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Saint Louis

Saint Louis Region
2nd - America's Most Literate Cities, (Central Connecticut State University, 2009)
Saint Louis
is one of the "100 Cities of the World," (Falco Brenner and published by Parragon)


Time to go public on mediation talks for the Great Reconciliation

Coming soon, perhaps, to a Missouri general election ballot, a proposed state constitutional amendment reading something like this:

Shall sections 30 through 33 of Article VI of the Missouri Constitution be repealed and replaced with the following: "The county functions of the city of St. Louis are dissolved. The city of St. Louis shall again be part of St. Louis County and thereafter exist as a city within the county in the same manner as any other city in the county of St. Louis"?

Could it be that simple? Could the "Great Divorce of 1876" become the "Great Reconciliation of 2014 (or 2016)"? Could all the complicated, politically arduous processes inherent in rejoining the city and the county be avoided? Could the voters of the state of Missouri simply amend the state Constitution to fix the biggest mistake this region ever made? Is this the nuclear option?

Powerful people with a lot of money and clout have been quietly working on these questions for years. High-priced lawyers have studied the legality of simply replacing the language of Sections 30-33 of Article VI. They think it's doable.

Others think that merely having the city rejoin the county as its 91st municipality doesn't go far enough. They think a sort of mega-nuclear option might be better. That one would ask Missouri voters if St. Louis and St. Louis County could fully merge, creating a single government entity.

Still others have discussed a potential super-mega-nuclear option, asking state voters if St. Louis and St. Louis County could adopt "metro government." That would roll all of the county's 90 existing municipal governments, plus the city and county governments, into one giant package. The 43 fire departments and fire districts become one, as do the more than 60 police agencies.

Sources with direct knowledge of the talks have told the Post-Dispatch editorial page that key city, county, civic and corporate leaders have been meeting regularly to develop a strategy that would somehow unite the city and county.

Among the players are people close to St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley; retired financier and political donor Rex Sinquefield; representatives of the business leaders' organization Civic Progress and key labor unions.

This is why Mr. Sinquefield is so deeply invested in the futures of both Mssrs. Slay and Dooley. It's why Mr. Slay is raising money for Mr. Dooley, even as the latter struggles under the cloud of an FBI investigation into a botched contract for a crime lab. It's why no serious Republican is lining up to run against Mr. Dooley.

The civic leaders have been meeting in private for two reasons. One, top-down is their preferred way of operating. Two, any sort of recombination of the city and the county will face heavy political opposition. The more functions that are combined, the more jobs and clout will be lost.

While the stealth approach might help avoid confrontation, it encourages other reasons to oppose and mistrust what could be a way to correct the biggest mistake this region ever made.

Imagine a greater St. Louis that for the first time since the World's Fair in 1904 is truly greater than the sum of its parts. Imagine a unified government that can be efficient, move quickly when schools fail or an economic development opportunity arises. Imagine a unified voice in Jefferson City that will change way the Capitol treats Missouri's largest economic engine. Imagine a region that can get beyond north and south, see more than black and white, a place where great boulevards connect a region rather than divide it.

Imagine this: With one vote, St. Louis goes from being the 58th-biggest city in the country to the eighth, just ahead of Dallas.

Despite the serious intellectual, political and financial heft pushing this attempt at regional unity, it will face massive opposition from entrenched local interests.

That's why a statewide vote is under consideration. The Missouri Constitution sets out four possible ways for the city and county to merge or consolidate services. There's also a fifth, wild-card provision, for "any other plan."

But all five require a complex process involving voter petitions in both the city and the county, appointments of separate boards of nine "freeholders" or electors, plus a chairman appointed by the governor, plus separate elections in both jurisdictions.

This complicated process helped doom several attempts, beginning with a merger proposal in 1926, aimed at undoing or mitigating the Great Divorce.

The civic leaders' ongoing talks have not ruled out such an incremental by-the-books plan, but over the years, polls (including some taken recently) have shown any sort of merger or consolidation would have trouble passing in either the city or the county.

But if the question were put on a statewide ballot, either through initiative petition or legislative vote, a well-financed campaign might succeed. Given the involvement of Mr. Sinquefield and the corporate community, there's little doubt that the campaign would be well-financed. There's also little doubt that lawsuits will challenge the process at every step along the way.

Mr. Sinquefield is said to like the tax savings that merger/consolidation/metro government might bring, as well the possibility it might offer for eliminating city earnings tax. The corporate community likes the economic development advantages of combined government. Mr. Slay likes it for all sorts of reasons, including the way it would dilute the city's crime statistics.

On Wednesday, an interim Missouri legislative committee met in Clayton to begin studying possible changes in the way the county and its municipalities share sales taxes. It's the same old regional problem. Chesterfield wants what it wants. Fenton wants its share, and Ferguson, and Kinloch, and so on and so on.

