Saturday, September 26, 2009
Bob Baer and Metro
In December 2007, I wrote here that I had every confidence that interim Metro president Bob Baer would do a great job of restoring public trust in Metro’s direction that had been lost by its previous managers. Looking at a new study of public opinion about Metro, it is clear that Bob’s leadership has done that. People’s concerns about Metro’s future have once again focused on issues other than its management. Instead worrying as much about its litigation strategy and lack of fiscal oversight, people now are talking wanting the region’s public transportation system to go more places, to be more convenient to their homes and offices, and to be safe. That’s Bob Baer’s mark at Metro so far: he has reassured us that the transportation agency in back on track.
To my surprise and pleasure, Bob Baer has agreed to become Metro’s permanent president. As its top official, he will be very prominent in the public discussion of Metro’s request for additional revenues to maintain and expand public transportation in the region. St. Louis County voters will be the first to weigh Bob’s arguments, most likely at an election this coming year. But, voters in St. Charles County , Jefferson County , and in southern Illinois will not be far behind. (City voters have already approved additional funding.) The stakes are high: a useful and efficient system of public transportation is one of the keys of the region’s economic prosperity. The panic of suburban employers over recent budget-related cut-backs in service surely reminded everyone of the stakes.
I do not envy Bob Baer the challenges ahead. I cannot think of anyone else more likely to overcome them. He will have my strong support.
Some observations to the actual words of Mayor Francis Slay's own words (because he would never use a professional PR person to write the blog) are here:
TO MY SURPRISE AND PLEASURE????????? Surprise because Mr. Baer, who is not a bad guy, has accepted the second worst job in St. Louis, the worst being in charge of attracting major national conventions here. But he's pulling in 190K a year, so he should be able to afford enough antidepressants to make the job worth his while.
THE PANIC OF SUBURBAN EMPLOYERS OVER RECENT BUDGET RELATED CUT-BACKS IN SERVICE SURELY REMINDED EVERYONE OF THE STAKES. Yeah, nobody within the city limits must have cared about the gutting of the bus system. Is that what you're trying to tell us, Mr. Mayor? When's the last time you've been to where the buses used to run in South City, or perhaps at AG Edwards/Wachovia/Wells Fargo on Market Street? I forgot, the city is wonderful and the county is EVIL and that's why you want to combine them into one completely dysfunctional unit of government.
HE WILL HAVE MY STRONG SUPPORT. Until I have to tell all the suburbanites on TV or Charlie "I Hate Metro" Brennan's show that I support a tax increase that will not build a nice new Arch Grounds, Sculpture Garden, or Ballpark Village.
Personally, I think Bob Baer, Jessica Mefford-Miller, and other very dedicated people really do want the system to improve and better serve its customers. The problem is that County Executive Charlie Dooley, Mayor Slay, a posse of legislators in Jefferson City, and tens of thousands of citizens are working hard to make sure the St. Louis region STAGNATES because nobody with political and public opinion influence will properly explain the benefits of a good mass transit system and how a small tax increase will benefit everyone in the area, even the elected officials who wouldn't be caught dead on a bus unless it was for a photo op when unused buses are turned into cooling shelters.
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