St. Louis Post-Dispatch from St. Louis, Missouri on March 16, 1997 · Page 9
Get access to this page with a Free Trial

A Publisher Extra Newspaper

St. Louis Post-Dispatch from St. Louis, Missouri · Page 9

St. Louis, Missouri
Issue Date:
Sunday, March 16, 1997
Page 9
Start Free Trial

67997 ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH NEWS ANALYi EDITORIALS 2 COMMENTARY 3 WEATHER 10 B SECTION SUNDAY, MARCH 16, 1997 SIS : 'tarn I 1 I! . mm Ml 1 I itlnlc 1 INSIDE St. Louis could lead the nation in civic experimentation. It could study the very best ideas of other regions and adapt them for use here. By Neal Peirce And Curtis Johnson St Louis needs a 21st-century civic strategy to match the physical triumph of its great Arch on the Mississippi. No modest maneuvers or public relations tactics, not even shining new buildings on the riverfront, will do it If St Louis' problems could be solved merely by hiring consultants with bright ideas, that would have happened already. What's required is a radical shift The region that has fed on self-doubt, on looking backward, needs a new audacity. It needs to shake the 1904 monkey off its back. It needs to make a very new start How to do that? By transforming St Louis into America's premier lab oratory of 21st-century civic experimentation. What does that mean? That the region take the very best ideas, from across America and across the globe, ideas designed to cope with every challenge from downtown abandonment to failing schools, and put the most promising of them . to work right here, on the banks of the Mississippi. , The vehicle to launch such an effort is in place the St Louis 2004 civic effort announced last year, headed by former U.S. Sen. John Danforth. As long as 2004 takes pains to work collaboratively with the region's broad array of civic groups a caution we raised in one of our articles last Sunday it seems perfectly positioned to coordinate this effort , Already, 20O4's plans include showcasing exemplary community projects along with big Super Bowllike events. But think how much more exciting the idea might become: to transform the St Louis region into a premier laboratory, the global showcase for the most exciting civic experiments being tried , anywhere, ; The soil is more fertile for such an audacious effort than you might ; imagine. In hearings held recently across the region, 2004 found people impatient eager to move forward to . find solutions for such problems as crime, traffic, floods, deteriorating air quality, suburban sprawl, poor schools, fractionalized governments. They recognize the St Louis region is in trouble and needs much better answers now. The 2004 organization hopes to draw big sports events and national meetings to St Louis. But it wisely decided not to try a world's fair or parallel extravaganza. The gadgetry and scientific exhibits that drew people to world expositions like St Louis' in 1904 is old hat now: you can find them on the Internet in films and magazines, any day, anywhere. The task now is different If s how to make society work for people in their neighborhoods, their schools, their environment Like inventing the telephone or television or flying to the moon in their time, cracking the intractable social problems is the challenge of our time. To date, no American region had the nerve to say that taking on the tough community and social issues from urban decay to an ill-prepared work force is its highest priority. We believe St Louis can, and should. Here's the vision: Adopt a Best Practices Model. Best practices mean discovering, on any issue one names, what organization, what place has shown it can achieve superior results. Then one studies what makes that successful strategy tick, brings it home and sees if it can be tailored to fit the local situation. Smart corporations are constantly . seeking out best practices among their competitors indeed they must to assure their survival in a harshly competitive world market- - place. Smart communities, interested in their survival, must now do the same. Broad Citizen Involvement Take the crime problem: In which communities of UNIVERSITY INVOLVEMENT helps solve area's problems 5B A view from the Laclede's Landing America have the police been most successful in taming violence striking a partnership with local neighborhoods and effecting steady, measurable reductions in the rates of crime? Just how did New York City effect a 39 percent reduction in its crime rate in three years? How has Boston cut its murder rate of youngsters 17 and below to zero for three years running? How did a bunch of determined women in Oakland, Calif., rid their neighborhood of drug dealers in about one year's time? How have the police in deeply troubled New Haven, Conn., made in-depth community policing multiple substations acting as communi Urban specialists Neal Peirce and Curtis Johnson have been raising those questions about the St Louis region in each episode of their Peirce Report Segments have appeared in this newspaper daily since last Sunday. Where are we headed? Peirce and Johnson predict the area will fall increasingly