• Lunch with a Leader: Leon Mosley

    • Posted on Sep 27, 2016
    This appeared in the Waterloo Courier on Thursday, Sept. 22.  Leon was a great interviewee, and a great man--and a bit scary because he's so honest.  

    Cross Crocodile Dundee, Dirty Harry, Charles Bronson, and you have Leon Mosley.   A vigilante.  

    Yet he’s still a family man, a church-going God-fearing community activist, and an all-around concerned citizen who served on the Black Hawk County Board of Supervisors for 16 years.  A Republican, no less.  

    He also served on a variety of volunteer boards all over the country, and was a leading advocate for closing down Waterloo crack houses that were destroying whole neighborhoods.  Call him a responsible vigilante.  

    “I’d go to those houses with my big RCA video camera and get evidence video for the police.  I was gathering documentary reports to help them make arrests.”  

    He became a consultant for several Iowa cities, and well known for his effective drug-fighting activism.  He never took the law into his own hands, never became a one-man army. 
    But don’t threaten him.  “Messing with me is like tickling a bobcat.”  He towered over me, and at 70, looks like he could take down most anyone.  When he gets mad, watch out.   

    “If you see Leon in a fight with a bear, go help the bear”—has been a joke that  tells with delight.   

    “I have a terrible temper,” he told me over lunch. “I get so mad at these bad kids that I have to watch myself.”  He’s been threatened, shot at, and insulted as an “oreo” and “Uncle Tom” because he works well with both whites and Blacks.  
    Afraid?  “Never,” he said.  “I know when I’m right, and I do it.  

    When you tell the truth, you never have to remember what you said.  You just keep telling the truth.”   

     He certainly has the respect and friendship of both Waterloo Police Chief Trelka
    and Mayor Hart.  “I love both these guys—and want them to succeed.”  His main weapon has been his phone number.  He openly gives it to everyone, and says if they’re afraid to call the police to report lawbreakers, call him—and he’ll report them.  

    That takes plain guts, and the police consider him a valuable crime-fighting partner.   

     Our lunch happened during the Trelka controversy, and I went to Mayor Hart’s news conference that same afternoon, as did Mosely.   It was clear to Mosely that community support (including his own) had affected the Mayor, and Mosely was pleased. 

     “He did the right thing, which only makes sense.  Problems of respect for the police started long before Trelka took over, and Trelka’s been doing his best to fix it.”  

    For Mosley, community crime problems begin at home.  Too many parents have given up raising their children, and that infuriates him.  “Kids are raising each other on the streets.  No parents or teachers they respect.  They end up in jail or prison.” 

    Just the week before, he visited the Cattle Congress, and a group of junior high schoolers—mostly girls, were at the grounds violently fighting among themselves. 

    The next night, they shut down the entire Cattle Congress grounds due to kids fighting among themselves, menacing visitors. “They’re not really gangs—just young teen girls—all Black—fighting each other,” Mosely observed.  

     “The police were there in two minutes, breaking them up, but I don’t think they did much.  Probably should have arrested them.”   

    To Mosley, these kids needed a “good whoopin’” meaning just what he got as a kid when he made trouble. “My father whacked me good with a paddle, and I knew I deserved it.  That’s how I learned respect.” 

    “When they made corporal punishment illegal, that’s when problems started,” he insists, “But I know we can’t do that now. We have to find other solutions.” 

    Unfortunately, those solutions elude him.  “I really don’t know how to make families more responsible. I can only report what I see and try to help.”  

    I asked what keeps him going, given all the threats and criticism.  

    “I learned a motto from my father,” he said.  “If you don’t know what’s worth dying for, you haven’t lived.”   Making the community “safe for the good kids” is worth dying for, he says, and he means it. 

    “Really, it’s the 80/20 rule.  Eighty percent of our kids are fine, but we spend all our time dealing with problem kids.” 

    So what would cause real change. “I thought when kids get killed
    on the street by other kids we’d wake up.  That happened, but still nothing changed.”  

    He’s sure that two hundred young witnesses watched a murder on Airline Highway and not one came forward.  “We have to change that, and I’m doing what I can.” 

    If more responsible citizens would routinely report crime and criminal activities, everything would in fact change for the better.   

    Leon Mosley has shown the way.  



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    Posted in
    • Personalities
    • Crime
    • Cedar Valley Chronicles
  • Try Thinking New Thoughts

    • Posted on Sep 18, 2016
    Here's this morning's Courier column.  Trying to focus on where real change occurs, and how we might occasionally seek new thoughts.   


    What do we do all day every day, and have since we were toddlers?  Not breathing, since that started after we hit birthing room light.   

     Not seeing or hearing, since they too started before we toddled.  

     It’s thinking—constant, unending, nonstop thinking, one thought piling on another, without cessation until sleep.  Even then, thoughts continue as dreams. 

     Estimates on how much thinking we do varies from just a few hundred to seventy thousand thoughts daily.  Most thoughts actually lurk subconsciously, often emerging to surprise without warning. 

     Conscious thoughts are just the tip of a vast hidden iceberg of mental activity. 

     Now get this:  We mostly think the same thoughts every day.  Most thoughts return every day for weeks, months, even years.  

     Doubt this?  Remember a few recent ones.  Still annoyed by Donald Trump’s inability to utter any truths?  Still wish Hillary were a better candidate?  Still worry about November 9?  (The day after.)  

     You likely thought those yesterday too, and every day for months.  

    The great 1993 movie “Groundhog’s Day” captures daily life as a stage production with the same sets, lines, and characters, endlessly repeated. 

     In life, we create just enough variety to keep us from feeling robotic.  That’s our saving grace, but we still resist change.   

    Even so, actively nurturing new thoughts increases brain power and creativity, making up for any discomfort.   

     Since so many old thoughts are grooved in like sidewalk cuts, so thinking anything new presents a challenge. Some old thoughts, after all, are actually true and deserve daily attention. Donald Trump really almost never utters factual truths.   

     As a public service to repeating minds, here are a few ideas that will likely engender fresh thoughts. 

    1. No matter how much you think you know about your loved ones and friends, you don’t know them.  This includes yourself.  We’re all mysteries, top to bottom, beginning to end.  See and ponder Orson Welles’ great “Citizen Kane” for a dramatization of this idea.    

    2. Villains never think they’re villains—only misunderstood and wrongly opposed.  The world’s great evils were committed by people who thought they were doing right. In a nation of immigrants, Donald Trump remains convinced that immigrants are the enemy, and barring them will serve the common good.  Go figure.  

    3. Conversations about politics, when done by people who agree on most everything but politics, can serve to bond friendships.  How so?  Start by reminding everyone that we’re all in this together, that we agree far more than we disagree.  Go from there.  

    4. You can stop doing anything habitual by pausing and remembering you have a choice. We’re all actually freer than we think if we remember to pause and ponder before acting.  Before you pull that lever for Donald Trump on November 8, consider:  Can a habitual bully and liar make a good leader?   

    So here’s to new thoughts, whenever and wherever they occur.  They’re rare, challenging, and foster change from inside out.  That’s the only change that counts.   


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“Even before the advent of the Internet, Cawelti’s columns went 'viral' in the Cedar Valley… the role of a columnist is to be thought provoking, to take tacks that shed a different light on an issue or possibly cause a reader to reevaluate a position. At the very least, it should bring clarity to a particular perspective, whether you buy into the commentator’s worldview or not.

Scott's work does just that.  Enjoy this collection of his writing.”

-Saul Shapiro, Former Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier Editor
Read Shapiro's entire introduction.


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