© 2023 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
After decades of contemplation and debate, a group known as Better Together is recommending an end to the “Great Divorce” between St. Louis and St. Louis County.Better Together is proposing an ambitious plan to create a unified metro government and police department and limit municipalities' ability to levy sales taxes. The plan would be decided through a statewide vote.Proponents contend it will scrape away layers of local government that has been holding the St. Louis region back. Opponents believe the plan will create an unwieldy and large centralized government that could be implemented against the will of city and county residents.

Critics of City-County Merger Launch Effort To Block It

The Arch from below
St. Louis Public Radio
The Gateway Arch in downtown St. Louis.

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.

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.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.