Welcome to St. Louis on the air. I'm Elaine Cha. Later in the hour, we'll hear why longtime St. Charles County Executive, Steve Elman recently announced he won't be running for a sixth term. And what he sees as necessary for the long term future of the county has led since 2006. But first, the first amendment has everyday impact in our lives. And the boundaries of free expression have long been a subject of legal debate. In the last two weeks, there have been two major federal level developments with cases that involve whether a business owner can discriminate against LGBTQ people, and whether the government can communicate with social media companies. There are real life ramifications with these cases and connections to Missouri. Here to talk about it is Greg mcgarrybowen, law professor and First Amendment scholar at Washington University. Greg, welcome to the program.
Thank you for having me. Greg, give
us a brief overview of these two cases. And let's start with the case involving social media and government coercion. So Andrew Bailey is touting victory over quote, the biggest violation of the First Amendment in our nation's history. They're the decision from a federal judge in Louisiana, was announced on all days, July 4, Independence Day. What did that decision say? Great. Well, this
is an order from a federal district judge that basically prohibits a wide range of Biden administration officials, from communicating with social media platforms about content and and encouraging or urging, let alone coercing the social media platforms to take down content that the government has a problem with,
and was not at all surprising. I mean, what stood out to you about the ruling from Judge Terry DoDI?
It's very surprising, it's it's a very broad injunction. Our Attorney General Bailey's proclamation of victory may be a little bit premature. The Biden administration has appealed the order has asked for a state of the Order pending appeal. But it is it is a very sweeping and consequential order. And I don't know of any precedent like this, where a court is essentially told the government, you can't even communicate with speech provider of some kind to encourage or urge or give the government's point of view about whether certain content should be available.
So this is just any contact whatsoever.
It's contact, if the government is again urging or encouraging removal of First Amendment protected speech.
And the arbiter of that would be
well, the arbiter of that would would ultimately be a court, it's a little bit of a difficult injunction to enforce, in that if the government and the person that contacted the social media platform wanted to have the conversation, no one else is necessarily on the line or in the room when that conversation happens. But if there is evidence of a communication like that, then then the arbiter of this would be the judge to enforce the injunction.
And it's a part of the the issue here about a chilling effect.
That's the concern that the attorneys general who brought the case raised, that's the concern that the order reflects, it's not entirely clear to me whether there is very much evidence that that concern is warranted in this case, when we talk about the First Amendment and free speech protection, concern about chilling protected speech is a very familiar theme. We don't want the government doing things even indirectly, that might lead people to self censor. But in this instance, we're talking about the biggest best endowed players in the marketplace of ideas, social media platforms, who employ platoons of lawyers and policy analysts and who are pretty capable of taking care of themselves. So the likelihood of chilling of expression at that level seems a little bit fanciful.
Do you have questions about censorship and the government? I'd like to invite you into the conversation? If you have a question or comment about this topic, please give us a call at 314-382-8255. That's three eight to talk, or you can send us a Tweet at STL on air or email us at talk at STL p r.org. Now, Andrew Bailey is making strong statements. This is the Attorney General here in Missouri. He's making strong statements about what this case means. Like here in this July 6 interview on Fox News.
Well, I think we need to erect a wall of separation between tech and state to protect Americans first amendment rights from President Biden and his army of federal bureaucrats who seek to undermine free speech in the United States of America. And that wall began being erected on July 4, when the judge laid the first brick by issuing this preliminary injunction, we're gonna get to get to the merits of the case, continue doing discovery, receive more documents, conduct more depositions and route out this vast censorship enterprise that President Biden has constructed that sort of relationship of both coercion and collusion with big tech, social media.
And that was Attorney General Andrew Bailey, who is one of the the people who brought the suit that led to this ruling. What do you make of what we just heard?
A couple of things. I think it's important to understand that this is a highly politically charged, case and dispute. The attorneys general who are bringing these claims are uniformly Republican attorneys general, the judge, in issuing the order made a point of saying that the problem was censorship of conservative speech. And in his words, that was very telling. This has been a theme on the right for a long time that the conservative speech is being censored. It doesn't really seem to occur to these concerned attorneys general, or at least they don't talk about this possibility that some of the speech being excised from these social media platforms may actually be false, pernicious misleading, may present problems that the social media platforms of their own initiative would would want to get off their platforms. Right.
