Monday, December 17, 2012

Recruiting New Citizens For The Future

We need more people in St. Louis.  We've lost ~500,000 in ~50 years.  I would not be surprised if we lose more in the 2020 census count.  A simple stop to the mass exodus would surely be touted by the city leaders as a success, even without a numeric gain in people.  This will be hard to listen to and hard to stomach.  It's like them saying:  "whew, we finally hit rock bottom, we can only go up from here".  And of course rock bottom will have been hit during their tenure.  So how are we going to get more people to choose St. Louis?  Where will they come from?

The obvious solution would be to merge the 90 cities and huge swaths of unincorporated regions of St. Louis County with St. Louis.  But I don't see this happening anytime soon.

In light of the lack of regional cooperation, we could try to go toe to toe with the suburbs and wage a campaign based on luring the generations of people who exited the city in droves for the suburbs.  But to me that's a tough sell.  I am of the opinion that people who left the city and still live in the metropolitan region did so for race and class issues and moving back would be considered a failure to many...a step in the wrong direction for the sons/daughters of those who exited for greener pastures in the staid burbs. 

So what are you going to do, where do you best focus your efforts?

For my money, you focus on folks outside the metropolitan region.  We need more people that can see St. Louis is a new light.  People who don't quit before trying, like so many naysayers in this region.  We need more immigrants, we need more diversity (other than just the white and black people who make up over 90% of the St. Louis population) we need outsiders with a fresh take.  Wouldn't it be great to have a Chinatown area of STL?  Build upon the small but amazingly awesome Hispanic/Latino community around St. Cecilia's and Cherokee Street?  Build upon the small but no less awesome Southeast Asian population we have...we need that to be a vibrant city.

And maybe above all, we simply need more employable/skilled/educated people living in the city.  Let's be frank for a moment and admit that we have a huge problem of high school drop outs living in this town with a very thin family structure to support them.  Sadly, their futures are not very bright and at the end of the day, they are not engaged in a positive future for St. Louis.  They are the face of crime and failures in our schools.

Some will say vocational training, education and family planning is what we need to elevate the current class that are willfully ignorant of a dignified lifestyle and wanting to put their kids in the best possible position for future success.  I agree, but it is going to take decades to reverse the trend of high school drop outs, poor parent/family structure and ghetto/thug mentality prevalent in St. Louis.  This is a societal problem and we need a quicker fix than that.  We need immediate action.  Immigrants can help dilute out the real or perceived problems we currently face with our reputation and our curb appeal. 

So how do we lure in productive members of society to be part of St. Louis' future?

In my mind there are two basic things:

1.  Focus on luring in young employable/educated/talented/skilled people in their 20s.
2.  Make St. Louis a national destination for immigrants from anywhere around the globe.

St. Louis is very affordable and cool and has huge underdog post-rust belt big city attributes.  The future is bright in St. Louis City and we need more hard working, intelligent, skilled minds and bodies here that can contribute and devote time to the things that will continue to right the ship.

Let's face it, being educated and/or hard working is your ticket to success in this country.  Success means financial stability.  Financial stability means more personal time.  More personal time means more community and volunteer time.  We need an informed electorate that can make educated decisions for our leadership and civic structure and will look past the color of a candidates skin to cast their vote at the ballot box.  That simply doesn't work and it's antiquated and boring and divides us. 

We need leaders that can focus their efforts on bringing in tax paying, productive members of society to St. Louis.  This does not mean turning your back on the droves of people who live here who are poor, uneducated and woefully unemployable.  It will bring in a generation that can help fix things and elevate our neighborhoods north to south and bring in a tax base.  I feel we are in this fight alone and will get little help and only increasing competition from the small cities and suburbs around us for the tax dollars and residents.

Why not have an urban outreach arm of concerned citizens to recruit at local and regional universities.  Advertising and communication efforts to recruit educated people to the city.  For example, there are some AMAZING agricultural universities in this country.  Maybe urbanists could team up with the Monsantos and the Wash Us and the Solaes and the Sigmas and the Cortexs to advertise the amazing local technology providers and researchers and team it up to sell the local amenities and urban renaissance that is St. Louis.  It's a cheap place to live and play...we should be at Cornell, Iowa State, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, Texas A&M, etc touting our fine scientific employers and city living (which is what younger workers want).  This group could lobby the realty organizations to share the positives of St. Louis City living.  I cannot tell you how many professionals I've encountered from outside the region who were teamed up with a realtor that dissuaded the new arrivals (in some cases passionately) to not even SHOP the city.  That's damaging and misguided.  We need to be able to counter that.

