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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.

Politically Speaking: Councilman Mark Harder On Stenger’s Rapid Fall — And The Council's Priorities

St. Louis County Councilman Mark Harder is sworn in on Tuesday afternoon. Jan. 1, 2019
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis County Councilman Mark Harder was sworn into his second term in office earlier this year.

St. Louis County Councilman Mark Harder is the latest guest on Politically Speaking, where he talked with St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Julie O’Donoghue about the titanic changes in county government.

Harder represents the council’s 7th District, which includes Ballwin, Chesterfield, Ellisville and Wildwood. With recent departures of council members, the Ballwin Republican is now the most senior member of the council.

Here’s what Harder talked about on the show:

  • Harder discussed how he and other council members dealt with the rapid demise of former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, who resigned when he was hit with corruption charges. Stenger developed a sour relationship with the council — so much so that in his final months in office he had no reliable allies within the legislative body.
  • He also talked about his impressions of Stenger’s replacement, Sam Page. Harder and Page served on the council from 2015 to the middle of 2019.
  • One of the issues that the council will deal with soon are Page’s appointments to what’s known as the Board of Freeholders. That body can come up with a proposal to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County. The Municipal League of Metro St. Louis is expected to turn in the necessary signatures in the coming weeks.
  • Harder also provided details on how the POWERplex facility in Hazelwood came to fruition. The youth sports complex was originally supposed to be in Chesterfield, but those plans fell through.

Harder was first elected to the council in 2014, succeeding longtime Republican Councilman Greg Quinn. Before entering county politics, Harder was a member of the Ballwin Board of Aldermen.

In 2016, Harder was the only member of the council to vote against a proposal that moved county services to the Crossings At Northwest — which was known as Northwest Plaza. The developers of the former St. Ann mall have been under increased scrutiny from members of the council — especially since they donated more than $300,000 to Stenger’s campaign. David and Robert Glarner are currently challenging a subpoena to appear before the council’s ethics committee.

Harder said he hasn’t made a decision yet about whether he’ll run for county executive during next year’s election. He did say it would be beneficial for Republicans to field a strong campaign, so that county residents would have a choice on who will be county executive.

Politically Speaking

The podcast is sponsored by the St. Louis-based law firm of Capes Sokol

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Julie O’Donoghue on Twitter: @jsodonoghue

Music: “34 Ghosts IV” by Nine Inch Nails

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