Government Reform Ignored by Media. (Media/Politics)

By Jones, Terry | St. Louis Journalism Review, January 2002 | Go to article overview

Government Reform Ignored by Media. (Media/Politics)


Jones, Terry, St. Louis Journalism Review


Conversations about local governmental reform are standard fare in St. Louis's discourse. Those who have lived here for years are prone to talk about how St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis might some day get together while newcomers regularly ask old-timers why St. Louis has so many governments.

Periodically, these exchanges become more structured. Task forces or boards are established, studies commissioned and proposals made. In the 1920s, 1950s and 1960s, for example, proposals for one or another combined government for the city and county made it all the way to the ballot box, only to be defeated by the citizens of one or both units. More specific initiatives have often succeeded. Examples include the Metropolitan Sewer District (1954), the St. Louis Junior College District (1962), the original Zoo-Museum District (1971) and, most recently, the Metropolitan Park and Recreation District (2000).

So it was no surprise when, late in 2000, more than 40 governmental, business, academic and non-profit leaders formed a "Regional Governance Policy Group." Many were fresh from the Regional Chamber and Growth Association leadership trip to Toronto, Canada, a metropolitan area which has taken regional consolidation to perhaps its most centralized point on the North American continent. Let's get together, they decided, and see what might be done for the St. Louis region.

The group was distinctive and inclusive. It incorporated elected officials from throughout the region (e.g., City of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, St. Louis County Executive Buzz Westfall, St. Clair County Board Chair John Baricevic and St. Charles County Council Chair Doug Funderburk), top business leaders (e.g., Edward Jones CEO John Bachmann and Laclede Gas CEO Douglas Yeager), labor heads (e.g., St. Louis AFL-CIO Labor Council's Bob Kelley), academic chancellors (e.g., SRTE's David Werner and UMSL's Blanche Touhill), media executives (e.g., KMOX's Karen Carroll, St. Louis American's Donald Suggs and St. Louis Business Journal's Ellen Sherberg) and non-profit luminaries (e.g., St. Louis Metropolitan Clergy Coalition's Reverend B.T. Rice, FOCUS St. Louis's Christine Chadwick and RCGA's Richard Fleming).

In short, it was about as close to a St. Louis civic who's who list as one could get.

In late October 2001, the group issued a report, making 15 recommendations, eight dealing directly with governance, two with transportation and five with health care. Some endorsed existing initiatives such as backing the City of St. Louis Home Rule constitutional amendment which will be on a statewide ballot this November. Others suggested new strategies, such as supporting convening a state constitutional convention so that many governmental structural policies could be revisited and revised. …

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