behind other metropolitan regions unless we change our ways. They sounded the alarm in last Sunday's opening report and in the dairy installments. Among issues they believe we need to address: H Population decline in the city. B Regional fragmentation. Deep racial divide. Urban sprawl. B Low confidence in city schools. B Fear of crime. B Ill-prepared work force. B Decline downtown. B Deteriorating neighborhoods. Where do we want to go? , As outsiders, Peirce and Johnson leave that decision to those of us who live in this area. They stress that it's vital for that discussion to Chuck Stones's column appears MetroLink station. ty centers, for example work in tandem with probation counseling and truancy prevention in the schools? Or focus on a broad citizenship question: Which regions have been able to engage a broad range of citizens most effectively? Was it Chattanooga, Tenn. once afflicted with some of America's worst air pollution, by textile and steel mill closings, a forlorn and shriveling downtown? "Chattanooga Ventures," a group of some 70 concerned citizens, began meeting in a downtown storefront in 1983 and eventually launched "Vision 2000," a community strategic planning effort involving more than 1,700 Chattanoogans. To The Report So Far... Where are we headed? Where do we want to How do we get there? include all of us. How do we get there? The report a week ago suggested briefly that we look for "best practices" elsewhere and cited examples in the daily pieces. Today's concluding report contains a fuller discussion of this proposal, which Peirce and Johnson say could turn our region into "America's premier laboratory of 21st-century civic experimentation." About The Report St Louis is the 14th metropolitan area to be put under the scrutiny of a Peirce Report Since 1986, the reports have been published in the leading newspaper in each area. Previous reports have examined strengths and vulnerabilities of Phoenix; Seattle; Spokane, Wash.; Boulder, Colo.; Dallas; St Paul, Minn.; Indi- anapolis; Owensboro, Ky.; Charlotte, N.C.; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Baltimore; Philadelphia; and Reading, Pa. Peirce, of Washington, is a nationally syndi URBAN SPRAWL far outpaces region's population growth 6B on Page 3C Gregory Freeman's make a long story short Chat-' tanooga has not only used excellence in design and strong citizen participation to rescue its inner city from oblivion. The 223 early downtown projects have expanded to efforts involving citizens all across the region. A new culture of experimentation has been born. Last year the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce was behind an effort to get citizens' ideas on the scale and character of development they want to see on their roadways, in their settlements and town centers and then revamp local zoning codes and planning ordinances to match. What emerges from a vigorous best practices effort in short is a community attitude of experimenta column appears on Page 2C 1 'ONt tion and curiosity in searching for solutions. The process encourages learning, risk taking, tenacious striving for improvement and a realistic expectation that many efforts will fail. Silicon Valley was not a series of "sure deals" it was built on adventure, testing, failing, then moving forward. Learning From A 'Mistake' Sometimes doughty St. Louis needs a dose of this. And in fact the opportunities are starting to open up. Seventy-some St Louis leaders got a threeday cram course in best practices in Cleveland last Septem- See MODEL, Page 4 cated urban affairs columnist for The Washington Post Writers Group. He go? wrote a series of books culminating in "The Book of America: Inside 50 States Today," published in 1983. He is a former political editor of Congressional Quarterly and a founder of the National Journal. Johnson, of St Paul, is chairman of the Metropolitan Council of MinneapolisSt Paul. He ' is a former chief of staff to Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson. For the last decade, he has researched and written on urban affairs in partnership with Peirce. For the St Louis report Peirce and Johnson worked with Ida Haynes Early, president of the Junior League of St Louis, and Rebecca Riley, vice president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in Chicago. The team interviewed about 150 St Louisans last fall. Team members also studied countless statistics and documents about the region. The Post-Dispatch, the St Louis Regional Commerce & Growth Association and the William T. Kemper Foundation paid equal shares of the report's cost, which totaled about $125,000 in fees and expenses. MANY CHOICES are available to ensure civic discussion 9B i-., h ; .., i Karen WarrenPost-Dispatch

Get access to

  • The largest online newspaper archive
  • 17,100+ newspapers from the 1700s–2000s
  • Millions of additional pages added every month

Publisher Extra Newspapers

  • Exclusive licensed content from premium publishers like the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
  • Archives through last month
  • Continually updated

Try it free