Publicly, privately, and at every opportunity, I am a supporter of undoing the Great Divorce of 1876 that separated the City of St. Louis from St. Louis county. Given the Gordian knot of municipalities and other political subdivisions that make up the county, I have proposed the relatively simpler project of the City of St. Louis shedding its status as a separate county and re-entering St. Louis county as a municipality.
Many of you, particularly in the City and in parts of unincorporated St. Louis county and in a few forward-thinking munis, enthusiastically support that idea ' or something like it. Others, while supportive, have raised some of the Constitutional and statutory issues that complicate even this modest level of reform.
But, "many of you" - in this case - isn't enough. There are not the votes in St. Louis county to accept the City of St. Louis as a municipality. Not yet.
So, for the past year or so, I have focused attention on rationalizing economic development efforts in St. Louis. Currently, the city and county have separate economic development agencies, each with its own board of directors and professional staffs. They cooperate on some issues, compete on others, and work separately on most. To complicate the matter, the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association (RCGA) pursues an expensive economic development agenda of its own, largely independent of both the City and the county.
That seems to me like two too many directions to be very successful.
Rodney Crim and Denny Coleman, the top development officials of the City and the County respectively, have been seriously pursuing cooperation in economic development goals. A merger of agencies (at this point, feel free to imagine you can hear howls of protest) would be a good and timely next step. And that merger should include the divestiture of the RCGA's economic development function from its Chamber of Commerce duties and a single development agency that works for St. Louis. That is a discussion I hope to begin in earnest when the RCGA announces its new director next month.