The Time for Wishful Thinking Is Over
For years, Saint Louis officials have engaged in virtual hand-to-hand combat with the U.S. Census Bureau over the city’s population. In six of the last 10 years, the city challenged the bureau’s figures. The city was gaining people, they insisted, not losing them as the bureau estimates indicated.
Now the bureau’s official count is out … and the numbers are daunting. The city of Saint Louis has lost 8 percent of its population since 2000. As recently as 2008, the city had claimed to have a little more than 356,000 residents. That appears to have been wishful thinking. The true figure is lower — much lower: 319,000, according to the Census.
The city’s mayor, Francis Slay, didn’t try to sugarcoat what he called “absolutely bad news.” It will, he said, “require an urgent and thorough rethinking of how we do almost everything.”
The Show-Me Institute has been doing just that. From our first policy study on the Saint Louis earnings tax, to a look at tax credits, to the most recent examination of the city’s land use policy, we have focused on ways in which the city can grow instead of shrink.
One can assume that the city’s unaccredited school system has also played a factor in the ongoing exodus from Saint Louis. Parents want to live in communities with good school systems. The Show-Me Institute has published several studies and papers outlining the benefits of educational choice — i.e., letting parents decide where their children will go to school.
In short, wishing and hoping for better numbers is no longer enough. For years, the city has effectively chased people and businesses out of town with policies like the earnings tax and the issuance of tax credits that only favor certain businesses. This downward trend won’t be stopped until city leaders adopt free-market policies that encourage growth instead of discouraging it.