So we have Jerry from O'Fallon calling with a question, Jerry, Welcome to St. Louis on the air.
Good afternoon. I guess my Well, not really question. But does the First Amendment protect my right to say I'm selling you a car that gets 100 miles per gallon? When it doesn't? You know, it's false, you know, false advertising can result in civil and criminal penalties. And yet, we can have someone say that the COVID vaccine causes autism without any basis. In fact, I guess someone could say that, you know, our attorney general is a member of a secret society that is controlled by aliens. Right? You don't have to really prove it. Out there.
It's a great question. So there's sort of a legalistic piece to what I'll say and a broader piece, the legalistic pieces. You're absolutely right. And in fact, the First Amendment gives somewhat less protection to commercial speech than for example, political speech. So yeah, there there are fraud laws that prohibit lying about products or offering for sale. The First Amendment does protect, to a certain extent false speech that isn't commercial. However, false speech, of the sort that you're pointing out, obviously causes problems and causes social harms. And so what we count on when it comes to falsehoods and misleading expression, we count on intermediaries and arbiters like social media platforms to exercise some responsibility and to say, Okay, we're not going to propagate this false speech, because we know it's socially harmful. So the question in this case is, what point does the government cross the line from just telling social media platforms? Hey, folks, we think that some of this information you're putting out there as harmful that I think is well, within the government's legal prerogative, what's not within the government's legal prerogative would be to say, we will punish you social media platforms, if you refuse to remove speech that we tell you to remove, in, in, in Attorney General, the attorney general statements sort of telling that he said, I think compulsion and coercion and it was collusion, collusion. Yeah. And those are two very different things. And the collusion piece is not a First Amendment violation. If the government says, Hey, anti Vax stuff on on Facebook is getting people killed. And Facebook says, Yeah, we agree. Thanks for bringing that to our attention. We think we should do something about that. That's not a First Amendment violation that's socially responsible intermediation of speech.
On this point, then about the collusion coercion, the ruling seems to imply from a tech companies side that the government talking to you or requesting something of you means the government is forcing you to do something. And coercion means that it's something that tech company doesn't want. So you did you talked about that a little bit more. Can you elaborate? Absolutely.
It's a really, really important distinction. So let's take a step back. If the government makes a statement to you or me to an ordinary person, like you get a call from the Biden administration, hey, we just wanted to let you know that we didn't like what you said the other day. Okay. You might have reason to feel like the government's exercising coercive pressure on you because that would be a very unusual communication with a relatively weak you know, ordinary person who's not in a great position to resist. If there were to be caught Should that might show speech when we're talking about giant social media platforms, giant corporations, and the government says, Hey, we're gonna just tell you some of our concerns, those social media platforms know if they're being threatened. And if they're not being threatened, they know where the government is coming from if the government is pushing them improperly trying to coerce them, they're in a good position to fight back. That, as far as I'm aware, there's not good evidence that that's what's been going on here.
We're talking about some recent legal rulings with major implications for the First Amendment and the right to free expression. And we're talking with Greg mcgarrybowen, who is the law professor and First Amendment scholar at Washington University. What is an example of clear cut government censorship? And how does this case compare?
Well, we let's let's take the classic example of the McCarthy era where and it's actually a good example, because in the McCarthy era, you know, the big problem was private action. And so it's a sort of parallel to what this case is about the government urges a certain result. But in in that instance, of the house on American Activities Committee is essentially sending a very strong signal to, for example, Hollywood studios, you don't employ these communists anymore, and the Hollywood Studios go along, not because they necessarily want to, but because they understand that the government is exerting pressure over them. So that would be an analogue to what's going on here. But the analogy breaks down pretty quickly. Because we don't see that kind of strong arming at least I'm not aware of it from from the government, to the social media platforms.
Let's move to the second major legal decision involving the First Amendment. And this one was issued by the US Supreme Court on June 30. And an involved a website designer in Colorado. Greg, tell us about that case, and what the justices ruled there.
