Many Missourians agree that something needs to be done about the city of St. Louis, St. Louis County and the more than 90 municipalities in the county, where confusion often reigns as to which governmental body they are in and where jurisdictions begin and end.
The Better Together plan, which advocated a statwide vote on bringing the city and county into one government, has been dropped while promoters of the plan try to refine it, with the idea that only St. Louis City and county residents would vote on the plan.
A statewide vote was proposed since the advocates of the one government plan didn’t think it had a chance to pass if only the city and county voted on it. Advocates believed it would go down in flames in the county with an outside chance to pass in the city.
To come up with some sort of a merger plan that has a chance to pass in the city and county is a major challenge that would keep political science experts burning the midnight oil.
The city and county have been separate governmental entities since 1877. Since that time as the westward migration from the city increased the population in the county, municipalities sprung up like untamed weeds. Some of the municipalities had good governments, others, small with few resources, barely existed as a government. But the little “kingdom” mentality was planted and those entities somehow survived.
The Better Together effort apparently had plenty of money behind it but it made many concessions in an effort to get political leaders’ support. The mayor of St. Louis and the county executive were on board with a plan that the county executive would be the mayor for a couple of years of the new metro city.
Many of the governments in the county were against it from the start. It was evident that the hope for the merger was to win in a statewide election. But a statewide vote rubbed too many people wrong in the metro area and even outstate. Now it seems the effort is going to be to win support for a vote in the city and county. Just a thought: Maybe the Missouri counties around St. Louis County, chiefly St. Charles, Jefferson and Franklin counties, should be included in a vote. Perhaps a county or two, like Warren and Lincoln, should be included also. After all, what happens in St. Louis City and county is of vital concern to all the residents in those counties.
There was never a strong message in the Better Together theme. Why would it be better was never explained in a convincing manner. Outstate support was hard to come by because, frankly, people in distant counties weren’t that interested.
In talking to a couple of the paid advocates of Better Together, we told them it would be an uphill battle to convince people in outstate Missouri that they should vote for the merger. The interest just wasn’t there, and it would be very difficult to change that attitude.
We like the idea of a vote in the metro area for a Better Together plan. But it must be carefully planned with the benefits clearly outlined. The nearby counties would still be independent of the new metro city.
There is no doubt that a major metro city would have more clout than what exists now. It could mean more support from the federal government, especially in the form of grants. St. Louis City as it is now is a minor player in the metro scheme of cities. We believe there would be economic benefits and with the right leadership there could be governmental savings.
The effort to bring St. Louis City and county together must continue. The biggest barrier is politics.