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Did St. Louis Leaders Let Its Greatness ‘Slip Away?’

(via Flickr/NathanReed)

When it comes to successfully or unsuccessfully governing and managing communities, leadership decisions can make or break a city or region.

St. Louis has been cited as a city “that let greatness slip away over the 20th century.”  That’s the contention of Colin Gordon, Professor of History at the University of Iowa, in his book, Mapping Decline…St. Louis and the Fate of the American City.

Host Don Marsh talked with Gordon along with Joel Rhodes, Professor of History at Southeast Missouri State University and author of A Missouri Railroad Pioneer: the Life of Louis Houck.

“I think the puzzle of the 21st century is the fact that our cities are still suffering, they’re under-governed, they’re under-resourced, and they’re the poor step-sisters of American politics in terms of their claim on national attention,” Gordon said.  “And yet, at no time in our history have cities been more important economically.  The top 100 metro areas in this country occupy 20 percent of the land area and they account for 80 percent of the gross national product. I think the future is in metropolitan areas and it’s a shame they continue to be governed in the way a city like St. Louis is governed.”

Gordon and Rhodes visit St. Louis this weekend to participate in a panel, “The Geography of Money,” a program which will “explore how policy and spending decisions by business and government leaders have affected the growth, location and vitality of various communities throughout Missouri.”  The program is part of the Greater St. Louis Humanities Festival, which takes place April 4-6.

Related Event

Panel: Geography of Money
Saturday, April 6
2:00 p.m.
Missouri History Museum, Lee Auditorium


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Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.
Mary Edwards is a producer for St. Louis Public Radio's broadcast program, "St. Louis Symphony."
Don Marsh served as host of St. Louis Public Radio’s “St. Louis on the Air" from 2005 to 2019, bringing discussions of significant topics to listeners' ears at noon Monday through Friday. Don has been an active journalist for 58 years in print, radio and television. He has won 12 Regional Emmy Awards for writing, reporting, and producing. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, was inducted into the St. Louis Media Hall of Fame in 2013, and named “Media Person of the Year” by the St. Louis Press Club in 2015. He has published three books: his most recent, “Coming of Age, Liver Spots and All: A Humorous Look at the Wonders of Getting Old,” “Flash Frames: Journey of a Journeyman Journalist” and “How to be Rude (Politely).” He holds an honorary Doctor of Arts and Letters degree from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.