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Want St. Louis to grow? Then look east to Illinois

Belleville News Democrat

Tuesday, April 11, 2017  |  Editorial  |  By The Editorial Board

Demographics, Census, Statistics , Economic Development (35) , Metro East (65)
St. Louis city voters decided they were not interested in putting $60 million into a soccer stadium, which despite the hopeful start of a GoFundMe campaign to raise the money, is essentially the death of any effort to get a professional MLS team.

In the wake of that loss, we saw the St. Louis media wringing its hands, wondering how St. Louis could ever thrive as long as there was that divide between the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County. They called for “regionalism,” big picture planning and even a city-county merger.

“Ahem.”

Aren’t you folks forgetting someone? Again?

That county line is a division, but is nothing compared to that river. There are 318,000 people in St. Louis, and about 1.7 million people total on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River. The Illinois side of the St. Louis region — yes, the feds recognize us as part of the whole — has 671,000 people, or 28 percent of the region’s population.

Yet go to the parking lots around Busch Stadium or check the eastbound trains after a Cardinals game or that line of Redbird Express buses and you will see an inordinate number of Illinois residents. Once upon a time you saw the same disproportionate Illinois representation at the Rams tailgates.

The point being that if you want regionalism, you can’t forget Illinois. We help support St. Louis attractions, but Missouri needs to stop viewing those bridges as one-way streets that deliver money and labor to them.

Metro transit systems work because there is a two-state partnership. Same for the regional freightway initiative and for actually building those bridges across the river.

Missouri-first thinking puts our military spy mapping facilities in a land-locked, polluted and blighted area with ISIS peeking in the windows rather than next to a secure, major military base with lots of land to grow. Missouri-first thinking leaves a 10,000-foot runway and hundreds of acres for warehouses out of the air cargo equation.

A healthy, growing region doesn’t stop at the river. It begins there.