People in their 20s are going to find it harder and harder to buy a home in the big U.S. cities if current lending terms continue to favor those with $ for substantial down payments and rents continue to raise as a result.  St. Louis is still cheap enough to make owning a home a definite possibility.

Secondly, we need to promote immigration from outside the U.S.  The last noticeable wave of immigrants came from Bosnia, Croatia, Albania, Romania, etc. during the political unrest and wars of the 1990s.  This immigration was a boon to St. Louis.  As a result we have new faces, language, dialects, food styles, traditions, minarets, etc.  These people have added to our culture.  Drive down Gravois south of Chippewa and count how many storefronts are occupied by former Eastern European business owners and patrons.  These people are hard working and industrious.  They want places to continue their heritage, lifestyle and culture.  The doors are of course open to anyone else who wants to go.  We are missing the boat by not acknowledging this group of people with 'Little Sarejevo' status or whatever.
We need another noticeable wave of immigration.  We need more dialects, we need more industrious people who don't say "I/we can't" before they even try.  I would like to hear current Mayor Slay or opponent Lewis Reed role out their vision for increasing our population and density in St. Louis.  Their policies since taking office are clearly not working.  Some new ideas need to be vetted and executed.

We need outsiders.  We need new blood.  We need more immigrants.


  1. The problem is schools.

    We moved into the city last year. We looked at 40 homes. In 30 of those homes, it was obvious that the owners had a child of the age that they were about to start school, and were fleeing to the county.

    Not everyone can afford to send their kids to private school, and not everyone likes the religious indoctrination of private schools in the area. The public schools suck, and until they get better the city is going to continue to hemmorhage people.

  2. ^anonymous, which schools in St. Louis suck specifically based on your experience? I only know about a few and am interested in your perspective. I hear plenty of people say St. Louis sucks but I don't think they are particularly informed. Please be more specific. Thanks

  3. We're on the same page, I strongly feel more immigration is needed.

    I wanted to submit an idea to rallySTL but it needs refinement.

    IISTL's Festival Of Nations is something that should be shown off to prospective immigrants.

    It should be a welcoming mat and recruiting tool. It should be St. Louis' Ellis Island.

    But -- How do we make better use of it? How do we identify people that haven't yet settled in the United States? How do we get in touch with them? How do we get them to the Festival of Nations?

    Perhaps attendees at Festival of Nations could help build a database of prospective immigrants to recruit? We could setup and fund a program that flies them in for a "campus visit" during the weekend of Festival of Nations?

  4. Mark,welcome home! Your an outsider(1994)but you've adoped our backwards self-hate-style of problem solving. I think you'll flurish here.
    First, identify the problem. You did that. But just in case you think it's just a "precieved problem", pick-up a copy of "The Evening Whirl", at a local gas station. It's a weekly report on many of the Saint louis crime stories that are just too real and depressing for the "Post-Dispatch. Second, solve the problem. Here is why I called you backward and self-hating. I dare also mention the strong whiff of racism in your solution. That because it's probably the acidental,unintentional,"good old natural" Saint Louis type of racism. To spend time and money re-trainning,educating,engaging,enpowering,directing,and making room for economic inclusion,etc. for the weakest link in our city is the obvious solution. But you dissmised this. To many whites and blacks here it's "unthinkable" to seriously allocate our valuable resources to possitively,proactivly solving a mostly young black population problem. Why? Because we can hide our problem longer,and maintain our "STL culture" on the newest "quick-fix" solution.

  5. I do not like the city. I ask you to include, that, there is a county portion as well.

  6. ^Mr. McGranor, thanks for reading. Many people in the county do not like the city. I get it. Have you noticed the title of my blog? St. Louis City Talk is just about St. Louis. I don't live in the county so I can't vote there or anything else, I don't blog about it. I'll leave that to experts like yourself to promote the pluses of suburban living. And here's some background on the subject of St. Louis County and St. Louis:

  7. I don't feel like parsing through all the data for each school, but according to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website, St Louis City School students:

    Scored 25.47% lower than the state average on "Communication Arts at or Above Proficiency Trends". The state is trending upward, St. Louis City Schools are trending downward.

