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.

Jason Rosenbaum/St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Monday, March 3, 2014 to include audio from St. Louis on the Air.

Former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar remembers a time when his home city was described by travel writers as “Indianapolis No Place.” 

When the Indiana Republican became mayor of Indianapolis in the 1960s, the city was mired in a “mediocre, flat situation.” He said it received “very little interest to anybody outside who was not involved parochially.”   

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

(Updated 1:30 p.m. on Friday)

Former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar says bringing local governments can strengthen the health – and brighten the future -- of urban communities. 

The Indiana Republican was the keynote speaker for a St. Louis University Law School symposium on merging St. Louis and St. Louis County. He was a key figure in banding together city of Indianapolis with Marion County in the 1970s.

Lugar says merging the two governments had skeptics. But he says it attracted jobs, sports teams and tourists – and reinvigorated civic life.

The Arch from below
St. Louis Public Radio

Some opponents of the effort to merge the city of St. Louis with St. Louis County have announced a new group – Common Sense for St. Louis – to fight any sort of ballot measure.

“We’re truly grassroots,’’ said spokeswoman Jennifer Bird. “We’re not funded by a billionaire.’’

This article first appeared in The St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 5, 2013 - “The trouble with ignorance is that it picks up confidence as it goes along.”

--Arnold Glasow

Convenient ignorance explains most of the folly in human affairs. The things we don’t know really can hurt us.  Worse, the things we think we know are often wrong.

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - Convenient ignorance explains most of the folly in human affairs. The things we don’t know really can hurt us. Worse, the things we think we know are often wrong.

Once a misconception gains general acceptance, calamity is all but assured because the flawed assumption allows us to logically proceed to absurd results. Unquestioned belief, masquerading as common knowledge, provides a kind of lazy wisdom — it relieves us of the burden of critical thought while lulling us into the delusion that we’re in control of events.

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - When Better Together, a group tasked with studying a potential reunion between St. Louis and St. Louis County, launched last week, there was a lot of talk about the “lines” dividing the region.

Mayor Francis Slay said that few people cared if they “were crossing the line” while staying in the Cheshire Inn, a hotel straddling the city-county border. But, he later said, “the line does exist and many other lines exist as well.”

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - The chief executives of St. Louis and St. Louis County helped kickstart an endeavor to gather data -- and public input -- that could lead to a potential reunion of the two jurisdictions.

(Flickr Creative Commons User Daniel Leininger)

A new coalition called Better Together launched an effort today Tuesday to study whether St. Louis city and county should re-unite.

Yet coalition members were quick to explain they’re not advocating for a merger.

"We are not advocating reentry. We’re not advocating merger," said former Ambassador George Herbert Walker III, who is chairman of the group. "We’re just saying let’s get all the data together and then as a group decide what is best for St. Louis and the city of St. Louis at this time."

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: For the umpteenth time over the last half century, some civic activists are  floating the idea of official reconnection between St. Louis and St. Louis County. But this time, lots of politics are mixed in with the policy issues.

Talk of city/county reunification appears to be increasingly intertwined with the 2014 contest for St. Louis County executive.

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: More than 100 years after the "Great Divorce," some people are apparently hearing wedding bells. The question of a remarriage between St. Louis and St. Louis County may be the regional debate that won't go away.

Since the “Great Divorce,” there’s frequently been talk – but not much action – about reuniting the two. Recently again, the idea of the city “re-entering,” “merging” or “mega-merging” was brought up during the debate over fusing economic development agencies, and it was the subject of a recent St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial.

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: It was 9 a.m. in the morning on a fall day in October when the endless repetition campaign was initiated for the first time. After that, the effort subsequently caught on and spread like uncontrolled wildfire until it became a popular fad.

Enough, already: Redundancy sucks. The example above is muddled speech, which usually reflects muddled thought. Worse than false, it is stupid — though the sin can be forgiven if it is sung.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley made a point earlier this summer to note that his friendship with St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay went beyond politics.

“[People will say] Charlie, Mayor Slay is your political friend. No he’s not,” Dooley said during a speech in June. “He is just my friend. He’s my friend. And that’s what I want you to understand. This is in our best interest. He wants St. Louis City to be successful. I want St. Louis County to be successful.

