There is a recognition that our system of government in St. Louis no longer provides general prosperity and security to St. Louisans but there are those of us who would still oppose any effort to restructure our government. Who are they and why would they oppose uniting the region?
There is a segment of the population that votes NO on everything. They have their reasons: they are cynical about all things political, they believe all elected officials are crooked, they automatically vote to counteract an ever expanding government, they oppose government per se, they oppose any change on principle, voting NO is a habit. They are not open to argument or persuasion even if a proposal supports their brand of politics, therefore they always vote NO, and they might represent as much as 30% of the voting public.
Another segment, smaller but certainly more vocal, will oppose any change because it could disrupt something from which they profit directly. Elected officials who do not see themselves as part of a more transparent, professional government will lose their prestige and the ability to hand out favors to friends. Lawyers and judges won’t want to give up the money they make on ordinance violation's fees and fines just to raise revenues for cities. Businesses whose business models hinge on government subsidy will oppose--and while they won’t want to incur the additional costs of navigating our current maze of regulations, they quietly know it keeps out the competition. If our governments aren’t fighting amongst ourselves, we won’t need lobbyists to run to the legislature ushering special laws giving one city an advantage at the expense of another, or at the expense of everyone else in St. Louis. A new structure will be so transparent and accountable that we won’t need special consultants (including college professors) to navigate a complex web of governments. People in patronage positions and government employees who receive a paycheck without offering much value to the taxpayers would have to be worried about their jobs and would probably vote NO just to keep the money flowing.
All these NO voters derive some benefit from the government which is not afforded the general public. We all pay X in taxes to get Y in government services but there is a rather small but motivated cadre of people who may pay X (given they live in St. Louis), get Y in services plus a premium Z depending on their unique connection. In short, they profit from the existing system more than the rest of us.
Thirdly, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. There are those among us who use the government as an agent, not to provide services to everyone in the community, but to keep out the riffraff. We’re talking about people with lower incomes, drive used cars or take public transportation, work in service industries, rent as opposed to living in single family homes, earn wages, speak with accents and have a different complexion. Sadly our government institutions often perpetuate attitudes of the past without reflecting more enlightened thinking of the vast majority of St. Louisans today. We have indeed come a long way.
I would like to think that the vast majority of St. Louisans want a government that works for all of us. That we all want it to be transparent, efficient, and managed professionally, but the fact remains that there will be people who are thinking only of themselves rather than everyone in St. Louis. A new government structure benefits everyone, especially those charged with the task of government.