Supporters of St. Louis city-county merger may have two years to convince voters

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ST. LOUIS – St. Louis City and St. Louis County could soon be one again after being separated for well over 140 years.

The group Better Together will have about two years to convince voters. If the merger were to occur, St. Louis could be listed on the nation’s top 10 list of most populated cities and the crime statistics would likely fall.

Supporters said bringing the county and city back together makes economic sense and that reunification would reduce substandard housing and help the chronically unemployed.

“Imagine the generational opportunities that will be available to everyone when if we eliminated self-defeating economic competition that currently exists between 88 municipalities, the city of St. Louis, and the unincorporated St. Louis County,” St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger said.

There would be one police department instead of 55. The study said St. Louis area families now spend 44 percent more for government than folks in similarly sized cities.

Supporters said $750 million in taxes are wasted on inefficiencies. No longer would there be 78 municipal courts. The number of elected officials would drop dramatically from the current 679.

And folks believe the reconnection would begin the slow elimination of racial problems that plague the area.

“It has been imperative to this task force that any discussion of reform a thoughtful consideration of the African-American community,” said Dr. Will Ross a staffer at Washington University School of Medicine and a member of the Better Together committee.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson added: “There is not an instant fix to the racial problems we have but we know that what we have been doing has not been working that well. This new structure has a chance to bring us together.

School districts would not be affected by the proposal and neither would fire departments.

All Missourians would vote on the issue. Task force members said that’s the only way to make coming together legal under the show me state’s constitution.

There is opposition.

“It’s leaving out the poor; it’s leaving out the middle class. I think it’s only for the wealthy,” said Nicole Jenkins, a spokesperson for the group Stop the Merger.

She believes schools should be part of the plan. If it gets on the ballot, voters statewide could decide the issue during the 2020 presidential election. If the constitutional amendment passes, the transition would begin in January 2021.

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