    Scored 28.2% lower than the state average on "Mathematics at or Above Proficiency Trends". Again, the state is trending upward, St. LOUIS city Schools are trending downward.

    Scored 32.79% lower than the state average on "Science at or Above Proficiency Trends" where both are trending downward.

    The bright spot, if you could call it that, is that they scored only 6.38% lower than the state average on "Social Studies at or Above Proficiency Trends" and the city is tending upward, while the state is trending downward.

    The problem is exasperated when you look at school districts in the county, which are some of the finest in the state. Clayton, Ladue, Parkway, Rockwood, etc all score well above the state averages for each metric. (Usually at least 15% higher than average.)

  8. ^Xenti, thanks for reading. I think you may have posted this on the wrong entry. I addressed your specific point here:

    I know the district as a whole is below average. I know St. Louis as a whole city has it's real and perceived problems. Yet, there are nice neighborhoods and nice schools though, and that is what you and most others miss. Broad strokes are very convenient, no? One of the best public high schools in the U.S. is Metro...but you don't feel like "parsing through the data for each school". That's why I'm going to do it. Your opinion is prevalent and arguable over simplified if not simply ignorant. I hope to do a small part to educate people like you on some options that caring parents consider for their kids.

  9. You're right, Metro High (maximum capacity 1,500 students) is an outlier. Starting to parse through the data, I see a handful of high schools higher than the state average for Communication Arts, a smaller handful higher than the state average for Mathematics, a whopping 2 schools higher than the state average for Science, and Metro as the only school above average for Social Studies. Oh to aspire to be average in a state with such a large percentage of rural schools!

    Convince me, please. I look forward to it. We're not having kids, so on one hand I couldn't care less, but on the other, I need people to be able to believably interpret the data in a way that makes others willing to move into the city so property values don't continue to deteriorate.

  10. ^Xenti, I am ignorant on what schools are good and bad. I really, honestly don't know, and I'm going to find out for myself by talking to real people and visiting the schools and looking at data very, very little. Sometimes happiness and security is a powerful force when raising kids...sometimes data doesn't always back that up. I think you may look at the neighborhoods the same way...crime data and be very scary, but once you live, play and work in some areas and even raise kids there, it ends up not being so scary. Trust me, I'm a scientist, I love data; but, sometimes the numbers and how we measure kid's learning cannot be captured by sheer testing numbers. "No Child Left Behind' probably rocks your no child havin' world. I don't think numbers show the whole story. Please stay tuned, I'd like to hear your take on my first few school posts to see if they match your analyses. Cheers-Mark

  11. Mark, one potentially productive line of inquiry regarding schools, might be talking to teachers and administrators who have taught in both city & county schools. It would be anecdotal, not statistical, but that can still shed light on the school system, as you acknowledge. Just a thought.

  12. ^ anonymous Dec. 18 2:16 a.m. Do you live in the city? The tracking software says Florissant. If you do indeed live in St. Louis, drop me an email, I'd like to meet over coffee/beer/milkshake. I think you'll find I'm not a racist once you meet me. I don't hate St. Louis, and I am too perplexed by people who are self-haters, so I don't want to perpetuate that vibe...if I even did. Maybe you can help me understand. Cheers, Mark

  13. I really don't think your rather aggressive attitude towards the lower classes of this city is justifiable and is certainly antithetic to curing the city's blights. One of my friends, as an example, lives on Aldine in a single mother family and no educational opportunities. Before you so strongly condemn, I'd like to ask if you could have gotten where you are today with no money, no education, and no support.

    Furthermore the double standard is worth noting as well. I'll, again, compare two friends I had in high school. One was a white boy from the suburbs. He was arrested for possession of several recreational drugs of differing strengths. Lucky for him his mom had money and thus she hired a lawyer and... boom! No charges at all. Conversely a black friend of mine from north city was convicted and sentenced for possession of switchblade. Not criminal possession, just having it, just to defend himself.

    Now I hail from neither extreme (I went to a parochial school in south city and am now lucky to be studying abroad on scholarship) but you must admit a double standard exists. There are issues, certainly, but just a few generations ago the Irish were seen as an underclass full of drunks and criminals. Clearly, once the law finally evened out for them, they broke out of this. Why is it so allegedly different for the poor today?

  14. ^"anonymous, this comment is so poor I almost didn't post it. Folks, we just can't want or have nice things...