Presented by the Mayor of Pacific to the Board of Aldermen, City of Pacific Feb. 19, 2019 regarding the proposed merger of St. Louis City and St. Louis County under the present "Better Together" statewide ballot initiative.
After our City Administrator, Steve Roth and I took time to research and learn about how the so called “Better Together” proposal would impact the city of Pacific, I gave this position statement to Mr. Pat Kelly, Executive Director of The St. Louis Municipal League, who attended a Missouri State Senate hearing held on February 19th. We greatly appreciated the opportunity to participate in the process of protecting the City of Pacific and our portion of St. Louis County from what we consider to be an obvious injustice and misrepresentation of the will of the citizens of St. Louis County.
The Better Together proposal appears to put the City of Pacific in a unique situation. Most of our 7 square mile territory is located within Franklin County, but a significant portion, (approximately 1.7 square miles) is located in St. Louis County. The language of the proposed constitutional amendment would “detach” the St. Louis County portion of Pacific and annex it into the new Metropolitan City. This means that Pacific would be “cut in two” with the property now lying within St. Louis County suddenly subject to decisions made by a jurisdiction some 25 miles away. Our police jurisdiction would suddenly stop at this new “border.” There is a bar / tavern located just across the border line. If there is an incident at that bar, what level of service would we expect from the new Metro City, presumably dispatching officers from a station maybe in Eureka, seven miles away? We would no longer plow snow east of this “border.” Would the new Metro City be equipped to plow this snow quickly and efficiently? Our position on the very edge of this new metropolitan district begs the question of “Just where would we rank on the County’s priority list for snow removal, maintenance and repairs?
The City of Pacific now owns two properties in St. Louis County that have great historical significance: Jensen Point Park and Red Cedar Inn. Both are Route 66 icons. The City has invested considerable funds into each property and has great plans for their future development. What would it mean that these properties are both now outside the City limits? How would we continue to operate them? The “Better Together” proposal has made our present plans to renovate and repurpose the Red Cedar Inn as a Museum and Visitors Center questionable because of the uncertainty of the future ownership of these facilities.
Two of our largest industrial and commercial properties are located in St. Louis County. The revenue derived from these operations is significant. The language of the proposal would appear to return some of this revenue to the City, but under what mechanism or by what calculation and for how long? There is vacant land in this area that is prime for development and is within the City’s recently adopted Comprehensive Plan for annexation. The City has made great infrastructure investments to position us for further growth and expansion into St. Louis County. How is it fair that the new Metro City would now stand to realize these benefits, and the City of Pacific would have nothing left to show for the investment of time and money that has already occurred?
We are very concerned at the blatant lack of concern for our city that has been demonstrated by the leadership of the “Better Together” movement. I have read that organizers of this initiative have been working on their plan for 5 years. During the time they have been drafting this proposal, not once have they reached out to the City of Pacific to ask our opinion or to learn of our objections or concerns.
Recently, I spoke with someone who said he and his organization is supporting the “Better Together” proposal but when I asked if he heard how it was going to impact Pacific and began to explain what we have learned, he simply said over and over, “Oh? They didn’t say that.” The folks selling this are not telling people the whole story. They are only saying what they think their audience will want to hear.
Do I believe something needs to be done to help solve the problems of Metro St. Louis? Absolutely! But the solution must not be brought about through the demise of successful communities. I am absolutely opposed to having Missouri voters, who do not live in St. Louis County or St. Louis City, determine what is the best form of local government for the folks who live there. For that reason, I am not in favor of the Better Together proposal. The process of working out solutions for local problems can be accomplished through the establishment of a Board of Freeholders who would meet in public and craft a proposal for voters in the city and county to consider. This would much better than the secretive, misleading campaign the Better Together organizers have put forth. I am also absolutely opposed to the notion that a new form of St. Louis government could simply tell us that they are taking over what this city, or any city has strived for decades to accomplish. This is not the democratic process and I ask the Board of Aldermen to stand by me and Mayors and Board of Aldermen from all corners of our great state in adamantly rejecting the “Better Together” proposal and supporting the Missouri Municipal Leagues efforts to establish a Constitutionally authorized “Board of Freeholders” that will allow the residents of St. Louis City and County to be the voice that determines the best way forward in the formation of any future government that would control St. Louis City and County.
Mayor Steve Myers