Our Response to Forward Through Ferguson Calls to Action

by Joe Reagan | Oct 07, 2015

Our Response to Forward Through Ferguson Calls to Action

The Call

On September 14, the Ferguson Commission released its final report, titled Forward Through Ferguson, which identifies the signature priorities we must consider as a community around justice, youth, opportunity and racial equity.   

The full report can be found at http://forwardthroughferguson.org

In Forward Through Ferguson, the Commission identified over 40 “Signature Calls to Action” -- changes and best practices to put us on a stronger path. The Chamber fully participated in the inclusive democracy that resulted in these Calls to Action.  We contributed to the discussion, sometimes in support of ideas, other times in opposition, and always with respect for the people who expressed the ideas.  The Ferguson Commission created a robust, transparent, inclusive and respectful process.  The way they went about their work is as much a best practice as any of their recommendations.

The Challenge 

The promise of Forward Through Ferguson is only realized by accepting the shared reality the report clearly communicates. Our region must accept its shared accountability for positive change. Accountability is the word. 

Our Response

We accept our accountability for embracing Forward Through Ferguson’s Calls to Action and bringing about this new reality for St. Louis with its priorities of: 

  • Racial Equity
  • Justice for All
  • Youth at the Center
  • Opportunity to Thrive 

Our Accountability

Many of the Ferguson Commission report’s Calls to Action, especially those around education and employment, echo strategic priorities in the Regional Chamber’s own One Plan, and its vision for regional prosperity. These include:

  • Enhancing Collaboration Between Educational Institutions and Employers
  • Implementing Work-Based Learning Opportunities
  • Creating an Innovative Education Hub
  • Expanding Internship and Apprenticeship Opportunities
  • Creating a Rating System (for diversity)
  • Create Individual and Family Development Accounts

We support several policy changes called for in the report.  Many of these policies are focused on state government, though not exclusively.  Missouri Governor Jay Nixon convened the Ferguson Commission.  Therefore, the Commission’s focus was understandably Missouri.  Our focus is St. Louis – the entire bi-state, metropolitan region.  We embrace the same priorities for every one of us – the 2.8 million people who call the St. Louis metropolitan region home. 

Illinois, which is home to nearly 800,000 of us, has already adopted some of these policies.  Whether the changes should occur at the state or local level, the St. Louis region must take accountability for these policies and find ways to make them reality.  It can be done.

  • Implement a refundable state Earned Income Tax Credit (Already adopted by Illinois)
  • Updating Use of Force Statute (Already adopted by Illinois)
  • Expanding Medicaid Eligibility (Already adopted by Illinois)
  • State-Supported Funding Plan for Public Transit
  • Identifying Priority Transportation Projects for the St. Louis Region
  • Supporting Early Childhood Education
  • Revising School Accreditation System

There is a shared accountability for additional Calls to Action. We need to fully understand what these recommendations entail before we can appreciate exactly what our responsibility is.  We have invited the other organizations identified by the Commission to come together and discuss the ideas and concepts, including:

  • Launching an Employer Grading System for Economic Mobility
  • Creating a 25-year Managed Fund (for racial equity infrastructure)
  • Encouraging Paid Time Off for Volunteering
  • Creating the Spirit of Missouri Fund

Moving Forward

We want the St. Louis region to be the best.  We measure that by where we rank among the top 20 metropolitan areas of our nation.  Our intent is for St. Louis to be a Top 10 Metro, one of the top ten most educated communities, with a growing, prosperous population, with successful employers creating jobs while they grow in the global economy. 

We will not be the best if we do not close the economic opportunity gaps in our community.  To underscore this fact and focus our accountability, we have added “economic mobility,” to the other seven macroeconomic performance indicators we use to define regional prosperity.  We seek prosperity for people in every neighborhood throughout our entire region. 

The Forward Through Ferguson report was released digitally to increase its accessibility, and as co-chair Starsky Wilson said, “you can’t forget a digital report on a shelf.”  The report, according to co-chair Rich McClure, is designed to be a milestone, not an end.

We are responding.  We are acting.  We are communicating.  We are “buckled in” and “buckled down” for the generational work ahead.  Together with the vast majority of good-hearted St. Louisans, who now realize our community has much work to do, we begin with unflinching resolve and stamina to see the positive change begun become the positive reality for all of us.