Charlie Brennan, @charliekmox

Does the St. Louis region lack leadership? Dave Peacock, who led the unsuccessful attempt to raise taxes to help pay for a soccer stadium, appears to believe so.

Would Peacock have the same concerns if his measure passed? Probably not. If another 4,000 people in St. Louis on Tuesday voted to raise their taxes for a stadium, nobody would be wondering today about St. Louis’ supposed leadership vacuum.

Plenty of S. Louisans—Dave Peacock, Mayor Slay, Jim Kavanaugh, Tony Messenger, Joe Buck—urged for the passage of Prop 2. They failed. Does that mean they are not leaders?

Look at it another way: if Prop 2 passed, wouldn’t we be praising these men as today’s leaders? Since Prop 2 lost, we conclude we are bereft of leadership.

Remember, John Wooden did not win all of his games. No. Leaders don’t win every contest. History shows us great leaders have setbacks. Tuesday’s vote was a setback for some.

Actually, depending on your point of view, opponents of the soccer ballot item could be called “leaders” because, in their view, they encouraged others to reject the stadium funding foolishness.

“But, does the St. Louis region have a Mayor Richard M. Daley, who can make great things happen? A guy who can get the job done?”

(Set aside, for a moment, whether a soccer stadium is a great thing).

That’s more difficult, because a river divides St. Louis into two states and then we have fifteen counties and millions (it seems) of cities and towns. No one governs them all.

No, we don’t have a powerful change agent. Power in St. Louis is dispersed. No one person has forged enough alliances to move mountains. That’s true.

It’s also true our leaders are limited. The mayor of St. Louis does not control the schools or even the parking meters. The county executive oversees the health department and some but not all streets and police.

That’s not to say we don’t have great leaders.

Joe Edwards revitalized the Loop. John Dubinsky created Cortex Innovation Community which now has 300 innovative companies and 5,000 workers. Zack Boyers and Jerry Schlicter started Arch Grants, which lures young start-ups to St. Louis. Andy Taylor of Enterprise is revamping the Arch grounds and the Soldiers Memorial. Peter Fischer funded the Citygarden. William Danforth spearheaded the Danforth Science Center. Rex Sinquefield has put St. Louis on the map in the chess world. Mark Wrighton oversees one of the great universities in the country. Kelvin Adams is improving the troubled schools. Steve Stenger and Jon Belmar led the passage of Prop P to raise police pay.

These are leaders. They are today’s “movers and shakers.” No, they haven’t solved our crime problem or the lack of direct flights at Lambert, but they have made huge differences in our region.

Do we lack leadership? No, but we have problems today’s leaders have not (yet) solved.


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