Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gauen: Big Thinking for Metro East Is Good, but Do the Thinkers Know the Territory?

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gauen: Big Thinking for Metro East Is Good, but Do the Thinkers Know the Territory?

Article excerpt

I was in the room where then-U.S. Transportation Secretary William T. Coleman announced with authority that a new St. Louis regional airport would be built at Columbia-Waterloo.

That was almost 40 years ago, and I was too green a reporter to realize that while he was talking about a location between two Metro East communities, he might as well have meant putting Lambert-St. Louis International Airport somewhere between Columbia, Mo., and Waterloo, Iowa. Coleman also didn't know that the idea would be doomed. But soon enough, it was.

About three-fourths of the people of metropolitan St. Louis live west of the Mississippi River. Both states can work well together on things that must cross the water: bridges and rapid transit come to mind. But Missouri politicians will fight tooth and nail to keep everything of value they can. It's why the Columbia-Waterloo site remains mostly farmland, and a significant part of Bridgeton now sits under a barely-used third east-west runway at Lambert.

I don't blame Missouri pols. They're doing their jobs. Illinois pols aren't about to cede Scott Air Force base to Missouri, either not that anybody ever proposed such a thing.

You've got to know the territory, the traveling salesmen sang in "The Music Man." Coleman, of Philadelphia, and his boss, President Gerald Ford, a former congressman from Michigan, clearly didn't.

This brings me to Gov. Bruce Rauner's visit to O'Fallon, Ill., on Monday. In this context, there was a little bit of poetry in the location. Illinois and Missouri each have cities of that name, and both are lovely communities. Neither state has reason to try to snatch the other's O'Fallon.

But two projects, each one-of-a-kind, came up as Rauner brought his "Turnaround Agenda" tour of economic ideas to Metro East. One involves relocation of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which very much exists. The other is construction of a world-class football stadium, which very well may never exist. Rauner, of course, would like to see Illinois get both of them.

The first is possible. The second would require something beyond a miracle. …

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