ST. LOUIS, Mo. — In the last week, the St. Louis region has experienced “turbulence” with the federal indictment and resignation of County Executive Steve Stenger and the national NAACP’s suspension of St. Louis County NAACP president John Gaskin III.
With the acknowledgment of those two matters, state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed says she believes it is in the best interest of the city and region that the Better Together ballot initiative be withdrawn.
“The conversation surrounding Better Together is no longer about the controversial proposal itself, but the controversies of the people involved,” Nasheed, a Democrat, said. “These distractions rob our citizens of the fair and thoughtful discussion we deserve regarding regional unification.”
Stenger was indicted by a federal grand jury last week. The undercover investigation showed political favors had been traded for campaign contributions. On Monday, Stenger resigned shortly after the indictment was unsealed.
Also last week, Gaskin received a letter from the national NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson stating Gaskin was officially suspended. Reportedly, Johnson suspended Gaskin for the decision in offering St. Louis County NAACP’s support for legislation of Title IX and also Gaskin’s “conflict of interest” in accepting a paid consulting position for Better Together.
“Simply put, the Better Together proposal has been tainted by these developments and it must be pulled back and revisited at a later date after a more transparent, inclusive, and collaborative process,” Nasheed said.
Additionally, the County Council held a special meeting on Monday to elect a new county executive who will serve the rest of Stenger’s term — until the 2020 election. Dr. Sam Page, the council chairman, was elected in a 5-1 vote.
Council Vice Chairwoman Hazel Erby, D-1st District, had also been seeking the position, noting that she had seniority in county government. She voted against the election of Page, while he abstained.
“I look forward to working with County Executive Page and members of the St. Louis County Council as our region moves forward for the betterment of all its citizens, families and businesses,” Democratic state Sen. Brian Williams said.
Nasheed also said she will continue working with the region’s elected officials, civic leaders, and community members to achieve the shared goal of establishing a thriving community that lifts up all of its people.