Your signature has never been so important. Think before you use it.

The non-profit civic group Better Together wants your signature, along with 160,200 more, for the November 2020 ballot. It needs all those signatures for a statewide vote to merge St. Louis City and St. Louis County.

Better Together’s city-county merger would end the “Great Divorce” of 1876. The plan calls for a new, improved city to be governed by one mayor, 33 council members, a single police department and court system.

St. Louis County Municipal League officials and their volunteers also want your signature. The Municipal League has already launched its drive to gather 20,000 signatures in the city and county and hopes to have them by mid-April.

The Municipal League’s petition calls for establishing a 19-member Board of Freeholders – with nine members appointed by Mayor Lyda Krewson, nine by County Executive Steve Stenger and one by Governor Mike Parson. City and county voters would then vote on whatever plan the board devises.

The Municipal League’s effort has been described as a way to circumvent the process of implementing Better Together’s merger plan. It needs fewer signatures because it is not for a statewide ballot. It is local, local, local.

The League’s Executive Director Pat Kelly refers to Better Together’s plan to hold a statewide vote on the proposed merger as “un-American.” He argues that folks in Sikeston, Kirksville and Sedalia should not be deciding the local issue of the governmental structure of St. Louis City and County.

It’s hard to know what kind of plan a freeholders’ board would come up with. One idea is for St. Louis to become one of 89 cities in St. Louis County and work for a better and stronger region under that governmental structure.

Better Together advocates argue for a new, teeming city of 1.3 million people behind the Gateway Arch. They are not so excited about a county of 1.3 million.

Under The Gun

At Better Together’s plan unveiling in January, its boosters emphasized how the merger plan would catapult St. Louis into the Top 10 of U.S. cities. Merger also would reduce the per capita shooting and crime statistics that now put St. Louis at the top of the national charts for violent crimes and shooting deaths.

However, it’s doubtful that merger or border changes would change the situation for doctors here trying to address the carnage of gun violence. The trauma will continue through petition drives, through “thoughts and prayers.”

If you want to find out what doctors go through here in St. Louis trying to repair gunshot victims, you may want to pick up “Under The Gun: A children’s hospital on the front line of an American crisis.” This heartbreaking account is a book by Stu Durando, whose byline appears in the Post-Dispatch.

Durando talked to people who are involved in gunshot cases from the moment patients arrive for help to the time they leave, starting with ER physicians and nurses to the social workers.

“Everyone was extremely open about their experiences with patients with gun injuries and forthcoming with their opinions,” Durando noted. “They all feel a frustration that these things keep happening with seemingly no end in sight.”

Robert “Bo” Kennedy of St. Louis Children’s Hospital was among physicians consulted by Durando. Durando said Kennedy, a professor of pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine, has witnessed hundreds of serious gun injuries to children.

“You talk about an ER worker who’s been impacted – he’s seen more gun injuries than most people at a children’s hospital anywhere,” Durando said.

On March 2, Durando will be talking about his book – and how St. Louis is “Under the Gun” – at a Forward Together in Action meeting at 9 a.m. at the public library in Webster Groves.

On March 3, “Guns In My Backyard” will be a topic for discussion hosted by Webster Groves Presbyterian Church from 4 to 6 p.m. “Bo” Kennedy will be on the panel session, as well as a teacher, a police detective, and representatives of Moms Demand Action - St. Louis, as well as Students Demand Action - St. Louis.