If Prop 1 & 2 Passes, Huge Benefits Await, For Area Youngsters

29 Mar

prop1 and2 photo LEAD

If Prop 1 & 2 Passes, Huge Benefits Await, For Area Youngsters

By Demetrious Johnson
It was a thrill for me to personally be part of the announcement of the Community Benefits Agreement that recently struck between the City of St. Louis and SC STL, the local group dedicated to bringing Major League Soccer to St. Louis.
The best part of the agreement and the announcement is the teamwork that went into making it happen.  Representatives from the city, civic groups, our neighborhoods and more came together to give our community additional hope through the effort of bringing professional soccer to our city.  Our diversity was center stage and a powerful voice in what St. Louis can be and stand for.  And it may be that soccer, the beautiful game, the world’s game, can be the catalyst in bringing our own game here in St. Louis to a higher level.
And yes, soccer is the world’s game, but we’re also the Soccer Capital of the USA.  And yet, we haven’t had a top pro team to call our own.  Hopefully that will change soon, but the biggest news for me is there could be greater change on the way in our community because of the soccer project. 
In the negotiations between the soccer group and the City, a mandate was put in place calling for a Community Benefits Agreement that if the stadium project is approved by voters and is built,  the owners are contractually required to invest in our city in many ways – education, athletics, jobs and a lot more.  There is a great focus on the African American community, and the benefits are real.   
Of course, we need a stadium to get an MLS team, and the team is necessary to see many of our dreams become a reality.  So, we need to pass both Propositions 1 and 2.  If one or both fail, then it’s over.
But if we pass Propositions 1 and 2, a lot of good happens.  We will create jobs and careers for many of our friends and citizens in the city who simply need the chance to rise above the daily challenges that sometimes seem too great to overcome.  Those challenges can be won!  If we vote yes on Propositions 1 and 2, we will provide our city youth with opportunities to build character and realize a future that is full of promise, not despair.  The diversity of our community will be celebrated and become the asset it should be at all times, not just when we have something to announce.  And we will again have the opportunity to stand up and show the world that St. Louis will not be defined by what we have lost, but instead by what and who we aspire to become.
Can bringing Major League Soccer to St. Louis achieve this?  My answer is yes.  Make that, YES!  Otherwise, why would I be involved? 
It’s refreshing to see a collective vision for once, and know that while we’d all like professional soccer in our city, this isn’t all about building a stadium or the sport itself.  It’s much bigger and if we do this right – and I believe we will – it’s much better for St. Louis.
Success will not come without collaboration.  And it will require your help.  We will need to summon the same spirit that got us to the Community Benefits Agreement we are ready to put into motion, pending a favorable vote on April 4.  There will be hard work ahead, but I’m optimistic because we’re traveling on the same road.  And in the same direction.
That’s why I encourage you to vote Yes on Propositions 1 and 2.  Let’s put the Community Benefits Agreement to work.  Let’s experience the fruits of programs and initiatives that will make us stronger spiritually, emotionally, economically, academically and socially.  There are excellent opportunities around the corner that otherwise wouldn’t be available to those who need them the most. 
I hope you will trust in me and vote yes on Propositions 1 and 2.  By doing so, you’re saying yes to the Community Benefits Agreement.  And it won’t let you down.
Editor’s Note: Demetrious Johnson is a former professional NFL football player and St. Louisan, who grew up in the Darst-Webbe Housing Project.  He earned a full athletic scholarship from the University of Missouri, Columbia. He’s the founder of the Demetrious Johnson Charitable Foundation, giving young disadvantaged youth a leg up.

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