MAPLEWOOD • Members of the Municipal League of Metro St. Louis gave its executive board authority to begin talks with St. Louis city officials about becoming the 91st municipality of St. Louis County at a meeting Thursday.
The executive board of the league, already in favor of the proposal that would reintroduce St. Louis into St. Louis County after 140 years of separation, appealed to a skeptical audience of county mayors, aldermen and residents to consider the discussion. Executive members said they were concerned about how the split between the city and county negatively affects the local economy.
Board President Berry Glantz and other board members reiterated throughout the meeting that there wasn’t a specific plan in place, only a goal: gathering intelligence, for now, before any other steps were made.
Executive board members said the first step would be to focus on economic growth and creating jobs for the whole metropolitan area.
Among the board’s concerns were the number of big corporations relocating outside of St. Louis or being sold, including the most recent deal for Scottrade. Many lamented the decline in the number of Fortune 500 companies in St. Louis from a few dozen to just nine in recent years.
Other concerns related to the city’s reputation for high crime rates that many felt reflected poorly on the county in national crime statistics. One board member said perhaps if the city were a county municipality, the area’s crime ranking would fall to as low as 60th in the nation.
But others thought the appeal was a gimmick.
“All you want to do is skew the numbers instead of addressing the problem,” said Ballwin Mayor Tim Pogue.
Some agreed, saying they could see benefits for the city with the potential proposal but not for the county. However, Mayor Thomas P. Schneider, of Florissant, said the move could help the county compete with neighboring St. Charles County.
Thursday’s vote was only the first step toward uniting the city and county. The plan requires the majority of city and county residents vote to support the proposal, or a petition to have the issue decided by a statewide vote. If successful, St. Louis would become the 91st, and largest, municipality in the county.
The plan does not promote consolidation of St. Louis city and county governments. However, if the proposal were successful, officials would have to address other issues such as taxation, County Council representation, court jurisdiction and recorder of deed services.
“I believe it’s essential that city and county leaders work together to improve the entire region,” said Gregory F.X. Daly, the city’s collector of revenue. “There are many ways to achieve positive outcomes for the region that don’t require restructuring the city and county. We all have an obligation to improve our community.”
But Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce said there are more pressing priorities.
“I have long advocated for a combination of the jury pools for St. Louis city and county,” Joyce said. “I’ve met many people who live in St. Louis County who have never been called for jury duty in their entire lives. In contrast, city residents are called every three years like clockwork. Criminal and civil litigation in either jurisdiction have regional impact, so it makes sense to combine the jury pools.”
Koran Addo of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.