St. Louis City-County Merger | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis City-County Merger

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.

Gov. Mike Parson delivers his first State of the State address Jan. 16, 2019.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

As the Missouri General Assembly hits its week-long spring break, lawmakers are mulling over what they’ve accomplished so far — and bracing for an array of items that haven’t reached the legislative finish line.

While lawmakers in both the House and Senate have been able to tackle issues that have historically stalled, such as curtailing the low-income housing tax-credit program, priorities that Gov. Mike Parson holds near and dear have run into opposition from his own party.

State Rep. Kevin Windham, D-Hillsdale
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

State Rep. Kevin Windham is the latest guest on the Politically Speaking podcast, where the Hillsdale Democrat talked about his first few months as a member of the Missouri House.

Windham represents the 85th District, which takes in roughly 20 municipalities in central and north St. Louis County. When he won his seat in 2018 at age 25, he became the youngest African-American man ever to get elected to the General Assembly’s lower chamber.

(March 07, 2019)  St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger answered questions on the state of the county and recent news concerning the region.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked with St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger.

The conversation touched on the state of the county and recent news concerning the region, including the St. Louis County Council’s attempt to remove him from office, the potential city-county merger and the possible privatization of St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

Gail Woods (left) and others attend the Better Together Town Hall at Greater St. Mark Family Church. The event is one of several town halls that will be hosted by the organization.
Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio

Attendees at a town hall meeting on Better Together’s plan for a St. Louis city-county merger peppered the group’s representatives with questions Wednesday night, including why the plan didn’t include schools, and concern about a statewide vote deciding the issue.

Greater St. Mark Family Church in north St. Louis County hosted the first of a series of area town hall meetings on the merger. Better Together capped registration at 150 people.

U.S. Sen.  Joni Ernst speaks on Saturday, March 2, 2019, at Lincoln Days in Maryland Heights.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri doesn’t have a U.S. Senate race next year, which means Republicans will focus on retaining their statewide offices. But U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt has an idea for GOP stalwarts suffering from Senate withdrawal.

Right before she spoke at Saturday’s Lincoln Days banquet in St. Louis County, Blunt quipped that “we’re just going to make the Iowa Senate race to re-elect Joni Ernst the Missouri Senate race.”

Brandon Bosley thanks his family and friends as aldermen introduced their special guests.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Two St. Louis aldermen are launching a petition to recall Mayor Lyda Krewson, saying she is not doing enough to protect the interests of the city in the debate over consolidation.

“She cannot continue to be the chief executive voice within the city and be trying to dissolve the city at the same time,” said Alderman Brandon Bosley, D-3rd Ward.

From left, Megan Green, Jamilah Nasheed and Lewis Reed are contenders for aldermanic president in St. Louis' upcoming Democratic Primary, which is March 5.
File photo | St. Louis Public Radio

On the surface, the scramble to be the president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen may not seem significant to people that don’t live in the city.

But looks can be deceiving. The winner of the March 5 Democratic primary, assuming they get past a Green Party candidate in April, will make seismic decisions affecting the St. Louis region’s economy and quality of life. It will also show if the city will stick with an experienced incumbent or embrace a new political path.

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, left, Alderwoman Megan Green and St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed take part in a St. Louis Press Club forum on Feb. 22, 2019.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

A bid to have a private company run St. Louis Lambert International Airport was a point of contention among candidates for aldermanic president during a forum Friday.

The winner of the March 5 Democratic primary may decide whether that process goes forward — or whether it sputters out at the Board of Estimate and Apportionment.

The report on the wealth gap relies on data from the Federal Reserve Board from 1983 through 2016.
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

A group seeking to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County claims a consolidated government would mean billions in savings over a 10-year period.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger takes the oath of office on Jan. 1, 2019.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger joins Politically Speaking to talk about Better Together’s proposal to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County.

If statewide voters approve the plan next year, Stenger will become the unified government’s first “metro mayor.”  That office was designed to be powerful: A mayor in the new government can make key appointments, use a line-item veto, and help appoint whoever is in charge of drawing districts for a 33-person council.

A group known as Better Together is proposing a plan to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County. They're planning to get the measure on the 2020 ballot.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

If a merger of St. Louis and St. Louis County is approved, faculty at a local university would draw the initial boundaries for a 33-member council — a move designed to limit partisan politics from influencing the districts.

Yet since St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, both Democrats, would choose the demographer getting first crack at drawing lines, some wonder if the mapmaking process will truly be independent.

A group known as Better Together is proposing a plan to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County. They're planning to get the measure on the 2020 ballot.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis Public Radio newsroom has been fielding a wide range of questions from listeners the past few weeks concerning Better Together’s recently unveiled proposal for a reunification of St. Louis and St. Louis County.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh and several STLPR journalists provided answers to a number of those Curious Louis queries that haven’t already been answered – and took additional questions from listeners as well.

A group known as Better Together is proposing a plan to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County. They're planning to get the measure on the 2020 ballot.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

A group seeking to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County sent a new version of their constitutional amendment to Missouri’s secretary of state’s office Monday that contains mostly minor changes.

Better Together described the changes to the amendment as “technical,” dealing with the handling of pensions and existing debt. It also makes some clarifications to language creating a new fire-protection district encompassing St. Louis. (Click here to read the new petition and here to read the summary of changes.)

A group known as Better Together is proposing a plan to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County. They're planning to get the measure on the 2020 ballot.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Questions about Better Together's proposal to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County continue to pour in from St. Louis Public Radio listeners and readers via our Curious Louis project.

Under Better Together's proposal, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger (right) would serve as the transitional mayor of a united St. Louis metro government until 2025, assuming he stays in office through January 2021.
File photo I Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio

The leaders of St. Louis County’s municipalities are trying to jumpstart a process, known as the Board of Freeholders, to get a St. Louis-St. Louis County merger plan to only city and county voters — an alternative to a proposal from a group known as Better Together that would take that issue statewide.

There’s one problem with that approach: St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson are responsible for appointing most of that board and both are solidly behind the Better Together plan. That gives them little incentive to endorse a process that could produce a competing proposal.

Under a plan released Monday to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger would become the first "metro mayor" of the merged government.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

At the beginning of 2019, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger was in a tough political spot.

The Democratic official was sworn in to a second term with no reliable allies on the St. Louis County Council. And county voters recently amended the charter to substantially reduce his power over the budget.

But if statewide voters agree to a plan laid out by Better Together next year, Stenger would be in line to become the first metro mayor — a position that gives him sizable policy power over the region.

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