Unless you paid close attention, you may well have missed the State of the City address by St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay last week. Slay apparently talked little about the progress and population growth in St. Louis; he instead spent his time talking about crime in the city.
We give credit to Slay for speaking the obvious. But we also acknowledge that his words come probably far too late to have any real impact. Parts of St. Louis - particularly north St. Louis - are simply unsafe at any hour. Everyone clearly recognizes the facts but few will speak those words for fear of being labeled politically incorrect. That is something that has never bothered me.
Part of what Slay says is right on target. He wants judges to give stiffer prison sentences especially for repeat offenders. He says in St. Louis in too many cases, convicts on probation commit more crimes and are placed back on probation. Unfortunately, judges know how overcrowded our prison system has become and are reluctant to give stiff sentences for non-violent criminals. Maybe Slay's words will have some impact.
Slay also wants taxpayers to fork over more money for more cops and to fund two new recreation centers in the problem areas of the city. We applaud his efforts though we don't necessarily believe recreation centers are the answer. Slay wants to keep the kids off the streets and get them into a safe program. Even a cynic like myself can't argue with that plan.
The mayor wants a jobs taskforce and an expanded Night Watch program. Slay needs to also use a tool that is available within their housing units. If a person is convicted of a violent or drug-related crime, boot them out of the taxpayer-subsidized housing. It will either change behavior or move the problem elsewhere.
I was amused by one Slay's suggestion, however. He wants to require state counselors to intervene when a child misses more than a month of school in one semester.
Maybe it's been a while since Slay was in school. If a kid misses a full month of school in one semester - unless of course it's health related - then there is a problem that a state counselor will find challenging. Try throwing a parent in jail when their child misses that much school. That might motivate a parent to assure their child is in the classroom.
All in all, Slay is to be commended for focusing on a real problem. I'm surprised he made no mention of harsher drug enforcement because, clearly that is the source of much of the crime. But when a big city mayor makes a major address and the issue is crime, everyone should pay attention.