Since the unrest in Ferguson began in early August, curbing the power of municipal courts has become a focal point for policymakers from across the political spectrum.
But at Monday’s meeting of the Ferguson Commission at St. Louis University’s Il Monastero, Maryland Heights resident Dan Hyatt brought the issue home.
The IT professional told commissioners how he was put in jail in Breckenridge Hills for three hours after a disagreement over whether he stopped at a stop sign. He said it was a galvanizing experience.
When Better Together formed last year, it was already planning to examine how the region polices itself — especially because St. Louis County has so many different departments that patrol towns and cities.
But the review became more than just a theoretical exercise after the shooting death of Michael Brown. The roughly 60 police departments throughout St. Louis County underwent intense scrutiny for aggressive ticketing, little racial diversity and the targeting of African Americans. There have been widespread calls for substantial changes.
One of the most important changes to emerge from Michael Brown’s shooting is progress toward reform of St. Louis County’s balkanized municipal court system, where traffic tickets can derail poor people’s lives.
Change is certain. The extent of the reform is not.
Comments last week by two of the most important figures in the reform efforts illustrate starkly different views of how seriously the muny court system is broken and how thoroughly it needs to be reformed.
Better Together's studies gained some attention before Michael Brown's death. While their broader goal of easing regional fragmentation may receive some traction, there may be less emphasis on merging St. Louis and St. Louis County and more focus on internal changes to certain cities or towns.
Like many municipal services, the St. Louis City and County Departments of Health operate separately.
Although the city and county collaborate and serve many of the same purposes, the divide may make it more difficult for the agencies to help residents. That's according to a report released Wednesday by the group ‘Better Together,’ a project that is exploring whether or not St. Louis county and city should consider altering merging various services.
A group studying the potential for a merger between St. Louis and St. Louis County released a report on regional economic development policy Wednesday.
Among other things, Better Together’s 31-page report examines tax increment financing (TIF) in the city and the county. While the report emphasizes that some TIFs have been beneficial to municipalities, the study contends that the widespread use of TIFs is pitting municipalities against each other.
Ellisville Mayor Adam Paul is no stranger to fighting city hall.
At this point last year, Paul was clawing his way back into office after a high-profile – and at-times bizarre – impeachment saga. Despite an intense and expensive effort from his political adversaries to remove him, Paul eventually kept his job as mayor. His town has generally been out of the headlines ever since.
Greendale is home to about 700 people in north St. Louis County. The primarily residential community features stately brick houses along seven, well-maintained streets. The town’s city hall consists of two rooms inside an office building. It contracts with nearby Normandy for police service. Its big-ticket expenditures include cleaning streets and trimming trees.
Charlie Giraud found a lot to like. He’s lived in bigger St. Louis County municipalities like Ballwin and University City. He appreciated Greendale’s friendly neighbors, racial diversity and close-knit community.
Former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar says bringing local governments can strengthen the health – and brighten the future -- of urban communities.
The Indiana Republican was the keynote speaker for a St. Louis University Law School symposium on merging St. Louis and St. Louis County. He was a key figure in banding together city of Indianapolis with Marion County in the 1970s.
Lugar says merging the two governments had skeptics. But he says it attracted jobs, sports teams and tourists – and reinvigorated civic life.
A new coalition called Better Together launched an effort today Tuesday to study whether St. Louis city and county should re-unite.
Yet coalition members were quick to explain they’re not advocating for a merger.
"We are not advocating reentry. We’re not advocating merger," said former Ambassador George Herbert Walker III, who is chairman of the group. "We’re just saying let’s get all the data together and then as a group decide what is best for St. Louis and the city of St. Louis at this time."