Document 233460

Editorial / CommEntary
Better together,
but how to get there?
We wish the very best for the stated intentions
of Missouri Council for a Better Economy and
its Better Together project that was announced
on Tuesday. The public was told that this
putative “grassroots project” will systematically
study how government services are provided
in St. Louis city and county and compare those
results to best practices in government.
These studies will be conducted in succession
and in the following order: Public Finance;
Economic Development; Public Health; Public
Safety; Parks, Recreation and Infrastructure;
and Administration. Early in 2015 we are to
expect “a very clear picture of current practices,”
organizers said in a statement, which can be
compared to best practices. We are told that
“groups and organizations,” rather than Missouri
Council for a Better Economy (MCBE) itself,
will then be in a more informed position “to
craft proposals for how St. Louis city and county
move forward in the future.”
MCBE Chairman of the Board Ambassador
George Herbert (Bert) Walker III and Better
Together Executive Director Nancy Rice both
deny that this “grassroots project” is a Trojan
horse for a city/county merger proposal. St.
Louis County Executive Charlie A. Dooley, who
supports the effort, says he is looking forward
to the research data with an open mind. Only
Mayor Francis G. Slay, who also supports the
effort, came right out and said what was on
everybody’s mind: “It has long been a goal of
mine to reunify the city and county,” Slay said.
Slay added a caveat, adding, “But we are not
prejudging anything in this process.” Of course,
no one believes these studies will conclude
that a tiny St. Louis city should remain isolated
politically from a sprawling and fragmented St.
Louis County with 91 municipalities and 23 fire
districts. Of course, we will be told we should
streamline political entities and consolidate
government services, both to eliminate waste and
to create a more unified and competitive region,
politically and economically. The problem, as
always, will be in finding enough grassroots
support for these big-picture changes to
overcome the varied, entrenched vested interests
in the city and county that oppose it. Slay
acknowledged this when he said the research will
show “what the people of the city and county are
willing to support.”
This new effort has been designed to
woo the public. The staff and volunteers at
Better Together will organize members of
the community to work together to develop
information about the performance of local
governments, we are told. These community
members will work with subject-matter experts
to develop “readily understood reports,” we are
told. Rather than rely solely on consultants to
drive the data collection, St. Louis residents will
be invited to participate in dozens of sponsored
discussions and forums.
Truly, we want this effort to succeed. If
Board owes us an explanation
By Redditt Hudson and
Doris Graham
Guest Columnists
The Ferguson-Florissant
school board’s decision to
place Superintendent Art
McCoy on administrative leave
raises questions to which the
parents in the district are owed
more than a
vague answer;
we are owed a
full explanation
of why the
decision was
board itself
that McCoy has
done nothing
Ambassador George Herbert (Bert) Walker
III, chairman of Missouri Council for a
Better Economy, announced its Better
Together project on Tuesday.
Photo by Wiley Price
enough people in St. Louis city and county can
be convinced that we are stronger, safer and
more competitive as a more unified region, we
would support a creative and inclusive political
process that unified our fragmented government
structures and consolidated services. But, without
“prejudging anything,” as the mayor said, we
feel compelled to urge some caution on our good
friend Ambassador Walker, an honorable civic
leader who has tirelessly pursued change for the
greater good.
A great many people will be suspicious of any
effort led by an employee of Rex Sinquefield’s
primary political shop, Pelopidas, like Nancy
Rice. Sinquefield’s emphasis on defunding
public schools and destroying the state’s tax
base brings suspicion to this effort in advance
through the appointment of Rice as executive
director. We also fault this effort for failing to
pull together a more inclusive team before they
announced their intentions to the public. Dooley
was the only black leader who participated in the
rollout, and even Dooley does not have broad
connections to the black community. Further,
years of attacks by his enemies on the County
Council and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch have
publicly weakened Dooley to the point where he
does not speak from a position of strength.
So, while we embrace the goals of this
effort to create a more cohesive, efficient,
competitive region, we have doubts about some
of its leadership and its ability to manage this
extremely difficult process in an inclusive
manner that will persuade the public it needs to
do something that everyone fears: change.
Contrite, but resolute
It was a necessary retreat,
but President Obama made
clear last Thursday that his
bottom line remains unchanged:
“I’m not going
to walk away
from 40 million
people who
have the chance
to get health
insurance for
the first time.”
pledge should
be the nation’s
bottom line as
well. It came
as Obama surrendered to
overwhelming pressure, much
of it from fellow Democrats,
and allowed individuals to
keep their bare-bones insurance
policies that do not meet
the Affordable Care Act’s
standards – at least for a
year. The change was meant
to correct an imbalance that
cannot long be tolerated: More
people are being annoyed and
inconvenienced by the new law
than are being helped.
