President Beth Russell led us in the Pledge of Allegiance, Mike Regan delivered the invocation, and Mark Rook harkened back to World War I with “Over There” tweaked for the day’s festivities.
President Beth returned to the lectern to share joys and concerns at the Flag Totem. She celebrated activities of Club 11 Rotarians: Mary Lee Block on a Lewis & Clark-like adventure, David Pokorny on a bike ride to Kansas City for Girls on the Run, Rick Tinucci returning from Iceland, Cris Conner’s new grandbaby, Nick Angelo making a visit to Italy, and Don Fuller preparing for his July 29 nuptuals. President Beth announced that Robert Driver and Don Garland were leaving the Club and the area as they relocate for new jobs.
President Beth reminded us of upcoming programs – The Cardinals’ Bill Dewitt III on July 20; Missouri History Museum’s Dr. Francis Levine on July 27; and our own Rose Cooper as District 6060’s new Governor on August 3.
President Beth introduced her “cabinet” of Committee Chairs and Board members, and requested members sign up for at least one Committee. Announcements included note of upcoming Committee meetings and “Rotary in action”: the September 7 Business Expo with MAC, collecting for the KidSmart School Supply drive, and volunteering for Lift For Life Gym.
Sergeant-At-Arms “Motown” Mike Mosella was introduced by way of Doug Russell’s video handiwork. Mike in turn welcomed new members Bob Hesley, Dan MacLachlan and James Webster, several guests and long-visiting Rotarian J. Gary Neal of the Fresno Calf. Sunrise Club.
Former Mayor Jim Conway then came to the podium to introduce the day’s guest speaker, newly-former Mayor Francis Slay.
Francis (because he asked us to so address him), received a standing ovation, smiled broadly and said “It’s great to be a private citizen”. The City’s past chief executive then spoke from the cuff and gave an honest and forthright view of the need for the St. Louis region to unify.
Francis outlined how the rift between City and County took place back in the 1800s, leading ultimately to what he charitably termed a “conglomeration … working more against each other now than ever before.”
He flatly stated that unification of City and County was in the best interests of both, noting that – while crime and economics are cited as reasons not to meld entities, they still affect the entire region.
Francis pointed to Indianapolis’ and Louisville’s city-county mergers, in 1970 and 2009 respectively, as proof of the economic sense and benefit of co-joining. “We’re spending a billion dollars more on local government services than they.”
He tackled the argument that a blending of the City and County would lead to more government expense by citing the numbers of leaders of the areas 90+ municipalities. “Wildwood, for example, has a population of 35,000 – and 16 aldermen. All told, St. Louis County has six time more aldermen that St. Louis.”
He said that the City already has great attractions, hospitals and business incubators to offer the region. “In fact, we’ve done better than anyone in the country in building an innovation district from scratch.” He also noted that “if City and County were to merge, we’d become the largest city in Missouri, and go from the 58th largest in the nation to 8th.
“But, for now,” he said, “we’re all spending too much on government and not getting the returns. We’re going to continue to slide if we don’t do something.”
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