This is a case that raises or advances a sort of long standing tension conflict between the First Amendment and federal and state anti discrimination statutes. So the federal government has the 1964 Civil Rights Act states have various iterations of the same thing that among other things, prohibit discrimination by people, companies that provide public accommodations. Most obvious examples are restaurants and and hotels being prohibited from discriminating based on race. Those statutes have broadened over time to include discrimination against different groups of people. So not just racial discrimination, but sex discrimination. And in many states, as in Colorado, sexual orientation discrimination. So this is about a website designer, who said that she was interested in expanding her business into making websites for weddings. But she was concerned that under the Colorado anti discrimination law, she would have to sell her services to same sex couples, and she is conservative Christian, who does not believe in the validity of same sex marriage. And so the Supreme Court in this case sided with her and said that the First Amendment free speech clause is not a religion case. Legally, it's a speech case, the First Amendment free speech clause protects her against having to create websites and have them available to same sex couples. Yeah.
So since this was in Colorado, you know, Colorado had a non discrimination law. What does it mean for states like Missouri,
it applies across the board to any state that has a non discrimination law that includes sexual orientation. And more than that, as I said, it's not just a case about religion, it's not really just a case about sexual orientation either. This is a case about, again, the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment versus anti discrimination principles. So under the logic of this decision, if you are a provider of exclusive provider of goods or services that involve speech in some way, you can, as I read the opinion, refuse to provide those expressive services to any person or group based on any kind of animus you might have racial, misogynistic, anti homophobic, whatever it might be, because that would be a violation of your free speech rights.
Now, there is a Missouri connection to this SCOTUS case as well. The Alliance Defending Freedom, which is a Christian legal advocacy advocacy group, that represented website designer Laurie Smith, included attorney Erin Holly, and Erin Holly is married to Republican US Senator Josh Hawley. And Senator Hawley tweeted after the decision that he was proud of his wife for litigating the case, but there was also controversy about this ruling as it turned out that Smith, the website designer had never actually received a request to design a website for a gay wedding or gay couple. And yet, as the AP or Associated Press reported, this revelation is unlikely to matter in the to the ruling that is, since the suit was brought as a, quote, pre enforcement challenge. So there's a lot of info. But, Greg, what's your take on this? And how could it not matter? That this case, the entire thing is based on basically a hypothetical.
This is a remarkable case in a lot of ways. And this is one sense in which it's a remarkable case, as you said, the Supreme Court allowed this case to go forward based on the web designers concern anxiety that the state would if she went into this wedding side of the business, that the state would enforce the anti discrimination law against her. There are certainly instances other cases in which the Supreme Court allows pre enforcement challenges to various laws under the First Amendment. But usually those cases involve almost inevitable enforcement where the plaintiff, the challenger can say, hey, I'm actually engaged in this kind of speech. And clearly this kind of speech is prohibited under the law. The state could reasonably argue in a case like this, and I think did argue that, you know, we would not necessarily use our enforcement resources to go after someone who was in this position doing this thing that's within the state's prerogative. Clearly, the Supreme Court wanted to decide this case, wanted to hand down this ruling. And so they sort of stormed through the the barriers that that ordinarily kind of defined procedurally what they can do.
And we had a listener Colin, to ask, what is the line between commercial and political speech? So if someone is running for office, aren't they trying to sell themselves to the voting public? Does that matter?
That is a very sophisticated question. And in fact, it's been a big problem in First Amendment law. There is this separate doctrine dealing with so called commercial speech, but one of the problems with the doctrine is that commercial speech is difficult to define. The way the court has defined it traditionally, is speech that does nothing more than propose a commercial transaction and exchange of goods or services for money. So under that definition, we can draw, I think, a meaningful distinction with classic political speech. The caller is absolutely right, that in a meaningful sense, candidates are selling themselves, but they are not literally selling themselves for money. We hope, in a way that's that's exactly like a commercial transaction. Now,
with the the case that we were just talking about, you do expect it to be challenged, and on what grounds?
Well, the Supreme Court has handed down its ruling, I think what's actually going to happen is that we are now going to see a series of lawsuits that try to expand upon this ruling. So again, this particular case is about a Christian conservative, who does not want to provide services to same sex couples getting married. But the implications of the case go further than that. So I don't know what the frontier of this will be. But there will certainly be instances of people coming out and saying, Hey, we have we provide an expressive service or an expressive good, we should be able to discriminate against African Americans, we should be able to discriminate against immigrants, we should be able to discriminate against women, we should be able to discriminate against Jews, or maybe against Christians or maybe against men. But I think that's going to be the action going forward is actually people stepping into the space, the Supreme Court is open and trying to expand that space.
