The recent announcement of the resignation of St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner was certainly welcome news. Our state’s laws give little to no opportunity for many elected officials to be recalled. However, there’s probably not an elected official more deserving of such a reprimand.
In her letter to Gov. Mike Parson, Gardner expressed that she had “a heavy heart but steadfast resolve.” She also stated that she had made tremendous strides in “redefining public safety.” I guess that is true, if you consider trying to take out a sitting governor and letting criminals run the streets of St. Louis as “redefining.”
Her staff of prosecutors, likely embarrassed by the office’s abysmal record, had nearly all left. While Rome burned, Gardner took up taking classes to become a nurse. That seems almost too ridiculous to be true.
It is important to remember, though, that Gardner was elected (and re-elected) by the citizens of St. Louis. Good, bad or indifferent – we get the government that we ask for and deserve. I’m hopeful that the folks that have decided to remain in the City of St. Louis, despite the rampant crime, will choose more wisely when it is time to elect a new prosecutor.
With Gardner gone, it is time for St. Louis and the State of Missouri to move on.
There are plenty of economic opportunities in the St. Louis region, but the entire state needs more able-bodied people to take on jobs; we also need a trained workforce. If you grow up in a community with little opportunities besides being a part of some criminal element, then there’s little to no opportunity for outcomes beyond crime and death.
St. Louis needs to clean up its act in many ways. It starts with reducing crime. We are also working to improve our schools statewide and there’s no better place to start than in St. Louis. The costs of crime and an unskilled workforce is costing the entire state in many ways.
This legislative session we have considered many proposals to remove Gardner. We have also considered taking over the control of the St. Louis police force. Fairly unique to Missouri, St. Louis’ police force was controlled by a state board until recently. Now, some politicians are considering bringing the governance of the St. Louis police away from St. Louis and back to Jefferson City. I think the new police chief needs a chance to make the system work before we intervene.
At some point, St. Louis is going to have to right its own ship. Inserting Jefferson City politics into the control of their police force is not a next step. With Gardner gone, we stand ready to help St. Louis get on the right track and succeed as one of our major economic drivers.
Cindy O’Laughlin is the Missouri state senator representing District 18.