Urbanexus - Next American City came to town this week and is finding a place where creative people are working together to remake St. Louis.
A meeting of Urbanexus representatives, local creatives, and out of town experts convened at the downtown Left Bank Books. The event started at 7, with most people lingering long after the 9 PM scheduled conclusion.
There were well over 100 people in attendace. The standing room only group overflowed into the upstairs balcony.
Had this event occured ten or fifteen years ago, there would have been likely fewer than a dozen persons on hand. And there would have been little to do afterwards. Attendees at last night's event had many venues to choose from for after meeting gatherings.
Among the issues presented included creating a 1% for the arts program. Former 28th Ward alderman Dan Maguire was in attendance and encouraged attendees to promote such ideas to current members of the Board of Aldermen.
Panelists included current alderman for the 21st Ward, Antonio French. Alderman French stressed the need for an update to the city's zoning and development process. His point was supported by another panelist and Trailnet representative who mentioned the importance of an understandable and predictable development process.
A German born architect and current UC Berkeley professor stressed the importance of cross collaboration. Cherokee street creative entrepreneur and start up business advocate Galen Gandolfi spoke eloquently about the importance of providing capital to low and moderate income persons and businesses.
St. Louis American editor Chris King moderated the event. It's always good to meet the people whose blogs we read. King did a good job emceeing the event and sharing his love for St. Louis. King described Alderman French, as exactly the sort of bright, educated, young professional person St. Louis needs to retain.
The need for strong leadership was a recurring theme. Whether its for passage of a tax for a regional trail system (have) or a 1% for the arts program (need), it takes leaders to make such ideas into reality. Question: How does St. Louis nurture the increase in such leadership that gave us the regional trail system to do more progressive things for St. Louis? Case in point: if a revamp of the planning and zoning code for St. Louis is a desired goal, how do we build leadership around that issue?
Downtown St. Louis has become the focal point for the discussion. But its important to remember that many of the principles discussed last night have already been happening in St. Louis for a long time. Alderman French cited the success of the Loop as an example of a creative person, Joe Edwards, making change happen. The role of gays and the sustainability of the Central West End was emphasized.
Tough issues such as a challenged public school system and attracting middle class families were debated. Some suggested writing off the idea of attracting middle class families. Others said a "quiet tax" exists for families choosing to live in the city and paying to place their kids in private schools.
What is never brought up in the schools debate is the fact that most enrollees into private high schools in the St. Louis region live outside the city of St. Louis.
Here's a related question. The City of St. Louis has a residency requirement for most public employees. As a former public employee, I support the policy. What I don't understand is why are employees of the city public libraries and city public schools exempt from a residency requirement? You must be a city resident to serve on the school board, but you don't need to live in the city to be a city school teacher.
Wouldn't city school teachers have a more vested interest in the success of city schools if they were city residents themselves?