Thursday, April 19, 2007

The St. Louis Paradox

The anonymous comment made in this post raises a question that must have an answer: If St. Louis has so many problems (as noted by the anonymous poster), how is it possible she is attracting so many new residents?


Michael R. Allen said...

I think that you are responding with the wrong question.

The commenter's points bring to mind one big question:

Can we fix the problems Anonymous indentifies?

The reality is that parts of the city continue to lose population, and the suburbs are still growing. Rather than go on the defensive, can we go on the offensive and make *all* of the city the most desirable place in the region to live?

Answering "no" is not an option if we are serious about the city's future.

Rick Bonasch said...

I'm not sure I agree Michael. We will always have problems. What are we doing now? Are we making progress? If we define our challenges in such huge terms, then we start to sound like we are already defeated, like our anonymous poster friend.

And still the paradox remains. If indeed we have all the problems identified by anonymous, how are we attracting so many new residents, and seeing such population growth?

Maybe we are actually doing something right?

Anonymous said...

I'm glad she's attracting new residents, new blood, fresh thoughts,... all great! But I have witnessed and be involved in many of these StL matters long before you were born. However I am responding out of respect for what you're attempting to accomplish.

In a nutshell, StL has numerous and valuable public assets and an incredibly cheap (but highly attractive) housing stock. Unfortunately the public assets are being poorly managed and much of the valuable buildings are purposely being blighted and improperly maintained. I have watched this for decades.

Fresh blood will not solve structural problems unless it comes with the ability to make major political change. Historically StL is a blue city and what I mean by that is not the temporary definition but this: You either from a "blue blood" family here or a "blue collar" clan. The professional class, which is oriented to make changes for the better, became largely extinct as major businesses were driven out of the city or region.

The remaining group (& yes that includes the 95% of SLPS less-than-proficient graduates) have been left holding fort for a city that wanted to be segregated from its surrounding neighbors.

As long as "StL county versus StL city versus every surrounding county" remains in effect, solutions become more difficult, more expensive, take longer, etc. Regional leaders have attempted to address this inherent conflict by creating more governmental units, not less.

The problems made clear in the Pierce Report have yet to be properly addressed. In fact local leadership (county, city, regional) have created more governmental units not less. This additional bureaucracy does not create cooperation as claimed, especially for the citizens who want their voices heard.

Although the city's population has stabilized, there are many unfunded promises that have yet to be understood or appreciated by the local media. (Hint: examine the MO Supreme Court findings on the the failure of the City to adequately fund the policemen retirement fund). Many of the inner suburbs are now feeling the problems created by the lack of growth and even worse depopulation.

In addition, these battles have become more political since the core base in each is either mostly Democrats or Republicans. A bad attitude is developing which will create more conflict not less.

Much more can be said but in order to make real progress there must be more debate, open discussions by our leaders (not just bloggers) and the main theme must be cooperation to create common and unifying goals. To date I have not witnessed this.

Good luck, I'm on your side.

Rick Bonasch said...

The last poster exemplifies why STL Rising wecomes your anonymous, unfiltered comments. Thank you for your remarks.

While I do not agree with the overall negative tenor of the poster's message, I appreciate the passion of the person, and his/her ultimate support expressed for St. Louis.

Let's extend the question to this anonymous poster - indeed, what about this paradox? How is St. Louis able to attract so many new residents, even those paying big dollars, to live an authentic downtown, urban lfestyle, even in the face of the widely publicized challenges we face?

These are people of means, with choices. And they are choosing the city. We welcome these new neighbors; they are part of our city's resurgence.

Are we on the front end of a huge, "coming home" movement, where people seek out places to live which offer a strong sense of community, as our city neighborhoods do?

Michael R. Allen said...

Rick, people are chooisng the city itself.

They are not necessarily chooisng out outdated, inefficient, punitive and petty city government structure.

They are not necessarily choosing the silly class divisions or endoring the establishment.

They are not necessarily choosing to ignore the structural problems in regional government.

They are not necessarily choosing our region's pervasive attitude that second best is "good enough" because it's comfortable.

These residents are choosing to live in a place so special and unique that its qualities transcend all of our political and social problems.

The city IS great enough that many people will go to great lengths to live here.

Few would argue that the city as a physical space has huge problems. In fact, quite the contrary.

The huge problem here is local political leadership.

Anonymous said...

Why so negative?

Our leadership has rebuilt downtown, negotiated the expansion of BJC in the city, is bringing rebirth to north city, and built a new stadium for baseball's best fans.

We need government to get out of the way of progress. Lay the groundwork, yes. Then let things happen.

It's happening all around us. We're even getting a new highrise condo building on Washington Avenue.