Vietnam Veterans especially.

Today wasn’t about that, that’s just what got me in the room. I thanked the USTF and all of the spontaneous activity to render mutual aid. I talked about the ventilator bottleneck and the need to flatten the curve. I talked about the unmet needs of the unsheltered community. Support for boxed lunches for Harbor House and the need for hand sanitizer for Loaves and Fishes.

I also talked about the difference between County Government and City Government. The County has Commissioners who actually manage their government. They make the decisions and do the work.

In Columbia City Council hires the City Manager (and the Judge and the Clerk) and they run the government. We passed an emergency resolution listing sweeping powers like ignoring the law and using private property as needed. It was really symbolism though we don’t really have that power. He and the Health Department Director have all that power and more with a signature on a letter. We just provided political support because the bare reality is to incredible to comprehend.

A constituent wrote to ask me to close all the restaurants and bars, another asked me to ban door to door sales. We have scaled back to one meeting per month. I meet with the Manager a month. Normally that’s great for governance. This crisis is on a whole nother timeline. Our decisions are made by science by professionals according to best practices and local conditions I can’t pretend to understand. I’m not going to call him and tell him what one of my voters wants. I will share my wisdom, if I have any. I told him don’t just listen to the state and the feds, they’re timid and too focused on the economy over health and safety, be bold.

And that’s it. Boards have to let their executives execute. Otherwise every department director has 8 bosses which really means no boss. I trust our staff. I trust our community. We are all trusting each other to do the right thing. Wash your hands. Flatten the curve.








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