ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)– Like a prophet of doom in a blue seersucker, Alderman Steve Conway warned of woes ahead for the city of St. Louis, unless it stops its population drain.
During a floor debate on a ward redistricting plan, Conway departed from the theme of other aldermen congratulating each other for getting along during the process . He called attention to the falling population numbers in each ward. Under the new map, there are now an average of 11,400 residents in each of the city’s 28 wards, compared to 12,800 ten years ago.
“If we don’t move forward and protect these areas in the center of the city, get housing going in areas where we’re losing citizens , and most importantly protect our schools, ” Conway said, “we’re going to be down to seven-or-eight thousand people a piece.”
Conway warned that the population drain could inflame the debate over getting rid of some aldermen.
“The wards continue to shrink as we go forward,” Conway said, “People out there sometimes say maybe there’s too many of us. I don’t agree with that assessment, because as we go broke, as we continue to run out of money, it’s harder and harder to deliver those services unless you’ve got an alderman.”
Conway ruffled feathers when he noted that under the current map the white wards have more than 11,000 residents, while black wards have less than 11,000.
“Ten years from now, we could face a situation where we have to decide who’s ward to eliminate if the same population loss trends continue,” Conway said.
Northside Alderwoman Marlene Davis challenged Conway’s assertion that black wards were losing more population that white wards. ”Population was lost all over the city, not just in north St. Louis,” Davis said, “But we lost approximately twelve-thousand people in the southern part of the city as well.”
The plan is expected to gain final passage next week.
Northside Alderman Terry Kennedy was among those praising the smoothness of the process. “I was here ten years ago,” Kennedy said, “This is my third redistricting process and this is the most civil that I have seen.”