That committee's charge has nothing to do with a city-county merger in any form, but that topic hijacked the meeting anyway. Mr. Slay, for instance, posted a note on his Twitter feed, asking: "Re-enter the county?"

At the meeting, a group presented a petition of a couple of hundred signatures opposing a city-county merger. Already some anonymous opponents have created a website,, raising the alarm. Mr. Sinquefield's Missouri Council for a Better Economy discusses the issue at Two other pro-merger sites have popped up at and
The cat is out of the bag.

It's time for leaders to come out of the back rooms and get out in front. Mr. Slay began talking about it at his second inaugural in 2005 and has pushed consolidation of services at every opportunity since.

"The more people hear more about the idea, the more likely it becomes," Mr. Slay told us. "There isn't an issue facing the city or St. Louis County that we couldn't address sooner, more effectively, and at a greater savings to taxpayers if we weren't two different county governments."

We agree. That's why we encourage Mr. Slay and others to take their discussions public.

In his 2010 re-election campaign, Mr. Dooley expressed support for the city rejoining the county. But his Republican opponent, Bill Corrigan, campaigned against the "Dooley Merger" and came within four points of defeating him.

The day after the election, Mr. Dooley said, "The city-county merger issue will not be one of my priorities in the next term," adding, "It's got to be what the people want. And apparently, people are not interested in doing it right now."

Well, some people are interested in doing it right now, and they're helping Mr. Dooley's 2014 campaign effort. Even though he's been badly wounded by cronyism scandals, Mr. Dooley has drawn no significant GOP opposition.

Getting this done will be excruciatingly difficult. Mr. Sinquefield is a polarizing figure. There will be people offended by the thought of working with Mr. Dooley and his top campaign aide, John Temporiti, while the FBI is investigating county government corruption.

There are city politicians worried about losing power. There are county politicians worried about what happens if the county's 91st and largest municipality has six times more people than its second-largest municipality.

And if somehow the super-mega-nuclear option gets on the ballot and passes, there will be no end to the lamentation. But other cities have made it work. Unigov, they call it in Indianapolis and Marion County, Ind. Metro government they call it in Nashville and Davidson County, Tenn., and Louisville and Jefferson County, Ky.

Now is the time to bring these very important discussions from behind closed doors and make them public. Secrecy breeds distrust. Whispers breed rumors.

The stars might have finally aligned. Mr. Sinquefield's distaste for inefficiencies and earnings taxes. Mr. Slay's desire to get rid of duplicative offices and misleading crime statistics.

The business community's desire to make St. Louis a national destination matches labor's need for the sort of growth that brings new jobs. The realization that speed traps and wars over Walmarts are no way to fund municipal governments.

There is a better way. There must be.

St. Louisans are ready for a unifying change
As appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on September 6, 2013 • CHARLES D. SCHMITZ article_ed3a322e-913a-50f0-b009-e9dadfc2b08c.html

First of all, let me begin by praising the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for the decision of its editorial board to print the editorial titled "The Great Reconciliation" (Sept. 1).

As a St. Louisan who has worked tirelessly with others over the past three years to achieve this end - the re-entry of St. Louis city into St. Louis County - I feel immensely buoyed by the Post-Dispatch's action. Open, public debate is a good thing! My heartfelt thanks to the Post- Dispatch for the courage to step out in front of this highly important and momentous issue for our community.

In 2010, I had the opportunity to travel to Indianapolis with the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association to take a look at Indianapolis. We learned about that city's growth and progress since Dick Lugar led them to merge Indianapolis and most of Marion County governments to move to a modern form of government back in the late 1970s.

When we returned, I wrote an op-ed piece that was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Following that publication, my phone rang off the hook from dozens and dozens of ordinary St. Louis residents who wanted to get involved with making this kind of change, but didn't know whom to call or where to sign up.

From that surprising and gratifying beginning, St. Louis businessman Bill Frisella and I formed a citizens group - STL-World Class City - that now has over a thousand members. Our World Class City organization went out and started talking to groups of residents in and around the St. Louis region. Over the past three years we've appeared on radio several times, appeared in the print media, and spoken to more than 100 groups and organizations. What I've learned from this intense grass-roots activity is that St. Louis residents are ready to make a change. They want to be proud of their hometown and they recognize that clinging to our old ways promulgates the perception of us that we are an old Rust Belt city that is on its last legs.

We are a large, vibrant community - with low overall crime, a competitive educational environment, a rich cultural scene and diverse employment opportunities.

When we cling to our old divisions, we allow our competitors - other cities - to frame us as old and feeble. And we are naive if we think that perception doesn't hurt us when we're recruiting business, travelers and conventions.

