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Guest Opinion: The Free State of St. Louis

May 10, 2011 Guest, Politics/Policy 32 Comments
ABOVE: Missouri State Line sign on I-270, source: Google Streetview

Guest opinion by Chris Andoe

In the event you’re not familiar with the allegory of the frog in boiling water I’ll share it with you. Drop a frog in a pot of boiling water and it’ll immediately jump out. Drop it in a pot of cool water, slowly heat until boiling, and it will just sit there and die.

The St. Louis region is the frog and the pot of boiling water is Missouri.

St. Louis has always had an uncomfortable relationship with outstate Missouri, leading to byzantine arrangements like the state controlling our police department. There’s a general understanding that nobody from St. Louis could go on to be governor, and we can’t even agree with our rural neighbors on how to pronounce the state name.

The temperature has been turned up a degree or two at a time for well over a hundred years and with recent events we find it at a rolling boil. Still, many don’t see a need to jump.

The perverse new congressional map guts representation in the St. Louis region, the economic engine of the state, shifting even more power to the rural areas.  Outrageously some of our region’s own “leaders” collaborated with the GOP to allow this to happen, including Rep. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, who said she was not concerned about the Democratic Party’s objections to the eliminating of one of the region’s congressional seats, or that 75% of Missourians now find themselves in gerrymandered districts that are solidly Republican. No, as long as the new map preserved Congressman Clay’s seat she’d back it. “I’m black before I’m a Democrat” Nasheed infamously said.

Can you imagine the delight of Republican strategists upon hearing her divisive, inflammatory, racially charged statement? Not only did she give them what they wanted with the new map, she gave them an outstanding tool in their efforts to get the votes of white Independents and Democrats. As the television infomercials say, “But wait! There’s more!” The self-serving Nasheed also helped Republicans to gut Prop B, the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act which passed by large margins in her St. Louis district.

State leaders were more concerned about upsetting the puppy mill lobby than the people of St. Louis and Kansas City. Because of pitiful leadership St. Louis gets one less congressional seat, puppy mill dogs get less humane conditions, and Nasheed gets a coveted third floor office in Jefferson City.

Time and again the St. Louis region winds up infighting over the crumbs after the bloated Jefferson City eats its fill. St. Louis pays the bills in the state with only meager representation, and some of the region’s own representatives are merely the lapdogs of outstate Republicans.

If there were ever a time for radical thinking, this is it. In a world economy built on innovation, the Missouri state motto “Show Me” doesn’t cut it. It’s time for the St. Louis region to lead. I also think it’s time for the region to secede from Missouri.

There’s legal precedent for the separation of a portion of an existing state from the original state in order to form a new one. In 1820, Maine split off from Massachusetts and was admitted to the Union as the 23rd state. At this moment there’s an aggressive movement in Pima County, Arizona to form a new state. Hugh Holub, the founder of this movement, explains “If the original American Revolution was triggered by the colonial people feeling they didn’t have a say in the government from London….the movement to create Baja Arizona is another in a long history of people wanting not to have their lives run by people with very different values and agendas who live somewhere else.”

A similar movement has begun in South Florida.

Think of all we’re giving to a state that values backwoods puppy mill operators more than the citizens of their mightiest city. Everything from tax dollars to electoral votes. It doesn’t make sense.

I’m asking the people of this region to shake the “show me” mentality and participate in innovative discussions about the future. Research what’s going on in Pima County, brainstorm about what’s possible. Even if secession doesn’t happen maybe the discussions will serve to wake the sleeping giant that is St. Louis, leading to a revolt against the tyranny of Jefferson City.

– Chris Andoe

Chris Andoe is a writer and community organizer who has divided his time between St. Louis and San Francisco for the past decade. He earned the moniker “The Emperor of St. Louis” as the crown wearing Master of Ceremonies for the zany Metrolink Prom, where hundreds of transit supporters pack the train for the city’s biggest mobile party. Andoe writes for St. Louis’ Vital Voice.

