St. Louis, like most cities, is a place of contrasts: very rich people and very poor people, young people and old people, live as neighbors. The best public school in the entire and some severely challenged schools are part of the same system and located within a few miles of each other. Some of the country’s most prominent cultural institutions are blocks from neighborhoods where the arts are all too alien. Judges, lawyers, police officers, and criminals often shop in the stores.
More so than in the suburbs or in less densely settled cities, one group’s problems are everyone’s problems. That reality lends urgency to the City’s fights against chronic poverty and the social ills that accompany it. To do so, we have expanded job training. We have worked to attract private investment in neighborhoods that had been neglected for a very long time. We have worked to help ex-offenders and homeless people become productive citizens. We have fought to improve education for all children—including children living in poverty. We have helped families avoid foreclosure. We have knit together a strong health care safety net. And, we have worked to expand opportunities for minority owned businesses.
We have made progress. But, there is much more work to be done—especially in this economy.
The best anti-poverty program is a good job. Concentrated poverty in our City costs all of us and hurts all of us. So, it is in our best interest that when we build public projects, our own citizens—especially those who need a job and want to work hard—get a chance.
That’s what Board Bill 75, which I signed into law last week, does. It sets goals for public works projects of $1-million or greater. Fifteen percent of all labor hours are to be performed by apprentices enrolled in a good training program. Twenty five percent of the labor hours are to be performed by minorities, and 5% by women. Twenty percent of the labor hours are to be performed by City residents.
Our first chance to put this legislation to work will come later this year when we build a new recreational center in O’Fallon Park.
I want to thank Alderman Terry Kennedy for his leadership on this issue.