Editorials

Packaging can’t fix North St. Louis

Here's where St. Louis thinks National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency should go

This neighborhood in North St. Louis is close to other revitalized areas, such as the Washington Avenue nightclub district, yet St. Louis leaders have allowed it to continue decaying for decades. They now argue that the federal government owes th
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This neighborhood in North St. Louis is close to other revitalized areas, such as the Washington Avenue nightclub district, yet St. Louis leaders have allowed it to continue decaying for decades. They now argue that the federal government owes th

The St. Louis folks are at it again, pushing their self interest over the good of the region and the good of our nation’s spy mapping agency.

St. Louis so far has spent $7 million on the effort to put the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in North St. Louis compared to St. Clair County spending $100,000 — for engineering studies — to make the case that NGA-West belongs next to Scott Air Force Base, the agency’s biggest customer. You have to wonder about the value of the contents when so much is being spent on the packaging.

St. Louis leaders have known for a decade that the agency needed bigger quarters than the current home near the Anheuser-Busch brewery, but like they did with the Rams they are making a mad scramble at the last moment that at a minimum will cost the federal government $130 million just for land. In the process they are displacing a going laundry business that just invested $12 million in its plant as well as 47 poor and mostly elderly residents in a move that has residents petitioning to save their neighborhood from Big Brother and his eminent domain. They now are promising police protection, the absence of which has allowed residents to live with nationally ranked crime.

And the St. Louis leaders picked as a partner developer Paul McKee. McKee is the one responsible for all the stagnant North St. Louis redevelopment as well as that huge tract of vacant ground across from Dierberg’s in Shiloh. Hmmmm, can’t make anything go in Southwestern Illinois’ hottest development spot.

Another part of the St. Louis snow job is to misread NGA Director Robert Cardillo’s address to the consumer electronics show. He spoke about the products NGA created that are in everyday use — much like NASA touting the microwave and Tang as a space program benefits — and how his agency will draw more resources from the private sector.

One St. Louis newspaper interpreted that speech as NGA’s invitation to throw open the door and invite the North St. Louis neighbors in. They questioned whether an “openness” mission would be furthered were the agency to “sneak off to a distant site in Illinois, away from public view.”

Whenever there’s a regional task, folks from Missouri want Illinois to participate when it benefits them. Now they consider the Illinois part of the region as “distant.”

No independent assessment or expert has or will look at the question of siting a $1.6 billion, 800,000-square-foot home for 3,100 spy mapping workers and pick a pricey, choked urban dead zone over four times as much open land for free next to a military base.

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