Finding a Bridge over Troubled Waters
A few days ago, my colleague David Stokes blogged about the ongoing struggle between Missouri and Illinois lawmakers to reach a compromise on plans to build an additional bridge of some sort across the Mississippi. He argued that either proposed deal would be good for both states, and wondered why it was so difficult for the two sides to hash something out, as both had much to gain and little to lose from either proposal. Since his posting, the situation has continued to deterioriate.
The state of Missouri, despite being offered a bridge that would be essentially free, continues to stall the project for reasons largely undefined. A recent article by Post-Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan attempts to shed some light on the situation, arguing that:
"It’s easy to see why Gov. Matt Blunt would be excited about a private toll bridge. Privatize whatever you can. It’s a philosophy that can carry a guy a long way in Republican circles these days. But what about the other Missouri officials? Why would they support such a plan? After all, most of them have spouted off about regionalism for years. Now they want to stick it to the people of Illinois. They’re probably frightened. Rahn is autonomous. He answers to nobody. If officials go against Rahn, he can retaliate. No projects in their jurisdictions."
While Mr. McClellan’s ad hominem attack against Gov. Blunt and privatization is a little silly, he’s right about petty Missouri politics once again derailing what would otherwise be an excellent joint project for the two states, with significant benefits for both at little cost to Missouri. The state and particularly the city of St. Louis will be forever doomed to mediocrity if it can’t leave the amatuerish politics behind for a while and focus on what’s truly good for its citizens, the selfish concerns of it’s politicians be damned.