I was raised in Colorado, live in California but I was born in Kansas about 50 miles from Topeka. My father, Bert Johnson, was the Undersheriff of Lyon County Kansas on the day I was born. He was later elected Sheriff. He passed last year, but if he were alive and able, it would take an army to keep him from heading “home” to straighten out what he would classically refer to in his gravelly voice, “a clusterf**k.”
On October 5, 2011, I was alerted to a little article in Feministing wherein the author referred to the situation being discussed as a “clusterf**k.” This got my immediate attention–thinking perhaps Dad was sending me a message–and I discovered that due to budget cuts, Shawnee County’s (Topeka) District Attorney, Chad Taylor, would no longer be prosecuting misdemeanors, including domestic violence cases. The Topeka City Council, now shackled with the prosecution of these domestic violence complaints and suffering from similar budget cuts, decided that they might just have to repeal the city code that “bans domestic battery.” As it turned out, the county had already stopped prosecuting domestic abusers over a month prior to this shovel pass from county to city and had turned down 30 cases and refused to charge in another 16 allowing the release of these alleged domestic abusers.
Thinking this would soon pass as someone with an ounce of brains would stop playing with fire, I ignored Dad and his message. Five days later, I had another article, in Forbes shoved in my face, citing the first little article that had declared Topeka a “clusterf**k” with an additional plea from the author hoping “the bill [would] die in a flurry of outrage and indignation.”
It turns out that the Topeka City Council couldn’t pull together. Tuesday night, following a rally by the National Organization of Women (NOW) and numerous speakers, the Council voted 7-3 to repeal the City Ordinance banning domestic battery. Interim City Manager, Dan Stanley, as reported by The Topeka Capital Journal, proclaimed:
the move would force Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor to resume reviewing and evaluating domestic batteries committed in Topeka for possible prosecution.
Stanley went on to say:
the repeal would ‘remove all ambiguity from this question’ while giving the city leverage as it negotiates with the county commission and district attorney’s office to seek to ensure misdemeanor domestic batteries committed in Topeka are prosecuted in district court.
Assistant City Attorney Catherine Walter indicated that since Kansas state law banned domestic violence, the City’s ban would not actually decriminalize domestic violence and it would remain a crime.
With the budget cuts driving this circus-like vote by the Topeka City Council as well as the decision by District Attorney Taylor, I am guessing Dad will be talking to me a lot in the near future…..about clusterf**ks all over this country of ours.