Letter to the Editor published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on January 19, 2010:
Opponents of the new measure to fund local public transit continue to play fast and loose with the facts. Their claims remain specious and are sustained only through their refusal to understand public transit.
The April 6 vote on funding is not a bailout; it is half of the funding source already passed by the St. Louis city in 1997. Since then, the sales tax increase in the city has existed only on the books. The county must pass its version for the city’s to go into effect. Public transit is of extreme importance for the future of the entire St. Louis community.
Our transit agency is more than trains. It is a system of modalities, each providing unique service to residents of the St. Louis area.
The sales tax increase is not meant merely to support expansion of the train system. The funds will restore countywide bus routes and service, increase the frequency of trains and help fund the return of a robust Call-a-Ride system. Funds also will support future transit options, including bus-based rapid transit and the renovation of bus stops and train stations. Expansion means future security, safety and strength of public transit.
Understanding the nature of public transit is crucial to understanding the importance of the April 6 vote. People who are against the funding measure should look beyond their tax-fearing rhetoric if they want to comprehend this critical moment.
Michael Koscielniak — St. Louis
On Friday, January 8, 2010, Tracking Progress will have the first of what we hope to be many letters to the editor published. Our first letter will be hitting the opinion page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Those familiar with our work are aware of the letter, as it has previously been posted. For those unfamiliar, we have provided the letter below:
To my fellow St. Louisans:
In one direction lies a new way forward; one in which public transit expands and our community prospers. In the other direction lies the past, full of the same divisions and arguments separating the county from the city for over a century. We will have our opportunity to sow seeds of community interdependence on April 6, 2010.
The county council has voted to place public transit funding initiative back on the ballot, allowing the public to choose its destiny. This measure calls for a one half of one percent sales tax increase across the county to fund the restoration and expansion of regional public transit. The city passed its version in 1997, but it can’t be implemented until the county matches. The combination of these two new revenues would provide our public transit system with the local match needed to secure federal funding for expansion. The further denial of these funds will deny St. Louis the opportunity to become a modern community.
Our time is now; our community calls us to act. We cannot sit idly and wait for someone else to do the right thing. Gather your friends and family, your neighbors and coworkers together and help form the movement. Shake the grounds of established divisions and point the conversation to change, for too long has our community fallen victim to artificial boundaries and misguided perceptions. We are all part of the same community, and funding public transit can renew the promise of our region. The door has been opened for us to claim our moment in history.
Our hope is to saturate St. Louis media with the kind of important personal perspectives lacking on the subject of public transit; we believe that everyone is a stakeholder in this struggle to save our buses and trains. However, in order for us to vindicate that approach we must prove ourselves a community of voices. In order to achieve such a status we must be willing to reach out to every publication in the St. Louis area and tell them the story of public transit. We cannot wait for others to articulate what we know to be true. In the spirit of community and the Tracking Progress approach to change, we have provided the contact information for a multitude of local magazines, online news outposts, and newspapers. We have also provided the above example and a Post-Dispatch guide on constructing letters-to-the-editor. Be advised, letters should be under 250 words and focus specifically on public transit and why it is critical that we vote YES on April 6, 2010.
Please take the time to send one or all of these publications a letter encouraging our community to move beyond present boundaries and support public transit.
The St. Louis American – firstname.lastname@example.org
St. Louis Jewish Light – email@example.com
St. Louis Chinese American News – firstname.lastname@example.org
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – email@example.com
Sabah Bosnian American Newspaper – firstname.lastname@example.org