St. Louis City County merger debate becomes official

Imagine my surprise on my birthday when I read a front page story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the St. Louis City County merger was going to be discussed in an open forum.

Impossible! You mean to say that the leaders of the City and County were actually going to sit down and discuss the split that has hurt our region since it happened back in 1876?

I was cautiously optimistic.

Today, not quite so much, but I guess patience has never been one of my better virtues.

From what I read in today’s paper, yesterday’s meeting that symbolically took place at the Cheshire Inn near the edge of the City County line, accomplished – well, I actually have no idea what it accomplished other than generating some significant press which is certainly more than I’m capable of doing.

Still, a visit to the website didn’t exactly fire me up. They are proposing a 16-month series of community-based studies on the following topics: Public Finance, Economic Development, Public Health, Public Safety, Parks, Recreation & Infrastructure and Administration.

In reality, I’m sure all these studies will be needed to convince the 116 local governments in our 91 different municipalities that maybe we’d be better off simplifying things a bit and saving a few billion in the process for our region.

I am a huge proponent of the St. Louis metropolitan region. Like the name of the group that is at least investigating (but not advocating) a City County merger, I believe we would all be better together.

For too long, this City County split has hurt the region in multiple ways. There have been numerous political battles based on turf wars. And if only St. Louisans could stand back and look at the national picture, perhaps they might see how the region would instantly become more credible with a merger.

Suddenly, we’d become a major city again. And all those stories about St. Louis being one of the most dangerous cities to live in based on crime statistics would be altered downward. Perception vs. reality? A bit. But maybe if we were one large entity, we might be able to focus more on the areas of the city and county that are really hurting and rather than move away and bus away, we could re-invest and rejuvenate.

This region has so much going for it, but the continued, “not in my back yard” attitude of so many people will never allow us to move forward. And we need to move forward.

I don’t want to see St. Louis turn into a Des Moines or a Toledo (I have nothing against either of those cities but only use them as examples of cities without a major national presence).

We should aspire to greatness. We should look to be leaders in urban development, in regional cooperation, spawning a new economic age where the Midwest truly becomes the hub of our country. We don’t need to give up our morals or our history or the community activities that give so many parts of the St. Louis area our uniqueness.

When you’re away from this state and you meet someone and they ask where you’re from, you don’t say, “I’m from Des Peres.” Or, “I’m from Dellwood.”

You say, “I’m from St. Louis.”

And you say that whether you’re from the City or the County.

That’s the way it should be.

I’m from St. Louis – one of the greatest cities in the world.

One can dream.

Looking forward to St. Louis’ new I-70 lid

It’s going to be a while before we can stroll over I-70 and make our way onto the Arch grounds. But I’m definitely looking forward to it.

For too long, the Arch grounds have been cut off from the rest of downtown St. Louis. That all will change some time in 2015, depending upon how long construction takes and how many delays they’ll encounter. Plans are to have it done in time for the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Arch – October 28, 2015. That’s far enough in the future that it’s impossible to predict at this time but at least construction is underway.

The plans they ended up settling on seem pretty scaled back to me. It’s nice that we’ll have more green space and we’ll be able to easily access the Arch grounds. Whether or not that will lure more St. Louisans downtown is definitely open to debate. We already have plenty of green space out in the ‘burbs.

But it will definitely make the Arch more of a tourist destination, encourage more visitation and get some of those tourists to consider venturing off of the Arch grounds into our downtown area. Hopefully, they’ll head to BallPark Village and spend some money or check out what’s happening over on Washington Avenue.

Will it be enough to put St. Louis back on the map again?

Of course not. A walkway over a highway is just that. A little more green space is nice but green space doesn’t necessarily lure people downtown or attract tourists. It takes more entertainment venues, more family-oriented attractions. And I’m not sure where those are going to go. Apparently, we can’t do anything with the riverfront – the potential for flooding knocks out the possibility of any permanent fixtures. I always thought the area just south of the Arch had great potential for development but it hasn’t happened yet.

Laclede’s Landing could definitely use a makeover. The old cobblestone streets add a certain charm but they’re hell on vehicle suspensions and they twist ankles. And with primarily only bars and restaurants, there just isn’t a big enough lure.

So while I’m looking forward to St. Louis’ new lid, I’m also hoping we can figure out a few more entertainment options to keep us there once we cross over I-70.

That’s not in the master plan.

I hope somebody else is looking at Plan B.

St. Louis agencies shut out of CA Ad Annual – ho hum

My Communication Arts Advertising Annual arrived in the mail last week.

I used to view the CA Ad Annual as an early Christmas present. I couldn’t wait to open it up and see what magical ideas it contained. Brilliant thinking. Flawless execution. Page after page of big ideas that would make me jealous and inspire me to push harder.

It’s still that way.

But the thrill is gone.

I guess I’ve become jaded to great communications. I look at the print ads and there were two print campaigns where the ads actually contained more than three sentences. One of those campaigns featured reversed out body copy in a script font – yes, there were more than three sentences so the art director got even with the writer and made the whole thing illegible.

These days, everything is visual, because let’s face it, nobody reads copy any more.

So after my initial perusal of the entries, I scanned for St. Louis agencies. Not a one. In fact, the lone Missouri entry was from some agency I’ve never heard of in Kansas City called Meers who had a fun Public Service print campaign for the Great Plains Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). The ads featured a single line of copy. (Of course!) So at least the Show Me state wasn’t left off the CA map.

In reality, I don’t think the lack of representation of St. Louis-based agencies has anything to do with the caliber of work being done in this market. There are good agencies doing great work. A few years back, CA added Digital Advertising, Integrated Campaigns and Non-Traditional Advertising to its list of categories. Those sections now take up more pages than the print categories do. Based on last year’s St. Louis ADDYs, I thought that’s where I might see a St. Louis name or two.

Instead, we got the null set.

That’s okay. Keep creating my fellow St. Louis creatives and keep raising your own individual bar.

Do work that matters for your clients and if it takes more than three sentences to tell your story, that’s okay.

The CA judges may not read it, but your target audience might.