PLR Symposium Packs SLU LAW
This year’s Saint Louis University Public Law Review symposium on Friday, Feb. 28 brought in a packed house to SLU LAW as regional leaders and other distinguished guests explored the possible rejoining of St. Louis City and St. Louis County.
The symposium, “United We Stand or United We Fall: The Reunification of St. Louis City and County,” featured numerous government officials, academics, and business leaders engaging in candid discussions of the potential effects of such a reunification. The panels drew about 350 guests to the John K. Pruellage Courtroom, as well as overflow rooms where the symposium was simulcast.
The debate of reunifying the St. Louis region – an area of 1.3 million people, more than 90 municipalities and 115 government entities – has reignited in recent years as leaders urge for continued collaboration instead of competition when it comes to serving citizens and recruiting jobs and talent.
The morning began with St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay (’80), St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley and the day’s keynote speaker Senator Richard Lugar, who, while mayor of Indianapolis, oversaw a similar reunification of city and county known as Unigov.
Slay and Dooley both gave impassioned speeches urging the community to come together as part of the same regional economy that is trying to compete on a global stage. “If we work on these issues together, we will be stronger as a region,” Slay said. “We have to stop competing against each other. We have to stop being in denial in terms of whose issues these are. These are all our issues.”
Dooley applauded those who were on hand, but urged them to take on the responsibility of educating their fellow citizens. “Our challenge is getting people who are not here today to understand the value of what we’re talking about,” said Dooley. “If we fail to tell the story, it will not happen, and we will fail. And that is insulting to me for this community. We can do better. We have to do better. It’s not about us, it’s about our future.”
The audience – city and county residents alike – took part in the discussion by asking questions after each panel, including mayors of surrounding municipalities and members of local advocacy groups for and against reunification.
The first panel took a look at local organization leaders and their roles in a reunification. Speakers included: Joe Reagan, president and CEO of the St. Louis Regional Chamber; Jim Beauford, former president and CEO of the Urban League and a member of the board of directors for Better Together; and Dave Leipholtz (’10), community-based study director for Better Together. Better Together is a grassroots, data-driven effort to assess whether reunification of St. Louis City and County should occur.
Panel two analyzed the reunifications effect at state and local levels. Anders Walker, SLU LAW professor and co-director of the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Law; Steven H. Steinglass, dean emeritus and professor emeritus at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University; and Tishaura Jones, treasurer for the City of St. Louis each took to the podium to present their thoughts on a possible joining of the two areas. Professor Walker gave a history on The Great Divorce, as the separation of the City and County has come to be known since its occurrence in 1876.
The third panel looked at reunification’s effect on crime and safety. This hot-topic discussion featured St. Louis City Chief of Police Sam Dotson, new St. Louis County Chief of Police Jon Belmar and Terry Jones, a political science professor from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
The final panel examined government’s role in urbanization with Todd Swanstrom, professor of community collaboration and public policy administration at the University of Missouri-St. Louis; Virvus Jones, former comptroller for the City of St. Louis; and Ryan Rippel, adjunct professor at Washington University School of Law.
SLU LAW Associate Professor and Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Research Sam Jordan moderated the three afternoon panels.
While no final resolutions were made, the key takeaway was for St. Louisans, no matter the zip code, to become better informed and more engaged to move the region forward.
“Keep an open mind here,” Slay encouraged early in the day. “Nobody has a silver bullet solution on the best way to attack the problem. If we slow down, take our time and are well-informed and get a lot of community involvement, we will be able to better position and decide where do we go from here and how do we get there and what is it going to look like.”
The Talk of Town
The media – both traditional and social – were most definitely engaged throughout the day. #MergeSTL, the official hashtag of the symposium, was trending on Twitter. Through Monday, 548 original tweets, 218 retweets and 40 @ messages were sent using the #Merge STL on the subject as audience members recapped and commented on the discourse, giving a strong online presence to the discussion and allowing those not in attendance to follow along and contribute. Factoring in those tweeting without the event hashtag, well over 800 tweets were dedicated to the symposium conversation.
Several media outlets were on hand for the symposium. Read their coverage:
FOX 2 (KTVI-TV)
St. Louis American
St. Louis Magazine
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
St. Louis Public Radio
For a full Twitter recap, check out the symposium's social media page. Here are some of the most popular tweets from SLU LAW (@SLULAW) and the Public Law Review (@SLU_PLR), among others.
Executive Dooley: The City of St. Louis is our front door. The Arch is not in Clayton. #MergeSTL— SLU LAW (@SLULAW) February 28, 2014
Dotson: We compete with media that wants to label us the most dangerous city. We know that's not true. It's a perception issue. #MergeSTL— SLU LAW (@SLULAW) February 28, 2014
If you care about the future of St. Louis, check out hashtag #MergeSTL for a discussion of today's challenges & opportunities.— nextSTL.com (@nextSTL) February 28, 2014