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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.

Corrigan counters Dooley blasts of GOP's anti-merger ad

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 20, 2010 - St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley says that Republican rival Bill Corrigan's latest ad attacking a city-county merger contains "an outright lie'' by asserting that county residents would be stuck with the city of St. Louis' pension and debt payments of $30 million.

Corrigan contends that he's telling the truth.

Dooley, a Democrat seeking re-election on Nov. 2, said in an interview Tuesday that the county wouldn't shoulder any of the city of St. Louis' debt should it re-enter the county. He added that's already the case with the 91 municipalities within the county.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay sides with Dooley. "Pension obligations will always be the city's; won't be transferred or assumed," the mayor tweeted Tuesday on Twitter.

Dooley registered his anger over the ad in an interview Tuesday -- almost a week after Corrigan's ad began running. Dooley said he didn't complain sooner because the ad is "so far-fetched from the truth."

Corrigan's campaign countered Wednesday by asserting, "Now that the election between Dooley and Corrigan is tight, Dooley changes his answers but his actions say he'll move forward with a merger if re-elected.

Earlier, Corrigan had said in a statement: "The future of St. Louis County is at stake right now, and voters have a clear choice. If a voter wants a merger and higher taxes, they can vote for Charlie Dooley. If a voter doesn't want a merger and wants a county executive who will focus on attracting and retaining jobs, running an ethical government and reducing taxes, then they should vote for me. It's really that simple."

Dooley has been weathering political fire ever since he first acknowledged a few weeks ago that he wasn't opposed to the idea of the city of St. Louis entering the county as its 92nd municipality. Dooley says such a move would save money for both entities.

But Dooley emphasized Tuesday that the city's re-entry would require affirmative votes in the city and the county -- and that he doesn't expect that to happen for a long time. Dooley said he was simply voicing his opinion on the topic.

"Leadership is about speaking the truth and sticking to it," Dooley added.

At his debate with Corrigan last Thursday, one of the questioners -- St. Louis University political science professor Ken Warren, who's also a pollster -- noted that the polls he's conducted over the years have found county residents overwhelmingly opposed to any sort of merger with the city of St. Louis.

So will Dooley be airing an ad disputing Corrigan's claim? "We're working on it,'' the county executive said.

It's less than two weeks until the election.

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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