Campaign representatives seeking to create a united metropolitan St. Louis say the impact of the county and city consolidation will have great impact on Franklin County and the other “collars” of St. Louis.
If the measure is to fail, the entire state will pay the price, according to John Hancock, with Hancock & Prouty, the firm running Unite STL — the campaign for Better Together.
The Better Together organization seeks to consolidate St. Louis City and St. Louis County. There will be a statewide ballot issue in November 2020 asking to amend the Missouri Constitution to allow for the consolidation.
If approved, it would create a new city, Metropolitan St. Louis, which would be the 11th largest city in the U.S.
Hancock and Jonathan Prouty visited the Washington Missourian Wednesday to explain their view on the economic impact on a metro city, proposed by Better Together.
Hancock explained that Better Together would greatly improve economic development in the region, including the “collared” counties of Franklin, St. Charles, Lincoln, Warren and Jefferson.
“If it is good for St. Louis, it is good for Franklin County,” he said. “Like any plan it is not perfect, but there is no question that it is better.”
Better Together would reduce the number of elected officials from 670 in the 89 municipalities, to one mayor and a 33-member council elected from each municipal district.
One goal of Better Together is to spare St. Louis City from defaulting, ultimately leading to bankruptcy.
“If the city goes bankrupt, the people of Washington, Springfield and everywhere else will have to pay for it,” Hancock said.
He compared the situation to that of Detroit, Mich., which declared bankruptcy in 2013. It took $200 million from the taxpayers of the rest of the state to recover. It is that warning about the impact of bankruptcy that Unite STL will take to the voters of the entire state.
Plans call for a campaign to include digital, newspaper, radio and television ads reaching out to every corner of Missouri.
The campaign also will address concerns others in the state may have. Hancock said Unite STL will have to educate the public that otherwise would be apathetic about the measure.
He commented that some may be concerned that a metro city would be established in their city or town; however, there are no other areas where this type of consolidation is feasible.
Locally, a concern in Pacific is that the city will lose revenue for its portion currently in St. Louis County. Pacific collects approximately $500,000 in that area of the city, which would fall under the control of the new metropolitan city.
Hancock said a merged police department would benefit everyone in St. Louis County and city.
He added the city police department is short 160 officers.
If Better Together is approved, there would be 3,400 officers in the metro city.
“St. Louis County has one of the best (police departments) in the country,” Hancock stated.
The major U.S. cities where crime has gone down in recent years, all have one police force, Hancock said.
“We really do believe one police department will make it easier to police the city,” he said.
Consolidating the county and city also will give the perception of a safer community, which would be beneficial for business and economic development.
Moreover, Better Together would consolidate the small municipal police forces throughout the county.
Hancock said anyone driving from Franklin County to Lambert International Airport now drives through more than 15 departments along the way. Each of those municipalities have their own courts.
“There are 70-plus municipal courts that will consolidate to one,” he said.
In addition, services including construction contractors or food trucks oftentimes must get business licenses to operate in the different cities of St. Louis County.
“(Better Together) would reform that whole process,” Hancock said.