Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mayor Slay Calls for Local Police Control, City Rejoining County

The following is from Urban Review-STL by Steve Patterson dated April 22nd, 2009. You can review his entire article at: Believe me, there is a lot more.

Mayor Slay's comments are printed in black, while Steve Patterson's remarks are in red.


That is a lot to take in. Let’s go in order looking at selected text: (Note: Slay's remarks are in black)

We can no longer afford to compete against each other. We must combine our resources and talents to figure out solutions to regional issues as complex as race relations, poverty, transportation, and creating jobs in new industries – and to regional tasks as simple as writing smoke-free laws, sharing public services, and building bike paths.

> True, we can’t continue competing with each other. Moving employers around the region doesn’t help the region. I like that he specifically mentions smoke-free laws.

Many of our government institutions and practices were put in place in a very different age, long before anyone considered Mexico and India as threats to our jobs. We will have to become more effective and efficient—and government must be collaborative. The City must reform its charter. The City, the inner suburbs, and outer suburbs must combine services. And, I strongly believe, that we must begin to lay the groundwork for the City of St. Louis to enter St. Louis County.

> Collaborative government? Yes. Reform the city charter? Yes. Combine services? Yes. Reverse the 1876 split from the county? Not until the 90+ municipalities in St. Louis County get consolidated by at least half. Both charter reform & rejoining the county would involve eliminating a number of elected offices. If they remained they’d no longer be elected positions. Sheriff, Recorder of Deeds, Circuit Clerk, Circuit Attorney, Collector of Revenue, License Collector, Treasurer, Public Administrator and Comptroller are either duplicates of existing offices in St. Louis County or are offices which could be appointed by the Mayor and approved by the Board of Aldermen.

My poll last week was on this very topic. Only 30% of you took the term “merge” the city & county meant just rejoining the county. Sixty percent took it to mean a consolidated government form. Mayor Slay, however, said “rejoin” not “merge.”

There are several representatives here today from Governor Jay Nixon’s office and several members of the Missouri General Assembly. Ladies and gentlemen from Jefferson City, it is time to let go of the past. The Civil War ended 144 years ago. In the age of YouTube, I-phones, and Twitter, it is time that St. Louis joined every other city in America and got its own police department. Governor Nixon, I promise we will not use it against the Confederate Army.

You’ve got to watch those confederates. We can always tow their cars and sell their event tickets. Seriously, we should have control of our own police force — for better or worse.

Community meetings will take place in neighborhood list serves and web sites. Community meetings will be on-line forums, as well as in person meetings. Every part of municipal life — signing up for summer recreation, Operation Brightside blitzs, street closings/repairs, paying a tax bill, dealing with a bad neighbor, recycling, getting involved in a mentoring program, finding job counseling – must be available on-line. There is no reason why getting a building permit should require a trip to City Hall – or be much more difficult than buying a book on Amazon.

Obviously I’m a huge fan of the digital lifestyle but I don’t ever see the internet displacing the value of face-to-face meetings. I do see huge value in having every single municipal form online as an editable PDF document. We are such a long way from that now. Most forms are not even in a non-editable PDF format. I got one form recently as a Word document. Our city website is stuck in the 1990s so I agree we need a digital overhaul. Of course with so many elected officials the Mayor doesn’t have oversight in many aspects of city government.

Can Slay make these changes? It is a tall order. But we must dig in. I say a first step is to eliminate partisan elections for city offices — that would simplify elections every two years. I talked with one Alderman today about reducing the total number. This Alderman was complaining about the lack of support staff to succeed. Well, eliminate 14 Aldermen and suddenly you’ve got nearly half a million dollars a year available for better aldermanic pay and/or increased support staff.

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