Missouri used to be a balanced purple state with both parties collaborating for progress. Now, Missouri Republican legislators and their unyielding dogma block progress. Missouri is so red that prominent elected officials have even seen fit to embarrass themselves.
U.S. Senator Josh Hawley recklessly challenged the presidential election result, and his photo, fist saluting Capitol insurrectionists, will live in infamy. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt hypocritically joined other red states to challenge election results in four sovereign states — hypocritical because Missouri Republicans refuse to yield anything even to benefit residents.
After Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon termed out, Missouri Republicans elected Eric Greitens who, like Hawley, seems motivated more by enormous ego and ambition than a desire to serve Missouri. Greitens arrogantly shunned transparency, wielded dark money, threatened foes, and resigned under personal and political scandals. Guess what? He thinks he’s back! Vice President Mike Pence helped him to rejoin the Naval Reserves to begin Greitens’s political comeback, emboldened by how crimson our state has become.
A mayors’ organization was formed after Greitens became governor to protect Missouri cities under perennial attack by Republican legislators and to advocate for progress. Missouri Mayors United for Progress (MMUP) was founded by termed-out Kansas City Mayor Sly James with help from myself and mayors from all parts of Missouri. Our voice amplified that of the Municipal Leagues because mayors shout louder than “leagues,” and as Sly said, “Mayors get things done!”
On the flip side, Missouri Republican legislators would rather fight than fund anything, thereby getting nothing done. They constantly stunt municipalities from serving their citizens yet they insist on no additional funding for crumbling state highways and even borrowed from future generations to keep our bridges from collapsing today. Republicans also continue to disconnect from the federal Affordable Care Act resulting in human suffering and the alarming closure of many rural Missouri hospitals.
Missouri has the 7th most miles of highway to maintain and yet is 47th in revenue collected from a gas tax. I was part of a delegation of MMUP mayors who met with Gov. Mike Parson shortly after he was sworn in to share our priorities, including transportation funding and internet sales revenue that every other state is collecting. Parson heard us, but his Republican Party did not, and four years later, Missouri ranks dead last in highway safety and internet revenue.
Despite Gov. Parson’s support, Republicans still refuse to embrace a modest gas tax increase while our Department of Transportation is funded by 1996 revenue the past 25 years. The governor supports collecting internet tax, but the Republican legislature, blinded by dogma, has prevented Missouri from collecting this urgently needed revenue. COVID-19 has exacerbated the competitive problem of internet sales taking tons of sales away from the brick-and-mortar stores in our neighborhoods. Also, when Missourians buy a shovel online, instead of at the local hardware store, Missouri and its cities and counties get nothing to pay for police officers, street maintenance, or parks!
A lifelong Missourian, the only time I lived away was during two Navy Seabee deployments to Vietnam and one to GTMO. I toured Missouri on the 21st Century Transportation Task Force. When I retired from public life in 2019 as the CEO mayor of Florissant, I was the longest continuously serving elected official in the state with 40 years so I know Missouri’s problems. Missouri legislators’ lack of action on infrastructure indicates they may care more about anti-tax dogma than people which has kept Missouri near the bottom compared to other states in too many categories.
I ask my fellow citizens and our current elected representatives to “show me” something better. I’ve been around for a while. I answered the call to arms and went to war; I have weathered 40 years of politics. Our state needs to be more careful what kind of leaders we produce because they hold our future in their hands. Integrity, courage, and honesty are the stuff that our leaders should be made of. Show me a path made of principle and character rather than dogma. Our future is valuable — don’t destroy it, but protect it. We need leaders who will make us proud to be Missourians again.
Thomas P. Schneider was the mayor of Florissant from 2011 to 2019. Prior to that, he served on the Florissant City Council from 1979 to 2011.