Terry Wilson

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.

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(2) comments

James Carroll

As a resident of North County, and more specifically Bellefontaine Neighbors, I find this to be an extremely interesting article. I am taking an online class with Dr. Joy DeGruy titled, “African-American Multigenerational Trauma and Implementing Models of Change.” She made some comments that I think are fundamental before any type of unity in North County takes place. She stated, “We got to get rid of a couple of things. One, we got to get rid of the scared negro…that would be the negro that is so happy to have gotten into their little position, wherever they are, they have become gate keepers to anyone else black and in effect, they create injury as leaders because they are so scared to loose their own position that they sacrifice the community. And the other one we got to get rid of is the incompetent negro…that is the one we prop up even though it’s clearly…this person is clearly not accountable and not competent. We cannot do that. We lose all credibility as a community when we do that. That doesn’t mean we destroy them, but that doesn’t mean you get the mic. You don’t get the mic anymore. I don’t care who you are. You could be a pastor. You could be the head of some sort of forum. I don’t care. If you are not competent, you need to go, and we need to hold our leaders accountable. The ones that are accountable…the ones that are competent, we need to support them. We need to get behind them. We need to show up for them.”

Unity really don’t matter when you have a majority of scared and incompetent people running the various municipal governments of North County. Many elected officials of North County are providing much encouragement and emphasis on residents completing their census form. The main reason is for financial reasons (e.g., federal government revenue, state taxes, etc.) However, the census also provides information regarding members of the community. For example, according to 2010 census data, 22% of Bellefontaine Neighbors’ residents live in poverty. Another 14% of residents are without any type of health insurance. There are over 300 vacant homes, or about 7% of the total homes, in the community. The life expectancy of an individual living in the 63137 zip code area is about TEN YEARS LESS than an individual living in the 63105 zip code area (less than 10 miles apart). These are consequences of the racism that has permeated the region for decades. Unfortunately, there is a failure in leadership, both with black and white elected officials, to address these very concrete effects of racism that have had a major impact in our neighborhoods.

To the detriment of our communities, not only do we let scared and incompetent individuals (both black and white) have the mic, we let them have the entire stage. Many of these elected officials are in their 70’s and 80’s. They need to take a couple of steps back (and many need to just sit down) and let younger individuals start running the show (i.e., holding elected office and having leadership positions in our communities) and provide mentorship to these younger individuals.

Most importantly, I think it is going to take COURAGE (from what I have seen many of the elected officials of North county lack) to tell these scared and incompetent individuals their time is up.

James Carroll

I think Alderwoman Theresa Reed representing Ward 2 in Bellefontaine Neighbors is an excellent example of the scared and incompetent leadership we have in many North County municipalities. During her two years in office, I can't tell you one thing that she has accomplished for our city, nor can I tell you one thing she believes in.

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