Imagine my surprise on my birthday when I read a front page story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the St. Louis City County merger was going to be discussed in an open forum.
Impossible! You mean to say that the leaders of the City and County were actually going to sit down and discuss the split that has hurt our region since it happened back in 1876?
I was cautiously optimistic.
Today, not quite so much, but I guess patience has never been one of my better virtues.
From what I read in today’s paper, yesterday’s meeting that symbolically took place at the Cheshire Inn near the edge of the City County line, accomplished – well, I actually have no idea what it accomplished other than generating some significant press which is certainly more than I’m capable of doing.
Still, a visit to the www.BetterTogetherStl.org website didn’t exactly fire me up. They are proposing a 16-month series of community-based studies on the following topics: Public Finance, Economic Development, Public Health, Public Safety, Parks, Recreation & Infrastructure and Administration.
In reality, I’m sure all these studies will be needed to convince the 116 local governments in our 91 different municipalities that maybe we’d be better off simplifying things a bit and saving a few billion in the process for our region.
I am a huge proponent of the St. Louis metropolitan region. Like the name of the group that is at least investigating (but not advocating) a City County merger, I believe we would all be better together.
For too long, this City County split has hurt the region in multiple ways. There have been numerous political battles based on turf wars. And if only St. Louisans could stand back and look at the national picture, perhaps they might see how the region would instantly become more credible with a merger.
Suddenly, we’d become a major city again. And all those stories about St. Louis being one of the most dangerous cities to live in based on crime statistics would be altered downward. Perception vs. reality? A bit. But maybe if we were one large entity, we might be able to focus more on the areas of the city and county that are really hurting and rather than move away and bus away, we could re-invest and rejuvenate.
This region has so much going for it, but the continued, “not in my back yard” attitude of so many people will never allow us to move forward. And we need to move forward.
I don’t want to see St. Louis turn into a Des Moines or a Toledo (I have nothing against either of those cities but only use them as examples of cities without a major national presence).
We should aspire to greatness. We should look to be leaders in urban development, in regional cooperation, spawning a new economic age where the Midwest truly becomes the hub of our country. We don’t need to give up our morals or our history or the community activities that give so many parts of the St. Louis area our uniqueness.
When you’re away from this state and you meet someone and they ask where you’re from, you don’t say, “I’m from Des Peres.” Or, “I’m from Dellwood.”
You say, “I’m from St. Louis.”
And you say that whether you’re from the City or the County.
That’s the way it should be.
I’m from St. Louis – one of the greatest cities in the world.
One can dream.