The St Louis Contrarian

Providing Independent and Intelligent Insight on St. Louis Public Policy Issues

Archive for the tag “st louis county”

City County Merger

Anyone who writes about St. Louis needs to cover this topic. It is almost a cliche, but our region cannot thrive with the present system of governance. The City of St. Louis is not part of St. Louis County which wastes resources and makes comprehensive planning more difficult. In addition, the 87 municipalities are inefficient with communities competing against each other, and many of these communities not able to provide a professional level of service. I am very pessimistic that any change can take place. The recent election of Kim Gardner as Circuit Attorney in the City of St. Louis caused many county residents I know to reaffirm their opposition to merger. Written by Paul Dribin

City of Bel Ridge Flunks State Audit

State Auditor Galloway gave this community in northern St. Louis County the lowest possible rating. This is another example of why the large number of small municipalities in St. Louis County is a problem. (1200 residents). I don’t anticipate the problem ever changing. Written by Paul Dribin

Misguided Criticism of Sam Page

I think this is hysterical. The coronavirus epidemic is higher than it should be in the St. Louis region because people are not adhering to masking and distancing guidelines, going to bars etc. County Executive Page has issued requirements limiting youth sports activities. Parents are not protesting at Page’s house to express their displeasure with Dr. Page for his policies. The real villain is not Dr. Page but the reckless behavior of many of these same parents. Written by Paul Dribin

More on Page-Erby Pissing Contest

More on the pissing contest between the two. Stirring up a hornet,s nest in the black community. The question is what was Erby,s job? To me she was bribed to keep quiet when Page took over. Written by Paul Dribin

Childcare Sales Tax

St. Louis County is talking about putting a sales tax increase to support childcare on the ballot in November. This seems like a good idea for several reasons, it is good for kids and families, supports employment, and has been shown to correlate heavily with good outcomes in life.

The mechanics, have been messy. Many advocates complain the language of the bill which is very vague and not what they had in mind. Lisa Clancy, the councilwoman who has pushed it is accused of playing hardball politics by introducing it at the end. The State of Missouri is for some reason proposing an investigation.

The most troubling part of the legislation is that it is not clear if the funds can be used to support teacher salaries or decrease tuition. The parties involved need to fix things. The issue is too important. Written by Paul Dribin

Is St. Louis Difunctional or What

Another example of the dysfunction of the St. Louis area. The Post reported today that Washington University is undergoing a study of the coronavirus effects of people in St. Louis County based upon race class etc. This is a great idea. What would have been a better idea is for the City of St. Louis to be a part of the study. The virus does not end at city boundaries. The city, however, is nowhere to be seen and does not have any answers as to why they did not participate. Too bad. Written by Paul Dribin

Crime in St. Louis

The crime rate in St. Louis and St. Louis County has increased by 25% from a year ago. Things were bad enough back then. Until our community gets crime under control there will not be any progress on racial, economic, and social justice. Written by Paul Dribin

Cori Bush

I was very surprised to find out last night that political newcomer and progressive activist Cori Bush defeated incumbent congressman Lacey Clay in the Democratic primary. Mr. Clay had been in office too long and was pretty lazy and corrupt but I felt he had too much power to lose. I wish Cori well as she transitions from being an outsider to an insider. Usually that transition is difficult to make.

Is This the End of the Michael Brown Story

St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell announced that after extensive review and investigation he like two previous law enforcement officials will not charge the police officer in the death of Michael Brown. I am sure some activists are upset but it is time to move on. We need to work for justice in the criminal justice system, and an end to racist policing That would be a more significant accomplishment than the criminal indictment of a former cop.

Criminal Justice Reform

With the police violence and murder of Mr. Floyd, criminal justice reform seems to be an important topic of conversation. I have had some recent experience with the subject matter, so I will share my thoughts.

I volunteered as a court watcher for the American Civil Liberties Union, (ACLU). The purpose of this court watching is to observe bail setting in an attempt to see that people of color were treated fairly and in a manner consistent with white people. Once I week I spent about three hours in a courtroom observing the activity. From this experience I have some important thoughts. Here they are:

1. The process is difficult to follow for an outsider. There is a hubbub of activity, and it it usually difficult to hear what is being said from the bench. The judges were the only party miked and they often did not speak into the microphone. You could not readily follow the case if you did not previously research the case on a computer system that supports the court. Often cases different than was on the docket would appear. The judges usually did not discuss the case history or read out the charges.

2. Some of the defendants were being held in prison, usually for repeatedly not showing up for trial or responding to warrants. These folks were almost always non violent offenders but they came to the courtroom shackled. It is a mystery to me why that is necessary because they are non violent and there are plenty of armed sheriff personnel in the courtroom. I found the shackling to be shocking and humiliating to the defendants.

3. I found the judges to be kind, thoughtful, and patient. They went out of their way to help the defendants. Many times the defendants did not have a clue as to what was happening.

4. The great majority of the defendants were black and poor. Many had a long experience with the criminal justice system.

5. Defendants represented by an attorney clearly fared better in court. Some defendants who were eligible for court appointed attorneys had failed to apply for them. In many cases the judges and court personnel helped the defendant complete the application.

6.Most of the crimes were nonviolent and were the type of charges that would be pled down in cases with defendants who were affluent and represented by counsel. Typical charges were speeding, possession of drugs, non payment of child support etc. Many were stopped for speeding and found to have drugs in the vehicles. Occasionally we would see gun violations and minor robbery.

7. The bail set seemed to be reasonable for the crime and for the degree of cooperation with the defendant. Many people were released with electronic surveillance. Reminders of court appearance dates would be sent to cell phones with weekly reminders. The court appeared to be doing everything possible to make the system more user friendly.

8. The problem is not the behavior of the court personnel but the system. Poor people get caught up in a system in which they commit minor crimes, cant pay fines, end up in prison cant work etc. We need to seriously look at decriminalizing the use of illegal drugs and treating the behavior as a mental health issue. Everyone needs to have access to an attorney. At the same time the defendants need to demonstrate more responsible behavior by showing up for trial, attempting to get attorneys, and communicating difficulties with the courts. The system is broken and needs to be changed.

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