 

Currently there are "32 comments" on this Article:

  1. Anonymous says:

    Before moving here, I lived in Colorado, Kentucky and New York. The urban-rural legislative split is by no means unique here, nor is using redistricting to create districts that favor Republicans or Democrats. Secession also seems to appeal primarily to extremists (like Rick Perry in Texas) and is never either easy or without unintended consequences. The best local example is the city’s secession from St. Louis County – it worked well (for its proponents) for a while, but now the negatives are outweighing the positives. Ultimately, good government boils down to good people making good decisions, not any specific framework. While it’s frustrating to compromise with rural interests, it’s equally frustrating for them to compromise with us urbanites!

     
  2. JZ71 says:

    Before moving here, I lived in Colorado, Kentucky and New York. The urban-rural legislative split is by no means unique here, nor is using redistricting to create districts that favor Republicans or Democrats. Secession also seems to appeal primarily to extremists (like Rick Perry in Texas) and is never either easy or without unintended consequences. The best local example is the city’s secession from St. Louis County – it worked well (for its proponents) for a while, but now the negatives are outweighing the positives. Ultimately, good government boils down to good people making good decisions, not any specific framework. While it’s frustrating to compromise with rural interests, it’s equally frustrating for them to compromise with us urbanites!

     
  3. GSGates says:

    Running away from “Republicans” will not solve the city’s issues. Furthermore, claiming that Republicans are the cause of the city’s issues is also quite funny since the city has been run by Democrats for years on end.

    Now, if you’re wanting to have a conversation about why St. Louis is in the political shape it’s in. Let’s strip the party titles away and look at some widely know facts:

    1) City Alderman and kickbacks – It’s a widely known fact that in given parts of the city, if you want your project to move forward, you’ll have to work with the Alderman. As Steve would tell you, it’s not to make sure that you’re building a project that fits into the urban fabric of the city, but for $$$$.

    2) City/County divide. It’s hard to get things done when you have two unique and separate systems of government in one city. It’s dumb, a waste of money, and every year it continues it sets us further and further behind.

    3) Municipalities – Taking my point above to the micro level, having townships fighting over Walmarts so they can move 2 miles to a new shiny building and pay less in taxes for 10-15 years makes a lot of sense. Oh, wait.

    4) Black/White – You touched on this in your article, but the mistrust on both sides is going to take time to dissolve. In the mean time, you’re seeing people fighting to keep a politician in office just because of the color of their skin and that’s not usually the best way get that done.

    That’s four easy points that are crushing our city from within. It’s akin to a family business with too many hands in the pot only looking out for themselves. So if you’re sitting in Jefferson City looking down on St. Louis, why would you want to help? St. Louis doesn’t need to secede, it needs to go to rehab or bankruptcy and have it’s assets reorganized in away that really serves it’s own citizens.

    At some point we need to stop blaming republicans, democrats, blacks, whites, etc and start looking at one another as coworkers. You don’t have to like your coworkers, but you know that if you don’t work together your business (St. Louis) is never going to really be the best it can be. That is why we’re all here, right? Because we want St. Louis to be the best city it can be for everyone to live.

     
  4. GSGates says:

    Running away from “Republicans” will not solve the city’s issues. Furthermore, claiming that Republicans are the cause of the city’s issues is also quite funny since the city has been run by Democrats for years on end.

    Now, if you’re wanting to have a conversation about why St. Louis is in the political shape it’s in. Let’s strip the party titles away and look at some widely know facts:

    1) City Alderman and kickbacks – It’s a widely known fact that in given parts of the city, if you want your project to move forward, you’ll have to work with the Alderman. As Steve would tell you, it’s not to make sure that you’re building a project that fits into the urban fabric of the city, but for $$$$.

    2) City/County divide. It’s hard to get things done when you have two unique and separate systems of government in one city. It’s dumb, a waste of money, and every year it continues it sets us further and further behind.

