5 St. Louisans Guided Better Together’s Merger Recommendations

By on January 29, 2019

From St. Louis Post-Dispatch:  Five local residents have worked for 18 months in near anonymity to craft a future for St. Louis that is unified in government, devoid of geographic barriers, consolidated in policing and equitable from south to north.

They were hand-picked by politicos and executives for their brains, commitment and diversity, and placed on a task force with one mission: Craft a plan to streamline and improve the web of governments in St. Louis and St. Louis County. They have held public forums and listened to thousands of residents.

No vote elected them to their position. And they haven’t made a single decision in public.

But the future of St. Louis may rely on their work. The five — an engineer, a lawyer, a doctor, a venture capitalist and a CEO — share a common belief: The region’s fragmented government is holding it back. St. Louis has to change.

“I know we can do this,” said Suzanne Sitherwood, a task force member and chief executive of the publicly traded St. Louis gas company Spire. “I don’t think anybody is saying we’ve got all the answers, but I also know, if we don’t come together and start solving fragmentation — and we have a fairly short window of opportunity to do that — we will continue to fall behind.”

Now, the task force appointed by the private advocacy group Better Together is on the verge of releasing its recommendations. At 10 a.m. Monday at the Cheshire hotel — which straddles St. Louis and St. Louis County — it will call for a constitutional amendment to be placed on the statewide ballot in November 2020 that would turn the city and county into a single, new type of government: a metro city.

The measure doesn’t touch fire and school districts. And it allows local mayors and councils to remain. New “municipal districts” would replace municipalities from Eureka to Black Jack, and could continue to raise utility and property taxes, operate parks and recreational facilities, collect trash and recycling, and direct building and zoning. But they would lose their authority over roads, courts, police, sales taxes and economic development.

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About Dede Hance