Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

For St. Louis, 3 Questions That Are Bigger Than the Rams

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

For St. Louis, 3 Questions That Are Bigger Than the Rams

Article excerpt

If you're looking for big, momentous decisions, the National Football League and the federal government will make a couple of them for St. Louis in 2016.

The decision on whether the Rams can move to Los Angeles is a big deal for the region's image and psyche. The choice of a new home for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is a big deal for future development patterns and for the city's tax base.

However, if you are looking for reasons to rub the economic worry beads, I would put at least three other issues higher on the region's agenda. None of them can be completely resolved in a single year, but we're in trouble if we don't make some progress in 2016.

The first is the Ferguson question: Can we grow more inclusively?

We're starting to come to grips with the ways that our fragmented, inefficient system of municipal government holds us back, but even basic reforms are running into opposition. Reasonable limits on traffic fines and minimum qualifications for police shouldn't be controversial. In St. Louis County, both have led to lawsuits.

We must restore all residents' faith in local government. We also must improve the schools that are failing so many families in the region. It's the moral thing to do, but it's also about the region's economic future.

"We're in a knowledge-based economy," says Joe Reagan, president of the St. Louis Regional Chamber. "It's all about the workforce, about talent. We literally can't afford to leave anyone behind if we're going to prosper."

The best investment we can make isn't a stadium or other shiny new building. It's in human capital.

Physical capital is also important, of course, which leads to my second question: How do we upgrade the region's infrastructure?

Right now, the Missouri Department of Transportation doesn't have enough money to maintain the roads and bridges we already have. …

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