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Racial and economic inequality among top concerns for St. Louis residents

Mayor Lyda Krewson answers questions alongside panelists David Dwight, of the Ferguson Commission, and State Rep. Bruce Franks Jr. Oct. 11, 2017
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A new assessment of St. Louis residents finds that many people want the city to address racial, economic and social inequality.

The findings are a part of the preliminary resilience assessment released by Mayor Lyda Krewson’s office. The assessment received contributions from the 100 Resilient Cities initiative, a program funded by the Rockefeller Foundation to strengthen cities around the world in areas of social, economic and environmental shortcomings.

City officials sought the input of over 1,300 people through meetings, surveys and workshops.

“When people think about resilience, they often think of climate threats; they think of natural disasters, and that certainly is true,” said Patrick Brown, the city’s chief resilience officer. “But our challenges are really, in my opinion, heavy on the stress side of the house.”

Brown said that the racial inequities following Michael Brown, economic inequality and violent crime are some of the largest challenges that St. Louisans have to face.

Patrick Brown was recently named St. Louis' new chief resilience officer.
Credit File photo | Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio
Patrick Brown is the chief resilience officer for the city of St. Louis

“Ferguson really showed for the mayor’s office, at that time, a need for better conversations in how we deal with things like civil unrest. And in that application we were actually asked to list our top shocks and stressors, Brown said. “I don’t think I would have listed riots and unrest as our number one shock. I would have listed racial and economic inequity as our number one stress.”

The preliminary report also emphasized vacant buildings and blight as pressing city issues. It noted that the city has 25,000 vacant lots, which contribute to lower property values and declining city revenues.

“There’s a tendency to think that it’s more of a city problem; in other words, property going into the [Land Reutilization Authority] inventory, when in fact there’s more privately owned vacant and abandoned properties.” said Stephen Acree, the executive director of RISE. The non-profit organization works within local communities to build and renovate housing for low-income residents across the city.

Brown said the resilience report is only the first step in tackling the problems that many citizens experience. This summer, a document detailing potential strategies will be published along with the creation of the equity indicator report. Brown said the indicators will establish an equity baseline for the region. That will help the city prevent housing discrimination and address economic disparities.

“We can use that data to help drive policy making while also being transparent with people,” Brown said. “The residents of St. Louis can hold us accountable for the things we are doing well as it relates to closing the racial disparity in some of these indicators and where we’re not.”

Follow Chad on Twitter @iamcdavis

Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.