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A new, but not really improved Board of Aldermen

Over the summer, after hearing complaints and concerns from voters, I conducted my own, unscientific survey. The 2023-2024 session is not over so let us mention some optimism and make some course adjustments.

The survey was on the performance of the highly anticipated, newly reconstructed, and most diverse city Board of Alderpersons that is in its first legislative session. I graded the BOA and gave them a C-. My grade is based on anger, disappointment, and skepticism. The 2023-2024 session is not over so let us mention some optimism and make some course adjustments.

I move all around the city. I go to many meetings and events. I attend ward meetings and tune into city of St. Louis zoom meetings. When I’m in line at the grocery store, I always get an earful about what folk think is going on.

Sometimes I feel compelled to correct or clarify a person’s perception of a situation or quote. Mostly, I listen and often those opinions and sentiments are incorporated into my columns.

In April, a historic board was sworn in. Historic—not yet in deeds—but in the process. The number of wards were reduced from 28 to 14. Annual salaries were doubled from the previous board’s wage, and BOA members now have much-needed administrative support.

Many voters think that new board members have gotten the “big head,” and see themselves as king or queen of their respective fiefdoms. They feel like some clear mandates expressed by voters are being ignored.

Those include public safety (not police appeasement), land use (who’s getting our real estate?), social services (give the people what they need), and transparency (what y’all doing?).

Woke voters want to know why the Chief of Police’s salary and downtown police overtime are subsidized by the Police Foundation when citizens have demanded the police footprint be decreased.

The city jail is sucking unnecessary resources (time and money) due to persistent unsafe and unsanitary conditions that are resulting in lawsuits.

The “In-Justice” Center should be providing a haven for those innocent-until-proven-innocent citizens waiting to be charged for offenses.

How is it that no one knows who is getting a whopping 850 acres of land on the Northside and for what it will be used? That’s a land mass roughly equivalent to combining Wellston and Hillsdale municipalities.

People are also upset about the attempts to privatize Fairgrounds Park. Recalling the racial riots that led to its desegregation back in 1949, this effort takes the city backward.

These are just a few of the concerns that must be addressed by those who can do something. There’s still time to make sure the city gets onto a progressive trajectory. Voters have put people in office, from the mayor to the alderpersons, to work together and implement a citizens’ agenda. We all have homework to do if that C- grade is to be raised to an A.

Elected and appointed officials must remember they are public servants, and that their job should always be about the greater good. They asked for citizen participation in governmental affairs. Now they need to honor and support that engagement. Be humble and responsive.

Voters should review some basic civics lessons and understand the role and authority of elected officials and governmental bodies. Criticizing an alderperson for the trash on I-70 is a complaint for the Missouri Department of Transportation. Be humble and informed.

St. Louis has less population now than it has in a century. We are majority non-white, yet our problems seem to increase. The city is at a crossroads as to whether it will embark upon a road of inclusion, racial equity, and accountability. The alternative is digging deeper trenches of parochialism, racial divisions, and stagnation.

Let’s all do our homework and create a brighter and more progressive future for the city.

Jamala Rogers is a columnist for The St. Louis American and one of the founding members of the Organization for Black Struggle based in St. Louis.

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