November 05, 2012Election nights are drug dens for political fiends, and I feel a little like Chris Rock's character Pookie in "New Jack City." In addition to determining who will win the presidency or if the election of Mr. Todd Akin will be another reason for Missourians to question their residency, there are two propositions on the Nov. 6 ballot that will affect St. Louisans: Propositions A and R.
Will Prop A wrest control of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department from the governor's office and place it with this city's mayor? Will I wake up the future resident of the 13th ward and not the 26th?
Last week, my partner walked through the front door of our home with a yard sign that read, "Vote No on Prop A." She agrees with the message of the sign but I don't. She looked at me and said, "My parents wanted me to put the sign in the yard." Funny thing is, her parents do not reside in St. Louis City, yet they, as Missourians, can weigh in on the issue, which cuts to the nature of my problem with this current policy.
Although I plan to vote yes on Prop A, my people at the Organization for Black Struggle (OBS), at least one mentee, and my partner disagree with me on this. Fortunately, the St. Louis American and 50 percent of Missourians surveyed by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research support the measure. Admittedly, only 625 of the 4.1 million registered voters in Missouri were surveyed by Mason-Dixon, but whatever. We agree.
Imagine that. There are 4.1 million registered voters in Missouri who have as much say on St. Louis police as I do. In comparison, St. Louis has 236,253 registered voters, of which I am one.
I can hear my friends now: "You won't have an actual say on the conduct of St. Louis police officers." No doubt, civilian oversight is preferred. But who wants other counties weighing in on the police department of St. Louis, where they don't live? I'd much rather this be a St. Louis issue and address civilian oversight in a future battle. Besides, passage of Prop A will make the mayoral race more interesting.
As for Prop R, I'm good with my alderman having to fight to keep his seat in a few years. I haven't seen a contest for that office since I moved to the West End in 2006. My people at OBS don't agree with me on the Prop R issue either. Their basic argument is that fewer alderpersons will result in residents having less access to his or her elected official. That would resonate with me if I felt like I was in communication with my alderman. That hasn't been my experience, so I might as well be living in the post-Prop R West End neighborhood anyway.
Then it occurred to me that a post-Prop R ward could present St. Louis with an opportunity that continues to plague the city: racial polarization. In 2010, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that St. Louis is seventh in "racial segregation" out of the nation's 100 most populous metro areas.
In January 2012, a study released by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research affirms that St. Louis is racially segregated and suggests that any progress toward desegregation St. Louis has made is due to depopulation in the city.
In March of this year, the BBC produced a four minute clip on the racial divide of the city using Delmar as the point of demarcation. I've heard some refute the assertion that black St. Louis can be divided from white St. Louis simply by finding Delmar on a map, but there is something notable about that street. According to www.Stlouis-Mo.gov, Delmar separates the central corridor from the northern corridor of the city. In other words, my West End neighborhood is located on the North side.
I have another fun fact. Of the 28 wards, 17 of them are predominantly black or white, with 70 to 97 percent of the residents identifying with one of those two races. The remaining wards are 47 to 65 percent mixed in racial composition.
In this city of Democrats, the color line feels like Delmar Boulevard. On one side of it, there are black Democrats and, on the other, white Democrats. Perhaps the intraparty divide by race is merely reflective of residence, as though we can determine the race of our elected official. Crude, I know, but it's not an inaccurate assessment. Of the 28 wards, 26 of them have an alderperson who is of the same race as the majority of the ward residents, which lends credence to the notion that blacks vote for black politicians and whites vote for white politicians.
I've heard some advocacy for desegregation that encouraged people to move to predominantly black or white neighborhoods. That's fine for renters, but it is not as easy for homeowners to uproot. Maybe Prop R is a moment when the Aldermanic Board can draw political lines that will move residences out of racially homogenous wards to heterogeneous ones without people having to pack their bags.