And just as a, as a wrap up here in the last couple of minutes. What does this signal about? What it is people in Missouri, just to bring it very local misery does not have anti discrimination law, when it comes to LGBTQ people. So like, this is sort of business as usual. Mate, what do you say to someone who feels like that? And yet, you've talked about sort of the larger implications.
I think one important thing about this is that Supreme Court decisions are a big deal socially, and culturally and politically, as well as legally. So one thing and the dissenters in this case, pointed out this idea, one thing that a Supreme Court decision like this does is is to sort of signal Hey, it's okay to discriminate. It's respectable to discriminate. And I think that's going to be the effect in across the board and certainly in even in a place like Missouri that doesn't have as you said anti discrimination law about sexual orientation.
Greg mcgahren is law professor and First Amendment scholar at Washington University. Thanks so much, Greg, for talking with us today.
My pleasure. Thank you.
We need to take a quick break. When we come back we'll hear why St. Charles County Executive Steve Elman recently announced he won't run for re election and what he sees as necessary for the long term future of the county he's led since 2006. This is St. Louis on the air on St. Louis Public Radio?
Welcome back I'm Elaine Cha. St. Charles County has seen a tremendous amount of growth in recent years. Since the year 2000. The population has increased about 35%. There are now nearly 410,000 people who live there, overseeing that growth has been St. Charles County Executive Steve element. First elected to the post in 2006. Elman recently announced that he would not seek re election after his fifth term ends in 2026. He'll be 77 then, St. Louis public radio political correspondent Jason Rosenbaum sat down with Elman to talk about that decision and his career. He also says the county's long term future is threatened because of the perception among some people that St. Louis is a dangerous place. Jason first started the conversation by asking Steve Elman why he's decided not to seek another term in 2026.
There's a lot of reasons. It's just politics, of course, is not what it used to be, at least in my experience. The whole political scene right now is just changed a lot. And most of the change I think, has been negative. I remember when I served in the legislature, I had Democrat, equal number of Democrat Republican friends, and we used to fight all afternoon on the floor and and then we go out and have dinner together that night. And you never got personal with anybody because the person you were debating against today. Tomorrow, you may be on the same side, and you're working together. We've kind of lost that approach. And we can discuss why that happened. I think it's I think we need to get back to the point where we actually have free and fair discussion and try to work out our differences and compromise and get some some bills passed. And I don't know what's going to happen. But I know one thing that the young people starting off today in politics are not going to have as much fun as I did the last 30 years. Well,
you mentioned that about the Democratic and Republican dichotomy. Isn't every elected office in St. Charles filled by a Republican at this point. Yes. Okay. So what are the dividing lines in St. Charles politics just between like, more, quote unquote, moderate Republicans and just Ultra conservatives at this point?
Well, you know, and again, remember, I'm involved in regional issues. And yeah, there's problems that that I'm talking about that we didn't have in Jefferson City. When I was there, we to an extent we do have today on regional issues, and I'm down at East West gateway. And again, it's it's getting more and more difficult to compromise down there because, you know, you have people from the extreme left and some people from the extreme right, and it's just getting tougher and tougher. Now back to your your question about St. Charles. Yeah, we, we have all we have all Republicans but just like there's a split within the DEM kradic party between the more moderate and the more liberal or progressive in the Republican Party, there's there's the same kind of split between the more traditional Reagan Republicans and the mega Republicans. And that's a, you know, that's something we've been able to deal with last few years. But it's, it's, it's just a different attitude. And I don't know if you've seen any of our meetings, the time I've been in office have always been open to free and fair debate. I've always listened to people who want to come in and complain about something I've done, or tell me what I need to do. And I'm totally fine with sitting there and listening to those. Those folks who disagree with me, I don't understand why they feel they have to be disagreeable while they're disagreeing. And that seems to be more and more acceptable today. It's, it's, it's not just saying we disagree with you. And here's why it's name calling. It's distorting the facts. And, you know, there's two types of distortions going on here. The first is by people who are innocent, and just uninformed and don't take the time to study the issue and find out exactly who can do what in this particular situation, and what the limits are in any particular government. And then there's the other group who know the answers to all those things. And know that what these people are asking is not doable. But yet they demagogue it and can encourage those people, even though, what they're saying is either not true, or not something that we can actually deal with.
