And we're off! Welcome to my monthly chat. Post your questions and we'll talk about whatever is on your mind.
First question is about the demise of Better Together. Basically, what's next? Well, I really hope the Municipal League follows through with its plan to call a Board of Freeholders. Why? That might not be the ultimate solution, but it creates a more transparent process, connected to voters and taxpayers, to take this issue of merger or re-entry or regionalism to the next step.
I believe there is wide support for some movement toward regionalism. But what does it look like? I was a big merger proponent before the recent Better Together debacle. But now I'm leaning toward re-entry as a first step. I think it significantly changes the dynamics of the region and is something voters can approve. The consent of the governed is the thing that Better Together most got wrong.
OK, might as well jump right into race questions and the Blues. Because nearly every issue in St. Louis at some point deals with race, there is an undercurrent in the Blues recent Stanley Cup run, which was great for St. Louis, that the team's support is significantly more white than black. No, not entirely, but look at the parade. It can't really be ignored. I don't know what that means, but I hear some of the same questions about support for the MLS.
Frankly, I'm just a huge sports fan. Love nearly all the major sports, and while I'm not a lifelong Blues fan, I really enjoyed the Stanley Cup run and think it's great for St. Louis. And watching the ST. Louis FC advance in the U.S. Open Cup has also been amazing. Hope they can continue the run.
Jumping back to the Board of Freeholders: Here's my hope: I think there is a chance that it will really continue the conversation that Better Together brought to the forefront. One of the things that process taught us is that not all of the right people were at the table. It wasn't inclusive enough. My hope is that this conversation continues in a serious way and in the next few years we as a region are putting something on the ballot. Is it a series of votes? Forced consolidations? Big Merger? Or simply new and better leadership that can find a way for us to cooperate better?
I had coffee with somebody recently who shared a big idea: Why not have East-West Gateway or Bi-State, both regional type organizations (including the Illinois side) take a more active role in economic development/transportation/planning on big regional issues? Do we already have the sort of umbrella organizations that, managed properly, can do a better job of bringing us together?
Good question from former PDer Richard Weiss on the Kim Gardner situation. This will take a couple of different responses ...
I tweeted something the other day that summarizes part of my view on the Kim Gardner situation as it relates to her former investigator William Tisaby being indicted by a special prosecutor on perjury charges: Several different things can be true: What Tisaby did is wrong and he should be punished. The indictment looks very bad for Gardner and may well cost her her job. But at least some of this is about race, and about some very angry and powerful people wanting to punish Gardner for her role in bringing Greitens down.
It can't be ignored that Ed Dowd (Greitens' lawyer) is very good friends with Jerry Carmody (the special prosecutor). And Gardner asked the police department that she is at war with (or that is at war with her), to investigate a threat she says Greitens' attorneys made to ruin her career (which they may well have done). It's possible to be on both sides here, and to see that justice, as it often is, might well have two standards here, one for white prosecutors and one for black ones. There are numerous stories in the Post-Dispatch archives of former county prosecutor Bob McCulloch being accused of somewhat dastardly deeds where he never faced such legal scrutiny. It gives me pause when making a judgment about what is happening to Gardner here.
Follow up from Richard: When I say "cost her her job" I believe that if the indictment of Tisaby is proved to be accurate in terms of its content, that Gardner may be in a situation where she's forced to resign, a la, Greitens, who did so (after she dropped charges, by the way). Or that Carmody will seek to remove her in a quo warranto action. I think this drama will be playing out for some time.
Interesting question on merger of police and/or courts. Will deal with police first: The biggest obstacle here is that both our city and county police departments are facing some serious internal cultural issues related to race. I think those (particularly in the city) need to be dealt with before any serious talk of merging the departments makes any sense. And here's the prism that matters: Will merging departments make public safety any better? Ultimately, that's the key. Both in terms of a strategy to fight crime and gun violence, but also in terms of the ongoing civil rights violations of defendants that we are seeing regularly, whether it's in court costs, or the conditions at the Workhouse, or the four deaths in the county jail. I truly believe if we want to improve public safety in the St. Louis region we have to start with protecting individual civil rights. That will improve trust in our communities of color.
And now to the really important questions: Swiss. Love swiss. And feta. And, well, shaved parmesan. But yes, I have lived in St. Louis long enough to have a certain love, or, well, acceptance, of provel, even though it's not really cheese.
