Common Failures of Chesterfield and St. Louis City

Residents of St. Louis City and Chesterfield frequently bemoan, deride and chastise each other. However, they may have more in common than they realize. Both make embarrassing decisions and give out incentives like candy—but let's just focus on decision-making for now.

St. Louis Strong previously condemned Chesterfield for voting on a resolution to oppose to any and every form of regional restructuring. Council members like Barbara McGuinness made such eloquent arguments in their defense, “Why wait for a plan? I don’t want to see a plan for a bad idea and a bad concept, and I don’t think there should be a merger.”

Brilliant. Why even have a discussion to determine whether an idea is bad in the first place? Who needs debate?

St. Louis City legislators stole a page right out of the Chesterfield playbook this past week. In 2012, 74 percent of St. Louis City resident turned out in a November election to consider whether the board of alderman should shrink from 28 wards to 14. An overwhelming 60 percent of voters approved ward reduction. They seemed to understand that having the most elected officials per capita wasn't doing them any favors.

Yet, this week a measure to reverse the people's will sped through committee without pumping the breaks for thoughtful debate after being driven by 21st Ward Alderman John Collins-Muhammad. In a whiplash turn of events, the board approved placing a dizzyingly worded amendment for a revote. Hold on to your seat belt, because the underlying logic blows a tire. In the name of voter enfranchisement, the alderman demanded the measure be considered again. However, the most honorable alderman and his coalition cynically placed the revote in historically lowest voter turnout month of April. The math doesn't equal their suggested intent.

No doubt much of this wreck arose from a lack of an actual reduction plan (which is likely due to the fragmented nature of the board of alderman). Regardless, the 2020 census will ensure ward lines get redrawn (whether there are 14, 28, 79 or 310,000 wards). Yet, as St. Louis City Alderman John Collins-Muhammad and Chesterfield Council Member Barbara McGuinness know—why wait for a plan? Especially when your personal power is threatened.

Both the actions and decisions of Chesterfield and St. Louis City continue to embarrass the region to the outside world and highlight the fragmented nature of the region's diseased political structures and culture.

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