For Immediate Release January 4, 2017
Statement by Jake Hollander, Founder of St. Louis Strong to Chesterfield City Council
Council members and Mr. Mayor, I’ve lived in Chesterfield the majority of my life, made life long friends here, learned to skate and play hockey here, gone on first dates and experienced heartbreaks here, celebrated almost every holiday with my family here. In essence, here is my home.
I’m grateful for having grown up in Chesterfield because I was afforded the privilege and opportunity of attending some of the best public schools in the country and residing in safety. However, despite all of these experiences, Chesterfield does not define my identity. It’s simply a place where all of these things have happened. I’ve spent time abroad, lived in Denver, and worked in our Nation’s capital.
Outside of our region, when folks ask me where I am from, I never mention Chesterfield—because none of them know it. I state—sometimes proudly and sometimes sheepishly—I’m from St. Louis.
Chesterfield and St. Louis are where I’ve witnessed the backwardness and corrosiveness of fragmented politics crack along socioeconomic lines; where I’ve observed adults act like children and children die like adults.
My life would be utterly different had I been born a dozen miles from here. What your resolution to oppose a city-county combination plan of any kind, or to even discuss the issue, indicates is your failure not only to see the larger picture as a non-partisan elected official or business leader, but also as a human.
We are connected to our neighbors in the deep, whether we like it or not. Lines on a map, skin tones, political parties, and other divisions are illusions of the mind. We all hope for and fear the same things. We all long for a stable economy so we can provide for our family without constant anxiety. We all desire a safe place to raise our kids and good schools to send them. We all yearn for premier healthcare services to serve our loved ones.
Yet, your shortsighted political resolution fails to recognize that your interests are intertwined with those of your neighbors’. Your decisions did not allow for consideration of the facts. Simple re-entry would entail that only the City would be responsible for its debt. The County and City police could worry less about jurisdictional lines and more about public safety. Our public health departments could jointly combat diseases and epidemics that plague our region. We could eliminate administrative bureaucracy and rein in rogue courts. We could succinctly promote a competitive economic vision to attract more and larger businesses. Study after study indicates all of this—of which I’m happy to send you.
Republicans, Democrats, suburbanites and urbanites, blacks and whites have come together in Nashville, Indianapolis, Louisville, and elsewhere to combine services in order to grow their region and eliminate redundancies. I urge you to reconsider your decision and be open to the free market of ideas. I urge you to have the political courage to look at the facts and reevaluate the silencing of mere conversations. The founders of our country understood the meaning of ‘E. Pluribus Unum’ and poison of factionalism. I hope you will learn to as well.