It is rare that we discuss the thoughts of our St. Louis journalism colleagues; they are entitled to their opinion. However a recent opinion piece was so flawed in the logic it put forth and the parochialism it advocated that an answer is needed.
Anyone who lives in Illinois knows that the river is much narrower when we cross it heading west than it is when Missourians contemplate crossing to the east. Illinois leaders support their causes in a spirit of regionalism and then see the St. Louis or Missouri leaders forget that support as soon as they face a threat.
So instead of everyone figuring out what’s best for the region, best for our military and best for our nation, St. Louis leaders are appealing with a “oh, woe are we” argument. It is laid out in an editorial that from this side of the river looks a lot like the Stan Kroenke appeal to the NFL that trashes those who foster you just so you can grab more money. What a sad, us-them, anti-regional view.
Their argument is that the federal government owes St. Louis the new site of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency because the city just lost the Rams. The feds owe amends to the city because there is a hole left in North St. Louis by the failed social experiment represented by the Pruitt-Igoe Public Housing Complex. St. Louis is entitled to the NGA because $2.2 million in payroll taxes would be lost if the 3,100 jobs crossed the river.
Here is some reality.
St. Louis doesn’t have the minimum 100 acres assembled on the north side. If they get it, they plan to hand the feds a bill for $130 million for the land.
St. Clair County has 400 acres dedicated to NGA, with more available. The cost: $0.
The Pruitt-Igoe failure began 60 years ago. The last residents left 45 years ago. St. Louis has failed to do anything to redevelop that land, lift those neighbors out of poverty or even secure their neighborhoods from being a haven for drug trafficking and nationally ranked for violent crime — for 45 years.
Then if you believe their assertion that NGA’s 3,100 jobs could double, then will all that growth be aided by a choked, 100-acre site or by a 400-acre site with more open space available? The whole reason NGA is moving is because they are in cramped quarters that are land-locked and can’t be redeveloped.
The St. Louisans are right on one point: This is a political fight.
It shouldn’t be.
The Pentagon planners a decade ago said NGA should be next to Scott Air Force Base because that was the logical move. Scott consumed much of the NGA’s intelligence then, and uses even more now. Plus, the data cable that connects the two is much more secure when it stretches a few hundred yards to the base rather than 20 miles and across a river from North St. Louis. A military base provides security for our nation’s spy mapping agency, just like Fort Belvoir does for the main NGA campus near Washington, D.C. The highly-educated workforce is already here, along with open land for housing and good schools for NGA’s growth.
You’ll have a tough time finding a crack dealer in Greater Mascoutah.
Our federal government can do what’s right for St. Louis, but shouldn’t it do what’s right for the military, the region and the taxpayers footing this bill?