Magazine article shines an unwelcome spotlight on St. Louis' civic squabbles; PLUS: Is this any way to announce a party? Let's have some suggestions!

This can't have been the type of national publicity civic boosters had in mind. St. Louis is featured on the cover of the April issue of Governing magazine as the poster child for the increasing dysfunction of city councils.

In Rob Gurwitt's piece (accessible online at www.governingmagazine.com/4council.htm), the city's Board of Aldermen is referenced under section headlines such as "Feuding and Hot Air," "Ironclad Privilege" and "Out of the Loop." (Other cities of the same ilk: Baltimore, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.)

Of course, Irene Smith's alleged public-urination filibuster is mentioned, but Gurwitt goes far beyond the trite, interviewing at least a half-dozen aldermen and city officials, including Jim Shrewsbury, president of the Board of Aldermen, who says the current 28-aldermen system "creates a sense of parochialism and feudalism. We become the Balkans." Hell, we even have Bosnians now.

The article ends with a quote from former University of Missouri-St. Louis professor Dennis Judd, who has since fled to Chicago. Judd sums up fewer and fewer citizens represented by the same number of aldermen as "the slow strangulation of local democracy." There's a slogan: "Welcome to St. Louis, where democracy goes to die." -- D.J. Wilson

If you've driven down Highway 40, you've seen the billboards. "Brouhaha," reads one. "Hootenanny," blares another. There's "Shindig." And "Soiree." All with the same punchline: "Whatever you call it, it's gonna be some party."

The ad campaign was devised by the folks at Celebrate 2004, whose raison d'être is the planning of a year's worth of fun to celebrate the World's Fair centennial.

Nice idea, but a little lame in the execution. ("Hootenanny?" Is that any way for a St. Louisan to party?) Obviously Celebrate 2004 marketing director Amber Morris needs some help jazzing things up. With this in mind, the Riverfront Times hereby announces the First (and Only) Whatever You Call It, It's Gonna Be Some Party Slogan Contest.

To enter, simply e-mail your best slogan idea to feedback@riverfronttimes.com. We'll publish the best of 'em in an upcoming issue, and we'll forward them all to Ms. Morris for billboardization consideration. Some examples:

· "48-Hour Meth Binge"

· "Two Strippers, One Lap"

· "60-1 Long Shot in the Sixth Race"

· "Lunch Break, Colt 45 Tallboy"

Real St. Louisans, real centennial slogans -- that's what we're looking for.

The grand-prize winner will receive free admission to Fairmount Park on Preakness Saturday (May 17), along with two hot dogs and the beverage of his or her choice, plus transportation in staff writer Mike Seely's '87 Buick Electra (provided it's not on blocks by the contest deadline, which is Saturday, May 3). And be sure to include your real name and phone number with your entry.

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