As we prepare to begin the year 2021, let us reflect on what this past year has meant. I am reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul, in his letter of perseverance to the Galatians: “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up."
There’s no denying that for the people of St. Louis 2020 has been a year of loss and challenges. As I write this, our city has lost more than 280 souls to the coronavirus and more than 250 souls to gun violence. Every one of these losses is a painful tragedy for the families and friends left behind.
The challenges of 2020 have also been financial. Many business owners and workers are hurting. And for the city, the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, put an end to our slow but steady revenue increases of several years.
Yet through the tragedy we must take heart from those who are rising to the challenges we face. When the pandemic hit last spring, St. Louis city leaders and departments undertook significant measures to reduce costs and leave nonessential positions unfilled. Thus far, we have been able to maintain our revised budget without layoffs or dipping into reserves.
Our region is fortunate to have experts like Dr. Alex Garza and Dr. Fred Echols driving our public health decisions related to COVID-19. And we have countless career health care practitioners, first responders and other public health experts doing their best to care for and protect the people of St. Louis.
We are not there yet, but the end of the pandemic is in sight. Now, it is important that as a city we refocus our effort on eliminating violent crime. St. Louis cannot achieve the growth and greatness we deserve by continuing to put it on the sidelines.
The unprecedented homicide rate in 2020 has raised engagement among community advocates, business leaders and ordinary citizens. In 2021, there is a real possibility for change and the community demands it.
I would like to see serious and detailed commitments from those running to be St. Louis’s next mayor for increased community policing and collaboration among the police department, the circuit attorney’s office, and providers of violence interruption and youth development programs. I would also like to see our business community continue engagement and support for addressing violence and its root causes.
Most importantly, I would like to see a renewed commitment to the virtue of community — a belief that we are in this life together and must support one another.
“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” May 2021 bring you peace, health and joy.
Darlene Green is comptroller of the city of St. Louis.