Missing Pieces: Solving the Puzzle of STL Regional Collaboration

By on November 7, 2017
by Tom Finan, Executive Director, Construction Forum STL
“Putting the Pieces Together”  —  the next Construction Forum STL program,  scheduled for Dec. 6  —  begins an ambitious, rigorous 13-month, five-program examination of  the issue of establishing effective regional collaboration for the St. Louis region.

The event will be held from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 6 at Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 Grand Hall, 2319 Chouteau Ave. There is no charge to attend, but registration is required. To register, click here.

With the efforts of “Better Together STL” to resuscitate City/County merger garnering headlines both locally and nationally (in last Saturday’s Wall Street Journal), the Forum’s board of directors wanted to take a look at what has and has not worked vis a vis regional collaboration in other areas of the country, and engage Forum participants in “hacking” the possibilities of what could happen here.

The Forum has arranged to bring regional government expert David Rusk here for the Dec. 6 event. Rusk is a former Wilson and Brookings Scholar and was the mayor of Albuquerque. He is the author of Cities Without Suburbs, the definitive, data-driven book on regional government and regional collaboration.

“Our objective is to allow our members — and new faces to Forum events from organizations who are helping us to plan this series — to hear the drill-down, hard data and then to engage them in proposing a path forward of areas in which regional collaboration may be workable,”  Joe Blanner, Forum president said. Blanner spent two years studying  the history of regional collaboration efforts in the St. Louis region, and has just completed a book analyzing the effectiveness of the various efforts.

Construction Forum STL sought input from regional organizations including Bi-State Development; The St. Louis Regional Freightway; The Municipal League of Metro St. Louis; and Dick Fleming, CEO of Community Development Ventures, Inc. and former CEO of the St. Louis Regional Chamber.

       David Rusk

In addition to Cities Without Suburbs, Rusk has also written many other books and has consulted with hundreds of cities.  His work addresses income disparities, the racial lens, and focusing on specific issues (workforce, policing, education) with what he calls “Communities of Common Interest”.

David Rusk will meet with regional civic and constituency leaders for two days on the topic of regional collaboration before presenting at the Forum. A reception for Rusk with Forum sponsors and advisors will be held.

On March 7,  Dr. David Miller, author of The Regional Governing of Metropolitan America  will speak on his study of city/county mergers nationwide and on his views regarding effective regional collaborations. In addition to his work across the country, Miller is intimately familiar with successful efforts  in Pittsburgh,  which has a city/county/municipality structure that is similar to the St. Louis region.

    David Miller

Miller is a professor  at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. Miller has served as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget for the City of Pittsburgh, and Managing Director of the Pennsylvania Economy League. In 2008 he was part of a panel — The Metropolitan Forum — assembled by Focus St. Louis, East-West Gateway, and The St. Louis Regional Chamber to study and make recommendations for regional fiscal reform.

In its third 2018 event summer, Construction Forum STL will present a speaker on the New York Port Authority, which was the model for Bi-State Development in the St. Louis regionEstablished in 1949 through an interstate compact between Missouri and Illinois, ratified by the U.S. Congress and signed by President  Truman in 1950, Bi-State Development was created to serve and enrich the region.

The New York Port Authority, established in 1921 under a similar Congressionally-approved interstate compact, oversees much of the regional transportation infrastructure in New York and New Jersey within a 25-mile radius of the Statue of Liberty. This includes bridges, tunnels, JFK and LaGuardia airports,  seaports, the PATH railway, and the World Trade Center within the geographical jurisdiction of the Port of New York and New Jersey. The Port Authority operates its own 1,700-person police department.

The fourth event will be a moderated exercise, which will include edited video of the previous three programs, followed by a working session. The event will be structured as a “hackathon” with the objective of identifying and defining action items. The Forum will be assisted by Mark Tranel,  director, UMSL Public Policy Research Center, in developing this effort.

“These are issues that have been studied for over a century,” Forum president Blanner said. “Our main goal is to really drill down to impediments and possibilities related to regional collaboration on issues such as workforce, infrastructure, and economic development. The mission of the Forum is ‘Building the St. Louis region’s tomorrow through inclusive engagement, unbiased communication and focused action.’

“We truly hope that focused action will result from these events that can help in beginning to solve the jigsaw puzzle that our region has been for many generations.”

About Tom Finan