During the final comments of the Columbia City Council Meeting on Monday, February 18th, [see video above] Councilman Fred Schmidt made some alarming remarks regarding alcohol in Douglass Park. Councilman Schmidt announced his plan to pursue an ordinance prohibiting alcohol consumption in Columibia’s premier inner-city park — a park frequented by Columbia’s vibrant African-American community and a popular meeting place for area residents.
Did Fred Schmidt intentionally make this proposal during Black History Month?
Schmidt made it clear — well, sort of clear considering he stammered through his rambling and rather confusing monologue — that he was singling out Douglass and was not interested in prohibiting alcohol consumption in other city parks.
It is important to note that the consumption of alcohol is prohibited in some of the smaller downtown parks due to the presence of vagrants and panhandlers. Douglass Park, however, is not known for drunken panhandlers. Alcohol is allowed in all other city parks.
Schmidt claims that he decided to take on this task after, “some back and forth with some people in the neighborhood.”
Sources tell me that this plan is actually being spearheaded by none other than Jonathan Sessions, darling of the Democrats and Columbia School Board member. There is some question about whether or not Mr. Sessions is a member of the Douglass Park Neighborhood Association, although he has given the impression that he is a member while pitching the idea to Parks and Rec staff. He and Carrie Gartner, bought a house on Aldeah, far from Douglass Park, about a year ago. Mr. Sessions may have once lived in the trendy North Village Arts District that buffers “The District” from the low-income neighborhoods to the North and may still own property there.
I’d venture a guess that neither Mr. Sessions nor Mr. Schmidt has spent much time in Douglass Park if they’ve visited the park — ever.
Many in Columbia’s central Black community have rightfully labeled this move as racist. For sure it smacks of the white, liberal paternalism that Columbia has endured for the last several decades, especially in the First Ward that surrounds Douglass Park.
Perhaps these two progressives hatched their plan to ban the consumption of alcohol in Douglass Park over a mojito on the patio of Bleu, just a few blocks southeast of the park. I guess Fred and Jonathan just don’t trust Black folks with dangerous fire water. I wonder if they trust Black folks to sit in the front of a FastCat bus.
Here is another related video from a last year’s discussion about upgrades to the government surveillance system in the Douglass Park. It struck me as sadly funny how the city politicians seem to view the people of the Douglass area as “others” when we all live in the same community. Heck, the City Council Chambers are literally only 4 blocks away from Douglass Park. Listen as Mayor McDavid and Councilwoman Hoppe praise their brave bureaucrats for venturing into the Douglass neighborhood to peddle surveillance.
Written by Mark Flakne