    3) Municipalities – Taking my point above to the micro level, having townships fighting over Walmarts so they can move 2 miles to a new shiny building and pay less in taxes for 10-15 years makes a lot of sense. Oh, wait.

    4) Black/White – You touched on this in your article, but the mistrust on both sides is going to take time to dissolve. In the mean time, you’re seeing people fighting to keep a politician in office just because of the color of their skin and that’s not usually the best way get that done.

    That’s four easy points that are crushing our city from within. It’s akin to a family business with too many hands in the pot only looking out for themselves. So if you’re sitting in Jefferson City looking down on St. Louis, why would you want to help? St. Louis doesn’t need to secede, it needs to go to rehab or bankruptcy and have it’s assets reorganized in away that really serves it’s own citizens.

    At some point we need to stop blaming republicans, democrats, blacks, whites, etc and start looking at one another as coworkers. You don’t have to like your coworkers, but you know that if you don’t work together your business (St. Louis) is never going to really be the best it can be. That is why we’re all here, right? Because we want St. Louis to be the best city it can be for everyone to live.

     
    • Held Over says:

      Harrumph, harrumph, harrumph! Here, here!

       
    • Chris Andoe says:

      The map and the other issues are bad for the entire region, not just the city.

      I agree with a city/county merger and with any plan that brings the region together.

      Unfortunately when it comes to Jefferson City it really is “us” (STL region)vs. “them”. They’re not worried about being measured or rational when they make decisions that ignore the will of the people (like Prop B) or when they gut representation in our area.

      We’re good and pointing the finger at one another in the region, and there’s plenty to point at, but we never unify around a common purpose. It’s absolutely critical that we learn how to do that. We can work on internal problems at the same time but can’t avoid fighting back until we solve our regional differences. The other side isn’t waiting.

       
  5. Anonymous says:

    Secession is too extreme a solution. Besides, that attitude created the city/county divide that plagues us now and created the useless micro-municipalities we currently have. We need to merge with the county and get that over with. School districts need to be aligned with reality instead of city boundaries. Do the schools in North City have as much in common with St Louis Hills as they do with Bellefontaine Neighbors?

    As far as the state, I’m not sure if we can fix the disproportionate representation issue. A unicameral state government might help. Why do we need two houses? It’s a waste of money and just confuses people. Most people can’t identify both their state rep and senator (if they can name even one). Just have a population based house and that might go a long way toward alleviating the issues. Can this be done by referendum? That’s the only way to get this past the over-represented rural areas.

    In the city, someone please start a referendum to get rid of the aldermen. What a waste of money they are! Get rid of the fleet of city vehicles given to nearly everyone. I just saw a city vehicle for code enforcement drive by Starbucks. Really? Unless the vehicle needs special modification (police and fire come to mind) or can be used by multiple personel shifts per day why doesn’t the city just reimburse the federal rate of 50 cents per mile? GPS devices can be assigned as an audit tool to verify claims.

     
  6. equals42 says:

    Secession is too extreme a solution. Besides, that attitude created the city/county divide that plagues us now and created the useless micro-municipalities we currently have. We need to merge with the county and get that over with. School districts need to be aligned with reality instead of city boundaries. Do the schools in North City have as much in common with St Louis Hills as they do with Bellefontaine Neighbors? Not sure how the schools should be aligned but the present setup makes little sense unless municipal boundaries are the only consideration.

    As far as the state, I’m not sure if we can fix the disproportionate representation issue. A unicameral state government might help. Why do we need two houses? It’s a waste of money and just confuses people. Most people can’t identify both their state rep and senator (if they can name even one). Just have a population based house and that might go a long way toward alleviating the issues. Can this be done by referendum? That’s the only way to get this past the over-represented rural areas.

    In the City, someone please start a referendum to get rid of most of the aldermen and the president of the alderman. What a waste of money they are and we don’t need the president along with the mayor!

