Mayor James W. Knowles III and the Ferguson City Council have released a response to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's recent article "North County, Suburbia in Crisis".
To Whom It May Concern:
We are writing to express our disappointment and concern with the staff at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for what we view as a careless article that gives the appearance of an all-out attack against the residents and business owners who live and work in what your article broadly refers to as “North County”. From the placement of the article on the front page of the Sunday edition of your paper, to the headline of “North County Suburbia in Crisis: Blame poverty, age for weak North County home market,” to the first paragraph that states “FERGUSON: Barbara Bandy has been trying to sell her house for nearly a year, with no luck. Could the problem be that it’s in north St. Louis County?” to your last sentence on that first page, “Her problem may be location. Her house is in Ferguson,” it is clear you were primarily interested in sensationalism as opposed to an objective look at what has transpired in our community and what the future may hold. Even the “evidence” you chose to use to support your stance made some serious omissions. You talk about one homeowner’s inability to sell a house for $84,500, but fail to mention homes that have recently sold in the area for $150,000 and above. Even a simple search on Zillow would have shown a home sold this past month for $149,000 in just three days! Since last Saturday, when the article first appeared online, the Ferguson City Council and staff have received countless emails, telephone calls and letters from residents, business owners, real estate professionals, and even visitors expressing their outrage in what they viewed was a full-blown attack on the Ferguson community. We are all struggling to see the purpose of your article and the reason you chose not to perform the research to make it what could have been a truly balanced piece. If your intention was to present an unbiased news piece, why succumb to a headline that only portrays the negative?
The City of Ferguson is widely recognized as a progressive and diverse community that is proud of its racial and socioeconomic mix. We recognize our challenges, and recognize those challenges are not unlike challenges in other parts of St. Louis County and the rest of the nation, for that matter. But we have consistently proven that from our outstanding residents and volunteers, to our leadership in government, Ferguson is a true “Community of Choice.” Our Downtown Business District, neighborhoods, and community-based initiatives have received numerous awards and recognitions. So we are struggling to see why our region’s largest circulated newspaper failed us in such a tremendous way last weekend. We understand and empathize with the resident you focused on who has been unable to sell her house for her desired price, but her plight is not unlike many in the country are facing. What you failed to mention, and what really could have been the focus of the piece in respect to our community, is the tremendous opportunity that exists for home-buyers looking in Ferguson with our affordable and diverse housing stock, our proximity to major employers and institutions of higher learning, our ACCREDITED schools in both Ferguson-Florissant and Hazelwood School Districts, all of which make Ferguson an attractive option for prospective home-buyers. Not to mention a wonderful investment opportunity for both small businesses and corporate retailers due to our local development incentives. Why could you not focus any portion of the article on the many things Ferguson is doing to overcome the problems with the current housing market?
As a group we struggled with what to include in our response to your piece, recognizing the wealth of positive aspects you failed to mention about our community and how much time we wished to spend with the distraction you created. You obviously paid no mind to the work that the City, businesses and residents now have to do to just to counteract your irresponsible attempt to lead readers to believe that there is a crisis in Ferguson that will only get worse. You made no mention of our award winning famer’s market, our active neighborhood associations, our new businesses or Ferguson’s first community center set to open late next year. Furthermore, you thoughtlessly grouped our financially responsible and stable community with other cities in the area who are struggling with limited resources and lack of professional staff, to imply all of North County is this way. We believe you know the piece was unfair and misleading, and self-serving. The article provided no benefit to North County or the region as a whole and was intended solely to drive interest in your paper. It is just a shame that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has become a paper of limited opinions and set agendas, with no room for anything else unless you are willing to pay for it. Our hope is that the Post-Dispatch learns from this mistake as evidenced by the countless letters of disappointment you have received in response to this article, and that other area print and electronic publications see this as an opportunity to continue to help meet the local news needs of the greater metropolitan area.
Cc: Riverfront Times, Patch, Beacon, and Ferguson Times
Mayor James W. Knowles III and City Council
City of Ferguson, Missouri