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The St. Louis Region Has Seen Huge Leadership Changes In 2 Years. What’s Next?

2016_flickrPaulSableman_StLouis.jpg downtown St. Louis
Paul Sableman
St. Louis is on the brink of a new era.

Two years ago, St. Louis and St. Louis County seemed headed toward a merger, with big money and civic pressure all lined up behind the Better Together plan ordaining County Executive Steve Stenger “metro mayor” until at least 2025. Then Stenger was indicted, the plan was abandoned, and, in time, new leaders with vastly different backers seized control of both city and county.

Now, almost exactly two years after Stenger’s indictment and one week after the city inaugurated its first-ever Black female mayor (and first Black mayor in two decades), the region is facing a new era, said Anita Manion, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

“If you look at the Francis Slay/Lyda Krewson/Steve Stenger voting coalitions and positions, it’s much different than what we see now,” she explained on Monday’s St. Louis on the Air. “And I think this change has been happening over the past several years. We saw the election of Wesley Bush and Cori Bush, who both were anti-establishment candidates who upset incumbents against big odds, and we saw that continue with the historic election of Mayor Tishaura Jones and a more progressive Board of Aldermen.”

And it’s not just a matter of leadership changing, Manion said.

“I do think there is a real grassroots energy, and that when folks saw their efforts pay off in elections like Cori Bush’s election, and then in Tishaura Jones’, there is a real energy there where the force of it surprised many people. And I think many St. Louisans are excited about those changes in leadership, about this influx of federal funding and what could happen with that, about Medicaid expansion, opportunities to improve the criminal justice system, and hopefully better regional cooperation.”

Now the question is: What belongs at the top of the agenda in this new era? Responding on Facebook and Twitter, as well as the phone lines, city and county residents — and even some people from the Metro East — offered their ideas for a transformed St. Louis, discussing issues such as moving money from the police budget to social services, making marijuana legal in Missouri and lead paint abatement.

To hear Manion’s thoughts, as well as ideas from listeners, check out the podcast.

A New Regional Agenda
Listen to Anita Manion and Sarah Fenske discuss regional priorities with listeners

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Sarah Fenske served as host of St. Louis on the Air from July 2019 until June 2022. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.