This is one of Better Together's biggest failings, I think, in terms of their proposal. Everybody who has been around and studied the issue knows that Rex Sinquefield, the main force behind Better Together, wants to get rid of the earnings tax, which would be a windfall for larger earners like himself. But it would be devastating for the city's budget. Better Together got rid of the earnings tax, and put it in the constitution, and they had the gall to tell us it had nothing to do with Rex. I call BS. It had everything to do with Rex and nothing to do with good public policy, and they never showed the math that made it work. In fact, all the cities that Better Together supporters point to have larger earnings taxes than does St. Louis, and in Indianapolis, they applied the earnings tax to the entire region when they merged.
Quo Warranto is an act of removing an elected official for cause. It's rare but has happened a few times in Missouri history.
This is a good question. I tend to expect that yes, there will be more indictments coming out of the Steve Stenger investigation, which the U.S. attorney has said several times is ongoing. There are too many other players mentioned in the indictments, and in previous and ongoing Post-Dispatch coverage, which appear to have broken the law, that I would be surprised if there aren't some more indictments or guilty pleas. But it has been a while now after some consistent and regular action. And proving such cases can be difficult. So, who knows?
A few soccer questions in here, so I'll get out of my lane for a minute and talk soccer. First of all, let's talk World Cup: The women are on fire. I think there is a tremendous chance they win the Cup again. They just have so much depth and are so consistently aggressive in the offensive third. (The two biggest weaknesses of the USMNT's team.
I did enjoy the USMNT Gold Cup win over Guyana, though it should have been by more than 4 goals. Tyler Boyd is for real. And Arriola is growing on me. But for God's sake, can we get Zardes out of there? He has feel like bricks.
Good question Beverly. One of the biggest obstacles I see is that St. Louisans have long memories. Like you, I moved here from somewhere else (though I didn't grow up here as it seems you did). And most people I talk to who are outsiders who move here, and fall in love with the city/region, see some of the same issues: In both white politics and black politics, people make assumptions about community leaders based on what their daddy or cousin or uncle did 20 or 40 years ago. St. Louis is still a very parochial place.
Here is one of the reasons why I have become such a big fan of the Close the Workhouse movement: It is one of those seminal moments, where if we want to get past our city's racial divide, then Black St. Louis has to have a big and meaningful win endorsed by the White St. Louis power structure. The Workhouse has literally been a symbol of police and court oppression for decades now, recognized by a series of federal judges, and yet, the power structure continues to hold on, without seeing the forest through the trees. Closing the Workhouse is about more than civil rights, it's about much more than politics, it's about changing the St. Louis conversation.
So I've been thinking about Bess/Stenger/Sweeney/Blues attempt to coopt the park land in Creve Coeur Lake Park the past couple of days because of the water now being over Highway 141 and shutting it down. Remember when Sweeney and Bess tried to convince the DNR that the project was about stormwater protection? Yea, that was a laugh. Now there are retention ponds built for an ice arena, and scraped and raised land that has been destroyed, and indeed, I suspect that project has contributed to why the highway is closed today. Yes, I suspect somebody was profiting somewhere in that deal, because it was a mess from the beginning.
I think Pruitt is all wrong here, and I hate to cast aspersions, but the oped reminds me of when his former county NAACP counterpart, John Gaskin, endorsed Better Together after the organization gave him a job. I know many members of Pruitt's organization who will dislike that oped very much.
My immediate reaction was one of suspicion. There are many in the GOP that would love for the 2020 election to be about abortion, and I had a sneaky suspicion that Humphreys might be pulling a Trojan Horse operation here, trying to get a referendum on the ballot to overturn the abortion bill as a way to actually increase GOP turnout. But Democrats are trying to do the same thing. I really don't know if the issue, on a big presidential ballot, benefits one party or another. My hope is that Humphreys is sincere and trying to overturn the ban, which goes way to far and is bad public policy.
A couple of more questions. I'm hungry. And no, Ron, I'm not going to post your question. But thanks for the memory.
Interesting question from Norm here. I was talking to a group of high school students last week as part of the Missouri Scholars Academy, and St. Louis Public Radio's Jason Rosenbaum was also there. And I noted that sometimes the medium really matters in terms of whether a newspaper story or column or editorial has a big effect on a news cycle or whether it's TV, or radio, or other electronic media.
An example Jason and I both talked about was the Rev. Starsky Wilson comments about Better Together when he referred to the plan as "apartheid". Jason's work on that story really took the story to a new level, and Wilson's words being heard on the radio, and then linked to over and over again when anybody else (including me) wrote about it, magnified the story.
To your specific question, I think one of the things that made my column a good outlet for the Debtors Prison series was that I was able to hit it over and over again, telling different stories, and raising new questions and bringing people to the story. I'm not sure that would have worked on TV in the same way.