Politics & Issues
2:08 pm
Thu December 26, 2013

Critics of City-County Merger Launch Effort To Block It

Some opponents of the effort to merge the city of St. Louis with St. Louis County have announced a new group – Common Sense for St. Louis – to fight any sort of ballot measure.

“We’re truly grassroots,’’ said spokeswoman Jennifer Bird. “We’re not funded by a billionaire.’’

Bird was referring to financier Rex Sinquefield, who has been among the financial supporters of the drive by some politicians, civic activists and corporate leaders to end the 1876 division between the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County.  One of the options would be to allow the city to re-enter the county as another municipality.

Opponents of any sort of city-county merger say they are organizing to block the effort.
Credit (St. Louis Public Radio)

Such a plan would require approval by voters in the city and the county; so far, backers don’t appear to be planning to broach the idea to voters in 2014. Other opponents include the St. Louis County Republican Party.

Supporters say the effort would improve the region’s effectiveness and elevate its national stature, while also reducing costs by ending duplicative services and offices.

Bird contends that any sort of merger would “be a bailout for the city,’’ while hurting local county governments and their citizens.

“It would simply make government bigger, more complex and less responsive to residents,” she said in a statement. “Contrary to the claims for proponents, it does not intrinsically offer any substantial advantages with respect to economic development, cost saving, crime prevention or the providing of essential social or public health services.”

Bird later added in an interview that, in her opinion, there are “too many questions and no guarantees.”

So far, Common Sense for St. Louis only has a few dozen members, and about 16 activists, Bird said. The group is seeking more supporters and more donors, in order to launch a campaign if a pro-merger proposal does make the ballot.