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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.

Fitch won’t accept campaign donations in bid for St. Louis County Council

Former St. Louis County police chief at his campaign kickoff for St. Louis County Council
Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio

Former St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch is pledging to accept no campaign donations for his Republican campaign for St. Louis County Council. And if elected this fall, he says he’ll work for a county charter change that would limit campaign donations for county officials.

At his campaign kickoff today in Sunset Hills, Fitch blamed the lack of donation limits for some of the rancor between council members and County Executive Steve Stenger.  He contends that large contributions to Stenger, in particular, have exacerbated some of the disputes.

“I want to stand for integrity in government, and one way to do that is not to accept campaign contributions,’’ Fitch said. He added he and his wife agreed that the family would finance Fitch’s bid for the council’s 3rd District seat, so that there would be no questions about donors influencing Fitch’s views or votes.

Among other things, Fitch said he hopes to help quell some of the public disputes between the council and Stenger, by having more private discussions to craft compromise.

Fitch’s other key issues include:

  • Opposition to any sort of city-county reunification. Fitch contends the county wouldn’t benefit from the move.
  • Revamping how Lambert Field is governed, so that the county has a greater role in the airport’s operations and upkeep.  The city of St. Louis currently owns the airport, although it is situated in the county.
  • Increasing the county’s focus on public safety. Crime is increasing in the county, he said, asserting that such facts have been overshadowed by the city’s crime problem.
  • Making sure that the Prop P money approved by voters last spring is spent solely on public safety, and isn’t used to supplant other spending.

Fitch, 56, served as St. Louis County police chief for five years, leaving in early 2014 after several disputes with then-County Executive Charlie Dooley, a Democrat.

Fitch said he has worked with Stenger, also a Democrat, in the past – but emphasized that he plans to be an independent voice on the council.

Fitch is the first candidate to formally announce for the council seat that GOP incumbent Colleen Wasinger has held for the last 12 years. Wasinger has decided not to run for re-election.

But Fitch played down any speculation that he might eventually run for county executive. “My plan is to be a long-term council member,’’ he said. Fitch added that he would support Wasinger if she decides to run for county executive this fall.

Fitch owns a public-safety consulting business and also is manager of global security for Emerson Electric.

Although he had left the county police force before the Ferguson unrest in 2014, Fitch said the protests helped influence his decision to run. In particular, he singled out former St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, a high-profile figure in the protests against the Ferguson police shooting that killed 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Fitch cited French’s frequent comments on Twitter, and his call for people who were upset with the status quo to run for office. Fitch said he decided that included him.

Follow Jo on Twitter: @jmannies

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.

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