In a filled banquet room at West County Lanes off of Manchester Road, residents from all over West County gathered on the evening of Sept. 7 to further discuss updates on the progress of the city-county merger.
Anti-merger speakers included Ellisville Mayor Adam Paul, Jennifer Bird, co-founder for Common Sense for St. Louis, Fred Sauer, author of “Wake Up St. Louis County! Rex Sinquefield Wants You to Pay for His Empire,” Marc Cox host of the Marc Cox Show on FM 97.1 and Ellisville resident Liz Schmidt.
Speakers cited recent issues with studies by Better Together St. Louis, which identifies as an unbiased data collection organization that publishes city-county merger studies and is backed by the Missouri Council for a Better Economy and Rex Sinquefield.
The meeting mainly discussed data from Better Together, which stated in a city-county merger study two years ago that the St. Louis region spends $600 to $800 more per capita on government expenditures compared to other merged cities like Louisville and Indianapolis. According to Paul, another study conducted in 2015 by the Public Policy Research Center at the University of Missouri – St. Louis [UMSL] issued stated the study did not cite $589 million in greater Indianapolis governmental spending. According to Paul, 2016 Indianapolis government expenditures are about $2,400 per captita, or about $400 higher per capita than St. Louis.
“The short and long of it is that this study is so fatally flawed that it [might as well] be written in crayon,” Paul said.
As of now, the cites of Ellisville, Chesterfield, Wildwood and Valley Park have passed resolutions opposing a merger. The Ellisville City Council voted on June 21 to place two merger related non-binding referendum ballot items before voters at the April 2018 election for the purpose of gauging residential opinion.
Advocates of a merger believe it might attract development projects, would increase the combined city-county population and dilute St. Louis’s crime rate. Those opposing the merger cite the loss of autonomy, blurred municipality lines and an increaded debt pool.
“When you lose local government, you dilute your voice,” Marc Cox, host of The Marc Cox Show on FM 97.1, said.
Another con cited by individuals against the merger is that it might receive statewide vote, which would explicitly alter the guidelines of the Missouri Constitution.
Anti-merger groups across the counties also are taking it a step further and visiting Jefferson City on Sept. 13 on Veto Session Day to meet with and enlist the support of senators and legislators, and to speak out against a statewide vote.