Now, a lot of the angst that you're kind of alluding to, at least in St. Louis County revolved around COVID policy for a long time. St. Charles had a much different COVID policy, which I'm sure you're going to explain. But do you think that some of that anger is from the remnants of the pandemic?
Yeah, and basically, I love my job until about four or five years ago, you know, and I would have, you know, had no plans on retiring anytime soon. But starting with the pandemic, is when when things really started to sour a lot. First thing, when everything went virtual, like an East West gateway, you know, I think it's to get things done, you need to know the people you're working with, you get to you need to get to know them and figure out okay, we may disagree on these three things. But here's the five things we can work together on. I don't think I was face to face with, with Mayor Jones for about a year, I was on several zoom calls with her. And we talked about things, but I didn't feel like I knew or any better a year later. And we've since gotten to know each other a little better. And we disagree on a lot of things. But we try to have a free and fair debate. But the problem. The other problem is when everybody closed in St. Louis County, and really even in St. Charles County, we were the only legislative body that opened every meeting. I think we limited the number of people out of the first two meetings, but then we didn't start letting anybody want to come come in. And what we ended up with was you couldn't Jeff City was closed, all the cities were closed. All the you know, all the school district boards were closed meetings. What we ended up with for about almost two years was anybody who had a gripe about anything showed up at our meetings. And it didn't matter that I would get up and explain that if you have a problem with that you need to talk to your people in Jeff City, or explain to them that, you know, unless the law is changed, we can't tell the schools what to do when it comes to quarantines and mask it, but it just seemed that people were just there to complain, and we were the convenient place to do it. And again, it just got way too personal. And I don't know exactly when all that became acceptable. But I'm just afraid if that continues, you're gonna get a situation where reasonable people have a good job and a nice family and plenty of friends and who just want to give back a little bit. They're gonna, they're gonna, you're gonna join some not for profit, they're not going to run for office and the only people going to run for office are the people on the extreme right and extreme left that want to want to sit up there and listen to people call them names, the way they're doing it now.
So you are one of the unique people in Missouri politics, who has been part of the state legislative branch. I think you were in the House and the Senate. You are also part of the judiciary because you were an associate circuit judge, and then you were also in at least the low Cool executive branch in St. Charles County since 2007. I could ask like, how are those three things different, but I think we all know that all those experiences are different. So
are we going to ask me which one I liked the best? Oh,
well, yeah. Okay, which one? Did you like the best? Before I get to my next question, I
used to say that I liked the executive branch the best because she can do whatever you want until a judge tells you to stop. Uh huh. So that's what I used to say. But that was somewhat a facetious answer. I just, you know, I was a judge. And it was an interesting job to an extent. But, you know, I gave up five years of a six year term, and went back and became director of administration. And I people asked me why. And I gave him several different excuses why I wanted to do that. But one of them my colleagues said, Steve, why don't you just admit it, you'd still rather be a player than an umpire. And that's kind of what it was, I was a judge here, I was sitting there, sensing people to prison. And I've read in their history, life history and realizing, boy, this, this person really didn't have much of a chance. I mean, you got three chances. But you know, his home life was so terrible. I just, I just wanted to get back where you could actually do something and make a difference. We've tried to do that in, in St. Charles County, the last 16 years, I guess we've done a pretty decent job because people are still moving there. And at the last election, people asked me, So what do you want to know? Why do you want to run again, what do you want to do? And I said, I just don't want to mess anything up. I want to keep a score. And I said, but what I do want to do, if I can get elected one more time, what I do want to do is we got to get this region moving. Because eventually everybody who wants to move to St. Charles County from the rest of the region, we'll do it. And then we'll be no growth to we grew 13% in the county, the region only grew 1.3%.
