Campus unofficially supports successful Prop P

and | News Editors

While Washington University did not take an official stance on any propositions posed in Tuesday’s local elections, several University officials unofficially indicated support for Proposition P.

The proposition, which proposed a three-sixteenth-cent increase in the sales tax in St. Louis City and St. Louis County to fund parks and trails as well as the renovation of the Gateway Arch, was passed with about 67 percent of the vote.

Despite the scope of its efforts to encourage student voting in the fall, the Gephardt Institute for Public Service was minimally involved in this week’s elections, according to the Gephardt Institute’s assistant director, Robin Hattori.  

“The University will rarely take a stance,” Hattori said. “I think there was a sentiment in the administration that we all want a strong St. Louis community and that Proposition P, with provisions for the Arch as well as many of the green spaces and parks that we all know and love, would be something that was good for all St. Louis.”

Hattori added that it is generally more difficult to persuade students to show up to a local election when it does not deal with a congressperson or a president, as well as the fact that the University devoted a lot of its focus to the upcoming Clinton Global Initiative University rather than the election.

The Gephardt Institute sent out an email to some students before the election not taking a particular stance on Prop P but linking to a website whose name seemed to urge students to vote yes on the proposition.

Seniors Sunny Mehta and Sam Shapiro took personal interest in the passing of Prop P and began efforts on campus to spread awareness by hanging fliers, creating a Facebook page and busing students from the Clocktower to the polling location at Our Lady of Lourdes School on Forsyth Boulevard.

“Our goal was to try to get as many Wash. U. students as possible out there to vote,” Mehta said. “The proposition is really cool, especially if you’re a freshman, because the renovations will be complete by the time you graduate. The fact that this proposition passed is really exciting for the future of St. Louis and Wash. U. students because it benefits us directly by improving the city we live in.”

According to Mehta, the renovations will change the area around the Arch by adding more lawn areas and a new museum. Additionally, the river walk area, which floods several times a year, will be lifted 12 feet to encourage businesses to open nearby and create a more thriving environment.

“It’s good for the vitality of St. Louis by making the downtown area more entertaining,” he said. “The Arch is going to become more of a destination rather than just something to look at.”

The proposition will also renovate parks in lower-income areas of St. Louis, which were previously only constructed to meet standards set in 1965. The equipment at the parks will be updated, and blue lights, similar to the ones placed around the University’s campus, will be installed at each of them.

Sophomore Chiara Rosenbaum was convinced to vote after a presentation given during her Pi Beta Phi chapter meeting.

“A lot of top universities are well known because of the cities they’re in, and St. Louis has declined so much in the last few decades,” she said. “If we rebuild and transform the city to make it safer and nicer, it would help Wash. U. As a student, it’d be great to get as much out of my four years here, and voting for this proposition was the least I could do to give back to the community.”

Mehta and Shapiro were inspired to begin efforts in one of their classes, Just Do It! Turning Your Passion into Policy, taught by Tom Irwin, the director of Civic Progress, a consortium of 30 of the largest companies in St. Louis.

“The companies decided that rejuvenating the areas around the Arch and making pathways and rivers cleaner near parks was their No. 1 priority, so it became one of my priorities to make sure this happened,” Irwin said.

A class session in which a Jefferson City lobbyist spoke to students about authorizing legislation that allowed them to approach voters sparked Mehta and Shapiro’s interest. The two students connected with Irwin and the lobbyist afterward to become involved with the movement of promoting the proposition on campus.

“We’re really happy that the proposition passed and happy that [Mehta and Shapiro] had helped,” Irwin said. “It was great to work with the University and students to do something important.”

With additional reporting by Michael Tabb.