Editorials

St. Louis again rejects meaningful relationship with Illinois

St. Louis could possibly merge with St. Louis County, but the even longer odds are that there will ever be a closer relationship with Illinois. The region should be united economically, but the political and cultural divide is great.
St. Louis could possibly merge with St. Louis County, but the even longer odds are that there will ever be a closer relationship with Illinois. The region should be united economically, but the political and cultural divide is great. dholtmann@bnd.com

Our forgetful friends across the Mississippi River are pondering consolidation, or rather St. Louis city and county remarrying after the “Great Divorce” that split them in 1876.

Consolidation potentially can create major efficiencies, ensure government services are consistent or even exist, and could save taxpayers in an area with one big city and 89 little ones, including the village of Champ with 13 residents next to the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre. Even more enticing is being able to eliminate those 81 local courts, where weed fines and towing fees are used to keep the little municipalities alive — and stoked the fires of the Ferguson race riots.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and a well-funded group called Better Together are pushing the marriage. An old poll showed city dwellers like it, but those in the county don’t. It’s a hard sell to convince county dwellers that taking on the big city’s reputation and poverty and bureaucracy will improve their lives, but that is what Better Together will work on in the coming year before our neighboring voters possibly face the question.

Good luck, because 132 communities considered consolidation between 1932 and 1996 but only 22 efforts were approved — fewer than 17 percent.

And guess who is left out of the equation again? Those of us in the Illinois portion of the St. Louis region. If they are getting married again, we are the mistress.

The big advantage of consolidation is the ability to take fractured interests and create a single resolve. That let Kansas City, Kansas, draw a highly successful NASCAR track after a merger with its county. It would certainly have helped when Amazon asked for an HQ2 bid.

Instead, we have the interests of more than 500,000 Illinoisans ignored, unless St. Louis needs to sell something or needs highly skilled workers or needs public transit or commercial transportation to work properly. Or unless some knucklehead of a Missouri state lawmaker decides that his state is such a great place to visit that he can pay for his neglected roads by putting toll booths at the state line and collecting $5 a head.

Maybe they’ll get back together, but the lying so-and-so will never make us respectable: Mistresses don’t become the missus.

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