It should be the other way
around, and Obama accepted
the blame. The only semidodge was when Obama
apologized, kind of, for
his repeated assertion that
Americans who were satisfied
with the health insurance
coverage they already have
would be able to keep it.
“There is no doubt that
the way I put that forward,
unequivocally, ended up not
being accurate,” he said.
Overall, however, Obama
was as contrite as I’ve ever
seen him, and also as resolute.
We screwed up, he effectively
said, but we’re not backing
As I See It - A Forum for Community Issues
The president went out of his
way to apologize to Democrats
in Congress who voted for the
Affordable Care Act, told their
constituents how great it would
be and now find themselves in
political peril. “I feel deeply
responsible for making it harder
for them, rather than easier for
them, to continue to promote
the core values that I think led
them to support this thing in the
first place, “Obama said.
Some House and Senate
Democrats might still feel the
need to go on record as voting
to allow people to keep the
individual insurance policies
they have, even if the coverage
they have is substandard. But
Obama probably eliminated any
threat that much more sweeping
Republican legislation,
sponsored in the House by Rep.
Fred Upton of Michigan, would
pass both chambers and force
the president to exercise his
The GOP has made clear
that it wants to destroy
Obamacare, not fix it. Obama’s
move last Thursday is an
inelegant solution that keeps
the Affordable Care Act intact
– and suggests that the program
will have not just a rocky first
month but a bumpy first year.
Obama took full
responsibility for the many
failings of the
website, which has made it
absurdly difficult to shop and
buy on the new federal health
insurance exchanges. Despite
accepting blame, he said he
had been unaware of how bad
things would be until after the
“I was not informed directly
that the website would not be
working,” Obama said. “I’m
accused of a lot of things, but I
don’t think I’m stupid enough
to go around saying this is
going to be like shopping on
Amazon ... if I thought that it
wasn’t going to work.”
Largely because of the
impenetrable website, only
106,185 people actually signed
up for insurance through the
federal and state exchanges in
October. Officials had hoped
that at least 500,000 would sign
up during the program’s first
month. Even if HealthCare.
gov is fixed or functional by
Nov. 30, as the administration
promises, the painfully slow
start may mean that firstyear enrollment won’t reach
projected levels.
Obama’s keep-yourinsurance concession may
further depress enrollment, as
some people choose to stick
with their cheap, no-frills
coverage rather than upgrade
to more comprehensive
care through the exchanges.
Lobbyists for the insurance
industry warned that if
fewer young, healthy adults
buy policies than originally
projected, rates will have to
increase for everyone else.
So this tempest-tossed
launch could be just prelude
to a turbulent flight. In the
long term or even the medium
term, however, I’m much less
pessimistic than a lot of folks
seem to be.
Transforming the health
care system was never going
to be easy. Obamacare realigns
the incentives in the system
toward wider coverage, cheaper
insurance, regular doctor visits
and preventive care. Given
a bit of time and space, I’m
confident it will work.
wrong. The
given answer
from the
Board at this
point cites
in “focus and
with the
But what are
they? The
board’s mission
statement is
right there on
the district website. Its mission
statement presumably is shaped
by its focus and philosophy.
At no time and in no way has
McCoy ever departed from
this mission in his role as
What McCoy has done
is work with parents, black
and white, to ensure the best
educational outcomes for the
district. How has he done?
There are eight Bill Gates
Scholars from the FergusonFlorissant School District. The
graduation rate for the district
is over 90 percent, an almost
unheard of rate for a majority
minority district anywhere in
the country. Before becoming
superintendent, McCoy raised
more than $7 million in the
last seven years in grants and
donations for the district. In
February, Ferguson-Florissant
received $289,800 from
Harvard University’s Pathways
to Prosperity Innovative High
Schools Initiative to offer
students the opportunity to
participate in an apprenticeship
program and earn college
He’s done still more than
this paper will allow room
for, and done it all in a down
economy that has left district
budgets strained.
He’s connected with the
district’s students, many
of whom have expressed
disillusionment with his
dismissal and uncertainty about
their future. Why would the
board make what appears to be
an arbitrary decision to disrupt
the district in the heart of the
We believe the decision was
irresponsible. As citizens in the
community, we are even more
concerned by what is known
than what is not.
