08 February 2008

What happened in Kirkwood last night

could happen anywhere.

The tragedy isn't as unlikely as you might think, as any city council reporter could tell you.

In my younger reporting days, I'd seen more than a few city council gadflies who seemed around the bend. They'd get up, rant for quite a while, until someone from the council, usually the mayor or city attorney, managed to cut them off. Some cities imposed time limits during public comment just to make sure they had a legal way to shut the mikes off.

Honestly, I'm not surprised this happened. I was stalked by a gadfly who was convinced I was the answer to all of his troubles, if only I'd listen to him and his issues. And not that he didn't have issues or a justifiable complaint, but it wasn't truly news. Or verifyable.

Quite frankly, the fact that he was convinced the power lines in town were a form of mind control impugned his credibility. In that case, the very police I was investigating escorted my pregnant self from City Hall to my car twice a month after meetings. It was only about 50 steps, but this guy would stalk my every step, then try to follow me home. I had cops sitting near me in meetings to protect me. I didn't ask for it, but they didn't trust him, and they worried about me, even though I was doing investigative reporting on their department, which was in the midst of a horrible scandal.

I'm not sure what the answer is, but know this: Every elected official takes a risk by putting themselves out there on the dais to make decisions. Some people take those decisions much, much, much too seriously. When that happens, the potential for a mass shooting in a council chamber is there.

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