    While I’m complaining get rid of the fleet of city vehicles given to nearly everyone. I just saw a city vehicle for code enforcement drive by Starbucks. Really? Unless the vehicle needs special modification (police and fire come to mind) or can be used by multiple personel shifts per day why doesn’t the city just reimburse the federal rate of 50 cents per mile? GPS devices can be assigned as an audit tool to verify claims.

     
  7. Held Over says:

    You can’t be serious, right? Can’t we just do what Nebraska did and give St. Louis its own electoral vote, much like the Omaha region?

     
  8. Held Over says:

    You can’t be serious, right? Can’t we just do what Nebraska did and give St. Louis its own electoral vote, much like the Omaha region?

     
  9. Held Over says:

    Harrumph, harrumph, harrumph! Here, here!

     
  10. Nick Kasoff says:

    In 1950, the city was 856,796 people in a state of 3,954,653. That’s 21.7%. You could make a good argument that St. Louis should have 2 or 3 of Missouri’s 13 house seats. In 2010, the city was 319,294 people in a state of 5,988,927. That’s 5.3%. So how do you figured that the city, with 5.3% of the population, should have 25% of the house seats?

     
  11. Nick Kasoff says:

    In 1950, the city was 856,796 people in a state of 3,954,653. That’s 21.7%. You could make a good argument that St. Louis should have 2 or 3 of Missouri’s 13 house seats. In 2010, the city was 319,294 people in a state of 5,988,927. That’s 5.3%. So how do you figured that the city, with 5.3% of the population, should have 25% of the house seats?

     
    • The Emperor says:

      Congressional districts have equal population (621,690 last I checked). Two were anchored in the city but also covered suburban areas. The state population is pretty evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, but this new map puts 75% of Missourians in solidly Republican districts.

       
      • Nick Kasoff says:

        Is the state evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats? Depends on how you figure it. In 2008, McCain beat Obama by 0.1%, about as close as it gets. And Nixon beat Hulshof by nearly 20 points. But that was two years ago. In 2010, Blunt beat Carnahan by 13.6%. And perhaps a better indicator is that Schweich beat Montee, about whom nobody could say anything bad, by more than 5%. The result is that the Missouri house went 106-57 for the Republicans, while the Senate went 26-8. Congress, like our state legislator, is elected in districts. And it appears that the vast majority of those districts presently favor the Republicans.

         
  12. The Emperor says:

    Congressional districts have equal population (621,690 last I checked). Two were anchored in the city but also covered suburban areas. The state population is pretty evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, but this new map puts 75% of Missourians in solidly Republican districts.

     
  13. Nick Kasoff says:

    Is the state evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats? Depends on how you figure it. In 2008, McCain beat Obama by 0.1%, about as close as it gets. And Nixon beat Hulshof by nearly 20 points. But that was two years ago. In 2010, Blunt beat Carnahan by 13.6%. And perhaps a better indicator is that Schweich beat Montee, about whom nobody could say anything bad, by more than 5%. The result is that the Missouri house went 106-57 for the Republicans, while the Senate went 26-8. Congress, like our state legislator, is elected in districts. And it appears that the vast majority of those districts presently favor the Republicans.

     
  14. Chris Andoe says:

    The map and the other issues are bad for the entire region, not just the city.

    I agree with a city/county merger and with any plan that brings the region together.

    Unfortunately when it comes to Jefferson City it really is “us” (STL region)vs. “them”. They’re not worried about being measured or rational when they make decisions that ignore the will of the people (like Prop B) or when they gut representation in our area.

    We’re good and pointing the finger at one another in the region, and there’s plenty to point at, but we never unify around a common purpose. It’s absolutely critical that we learn how to do that. We can work on internal problems at the same time but can’t avoid fighting back until we solve our regional differences. The other side isn’t waiting.

