FOCUS St. Louis | St. Louis Public Radio

FOCUS St. Louis

Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

The modern two-party system has dominated U.S. politics for decades – but it’s also led to deep-seated divisions among American voters. Mickey Edwards, former Republican Congressman from Oklahoma, said political parties are “undemocratic,” citing the American Founding Fathers’ warnings about the rupture political parties can cause among U.S. citizens.

“George Washington’s farewell address said, ‘don’t create political parties.’ He begged us not to create political parties. The founder James Madison said that; James Monroe said that, and we did it – and now we’re paying the price for it,” Edwards said.

Edwards, vice president of the Aspen Institute, joined St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh on Tuesday for a conversation on the structure and function of political parties and party leadership. Also joining the discussion were St. Louis 8th Ward alderwoman Annie Rice and Wally Siewert, director of civic engagement at FOCUS St. Louis.

St. Louis area high school juniors Connor Ouchi (left) and Shawnee Boswell work on an exercise about making tough decisions during Youth Leadership St. Louis' Diversity Day on Sat., Feb. 18, 2017.
Stephanie Lecci | St. Louis Public Radio

Clusters of St. Louis area teens dotted the atrium of the Nestle Purina headquarters on Saturday as the 70-odd students intently debated several mature issues that challenge many adults.

Racial diversity. Transgender identity. Religious tolerance. New Americans and immigrants. Despite taking on different topics, the groups had one thing in common: intense, but civil discussions.

Members of the Ferguson Commission lead a moment of reflection on Monday in St. Louis. The Commission held its final meeting in St. Louis.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Since its inception, the Ferguson Commission faced doubters wondering whether a group of gubernatorial appointees could heal decades-long divides throughout St. Louis. And before she joined on as the commission’s communications director, Nicole Hudson shared some of that skepticism.

Members of the Ferguson Commission lead a moment of reflection on Monday in St. Louis. The Commission held its final meeting in St. Louis.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

The Ferguson Commission is wrapping up its work examining economic, educational and law enforcement inequities throughout St. Louis.

In its final meeting Monday night, the group did not completely turn over its agenda to Focus St. Louis, as had been anticipated, but created a new bridge entity that will work with Focus. At issue was how to push for change and encourage discussion.

Ferguson Commission manager director Bethany Johnson-Javois and co-chairman Rich McClure look at some notes before the start of Wednesday's meeting.
File photo by Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

On Monday, commissioners heard from FOCUS St. Louis, which wants to become what the commission describes as a “core intermediary” or a group that “provides infrastructure and support to advance the work of the Ferguson Commission."

Courtesy FOCUS St. Louis

After 18 years at the helm, Christine Chadwick is stepping down from her role as executive director of FOCUS St. Louis at the end of June. She has led the organization since 1996, when it was formed out of the merging of two nonprofits, Leadership Center of Greater St. Louis and Confluence St. Louis.

Today on St. Louis on the Air she spoke about the mission of FOCUS St. Louis, its role in the region and what she plans to do next.

Next Steps

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 28, 2011 - More than 10 years after the first charter school opened in St. Louis, too many charters have fallen short of their promise and need more financial help, stricter oversight and stronger incentives to improve student achievement, a report released this week by FOCUS St. Louis concludes.