ST. LOUIS – A new collaboration of former mayors and elected officials from St. Louis County will look to balance the role of smaller municipal governments in the area with those in the greater St. Louis region.
CitiesStrong is a nonprofit designed to examine the role of smaller municipal governments as well as one which fosters collaboration between them to work out various problems. Nearly all members of the organization are former city officials, including organization Vice President Jim Brasfield, who has served as an elected official in Crestwood for 24 years.
“Our group believes that there are obvious problems that exist in cities large and small,” he said. “Every city has problems. We think the collaborative process is the best way to work out problems rather than it be dictated from Jefferson City or the County government building in Clayton.”
Brasfield says that while these officials no longer run the day-to-day operations of government, they still have a passion for serving their communities. Now that they are outside of the system, he believes it will allow the group to see a long-term, wide-lens angle that they could not see before.
“We think we have the experience to do these sorts of things,” he said. “We feel we have something to offer in terms of perspective.”
CitiesStrong plans to accomplish their agenda with collaboration between local governments, research into various problems plaguing St. Louis municipalities and more cultural and regional institutions, like the Great Rivers Greenway.
Brasfield, as well as president Bert Gates, and the rest of the group believe that people appreciate the accessibility of smaller, local governments. This group could be seen as a response to legislators and others looking to consolidate municipalities while still taking steps to solve abusive governments in some cities.
“In the face of some who say we ought to have just one big government, we think the system of governments that exists in St. Louis County is a viable government,” Brasfield said. “If we did away with all cities, massive consolidation, what would be lost in terms of the average citizen would be the way to relate to the government that’s closest to them. People like to have a local government that’s providing the fundamental kinds of services.”
First and foremost, though, the initiative is about strengthening the network of municipal governments to make them more successful at their intended purpose.
“We have cultural institutions, truly regional assets, which are governed and funded through regional collaboration,” Gates said. “CitiesStrong members are united in our belief that regional collaboration works, and it works best with strong and willing municipal partners.”