Our Call: County executives shall attend the County Council

Editorial

Where’s Steve?

That’s the question members of the County Council are asking after St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger missed every council meeting this year so far — and nine in a row as of the Call’s press time.

As concerning as that would be for any county executive, last week also brought the news that Stenger is slated to be the “mega mayor” of the proposed “metro city” of Better Together’s city-county merger.

Stenger’s term would be extended, unelected, by two years to hold that powerful office until 2025.

The county Charter states that the county executive “shall” attend council meetings. By one council member’s count, Stenger missed half the meetings last year.

Because the council has turned meetings into a “circus” and a “den of political theater,” Stenger said, it’s unproductive for him to go because the council provokes a confrontation each time he’s there, which further destroys his relationship with the council.

To be honest, we wouldn’t want to sit in on a meeting of people we don’t get along with either — but it’s county law.

Every past county executive has shown up at most council meetings, and we don’t see why that should change now. The last we checked, holding the job is optional. Stenger didn’t have to run for re-election if he’d rather be doing something else.

While we’re sure Stenger’s working hard on the ninth floor, the way most citizens can interact with the county executive is face-to-face at council meetings. And for many of our unincorporated readers, the county government is their local government in charge of trash and basic services.

Stenger is like their local mayor. They deserve the chance to tell him what they think, just like they did his predecessors Charlie Dooley and Buzz Westfall. If a mayor of a city missed nine board meetings in a row, we’d call for their impeachment.

And if Stenger is less accessible to residents now, why would we expect that to change in the potential mega-city, with a larger population?

If he can’t get along with the seven members of the County Council now, how would he get along with the 33-member Metro Council?

If he interprets “shall” as optional now, how would he interpret the aspects of Better Together’s plan that he prefers not to follow?

These questions are something to ponder over the next 18 months.

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