Why do you think that it was an attractive place for people to move
to two reasons. And it's been growing since I was a kid. I was born in 1950. And that's about the time that St. Charles started to grow and 57 they built a new bridge and more people came. But they started coming then and they still come today for two reasons. Good schools, public and parochial, good schools, and save neighborhoods. If we ever quit having good schools, or we ever start having unsafe neighborhoods, people will go somewhere else. And I think I think it's that simple. As far as the schools are concerned, I don't know if you notice the the rankings that came out a few months ago based on the MAP scores and everything. And Francis Howell, and Ford zoom all actually jumped ahead of Parkway in Rockwood. Which I think is a tremendous achievement. I don't know I think it's partially because we're doing a good job. Maybe it's because Parkway and Rockwood didn't, didn't have in school instruction, and we did for the kids who couldn't want it to be there. And as far as you know, as far as the crime is concerned, we we have the lowest crime rate in the region, that's 16%. Even Franklin, Jefferson Franklin are up around 20. And of course, St. Louis County, I think is a 38. And St. Louis City is just off the chart.
Now, we've talked about this before, but I think there's a perception that St. Charles County is like this homogenous place where everybody is wealthy are well to do are white. I think that that is a very shallow reading of things.
First of all, 120 years ago, I think the the African American population was about 10%. And those people stayed. We didn't have a lot of additional, you know, the movement after World War One, you know, from Mississippi, Arkansas, up to St. Louis, that particular migration not we didn't have a lot of that come to St. Charles. And then for about 30 years, St. Charles didn't grow at all. With it coming in the interstate and people start moving it grew but it was primarily whites that that moved. And so our instead of 10%, we went to 5%. And then for three I think we got as low as 2% 2030 years ago. Now we're up around eight or 9% Again, and it's every you look at the last three or four census every time we're growing. And I think I think the minority populations that moved to St. Charles are moving there for the same reason I just talked about they're there. They want their kids to go to good schools and they want to be in safe neighborhoods. They don't want their car being stolen and they don't want their kids being worried about your kids walking home from school.
And I think another thing we've talked about before is because there's only a certain number of municipalities. And there's only a certain number of schools, especially compared to St. Louis County. There is kind of the critical mass and the funding pooling, so to speak, to provide services for people that are low income compared to St. Louis County, where there's like 85 cities like 20, plus school districts, all that 92 and 25. Yeah, so Well, I think that they've gone down a little bit, because some of them have just incorporated. But how, okay, for for a person that doesn't know, municipal governments that well, they may be like, so what what, what difference does that make, but it clearly, it clearly does make a big,
gigantic difference of we are number one, and average, or median income, I think, number one in the state, St. Louis counties right behind us. I mean, it's it's not really much of a difference on the median income. The difference is, St. Louis County has the extremes of the very rich and the very poor. We have very few very rich people. And we have very few very poor people. We've got moderately rich and moderately poor, and we got a whole bunch of people in between. Instead of 90, or however many municipalities we've got six major cities or five major cities, we had two or three that could become major cities someday. But those those five major cities are all big enough. That number one, they can have neighborhoods for all types of people within their city limits. So unlike St. Louis County, where all the poor people set tend to live in one part of the county and the rich people elsewhere, we have the cities and Each city has its share of poor, rich, and a lot of people in between. What does that mean? That means they're big enough to have a police force in all of our five major police forces, none of them have a disproportionate part of the problem. It's not like in St. Louis County where some municipalities have a high crime and others have a low, everybody can take a part of the problem and deal with it. And the same is true with only five school districts, those five school districts because we are dispersed the way we are. Every one of those districts has some very, very high performing schools. And every one of those school districts have has have a couple of schools that are having problems. But they've got the resources then to help the schools that are having problems. And you don't have situations like you do in St. Louis County where you know, you have 95% of the kids on free and reduced lunch and to the extent that those poor kids tend to have more problems and need more help. The schools you're just overwhelmed that St.
Charles County Executive Steve Elman talking with us TLP Our political correspondent Jason Rosenbaum. Elman recently announced that he will not seek a sixth term as county executive. More of that conversation in just a moment. This is St. Louis on the air in St. Louis Public Radio.
Welcome back, let's return to SDLP Our political correspondent Jason Rosen bombs interview with St. Charles County Executive Steve Elman. Elman recently announced that he would not seek a sixth term in office in 2026. He's held the top job in St. Charles County since 2006. We heard earlier about the tremendous population growth in St. Charles County over the last few decades. The population there is about 410,000, up about 35%. From the year 2000. Jason asked elmen his thoughts about what the St. Louis region needs to do to avoid flat or negative growth in the future.
