Is America Burning - a Forum To Discuss Issues

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Skyline - Houston, Texas

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Family Values in Black Jack, MO - What a crock

I was checking in on some of my favorite blogs (non political) earlier and ran across this. It's lifted direct from the Anderson Cooper 360 blog (I didn't know he had one). It puts me in mind of the good old days where some towns posted billboards reading "don't let the sun set on you here"

Move or get married

Imagine you've bought your dream house. And you've moved in. Now, imagine being told you can't live there because you -- and your children -- are not considered a family. That's the situation facing Olivia Shelltrack, Fondrey Loving and their three kids in Black Jack, Missouri.

They moved from Minneapolis to the St. Louis suburb a couple of months ago. I visited them recently at their five-bedroom home. They told me Black Jack requires all homes to have an occupancy permit, but that they were denied one. They said they were told that because there are more than three people in their house, and not all are related by blood or marriage, they don't meet Black Jack's definition of a family.

(Updated afterthought from Ann. Five people in a five bedroom house is overcrowding? It gives each of them a separate room if that's what they want. Or a bedroom each for the kids plus a playroom? Anyhow, back to the article)

As Black Jack's mayor, Norman McCourt, put it recently at a city council meeting: "It's overcrowding because it's not a single family. It's a single-family residence and they're not a single family."

Olivia and Fondrey aren't married and had two of their three children out of wedlock. The third child is Olivia's from a previous relationship. They appealed to the city's Board of Adjustment for an exemption, figuring it wouldn't be hard for anyone to see they're a real family. But they were denied. Olivia and Fondrey told me they came away from that meeting feeling like they were given a clear message: Get married or move.

"Just because we don't meet your definition of a family doesn't make us any less of a family. ... We've been together for 13 years. ... We're raising three kids together," Olivia said.

So the couple called the ACLU. That's when they discovered at least three other families have had this kind of trouble in Black Jack before. The ACLU showed CNN a letter it says it received from Mayor McCourt in 1999 explaining why another family was being denied an occupancy permit at the time.

"While it would be naive to say that we don't recognize that children are born out of wedlock frequently these days, we certainly don't believe that is the type of environment within which children should be brought into this world," the mayor wrote.

The city has issued a statement saying at least 89 municipalities in the St. Louis area have similar occupancy permit requirements. The ordinances are designed to eliminate boarding houses and illegal renting of rooms, but the city now admits its 20-year-old ordinance may not be in step with the times.

And after a public hearing scheduled for Thursday, Black Jack may soften the wording of its ordinance. If the ordinance isn't changed, the ACLU says it will sue the city, arguing it is violating federal fair housing rules and the constitutional right to privacy. In the meantime, all Shelltrack and Loving can do is hope the city won't force them to move.
Posted By Jonathan Freed, CNN Correspondent: 5:27 PM

I'm glad to see the ACLU is on the job. The ordinance is ridiculous of course. It did lead us to wondering though. This couple is heterosexual and raising a family. What if it had been two men or two women in the same circumstances? Would they be punished because they can't formalize their relationship?

I can see those old billboards being dug out of warehouses and the NIMBY's rising up as one.

Note to our loyal reader from Missouri (initials JB). I'd be interested to know what you've heard about this. All I have is the CNN report.


  • At Thursday, April 27, 2006 4:30:00 AM , Blogger Sothis said...

    When I saw this on CNN, I couldn't believe that this kind of thing could still be going on. If the council refuses to change the wording to allow a modern interpretation of family, I hope the family takes it to the courts. Thank goodness for the ACLU and helping folks in these stupid situations.

  • At Thursday, April 27, 2006 4:46:00 AM , Blogger Granny said...

    Agreed. I emailed you. Welcome back.

  • At Thursday, April 27, 2006 5:32:00 AM , Blogger Carrie Oakey said...

    Don't these people care about their poor bastard children? It's a shame they couldn't prove their love for each other (and their children) by taking a vow before God to commit to each other (and God) forever!

  • At Thursday, April 27, 2006 5:34:00 AM , Blogger Granny said...

    Hello again Carrie.

    Thank you for sharing.

  • At Thursday, April 27, 2006 6:58:00 AM , Blogger Attila The Mom said...


    Thanks for posting it!

