The organization Better Together is hosting a series of town hall meetings on the idea of unification of St. Louis City and County, but there are a lot of questions about what that would look like.
Better Together is working to explore why our region struggles and their focus is on the fact that there is St. Louis City, St. Louis County and 90 municipalities.
“What is our direction that will create a more prosperous St. Louis?” asks Dr. Will Ross, a member of the Better Together Task Force.
Their purpose is to listen to feedback from the community and come up with a plan.
“There are no plans in place, what is in place is an opportunity to have a participatory democracy and everyone comes to the plate and says here’s how I feel about the region,” said Ross.
One person who hopes her voice is heard is Jennifer Bird. Bird lived in the city for 16 years but now calls Crestwood home. She is also leading an effort called “Stop the City-County Merger.”
“I’m a hugely concerned taxpayer, bigger is not better, bigger government is often harder to address and it removes it from the people,” said Jennifer Bird.
But her group’s title and others like it make it sound like a plan for a merger is already in place. That’s not the case. There is a study and task force by Better Together and there have been more than a dozen municipalities that have passed resolutions saying any kind of change to the city/county structure must be put before local voters.
Municipalities like Webster Groves, St. Ann, Ellisville, Ballwin and several others oppose a statewide referendum that would make the decision for the people of St. Louis City and County. They have all passed non-binding resolutions that oppose a statewide vote regarding or mandating a change in the government structure.
Options out there include merging the city and the county governments or making St. Louis City a municipality, but anything like that Better Together says would come far down the road.
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson is in favor of exploring some type of combination or unification of municipalities.
“In St. Louis City, we are spending more for government services while we are losing population. It is a struggle to find money to deliver basic city services. Our peers in other regions are growing and thriving while we pay more money for services for less people,” Krewson said earlier this summer.
A spokesperson for St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger says the county executive supports the Better Together task force’s study, but because there is not enough information on what a merger would look like, doesn’t have an opinion on that.
Better Together is holding several other town halls and plans to release the information they’ve gathered, as well as a recommendation next year.
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