Jaco: Time for St. Louisans to stop and think

Stan Kroenke is a greedy, grasping, lying megalomaniac with the moral center of a Trump family member and the imperious attitude of a soon-to-be-beheaded 18th century French aristocrat. He married into the Wal-Mart fortune and, ever since, has managed to degrade everything his oily tentacles have touched. But that doesn’t mean he’s wrong.

Kroenke had planned to move the Rams from St. Louis back to Los Angeles ever since he grabbed full ownership of the team in 2010. But he needed a compelling economic reason to convince NFL brass to green light the Ram’s relocation. And St. Louis gave him plenty.

It was almost exactly three years ago that Kroenke filed his official relocation proposal with the NFL. And while his open letter to the league praised Los Angeles and his proposed three billion dollar stadium there, it also dismembered St. Louis with a chainsaw.

Kroenke wrote that St. Louis “…lags, and will continue to lag far behind in the economic drivers that are necessary for the sustained success of an NFL franchise…any NFL club that signs ion to this proposal in St. Louis will be well on the road to financial ruin.”

Kroenke said St. Louis ranked 61st out of the 64 largest US cities in economic growth. He noted the city continued to hemorrhage population while the region as a whole had the slowest growth since 2008 of any major metropolitan area. He said St. Louis has become too poor to support three professional sports teams.

He concluded by saying the NFL was already preparing to abandon San Diego and Oakland, and both of those markets were infinitely superior to St. Louis. Both the Oakland and San Diego regions were growing and flourishing, he said, with higher incomes, higher education levels, and far more robust economies than St. Louis.

If the NFL was leaving two relatively successful metro regions, why shouldn’t it abandon a metro area like St. Louis which was already on its last legs?

Unfortunately, everything Kroenke said about St. Louis is true. In many ways, he didn’t go far enough, since his letter didn’t mention endemic racism, rampant inequality, Ferguson fallout, and the constant, selfish jockeying for position by 89 different cities in towns in St. Louis County.

Every St. Louisan should keep those issues, and the Kroenke letter, in mind as they look at the controversial proposal from the Better Together group to unify St. Louis city and county into one government, creating a new city of 1.3 million people.

There’s a lot to question about the idea—from a statewide vote to its lack of a plan to fix failing schools—but when we take the plan apart, we need to do it with one big thing in mind—St. Louis is dying. Slowly, maybe—but dying.

We’re one of the most segregated metro regions in the country. Thanks to the racism exposed by the Ferguson unrest, we now have an international reputation for bigotry and racial divisiveness. Major corporations have left, along with airline service and the Rams. The Great Recession wiped out over 50,000 local jobs. Portions of the city look like Fallujah while smug suburbanites sniff that everything’s OK in their few square feet of turf.

Every St. Louisan needs to go through the Better Together unification plan. Pause. Take time. Think.

This Rex Sinquefield-funded plan may not be the answer. But it deserves at least a hard look. Because what we’re doing now isn’t working.

Charles Jaco

Charles Jaco is a journalist and author. He has worked for NBC News, CNN, KMOX, KTRS, and Fox 2. He is best known for his coverage of the first Gulf War, and for his "legitimate rape" interview with Senate candidate Todd Akin. He is the winner of three George Foster Peabody Awards, and the author of four books.

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