WYDOWN SKINKER—The infamous “Delmar Divide” is no new topic to St. Louis residents, and it’s a stark representation of the inequities in St. Louis. Decades of policies at the state and local level have created what feels like a clean break through the center of the city.
Last week, three of the candidates running for President of the Board of Aldermen gathered in a studio for a live-streamed event and expressed hopes and aspirations of a near future where the city’s divide is history and north St. Louis returns to what it once was.
“The health of people north of Delmar are worse than that of a third world nation,” said Board President Lewis Reed, citing a recent health study.
For the Sake of All, a local organization funded by the Missouri Foundation for Health, has reported shocking inequalities between the north and south sides of St Louis.
Their study found that those living in the neighborhoods north of Delmar had a life expectancy 18 years shorter than those in Clayton.
The report also found only 5 percent of whites in St. Louis have trouble receiving prenatal care whereas that number for African-Americans is 27 percent.
Candidate Megan Ellyia Green said she envisions a city where everyone in St. Louis is equal despite the part of town in which they were raised.
“I’d like to see a future where zip codes no longer determine our destinies,” she said. “Right now we are a city that spends almost 60 percent of our budgets on public safety and have horrible outcomes, at the same time we are spending .03 percent [of the budget] on health and human services.”
The study revealed other stunning findings:
The unemployment rate on the north side of the city is 24 percent, compared to just 4 percent in Clayton. With the shrinking population, most north city residents have to find work outside their neighborhood, which makes getting to work increasingly difficult.
Additionally, about 54 percent of residents in north St. Louis live below the poverty line. The study also found that 71 percent of African-Americans say it’s easy to purchase healthy food in their neighborhoods, while 91 percent of white people surveyed for the study said it was easy to find healthy food in their neighborhoods.
Candidate Jamilah Nasheed called it “a tale of two cities.”
All candidates expressed the importance of job creation.
Reed told viewers he helped push for more minority inclusion on city-funded projects, requiring the city to solicit construction and development bids from minority-owned companies with a goal of increasing the number of awards of professional contracts to minority-owned and women-owned businesses.
Nasheed said, “Right now we have development that’s occurring throughout the City of St. Louis and when you go on those sites you see little to no minority participation.”
Nasheed called for stricter regulations for inclusion and more job training for those interested in the construction trades.