I think the first thing, there's two things and the first one is, of course, deals with the whole crime situation. Second one deals with the transportation a plan that we just approved the other day down at the East West gateway. But with crime, I think people have heard the the arguments before, as a region, we, every time the Cardinals are in the World Series, or win a World Series or the blues win a Stanley Cup. This perception that we are a great sports town is is reinforced. I'm not sure if we're a better sports town than anywhere else, because I've never lived anywhere else. But it's fine. And we and we tend to be proud of that perception. We also, unfortunately, over the last five or six years, we've developed a reputation for having a crime problem. And you and I both know that that that problem is in a certain part of the region. But I'm not sure if people really make the distinction. It's St. Louis, St. Charles, we've been growing and having great success. But nobody ever started out wanting to move to St. Charles. They started out looking for a place to put their business. They thought, Well, let's look at the St. Louis region. And when they did, they say oh, St. Charles got a lot going for it. But I'm afraid now St. Louis regions just getting crossed off their list, they'll never find out about St. Charles or any of the good things that are going on all over the region. Because Because this perception they have about crime. And if I can tell you a specific story. Sure. This AFGE American food group, they're going to Warren County, about 1000 yards over the St. Charles County line. So it's going to really impact the western part of St. Charles County are going to bring a lot of jobs, spend a lot of money build, build a beautiful factory and whatever. But their company is owned by a family that had a dad and his two kids who run, run if they live in Milwaukee, they've got places all over the country, they have three or four other places they could have gone with this. They came to Missouri Governor came down met with him, I think, you know, he's Callum and he probably spoke their language. And anyway, they go back to Milwaukee. They had their meeting the two kids, I'm told, first thing they said was Dad, we can't go we can't go to St. Louis with all the crime there. Okay. And the dad told him the truth, the facts about it. Which everybody in St. Louis knows, but not everybody in Milwaukee, or New York or San Francisco or, or London. You know, they they don't know those facts. Luckily, in this case, the father did. They made the decision they came here, but he just wonder how many other discussions like that went the other way.
So we talk I don't disagree with anything of what you're saying. I think the question is like, what do you do to actually reduce crime like St. Louis and St. Louis County voters approved significant sales tax increases in 2017, aimed at providing more money for both of the police forces. And as somebody who lives in St. Louis County, and the tax, I think, is a lot more significant in terms of the amount of money it brings in. I just haven't seen much impact with that. And I haven't seen much impact in the city. Because a lot of Republicans are like, Well, you can't reduce money to the police because D quote, unquote, defunding the police is going to make things less safe. Well, in those two jurisdictions, you could argue the opposite was done, and it hasn't really worked either.
But you're looking at the funding, funding has increased about the number of police officers. I mean, I don't know what the latest number is their way down. And I have people that used to be on the commission telling me if they don't do something, they're just going to keep losing more every year with attrition. That's something that I don't know. I mean, the people people that were elected said they were going to do things like that, and they got elected, they got reelected. What do we need to do? Well, I mean, I, I did a piece in the Business Journal back in September and suggested four or five things that needed to be done and if the if the city itself didn't change, then I thought the legislature needed to, to step in, and for the first time, and I've been trying to encourage the legislature to at least start a debate. If this year at least they had a debate okay. Now they didn't do anything in the end. That's fine. That's fine because the Attorney General Course did what he did. And you know, the whole story, Kim Gardner we don't have to go, but I don't think anybody anymore. thinks that. That that was a bad thing to put Gabe Gore in her place. And I think he's gonna do a super job. He's the real deal. He Hope he runs hope he gets elected. But at least in the short run, you're going to fix that problem. Now the police, and maybe the new chief will come in, give him a year. I'm a local, I believe in local control. I'm a local elected official, I want the city to go ahead and fix its own problems. But if the if the city doesn't fix its own problems, its reputation is hurting all of us. And I want the people in Jeff City to step in.
Do you think that part of the problem with recruiting is that police officers want to work in municipalities not only in St. Charles County, but also St. Louis County, which probably pay better than the St. Louis City Police Department, the St. Louis County Police Department, but also just may be less dangerous?
