Editorial: St. Louis’ economic engine is faltering due to lack of attention to public safety | Editorial


By the Editorial Board

The largest chamber of business in the St. Louis area, Greater St. Louis, issued another appeal highlighting the importance of downtown business and employment to the overall health of the region, while warning that failure to address public safety puts everything at risk. The city center goes hand in hand with the region because the city center is the economic engine of the region.

If St. Louis fails to improve its reputation and redefine itself as a safe, family-friendly place to live and visit, the exodus of employers and residents seems almost certain to accelerate. That means getting crime under control and making downtown safe enough that employers and visitors want to come here, rather than doing everything possible to avoid a trip downtown. Mayor Tishaura Jones remains evasive, almost certainly because she doesn’t want to be seen as bowing to business or relying on a greater police presence to address the public safety issue. If Jones has a better idea, she should lay it out clearly, as evidence mounts that employers are fed up with inaction.

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“A cataclysmic investment in infrastructure from our municipal government is critical to restoring confidence,” Greater St. Louis Chief Executive Officer Jason Hall told reporters Thursday. Some downtown streets are in poor condition. Others are perpetually blocked by repair crews. Undamaged streets have turned into popular drag racing spots, while others are gathering spots for nighttime marauding jaunts. Rampant graffiti gives other areas a sense of lawlessness.

A new analysis of Greater St. Louis’ fiscal impact underscores the importance of halting downtown decline before it’s too late. “Based on downtown wages and commuting patterns,” the study says, more than 24 percent of St. Louis’s income taxes and 34 percent of payroll taxes are generated downtown. The central business district also accounts for more than a third of all private sector jobs in the city. Yet the city directs only about 5% of general fund spending to the downtown core.

If employers start pulling out, the city’s revenue will decline, forcing cuts in services everywhere. Downtown employers like Brown and Crouppen and KMOV have already announced their move to the suburbs. More than 18% of offices and businesses in the city center are empty.

Consider the significant investments currently being made in two landmark downtown projects: the $210 million convention center expansion and the $400 million Major League Soccer stadium. Their success depends heavily on attracting outside customers – customers who won’t come if they fear for their lives.

The typical response from city officials that homicides decreased in 2021 compared to 2020 is hardly reassuring since 2020 was one of the most violent years on record. People can see with their own eyes that crime is rampant.

With city coffers full of federal aid and Rams settlement money, now is the time to invest in technology and visible public safety measures so an image problem doesn’t escalate into a disaster. economic.

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