Lyda Krewson was sworn in this week as the new mayor of St. Louis. She won the office after offering an important agenda for her community, including a focus on crime prevention and increased employment.
Mayor Krewson seems up to the job of leading St. Louis.
But Kansas Citians should take note as well: Krewson’s victory may have deep significance on our side of the state. The new mayor wants to strengthen ties between St. Louis and Kansas City, an offer our community should wholeheartedly embrace.
Krewson invited Kansas City Mayor Sly James to speak at the inaugural, and in her own remarks extended her hand to Kansas City. James praised that effort and promised to explore cooperation on a host of issues.
“If you want to go far, you go together,” James said, according to St. Louis Public Radio.
The exchange was extraordinarily encouraging.
For years — decades, really — Kansas City and St. Louis had few common interests. The state’s two biggest cities didn’t fight each other, exactly, but each community generally pursued its own agenda independent of the other.
Kansas City and St. Louis no longer have that luxury.
Rural and suburban lawmakers in Jefferson City often work against the broad interests of urban areas — on tax policy, jobs and wages, regulations, crime prevention, transportation needs. They prefer a one-size-fits-all approach to problem-solving.
Leaders in Kansas City and St. Louis understand the danger in that strategy. What makes sense in rural Missouri may not make sense in Westport or Soulard.
Urban neighborhoods — and city residents — need room to explore their own solutions to problems in the state’s largest metro areas.
Yet neither city can accomplish that on its own. Working separately, they don’t have the votes.
Instead, Kansas City and St. Louis must team up to convince statehouse colleagues of the unique nature of city challenges.
Of course, a Kansas City-St. Louis alliance shouldn’t mean a blank check for either city. Rural lawmakers are understandably wary of city requests for huge stadium subsidies and outsized school spending.
Lingering resentment about state support for desegregation spending in the two cities remains a major hurdle as well.
The goals in both cities today are much more in sync and are relatively modest — some state help for a few minor projects, to be sure, but an overarching desire to simply be left alone to explore urban responses to urban problems.
Krewson and James grasp this. They met this week, along with St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, to discuss areas of future collaboration.
We’d like to see such discussions continue and expand. Business, labor and political leaders from the two cities should get together regularly. Ministers and activists may have ideas to share.
More than ever, Kansas City and St. Louis must find common ground. Leaders from both cities have started the conversation. Now they need to deliver on that promise.