This is the County Executive Report Sam gave at the County Council meeting on June 16, 2020. You are welcome to attend County Council meetings, which are currently conducted by webinar; they are open to the public and feature time for public comment. You can find information on the next meeting and dial-in information in the events section at www.stlouisco.com.
Thank you, Lisa, and good evening everyone -
Over time, chapters of our history have been forgotten or wholly rewritten to provide a convenient narrative that leaves out large segments of our troubling and complicated past.
Some of the names of those complications are emblazoned on street signs or as the names of parks around the country. Perhaps at the time the streets were named, it was no big deal. But it is a big deal. The symbols that define our community should not be symbols that divide our community.
So today, I asked Hazel Erby, the director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Deanna Venker, our director of transportation and public works, and Parks Director Tom Ott to review the names of County roads, parks, and statues to ensure they are consistent with St. Louis County values.
I’ve asked that the review include public input to ensure all voices are heard.
The fight for justice will continue. It will continue to be heard. To be seen.
Juneteenth is this Friday. It’s a celebration of freedom, the abolishment of slavery.
For many of our families, it’s a time of reflection.
It’s a time to spend with family. It’s a time to learn more about a part of our history that did not make its way into all classrooms.
It’s a time to take a closer look at where we are in our country.
This afternoon, I sent an email to all county employees, letting them know that Friday will be a day off – a time to reflect on the challenges that our black friends and neighbors face every day. A time to appreciate the changes that we have seen since, and also to reflect upon how we can each play a role in the changes that are yet to come.
We are in the middle of a movement demanding change, and all of us must look at what we are doing, how we are doing it and what affect it is having on everyone else.
As many of you know, I sent a letter last week asking the Police Department to review its use of force policy. The Police Department has agreed to do so, and I hope that process will be an opportunity for growth and community dialogue.
There is a time to speak up and there is a time to listen.
We still see marches in our streets sparked by the murder of George Floyd.
People are angry. They should be.
There is disparity in every facet of our lives. In access to healthcare. In access to health insurance. In access to affordable, healthy food. In access to education.
All of these disparities factor into a deeper divide between the haves and the have nots.
We are seeing this play out with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately affected African Americans. In announcing that St. Louis County had received a $173.5 million CARES Act grant, I stressed that there should be a special emphasis placed on spending the funds in a manner that addresses the needs of our vulnerable and underserved populations.
That is my commitment and we are working with community advisors to ensure this happens.
Our Department of Public health is working with a Regional Response Team, formed to help us get the funds to the people who need it the most.
The response team is led by Jason Purnell, a professor in the Brown School at Washington University and Director of Health Equity Works. The team includes nonprofits and social service agencies that work to address inequities in our region.
Let’s not fall back to normal once the marches end and statues come down.