Divide continues over "Better Together" St. Louis City-County merger plan

UMSL's public policy professor emeritus says we could have an "illegitimate" government if this passes

Michael Calhoun
February 19, 2019 - 7:27 am

Tom Franklin/KMOX

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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — Would city and county residents be left with an "illegitimate" government, should Better Together get its way?

That's the scenario UMSL public policy professor emeritus Terry Jones sees happening if the state approves a merger, but city and county residents vote against it.

Jones also has a warning for those in St. Louis County towns.

"The municipal districts exist at the whim of the new (proposed) metro city and it can eliminate any or all of them anytime it chooses," he told KMOX's Michael Calhoun.

Jones wrote a paper on the proposed merger, which you can read below.

Jones admits St. Louis needs to do several things to improve its economic competitiveness and be more equitable, "but it doesn't need to abandon democracy...so much democracy to make that happen."

Better Together director Dave Leipholtz says the framework envisions districts seeking to dissolve.  He told KMOX News the goal is for everybody to feel represented on the Metro Council.

"The idea is to stop the thinking of 'us and them' in the region and to unify it."

Leipholtz also had this to say about Jones' paper.

"Terry Jones' paper really just further accentuates the fact that he's looking at it from about 50 different viewpoints because that's how we do things regionally here: in a very divided way."

Jones, who is also working for the municipalities, is also concerned about city voters being governed by County Executive Steve Stenger and others who they didn't vote for.

KMOX's Kevin Killeen spoke to Stenger himself about the pushback to "Better Together":

"I'm not surprised by the pushback at all...I anticipated some pushback. I think the group is prepared for it."

Stenger went on to defend the plan...and his belief that he can lead the region going forward.

"I think myself and the Mayor had a great deal of experience leading the region and in a new government, I think in a new government, it would require individuals with experience to stand that government up and to understand where we've been and where we're going."

Krewson says she's ready to share power with Stenger in the transition into a "metro city."

"The two year transition period is going to be a very important process. There are still hundreds of decisions to be made, and we need that two years to come together and transition in a very sensible way."

Both Stenger and Krewson support a statewide vote to determine the fate of the plan, despite widespread opposition to that from around the region. 

The St. Louis County Municipal League is organizing its own petition drive to try to reorganize county government without a state vote. 

Related: Municipal League of St. Louis County Launches Counter-Plan to "Better Together"