OPINION: Better Together’s merger proposal needed to fail

Melina Hudak, Staff Writer

Earlier this week, the organization Better Together pulled its proposition to merge St. Louis City and St. Louis County, telling the Post-Dispatch the group wishes to focus more on “structural change”.

Initially, I covered the merger proposal for The Image’s April 18 issue. When I originally began writing my story, I didn’t know much about it. To me, the idea to merge city and county seemed like some sort of outlandish idea that would never be feasible.

But the more I got to talking to people who were vehemently against the idea, the more nervous I became that something like this could be enacted. Ellisville mayor Mike Roemerman, for one, told me the plan would be a “disaster for at least 10 years.”

When someone with experience and understanding of the field makes a statement like that, it becomes apparent that a merger might cause more harm than good.

There are undoubtedly many things that need to be changed in our region—but personally, I don’t feel that this merger is the way to accomplish any of them.

Yes, the St. Louis area overfunds highly competent areas and leaves poorer communities impoverished, but attempting to combine everything into a united front—when these locations are so very different—seems as though it could only end disastrously.

The differences between St. Louis City and St. Louis County are drastic. We cannot attempt to solve all of our issues by making everything the same.

Sure, some good things could come from the merger, but bad things come right along with it. Having a separate city and county creates boundaries to prevent crime, violence and other issues from leaving their bounds. Conversely, extending a region enables those things to spread with no limitations.

Every city and every county has its own individual flaws. I agree that things need to be changed, but trying to invent some Frankensteinish panacea for the region won’t benefit anyone.

Rather than trying to solve all of everyone’s problems by merging, we should consider fixing them by ourselves and then joining together.

It’s important to remember that these areas that Better Together wants to push together are full of unique people and places. They will lose their identity if clumped into one. We will lose our identity.

St. Louis is diverse for a reason. We travel throughout to see different places and scenes and to be exposed to those more or less fortunate. We go to the Delmar Loop or the Arch or Ladue or Kirkwood because they all have different things to offer—and that is part of what makes St. Louis so special.

Taking that away eliminates a factor of what makes St. Louis what it is today. Flaws are inevitable and every place has some, but trying to establish a utopian society is neither efficient nor possible.

So I’m glad that Better Together pulled their proposal—at least for now—because it needs to be revised and deeply deliberated.

What everyone needs to focus on are the parts that make St. Louis—whether city or county—such an interesting culture and how to make those things last. We shouldn’t have to give up the parts we love to try and make some things better. It is time for a change, but this merger is not the way to do that.