I agree that metro St. Louis can and should work harder to increase regional collaboration and adopt a more unified approach to economic development. To that end, I supported the Metro League’s 2017 resolution to discuss the city rejoining the county as the 89th municipality.
In its Report to the Community, however, Better Together argues that the county’s 88 municipalities are the cause of our problems. The Better Together task force — five local business and academic leaders with impressive resumes but no apparent experience in local governance — prepared recommendations for consolidating the city and county into a “Metro City.”
The report indicates the recommendations are unsuited to adoption under the existing Freeholder process. So Better Together is planning a costly campaign to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot for statewide approval in November 2020.
Better Together spent several years collecting data to study the matter and then make its case. Under this plan, some problems will improve, others will be ignored, and new ones invariably will crop up as municipalities lose local control over certain decisions.
Aggregated regional crime statistics will seem rosier, but it’s unclear to me how the plan will address the underlying causes of violent crime. Because school districts necessarily will remain intact, struggling districts will continue losing population.
What is planned to help erase the exaggerated labels placed on St. Louis as a region in decline where crime, bigotry and racism are rampant? While there’s no perfect solution to correcting nearly 150 years of divorce, I think it’s time to make a start at it. But, what I object to about Better Together’s plan is the possibility that voters in St. Charles, Joplin and beyond will be involved in making a critical decision about an issue that does not concern them. That fact alone is a deal breaker.