  • At Thursday, April 27, 2006 9:29:00 AM , Blogger Alice said...

    Ha! Good one Carrie... :-)

    ...Oh, wait. Is she serious??

    Ah, well, whether she is or she isn't I'll air my views on the subject:

    Love for one another, one's children is NOT 'proven' with a scrap of paper, a few signatures and two rings, and it is certainly NOT 'proven' in the eyes of God - in fact, bar the fact that it helps people legally because of certain backward, bigoted “traditions” that have been upheld, it means nothing to God or anyone else. Not really. Not in the grand scheme of things. Some people may feel it is important, and that is their God given right, but that does NOT mean that being in love, living together and (possibly) having children suddenly means more if the people involved are married, because it simply doesn’t. NOTHING can mean more than pure, true love - it is impossible.

    Love is love, plain and simple. It can be between a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man, parent(s) and child(ren), grandparent(s) and child(ren), aunt(s)/uncle(s) and child(ren), friend(s) and friend(s), human(s) and animal(s), human(s)/animal(s) and God... Marriage does not equal love. Right now marriage equals a leg up, a trump card in the eyes of the law enforcers because that is the way it has always been.

    And in conclusion to this, let us just remember that the people causing the problems here are NOT the loving families living together and 'proving' their love, commitment and support toward one another and their children daily in thought and word and deed - the people causing the problems are those afraid to admit that somewhere along the line someone deciding what was right and wrong, good and bad, and better and worse got it WRONG.

    Thank you for reading, and goodnight.

  • At Thursday, April 27, 2006 10:46:00 AM , Blogger Worried said...

    Connect the dots, friends. A dot here, a dot there, scattered across our nation. A pattern is being drawn. Can you see it?

    The hand behind the drawing of the dots - the CR, RR, CC - as more and more bits and pieces of America come under their sway. It is larger than you think and steadily growing.

    THEIR family values, THEIR interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, THEIR way or no way - a nation ruled by the iron fist of an intolerant, bigoted, self righteous theocracy.

    An entire city established and governed by their rules; a state whose governor signs into law that the Bible shall be a study book in the schools (religion shall be taught in the state's schools - and guess what interpretations will be taught); a wide spread effort to get creationism taught in the schools (disguised as Intelligent Design); laws passed reflecting the religious beliefs of those in power. On and on.

    Little dots. Here and there. More dots than the media reports. Play connect the dots and an outline emerges. Some artists use a technique of creating an entire painting or drawing by innumerable tiny dots. Enough tiny dots to fill in the outlines and we have the picture. A theocratic government.

  • At Thursday, April 27, 2006 12:24:00 PM , Blogger JBlue said...

    For some reason, I had the idea Black Jack was a dump, but Mr. Pink says it's really not that bad. I had not heard of this story. I'm wondering how they deal with issue of foster children? I also wonder what they're trying to accomplish. One problem might be people from other states renting a house together to collect welfare benefits, BUT these people clearly are not doing that. So, what else do they hope to accomplish? Is WA right? Dunno. Black Jack should be grateful homeowners and families of any kid WANT to live there and get off it.

  • At Thursday, April 27, 2006 1:05:00 PM , Blogger VMC said...

    Good point on the foster children, Jublu. I wonder how the "bj" city fathers answer that one away.

    Oh, as an aside to Worried and Ann, I took the liberty of adding Farnsworth to the blogroll since you mentioned that it was an oversight.

  • At Thursday, April 27, 2006 4:11:00 PM , Blogger Granny said...

    Alice - comprehensive as always (giggle). You learned from an expert.

    VMC - thanks for adding opov. I sent you an email about Wadena, the other one I missed. Attila the Hun is new as well. (In this same box).

    Welcom Attila.

    Hi ju blu. I wondered about that as well but it was one too many topics for that post. Remember that proposed city in Florida? I think they're building their own version.

  • At Friday, April 28, 2006 2:58:00 AM , Blogger Bacchus said...

    Granny, Glad you ran with this. You did such a great job with it. I'm not much of a political writer but I love to read and find articles like that.

  • At Friday, April 28, 2006 3:27:00 AM , Blogger Granny said...

    Thanks for the response. I enjoy your stories of family life so much.

    We're small potatoes as political blogs go but we're always anxious to fight injustice, whereever it occurs and whomever it affects.


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