Who Does Our Government Serve? by Hugh Pavitt

There has been a lot of chatter in the blogosphere of late about secession, usually about southern states and the Union.  In a recent guest posting on http://urbanreviewstl.com, Chris Andoe made the case for St Louisans to consider secession from the rest of Missouri and, in particular, politicians based in Jefferson City.  One can see the logic, but surely what we need is less, not more, units of government?

Since 1882, the motto of the State of Missouri has been: “Salus populi suprema lex esto”.  There are three translations from the Latin: “Let the welfare (or will, or good) of the people be the supreme law”.  As we wind-up the current legislative session, it is clear that regional politicians have either lost sight of the state motto or are not taking it seriously.  Despite a majority of citizenry having spoken clearly on these issues, St Louis does not have control of its own police department, tax credits for the redevelopment of historic buildings remain endangered, and puppy mill legislation has been decimated on the alter of one special interest group.

 At the city level, there is another set of problems.  We have a group of hard-working aldermen and women who represent the interests of their wards.  It is well known that if one wants to accomplish something in the city such as improving or redeveloping property, starting a business, or even negotiating the bureaucracy at 1200 Market, the support of one’s alderman is critical.  The downside of this is that we have 28 aldermen who are blinkered by the geography of their own ward and are rarely incentivized to think beyond those boundaries, to a city, regional, or even global level.

What is the answer to this?  Some have suggested reorganization along “Home Rule” lines where we would have fewer aldermen all of whom would have a city-wide portfolio.  This is unlikely to pass, since the aldermen have built-up strong local support based upon their individual ability to “get things done”.  Other things would need to change and improve first, such as City Hall bureaucracy and customer service.  City Hall needs to be able to facilitate legitimate citizen requests without the interference of aldermen.

Missourians are generally against “big” government.  This has resulted in an incredible number of small governments (has anyone counted the number of “Cities” in St Louis County?  Let alone the number of 501-C-3’s in the Metro-Area) leading to a view that tends to be inward rather than outward.  Our metropolis is governed by these sometimes competing entities which can often make decisions that are locally beneficial but regionally detrimental, yet we baulk at any suggestion of government integration – Clayton, Richmond Heights and Brentwood recently tried for a partial merger and lost to local fears and prejudices.

 What to do?  Where to go next?  What do YOU think?

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One Response to Who Does Our Government Serve? by Hugh Pavitt

  1. Delia says:

    I concur Hugh! Our aldermen would be more effective and should be serving at-large as this would unify policy decisions for the best interest of the entire city population. I also think some of the hundreds of small municipalities should be merged into larger cities, sort of how they have already done with the school districts. The randomness of these multiple municipalities are, among other things, a nuisance to citizens who have to travel thru 8 different small towns and POLICE jurisdictions before reaching their destinations (if you catch my drift) ;)