Yeah, I think you're right, I'll add another factor to it. People, police officers like working in St. Charles County, because they know our citizens support him. Our citizens are not naive. They understand police can make mistakes like everybody, but but they support him, they help them when they can they go and testify and try trials when they have to. And the police know that the people are behind them. And I think that that's got a, you have that kind of job, that's kind of make a big difference. And I just don't understand, you know, some of the attitudes of in some of the neighborhoods. And, you know, I, I grew up in in the city of St. Charles and we had even then I mean, we have, we had a lot of African Americans I lived, I walked through the African American neighborhood every day on the way to my my job, and my dad delivered milk to him. And I knew that I knew a lot of a lot of African Americans growing up and I can't believe that they and their kids and grandkids don't don't feel the same way that they did back then. They weren't safe neighborhoods as much as anybody else.
Yeah. And I think we talked about this, though, around Ferguson, though. Like there were a lot of cities in St. Louis County, which had police forces where they were clearly trying to build residents for revenue. And they clearly weren't well trained compared to other departments, maybe in St. Charles County, or even St. Louis County Police. And a lot of those communities are majority African American. So it seems like they would have a reason to not support police departments that are actively doing them harm. What What would you say to that?
Well, I think I may have may have told you what, what we did about that. Even before Ferguson, I one day going down to East West gateway meeting, I noticed five police cars on the way with speed traps on on highway 17. Okay, through North County. And next time I saw chief Fitch, I said, What's what's going on here? And he told me the racket that was going on. And I actually, he put me on to a meeting with several black ministers in North County. And we got together and I can send you the bill. Tom Dempsey put a bill in, you know, the the max law, Max law. Yeah. And we went ahead and we wanted to we wanted to apply that to everywhere in the St. Louis region, we wanted to sort of 35 we want to go down to 20. We ended up had to compromise. We got applied to St. To the region, but instead of going down to 20, we had to go I think to 25, or something like that. Are you talking about in 2015? Yeah, this was even before? Yeah, I don't want to send a bill five. Yeah. Senate Bill five, went ahead and actually went all the way to 10. I think it's 12. It was 10. It was 10. In this in St. Louis and 20. Elsewhere. It
was 12.5% in St. Louis County, but 20. Elsewhere.
Yes. And the city's went to court and the court said, Yeah, you can't discriminate against St. Louis. Miss palace. So now it's 20. So anyway, yeah, that. And I remember, one of the pastors and I went down talk Tony Messenger, and the people at Post Dispatch, and they wrote a nice editorial about it helped us get it through. But until until Ferguson, again, it just didn't get the attention that it deserved. And it was a it was a racket, it was a just a way to make money instead of instead of raising taxes,
there will probably be a 900 way Republican primary to replace you. What advice would you have for the eventual winner of that primary? Because I think even though I think the county has democratic areas, I think it's pretty safe to say then your successor is probably going to be a Republican. What would kind of be your advice for whoever ends up replacing you?
Well, if my staff is all still around three or six months from one day from now, first thing I would tell them is, keep my staff they've got the institutional memory. I know they won't My, my assistant who's been with me since 1989, with another eight year hiatus while I was a judge, and she was Senator Groasis. Assistant. She's been with me since 89. She's her last day as Monday. I don't know how we're going to replace her. But when we replace her, we can get somebody maybe with her skills, but not with her institutional memory. And Bob snur, I know he's about my age. He's, he's thinking of retiring in a year or two. So I will not be the only one retiring and there will be a turnover. But when you come into a job like this, again, I was able to come in as director of administration for three years, I learned everything about county government that I didn't already know. There's probably going to be somebody coming in next, who's going to have very little experience. They're going to have to rely on the people that are there, and I'm going to try to leave them with as good or better group of staff than that I had when I first got there.
That St. Charles County Executive Steve element, talking with STL PR political correspondent Jason Rosenbaum on the politically speaking podcast. Ellman recently announced that he will not seek a sixth term as county executive. He served in that post since 2006. Before that he was a state legislator, judge and director of administration for St. Charles County. The full conversation is available. Just search politically speaking, wherever you listen to podcasts. Tomorrow in St. Louis on the air. We'll talk about persistent problems with St. Louis and St. Louis County's 911 systems from a former dispatcher, and we'll dig into some data. Also to local teams will share their insights into how Satan was leaders can engage with young people to reduce violence. St. Louis on the air is production of St. Louis Public Radio. Thank you for listening. I'm Elaine Chao.