This week the non-profit civic group, Better Together, unveils its plan for a city-county merger. It’s being called a re-marriage proposal, after the “Great Divorce” of 1876.
On Aug. 22, 1876, city voters decided they weren’t interested in supporting the middle earth folks west of the great metropolis. The 310,000 city residents didn’t want to waste money on 27,000 county residents. They figured the city wouldn’t grow much past Grand. The boundary did finally rest at Skinker, so the city could hold onto Forest Park.
Attempts at reversing a short-sighted decision for the region have all come to naught. The Better Together proposal is being touted as the last, best chance to put Humpty Louie together again. It includes a statewide plebiscite in 2020 that would have Missouri voters decide the fate of the Gateway to the West.
The plan calls for a new, improved city to be governed by one mayor, 33 council members, a single police department and court system. The county’s school districts and fire districts would be left alone – for now. After voters of the state approve a new St. Louis, then a transitional government would take over within about 15 months.
I love the idea of a teeming city of 1.3 million people behind the Gateway Arch that catapults us into a Top 10 of U.S. cities. I also like more realistic statistics coming out of a new St. Louis that remove us from the top of the national charts for violent crimes and STDs.
That’s my heart, but my mind says that these better statistics are sleight of hand. And many county residents are right to be proud of suburban cities with well-run governments and accessible mayors, aldermen and police officials.
To get on the November 2020 state ballot, Better Together advocates would launch a costly initiative petition campaign for signatures, then pour millions into a “yes” campaign to urge state voters to approve the city-county merger.
Opponents of the merger plan are concerned that the mover and shaker of Better Together, Rex Sinquefield, would pour millions into an election to get the merger approved. Opponents also contend that city and county voters would reject the merger, but a statewide vote could overwhelm their wishes.
County Councilman Mark Harder, District 7, notes that 57 cities have “passed resolutions opposing a statewide vote on any potential merger vote ... In spite of these resolutions, Better Together’s desire is to bypass the voice of the people.”
Councilman Ernie Trakas, District 6, says the plan is an attempt by Sinquefield to disenfranchise local voters, when it should be up to city and county residents to decide their fate.
Harder and Trakas have a point, but I’m not sure even a $25 million ad campaign is going to sway outstate voters to stamp their OK on a merger. As a reporter covering our rural neighbors, I have found they harbor a lot of suspicion about “Uni-Gov” and mega-mergers.
When I was at Mizzou’s daily paper, I covered a public hearing in Camdenton over the issue of three counties merging their trash hauling operation. People were hanging from the rafters, calling the trash plan a communist plot.
The poor officials trying to explain the efficiencies of three-county garbage pickup were lucky to escape with their lives. Several in the audience said that any hauler with a tri-county insignia on their truck would be met with shotguns.
The trash hauling merger was just a first step to one-world government hatched by the Rockefeller family and the Trilateral Commission. Given the last few election cycles, I really don’t know that the thinking has changed all that much in rural Missouri.
I am sure the good people with groups like Cities Strong, who oppose Better Together’s plan, will want to argue the merits of the merger proposal.
However, this is an age of fake memes and disinformation. To derail the city-county merger in a statewide vote, let folks know this is a step to one-world government and that Sinquefield is a fishing buddy of George Soros and his secret Trilateral Anglers Club.