     
  15. Anonymous says:

    “Fair” representation is a matter of both perception and how finely one wants to slice the pie. If you agree with the party in power, the one that got the most votes in the last election, then you probably feel like you’re fairly represented. If you don’t agree, it’s not surprising that you feel disenfranchised. In smaller districts, like our city’s wards, you’re more likely to be represented by someone like yourself. In larger districts, there’s bound to be more diversity, with more of a chance that you’ll feel like an outsider. Unfortunately, in our style of representative democracy, 40%-50% of us will inevitably end up unhappy . . . .

     
  16. JZ71 says:

    “Fair” representation is a matter of both perception and how finely one wants to slice the pie. If you agree with the party in power, the one that got the most votes in the last election, then you probably feel like you’re fairly represented. If you don’t agree, it’s not surprising that you feel disenfranchised. In smaller districts, like our city’s wards, you’re more likely to be represented by someone like yourself. In larger districts, there’s bound to be more diversity, with more of a chance that you’ll feel like an outsider. Unfortunately, in our style of representative democracy, 40%-50% of us will inevitably end up unhappy . . . .

     
  17. RobbyD says:

    I thought the way forward for St. Louis was gov’t consolidation and coalition building, not drawing even more lines…

    And I’m quite confident that the Republican party in Mizzouri is unlikely to stand in the way of real economic growth anywhere in the state, including Saint Louis, MO…

    If you feel that Jeff City should bow down to St. Louis and debate every decision on how it will impact the St. Louis region, I think you’re crazy. If you feel that Jeff City should be even more open and responsive to initiatives and policies promoted by St. Louis politicans, then I agree…

    It’s up to our leaders here the City and region to get their act together and sell it to the people of this state…And for the state to listen and act…Not the other way around…

     
  18. RobbyD says:

    I thought the way forward for St. Louis was gov’t consolidation and coalition building, not drawing even more lines…

    And I’m quite confident that the Republican party in Mizzouri is unlikely to stand in the way of real economic growth anywhere in the state, including Saint Louis, MO…

    If you feel that Jeff City should bow down to St. Louis and debate every decision on how it will impact the St. Louis region, I think you’re crazy. If you feel that Jeff City should be even more open and responsive to initiatives and policies promoted by St. Louis politicans, then I agree…

    It’s up to our leaders here the City and region to get their act together and sell it to the people of this state…And for the state to listen and act…Not the other way around…

     
    • Rick says:

      Looking at the issue of local control, it doesn’t seem to make much difference how together St. Louisans are on an issue as far as how Jeff City responds.

       
  19. Rick says:

    Looking at the issue of local control, it doesn’t seem to make much difference how together St. Louisans are on an issue as far as how Jeff City responds.

     
  20. Douglas Duckworth says:

    The Democratic party takes African Americans for granted so I understand why she said she’s black before she’s a Democrat.

     
  21. Douglas Duckworth says:

    The Democratic party takes African Americans for granted so I understand why she said she’s black before she’s a Democrat.

     
  22. Chad Dierkes says:

     I have always found this map fascinating: http://www.tjc.com/38states/

    I think a plan like this would benefit the country as a whole, it is more regionally based and would balance out representation in Washington. 

     
  23. Chad Dierkes says:

     I have always found this map fascinating: http://www.tjc.com/38states/

    I think a plan like this would benefit the country as a whole, it is more regionally based and would balance out representation in Washington. 

     
  24. Etg1701 says:

    Talk about a radical proposal. I have contemplated the notion of St Louis as its own state, but only in a vague and counterfactual way. It seems pretty incredible and I don’t know if it would really solve many problems. I would, however, discard my plans to move simply for the sheer novelty of living in a city-state.

     
  25. Etg1701 says:

    Talk about a radical proposal. I have contemplated the notion of St Louis as its own state, but only in a vague and counterfactual way. It seems pretty incredible and I don’t know if it would really solve many problems. I would, however, discard my plans to move simply for the sheer novelty of living in a city-state.

     
  26. we should do proper planning and it is the base of anything. thanks that you take people opinion. 

     
  27. we should do proper planning and it is the base of anything. thanks that you take people opinion. 

     

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