County officials need to work together for a change

County+officials+need+to+work+together+for+a+change

We applaud St. Louis County officials for jumping in to tackle the problem of opioid addiction with whatever money and resources they can channel toward a disease that has devastated communities, including south county.

We’re glad that they found such a worthy cause to agree on for once, and we hope that it’s a sign of future cooperation.

Like anything in life, county officials can get more done if they work together than if they work separately on the same issue.

That’s why it was so disheartening to see the County Council only come in to declare an emergency on the issue when it seemed that County Executive Steve Stenger was going to notch a win just before he is up for re-election in the Democratic primary Tuesday, Aug. 7. The council announced its own task force on opioid addiction June 26, days before Stenger released an action report with dozens of health-care officials June 28 on how to keep St. Louis County citizens from dying from overdoses.

The problem is clearly an emergency, but as readers of this or any newspaper know, it’s not a new one.

Which is why we’re scratching our heads over why the council had to declare the problem an emergency and add $1 million in funding for it in a resolution that was so last minute that it didn’t even appear on the council’s agenda published the Friday before the Tuesday meeting.

Instead, the resolution came through the add-on agenda that comes out the day before — and sometimes the day of —  the meeting. We believe that is contrary to the spirit of the Sunshine Law and that residents should know what’s going to be discussed at a meeting before they show up.

Of course, Stenger isn’t blameless.

He should have included County Council members more directly in his plan, which he classified as an all-encompassing regional effort.

He also beat the council to the punch in his own way a few weeks earlier, when he signed an executive order to “ban the box” and not include a checkbox for criminal history in the first screening of applicants for county jobs. The move came the very morning of the day that 4th District Councilwoman Rochelle Walton Gray, D-Black Jack, was set to hold a committee hearing on a council initiative to ban the box.

Coincidence? We think not.

But on these rare issues that our elected county officials agree, they need to learn to work together.