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.

Community activists, including State Rep. Bruce Franks Jr., are asking Gov. Mike Parson to pardon or commute the sentence of Joshua Williams.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Rep. Bruce Franks returns for his third appearance on Politically Speaking, where the St. Louis Democrat talked about how he’s been faring during his third year in the Missouri House.

Franks first burst on the Missouri political scene in 2016, when he defeated (after a high-profile redo election) incumbent Penny Hubbard. He was elected to another term last year without opposition, getting another two years to represent a part of eastern St. Louis.

St. Louis Treasurer Tishuara Jones joined Friday's "St. Louis on the Air." April 19, 2019.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

On Thursday, St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones announced that she will be reevaluating the city’s relationships with the banks that handle its money, with the goal of getting those financial institutions providing better services to low- and middle-income areas.

John Gaskin III, President of the St. Louis County Branch of the NAACP, announces his support for the Better Together proposal on April 18, 2019.
Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 5:30 p.m., April 19, with Dellwood Mayor Reggie Jones calling for the resignation of the St. Louis County NAACP president — Better Together’s city-county merger proposal received a significant endorsement from the St. Louis County branch of the NAACP.

The announcement came Thursday from St. Louis County Branch NAACP President John Gaskin III, who faced blowback following revelations that he is a paid consultant for Better Together's political advocacy arm.

Gaskin said he believes the proposal will result in significant social change across the metro area.

Members of the senate walk onto the floor of the House chambers ahead of this year's State of the State address.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 3 p.m. on Thursday to detail Senate action on nonbinding merger resolution.

In a Capitol building often defined by division, state Rep. Peter Merideth believes Better Together’s city-county merger proposal is unifying the disparate St. Louis delegation.

But the St. Louis Democrat said it’s not the kind of unity that proponents probably wanted or expected.

“One thing that we’ve seen in this building is a remarkable amount of regional and bipartisan unity in the idea that this is the wrong way to go about a merger in St. Louis,” Merideth said. “I think the thing that we all agree on is that it should not be happening with a statewide vote that doesn’t allow any real, true local control over our own fate.”

Rep. Dean Plocher
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Rep. Dean Plocher is the latest guest on Politically Speaking, where the Des Peres Republican primarily talked about a potential merger between St. Louis and St. Louis County.

Plocher represents the 89th House District, which includes parts of Town & Country, Huntleigh, Des Peres and Country Life Acres. Plocher, an attorney by trade, is the chairman of the influential House General Laws Committee.

House Speaker Pro Tem John Wiemann, R-O'Fallon
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

House Speaker Pro Tem John Wiemann is the latest guest on Politically Speaking, where the O’Fallon Republican discussed some of the issues that may consume the Missouri House’s time over the next few weeks.

Wiemann is part of the GOP leadership team that runs the Missouri House. As speaker pro tem, Wiemann often presides over the Missouri House — and is part of some key policy discussions among the Republican supermajority.

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 group Better Together submitted its proposal for a merger of St. Louis and St. Louis County in January. The plan calls for a statewide vote in 2020, when Missouri residents would decide on the future of the city and county. The plan would consolidate several municipal functions including police departments, a prosecutor and an assessor.

Residents of the city and country continue to have question regarding the merger, which would consolidate several key functions of the St. Louis and St. Louis County region.

St. Louis County Council members listen as Deputy County Counselor Micki Wochner, right, responds to questions about a federal subpoena issued to the county last week.
File photos I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The first St. Louis County Council meeting since news of a federal subpoena of County Executive Steve Stenger broke featured an agreement that no outside counsel was needed to respond to the request.  

But despite that decision, the meeting became testy when council members wondered why they couldn’t see the subpoena that has shaken up Stenger’s administration.

Officials sign the challenge to end homelessness on February 18, 2019. From left to right, Wright City Mayor Dan Rowden, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson.
File Photo | Kae Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

Before Monday, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger was slated to become the first “metro mayor” under a plan to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County — giving the Democratic official enormous power over the direction and decision making of a united region.

But after Better Together submitted a new petition to Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s office, Stenger won’t automatically get that post. One of the leaders of the city-county effort said the move is in response to criticism of having county officials being the initial leaders of the government — and not a federal subpoena of Stenger’s administration.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger (left) and Sam Page (right) attend a county council meeting. A new resolution calls on the prosecuting attorney to look into if Stenger violated county charter.
File photo | Andy Field | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 2:20 on Monday with news of St. Louis Economic Development Partnership subpoena.

A federal subpoena was issued last week seeking information about St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger’s administration.

One particular focus was how Stenger’s administration issued contracts, which has been a source of contention for months between the Democratic chief executive and the council.

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.