There are many discussions that need to occur as these issues are addressed. For example, should the city rejoin St. Louis County as the 91st municipality or should the city and county go for a full one-government merger? How much money can we save? What happens to debt? Will we still have local zoning boards? Will my taxes go down?

The answers to these questions are not yet known, but they are knowable. I commend the Post- Dispatch for seeking answers to these questions - for providing a public forum that represents the best of our democracy: citizen participation and grass-roots involvement.

What we've found in these years of visiting people all over the St. Louis region is that there is a growing hunger for change, for being proud of our hometown, proud of our region and proud of our state.

I want nothing more for the place I so dearly love and call home than for it to be the best it can be - a dynamic, shining example of excellence and economic well-being.

Our group, STL-World Class City, has solicited several polls to test the public's pulse regarding our initiatives. According to the California pollster, Richard Maullin, "The idea of unifying St. Louis city and St. Louis County is not dead on arrival." Anyone who suggests otherwise has not read the poll results! It is clear from the California poll and others that the more educated that people are about these issues, the more supportive they become.

As a St. Louisan, I ask my fellow citizens: Can anyone amongst us explain why St. Louis and Baltimore are the only two large cities in America that are not part of a county? Give me one rationale as to why we should be so different? I bet you can't.

Charles D. Schmitz is dean and professor emeritus at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He is co-founder of STL-World Class City.

Saint Louis is a world-class city
As appeared in the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch on June 30, 2010
By Charles D. Schmitz • Wednesday, June 30, 2010 12:00 am

Saint Louis is a world-class city, of that I have no doubt. But the truth is, the perception of Saint Louis does not equal that reality, and we need to fix that.

The solution may be simpler than you think. It is time to change the perception of our
town - both internally and externally.

As a behavioral/social scientist who has studied people, relationships and perceptions for nearly four decades, I know that the perception of something can be far more powerful than its reality. Perception is reality. Change the perception, change the reality.

In mid-June, I had the pleasure of participating in the annual Saint Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association leadership trip. This year they visited Indianapolis.

It was clear from the opening meeting that the Indy community had learned its talking points. The one refrain that we heard over and over went something like this: > "Indianapolis is the 14th most populated city in the United States." However, when I looked out the window of the various venues I kept saying to myself, "This place doesn't look like the 14th largest city!"

I look out at Saint Louis and its multiple skylines all the time and think to myself, "This is a
big city!"

So the question of the day is this: Why are we the 53rd largest city in the United States and Indy the 14th largest city?

And trust me on this. The "14th largest city" refrain is an impressive talking point. The "53rd largest city" refrain makes us sound like a third-class city.

Now, let's get to the truth of the matter. Indy and Marion County, Ind., merged in meaningful ways in 1970 to become the "City of Indianapolis." Voila, instant 14th largest city. And guess what, it is working for them.

Think of all the positive publicity they are getting from that simple act. And before readers start getting all upset about the loss of local autonomy, Marion County and the City of Indianapolis became a city and they still have multiple school districts and municipalities.

If we merged Saint Louis City and County, we would be the seventh largest city in the United States. Yes, seventh.

And friends, let's face it, when we walk down the streets of any city in the world and someone asks us where we are from, we always answer Saint Louis. Why? Because we are Saint Louis. That's our global identity. And make no mistake about it, it is in our best interests to tell it like it is - we are the seventh largest city in the United States.

If we simply got everyone on board to do the half-dozen things we needed to merge Saint Louis City and County into one large city, without losing the individual identities of our many municipalities, the Top 10 Cities in the United States by population would be as follows:

1. New York City
2. Los Angeles
3. Chicago
4. Houston
5. Phoenix
6. Philadelphia
7. Saint Louis
8. San Antonio
9. San Diego
10. Dallas

Being a Top 10 City changes the world's perception of who we are and will bring opportunities our way that we could only have dreamed about.

And here's a few final thoughts: Folks say we have a high crime rate in "Saint Louis." Not so. The combination of Saint Louis City and County actually leaves us with a crime rate that is relatively low among large metro areas.

Some folks say we have a high dropout rate and poor schools. Not so. Our overall dropout rates are lower and our schools are better than the national average. All of the negative rankings about Saint Louis change to the positive with the combining of City and County. This is an important residual. It encourages people to come here, holds people here, causes others to invest in us and makes all things become possible. Change the perception, change the reality.

In the world we live in, our failure to do this simple act will relegate us to the ash heap of history. On the other hand, merging the city and county into a "city" as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, will increase our status, bring us unimaginable opportunities and change the perception that we are a third-rate city with a rank of 53 to our deserved lofty ranking of seven.

The choice is ours.

Charles D. Schmitz is a dean and professor in College of Education at University of Missouri-Saint Louis.

To see the original op-ed piece in the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch


Website created by Drs. Charles and Elizabeth Schmitz