It’s time for a come to Jesus meeting with all North St. Louis County elected officials. It’s time we put it all on the table and walk away with an understanding, strategy and agenda.
The constituents of North County expects our elected officials to work tirelessly on their behalf for the issues that matter most. They not only expect their officials to work toward policy on their behalf, but also lead the charge in addressing the social and cultural issues the community faces.
North County is an extremely diverse area, with people of many different races, ethnicities, and economic status. Our people also hold many different political views. Unfortunately, often that diversity of thought and experiences between our different municipalities manifests as silos. These silos aren’t getting us anywhere as a whole. As elected officials, we have a duty to work on behalf of all of these people, not just the ones within our separate municipalities that most relate to.
To that end, it is time that we as elected officials take it upon ourselves to meet our largest challenges head on. Failing schools, lackluster resources, no sustainable economic plan, a sad housing stock, crime, and food sustainability issues all affect our community. These are issues that are often talked about in our separate communities, and then the conversation stops there because of simply not having enough resources. If we collaborate around one or two issues that we could agree on, the power in our politics could be fully realized.
These baseline objectives set forth for our North County community as a whole should be woven into the fabric of our cities and integrated within any policies we create for our municipality. This collective implementation will resonate no matter who is in office.
Now we have worked together before – a couple of us here and there to achieve a specific task, program, or effort. How many of us came together in support of Charlie Dooley those many years ago? These are great markers. However, each situation was either transactional or emotional, not strategic.
If we continue on this path of working together only when there is currently a direct benefit to ourselves individually, we will continue the act of driving our political vehicles with no destination – building our individualized ideas but not creating unified messages. Things will continue to be done to us and not with us, like the Rec Plex, Better Together, airport privatization, etc.
There are true concerns with working together, and I understand them. We are often hesitant about someone else taking the credit of perceived success or shifting the blame of perceived failure. As elected officials, we know how that can be a detriment to our own leadership in terms of how we are perceived by our constituents. There is often a question of the level of accountability and professional trust that may or may not exist between colleagues.
It’s true that we hardly ever get over elections, so it often makes it difficult to govern and cross municipalities. The reality is our constituents end up suffering when we have constant political sparring matches to prove our individual strength.
I ask that each of you think of your North County community and consider what is one thing that you would be willing to fight for as a unit. Let’s put aside our past issues and grievances and think on what we can truly do to help the whole North County area.
Remember, we don’t have to be forever allies in order to be forever aligned in our ambitions. We have been doing well in building excitement and encouraging enthusiasm in our neighborhood governance. I feel it's time for us as a whole to move to the next level. I hope you will join me.
Terry Wilson is a councilman for the City of Jennings.