One of the things I’ve brought to Washington this week is the City’s agenda for this legislative session. I’ll share it with our own bi-state Congressional delegations — and with anybody else with a vote in Congress.
We strongly support the funding of two critical federal Block Grant programs — the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant and the Community Development Block Grant. Both important funding programs have been gutted or significantly scaled back over the past few years, in part because the costs of overseas security and homeland security (like our own public safety departments’ need for interoperable communications) have been skyrocketing. But, putting the neighborhoods of America’s cities last in line is short-sighted. The Law Enforcement grants should be restored, and the Community Development grants should be doubled. And at a time when Chief Joe Mokwa and his officers are ramping up their own efforts to take on the City’s most violent criminals, we also support the reinstatement of the federal COPS crime fighting program.
Another very high priority right now is to find the federal funds to help re-make the St. Louis riverfront. Working with the Danforth Foundation, the City is working on plans to revitalize one of the country’s most historic, least attractive, riverfronts. An important element of that plan is an Arch Grounds Connector over the depressed lanes of I-70. We also hope to preserve the federal funds for a new Mississippi River Bridge, and to identify transportation funding for several bridges, roads, and neighborhood commercial district streetscape improvements.
Finally, we support reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act including support for people laid off by plant closings and business consolidations, young people, and ex-offenders. Plenty of our neighbors — many of them badly prepared for the contemporary workplace live at or below the poverty line. The single most important thing the City can do for them is to help them prepare for good jobs that pay living wages. Federally funded workforce development programs, like those at SLATE, do that.