"Together, we want to the St. Louis region to be all that it can be,” he added.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The St. Louis County Council gave its final blessing to merging some duties of city and county economic development agencies, a move that ratifies a plan announced earlier this year.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The St. Louis County Republican Central Committee has unanimously passed a resolution opposing any sort of city-county merger, including the merger of the economic development agencies now underway.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen on Friday approved the merger, which Mayor Francis Slay first proposed almost 18 months ago. The St. Louis County Council is expected to follow suit Tuesday.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 28, 2011 - St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay is calling for a merger of the economic agencies in St. Louis and St. Louis County, saying it would be "a good and timely next step" toward his broader goal of eventually making the city a part of the county.

The mayor also plans to lobby the Regional Commerce and Growth Association to divest itself of its economic development function, so that the group also could be part of his vision for "a single development agency that works for St. Louis."

City-county cooperation talks advance

Oct 26, 2011

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 26, 2011 - When officials of St. Louis and St. Louis County began talking about possibly merging some services, no one thought the process would set any records for speedy completion.

So how have things been going so far? Garry Earls, chief operating officer for the county, puts it like this:

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 2, 2011 - Recently, drama critic Hilton Als wrote about Chekhov in The New Yorker. Als noted Chekhov's "subtle understanding of how unlikely people are to truly change, even when history dictates that they must."

Chekhov wrote of individuals and families but his understanding can also apply to institutions, elected officials and governments. Bureaucracies are loathe to shift their operating paradigms. The debate in Washington over the budget and the debt limit shows us two political parties, each wed to an ideology. Republicans refuse to consider tax increases; Democrats protect entitlements and social programs.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 6, 2011 - Now that the city has five years' breathing room on the earnings tax, officials in St. Louis are studying a new report on the best ways to substitute the $140 million a year it provides.

They're also looking hard at a companion report that provides a road map to do more of what they already are doing -- talking with St. Louis County about collaborating on certain services to save money, make government services more efficient and maybe bring the long-held dream of true regionalism a little closer to reality.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 12, 2011 - Local leaders cited new census figures in arguing for the need for St. Louis city and county to cooperate more, if not fully reunite.

They said reorganization is necessary if the region wants to add population and have a more efficient government. The 2010 census figures show the city had lost 8 percent of its population since 2000, dropping to 319,000 while the county lost nearly 2 percent, bringing it under the 1 million mark.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 3, 2011 - Castling is the only maneuver in chess that allows a player to re-position two pieces with one move. Each player may castle only once per game and then only under specified circumstances, which I won't bother to detail because enthusiasts already know the rules and non-players don't care.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 22, 2011 - State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis, may be against local control of the St. Louis police department -- but she does support allowing St. Louis to re-enter St. Louis County.

Chappelle-Nadal announced today she has filed Senate Joint Resolution 19, which would ask Missouri voters "if the city should become a part of the county and exist in the same manner as any other city in the county."

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 26, 2011 - Historian Colin Gordon takes the long view when it comes to understanding how St. Louis has fared during the nation's recent economic downturn -- and his perspective isn't pretty.

While the Great Recession brought some cities -- think Detroit and the auto industry -- to the brink rather abruptly, Gordon argues that the St. Louis region's economic pain was deepened by the financial meltdown of 2008, but it has been festering here for decades, partly due to self-inflicted wounds.

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.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 20, 2010 - The question of how to end the longtime divorce between St. Louis and St. Louis County won't be on the ballot next month, but the election results could spark discussions for some sort of governmental combination.

That's the view of former St. Louis County Supervisor Gene McNary, who was one of three panelists talking about city-county relations in a debate at Washington University Tuesday night.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 5, 2009 - In case Mayor Francis Slay's inaugural remarks about the City of St. Louis re-entering St. Louis County after more than 130 years apart are more than symbolic, here is some advice for those seeking to restructure local governments within the region.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 21, 2009 - After being sworn in for a third term, Mayor Francis Slay said Tuesday that it is time for the city to start working to re-enter St. Louis County.

In a speech previewed on his website, Slay said it was time for St. Louis to leave many old problems and old attitudes in the past.

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