When I am out of the country, I may say I live in the U.S. state of Missouri. (Sometimes that has to be explained with a reference to the Mississippi River.) When I am traveling stateside, I say I live in St. Louis. When I am in St. Louis, I say I live in Webster Groves. My town happens to be in St. Louis County, an impersonal jurisdiction to which I feel little sense of belonging.
This is my starting point in trying to wrap my opinions around the proposals to reunify the mosaic of cities and towns and neighborhoods that make up the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County.
A group called Better Together is advocating for a statewide ballot to mend the 1876 divorce of St. Louis City and St. Louis County. I do see the merits of an argument for a city that has some geopolitical uniformity and that would suddenly become a top 10 city rather than a number 62 behind the likes of Aurora, Colorado and Stockton, California.
There are certainly arguments to be made for equal professional standards in law enforcement and the courts. Better Together does not address the worthy argument for equal funding and resources for all of the students who attend public schools in our region.
Better Together recognizes – at least for now – that school districts and some other entities can’t yet be unraveled.
Better Together seeks a statewide vote for what should be a local issue. Understandably, it is a local issue that does not have a track record of successful attempts at resolution. So, St. Louis philanthropist and billionaire political manipulator, Rex Sinquefield, has organized an end run around the local process. He currently has on board St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger.
Local mayors and officials who make up the St. Louis County Municipal League are adamantly against the proposals made by Better Together. Many, if not most, of their citizens stand behind them. The people like their identities with Kirkwood or Sunset Hills or Green Park or Brentwood. They like the close-up access to city government and city services.
One counter-proposal to Better Together would be to make the City of St. Louis a part of St. Louis County in the same way that Webster Groves or Crestwood might be. That is an idea I find appealing, but I don’t yet know all of its mechanics.
That our region would benefit from being a more tightly-knit entity is something I suspect to be true. Communities need not disappear. In the City of St. Louis there are still strong community identities in places like The Hill, the Central West End and Tower Grove East.
But the decisions for further cooperation and unity should be made by we the people, not the people in the rest of Missouri. Incremental steps seem to me more salable than a great dissolution of municipal governments.