In leading up to the March 7 Democratic primary, we should have a conversation about what the next mayor should be.
St. Louis, like all cities, has a large professional bureaucracy that runs the day-to-day operations. The mayor's job is to decide where the city's going and determine the best way to get there, adjusting the course as required by circumstances. All cities have a destination where they've never been – the future – and they're always sailing in uncharted waters.
American cities make up 3 percent of the country's land mass but contain 65 percent of its population. Metropolitan areas account for nearly 91 percent of national current-dollar gross domestic product (GDP). Missouri has population of 6 million people, but one-third of that (2 million people) are in St. Louis, St. Louis County and Jackson County. And when you include St. Charles County, these two metropolitan areas are easily responsible for 40 percent of Missouri's economy.
The next mayor must have intellectual curiosity with an informed overview of the historical importance of cities in human development. The mayor must understand the importance and role of the modern city in 21st century America, and where St. Louis fits in that universe. The next mayor must also be school-yard tough.
Paraphrasing James Carville, you could argue that Missouri is St. Louis and Kansas City with Mississippi in the middle. So the next mayor must embrace the role of political warrior. The mayor must create a coalition of political progressives and urban Republican business interests that understands the need to actively push back against anti-metropolitan public policy. The mayor must also help create a common agenda that aligns the city's interest with those of St. Louis County and Kansas City to maximize the opposition to the trolls that politically control Missouri.
The mayor will not only need an informed sense of history but also have an intuitive feel for this historical moment. A mayor will always be considering options that have unforeseen consequences, so picking the best options will always be a function of keen insight that's a function of a highly developed instinct guided by an informed intellect.
Four decades of combat in the political arena have taught me there are two qualities that are essential to success: intelligence and character. Strong moral character teamed with an underdeveloped mind will lead to well-intentioned but often disastrous mistakes. High intelligence without a moral compass will inevitably take you down the road to perdition. You can trace most political leadership failure to an insufficient amount of one or both these qualities.
The next mayor must have the intellectual and political dexterity to make 10th Amendment arguments in defense of a city's right to progressive public policies in opposition to a reactionary, overreaching federal government. The mayor must align with peers like Mayor de Blasio in New York and Mayor Garcetti in Los Angles, who are already making these arguments. The next mayor must see opposition to reorganizing America society around right-wing political dogma as a moral imperative that can't be compromised.
Mike Jones, who has held senior policy positions in St. Louis city and county government, serves on the St. Louis American editorial board and the State Board of Education.