We know that all of the
members of the board are white
and McCoy is black. We know
the board has no evidence of
wrongdoing and that McCoy’s
work as superintendent has
Letters to the editor
Clean up West Lake
We will not have this
opportunity again in St. Louis
to remove West Lake Landfill
Superfund from our city.
Although the Army Corps of
Engineers’ FUSRAP cleanup
of other STL radioactive sites
is ongoing, West Lake will
never be cleaned up if we don’t
demand it as a city and state.
A solution needs to be found
for its routes of contamination.
It is the slow and continuous
diagnoses of cancer and genetic
damage over the years that add
up, and the deaths which are
not counted by the statisticians.
Our legislators who have
fought for this removal are
told that removal will be
as dangerous to the public
as leaving it to erode for
thousands of years, and the
past and current fires in it
unacknowledged by the EPA. A
Resolution currently in the
Missouri House and Senate can
be passed to request a Federal
act of Congress. It has become
a concern that the federal funds
being spent to leave WLL’s
risks in place outweigh the
financial cost for its cleanup.
Thousands of years of risks
from radioactive contamination
has no price tag that we
Nationally recognized
nuclear waste expert, Robert
Alvarez, will speak at West
Lake Landfill Community
Group meeting, Thursday,
November 21, 6:30 p.m.
at International Union of
Operating Engineers Local
513 at 3449 Hollenberg Dr.,
Hazelwood. Please get involved
at www.stlradwastelegacy.
Agnes C. Uhls
STL Manhattan Waste Project
St. Louis
Embrace the Affordable
Care Act
“Anything worth having
is worth working for.” These
words were spoken by
renowned singer Betty Wright
during the recording of the song
“No pain, No gain.” And with
this thought in mind, I hope
every American will silence
the resisters of the Affordable
been consistent with the
board’s stated mission for the
district. We know that former
board member Charles Henson
has said he has heard at least
one current board member say
that he doesn’t “trust” McCoy,
a statement which should
also be explained, and asked
Henson not to vote for McCoy
when the decision to hire a new
superintendent was being made.
We expect that will be denied.
We know that the Missouri
State Conference of the
NAACP is likely to reach
out to the U.S. Department
of Justice for a Title VI
investigation into the board’s
decision. We believe it is
People from all races,
religions and ages are
rallying to McCoy because
of his integrity, ability and
commitment. At a time when
school districts are struggling
all around us, we must come
together as a community to
demand an answer from this
board for the removal of
McCoy. No priority is higher
than the education of our
children. Whether you’re black
, white, Hispanic, or Asian, it
is in our collective interests
that our district continues to
perform well. The decision by
the board to remove McCoy
without cause threatens that.
Redditt Hudson is a parent
in the Ferguson-Florissant
School District Parent and
plans to run for St. Louis
Community College Board
of Trustees. Doris Graham
is a trustee of the St. Louis
Community College.
All letters are edited for length and style.
Care Act, by working through
the technology problems and
purposing to have a healthier
When it comes to national
security, there is not a more
important issue, within our
power, than our health.
Many people know from life
experience, as my Bishop,
Dr. Luther J. Blackwell Jr.,
puts it, “Health is better than
wealth any day.” And since we
understand having a healthier
body is a huge asset, it would
be wise to work for it.
Let’s resist making
complaints and get to work.
Patiently waiting for computer
glitches to be worked out,
getting registered, making
appointments, getting
diagnosis, beginning treatments
and most importantly learning
and practicing preventive
medicine are critical objectives.
These efforts will ultimately
result in better health and a
better quality of life for all who
truly embrace this program.
Minister Allif H. Dove
St. Louis
Make quality
preschool available
The early learning bill
reflects a growing, bipartisan
understanding that to ensure
our nation’s children have
the educational and economic
opportunities they deserve, we
must act early. It’s long been
clear that high-quality early
learning opportunities produce
lasting benefits, including
higher high school graduation
rates and lower incarceration
rates. Now, a broad coalition is
calling for action on President
Obama’s plan to make quality
preschool available to every
4-year-old in America, drawing
on the example of leading
Democrats and Republicans,
including Sen. Harkin, Rep.
Miller, and Rep. Hanna,
stood with leaders from law
enforcement, business, the
military and early childhood
education advocates to call for
action – and to invite others to
join this vital effort. This is the
most important single step we
can take for the future of our
young people.
U.S. Secretary of Education
Arne Duncan
Washington, D.C.
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