***This will Post on my blog at 9:00 a.m. April 7, 2011, unless I hear from Mr. St. Columbia asking for a different treatment of this message.***
[Blogger's Note: I submitted this letter to Mr. Joe St. Columbia yesterday. I thought that he might respond in some way. Perhaps he would refute alleged facts. If this post makes it to publication, then I have not heard from Mr. St. Columbia at all.]
Dear Mr. St. Columbia:
You and I have had many differences over the last few years. It pains me to be in the position I now occupy, however, I must ask that you resign your office as a member of the Helena-West Helena City Council for the good of the entire community.
Our mayor, Honorable Arnell Willis, has buried his head in the sand rather than exhibiting true leadership in this instance. Your "Monkeys Run the Zoo" email, which is one of many of its nature, has earned you a spot at the house. You should go in peace, honor and dignity. Your resignation letter can say that you do not want to be a detraction to the progress of this community. You can blame me and make bad remarks about me if you feel that will help.
Here is one of the best reasons for you to seriously consider resignation:
Your email was sent to these citizens:
Bettye and Dick Hendrix;
John King, Jr.;
Billie Jo Moore;
Dick & Dawna Parker;
Randy Hogan -Editor of the Daily World;
Joe St Columbia Jr.;
Richard Hargraves; and
As best my memory tells me, all of these people are white except Mr. Tommy Hunt. You can correct me if I am wrong in that regard.
These people, good citizens and participants in community events, have been dragged into this mess by you forwarding the email to them. They did not ask for the email and do not want to be painted with the brush you have brought to the table on this issue. These citizens, like many others, only want what is best for the entire community.
Surely, you do not want to sully the good name and reputation of Dick and Bettye Hendrix who have altruistically given lots of money to community wide causes that have and will continue to help all people irrespective of their backgrounds. Furthermore, the Hendrix family has earned many accolades to their credit in a number of areas. Undoubtedly, you do not want to sully the reputation of others who are business owners and are dependent upon all customers to make their businesses work. Certainly, you do not want to drag the newspaper into this mess, since the editor received the email and did nothing.
Former President Ronald Reagan said this:
I know in my heart that man is good. That what is right will always eventually triumph. And there's purpose and worth to each and every life.
He also said this:
"...I know it's hard when you're up to your armpits in alligators to remember you came here to drain the swamp."
Martin Luther King said this:
"On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, "Is it safe?" Expediency asks the question, "Is it politic?" And Vanity comes along and asks the question, "Is it popular?" But Conscience asks the question "Is it right?" And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right."
Finally, Joe, Rosalyn Carter, former First Lady of the United States, said this:
"A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go but ought to be."
I know that you have a conscience and it is telling you that this whole email scandal is wrong. Your actions, past, present and future, are the gauge here. You and only you have the power to change the equation by subtracting yourself and your remarks from the discourse. You have the power to take this community where it ought to be.
This city ought to be moving in an different direction. The mayor needs to focus on that goal. The mayor should not have to defend his supporters. This takes valuable time and effort from the mayor as he works to build a better community and to right the things he believes to be wrong in city government.
You cannot and should not allow yourself to be a distraction from the mayor's ability to move the city in the direction that he feels is best for this community. Grants, continuing restoration of parks, first class golf course, well maintained (paved) streets, effective (and crime reducing) police officers, avoidance of unnecessary litigation (and the costs therewith), jobs, economic development, effective schools, summer youth programs, homeless shelter, animal shelter, expanding Helena Bridge to four (4) lanes, adding festivals to our community, and many other items need the mayor's undivided attention.
He cannot concentrate on his agenda, if he must first defend you. Mayor Arnell Willis needs an effective and competent management team, helpful and effective elected officials, a cooperative, understanding and reasonable city council and informed and empowered group of citizens in order to make city government work for all of us.
Believe it or not, I am merely a private citizen with experience from serving on the Martin Luther King Commission, Phillips County Quorum Court and as mayor of the newly consolidated city. I want our city to be better and better as the years go by. I want us to stop losing citizens. I want our test scores to increase in our schools. I want our citizens to get the best bang for their tax dollars in every way. I refuse to stand in the way of progress.
It is my hope that you will consider these words and the words of leaders from many different backgrounds and put yourself second and the community first as you consider this request for your resignation. The time has come. Mr. St. Columbia, you should go.
As you prepare to go, you should speak with Mayor Arnell Willis about possible replacements to be submitted for vote by the council. Ward 2 has only one Joe St. Columbia, Sr. However, there are, I believe, many good people over there who are willing and able to work with Mayor Willis in your stead.
You do not have to consider this permanent. You can seek the post in 2012 and if the people of Ward 2 send you back, nobody will be able to say a word. These emails will be behind you. You will have had time to redeem yourself and Mayor Willis will be glad to see you assist him for two (2) more years.
Mr. St. Columbia, the question for you is not do you believe that you are racist or some other bad characterization. The question is do you believe that your actions (no matter the spin on them) are a distraction to the mayor's ability to govern? Are they of the nature about which reasonable people can disagree? Are these remarks and these forwarded emails the best foot forward for the people that you represent? Would either one of the people named above be willing to sign off on these emails saying that it is okay to do what you have done?
After claiming your innocence on the "Monkeys running the Zoo" email, Mr. St. Columbia, I remind you that you have sent an email describing a black family as scheming the government. You did not mention race but you included a picture. You reference the family as "they." You have also sent an email which depicts two (2) young black boys or young men and has a caption that reads in Honor of Black History Month and states:
"It's not our fault that we can't get jobs. It's the white man that is holding us back."
The picture comes from a website called ChimpOut.Com. (http://www.chimpout.com). This website is racist pure and simple. There is no way on Earth that the people named above will publicly agree with you on this. This website has awful, I mean horrible language and photos on it. It is just incredible. The cites calls Malcolm X gay and accuses him of having a white male lover. The site has users with the user name StinkyNigs and N*****s R Monkeys and MassaWhitey. I don't know which name, if any, is yours. I do know that your disparaging picture came from that website because the watermark shows chimpout.com in the lower right hand corner. I had never heard of this website prior to seeing your "Honoring Black History" email. See St. Columbia Honors Black History Month.
If the people you sent this email to agree with you on this, then we are totally lost as a community.
I wish you the best.
James F. Valley
Attorney at Law
Honorable James F. Valley
Attorney at Law
P. O. Box 451
423 Rightor Street
Helena-West Helena, 72342