FOCUS St. Louis has launched a new Internet venue at which it hopes to encourage public discourse on issues of concern to its members. To help get the conversation started, FOCUS asked me to post a note on their new forum about the issue of regional cooperation.
Here are some of the issues I raised there:
My administration and the City’s public and private partners have received national and international recognition for St. Louis’s renaissance. We have improved the quality of life in our historic neighborhoods, revitalized downtown, focused on public education, poverty, homelessness, and improved the delivery of city services. Because of renewed confidence in the City and its future, property values have gone up by almost 70 percent. Best of all, for the first time in five decades, the City’s population is growing.
As we have worked to improve the City, I have begun to explore more cooperation with St. Louis County. But even talk of cooperating on projects like the rebuilding of Highway 40, Metro, and our airport, elicits concerns from some residents of both the City and the county.
Cooperation, they worry, is only a step away from merger — and merger could mean changes in governance. Some City residents worry that that the larger and more homogenous population in the county would out-vote the gains we’ve made to empower and celebrate our diverse city population. Some county residents worry that a municipality as large as the City would upset the balance of power maintained among the county’s many political subdivisions.
While I understand the worries of both sets of friends, I believe that the worries are dwarfed by the realities. The county’s ability to address its undoubted problems is exacerbated by its patchwork of municipalities. The City’s growth is constrained by the undeniably anemic nature of its tax base. We’d all be better off in the same boat.
I don’t expect that we will be undertaking a voyage together anytime soon. But it is probably time to start studying the charts.
What do you think?