You might miss it as you zoom down Interstate 64. If you’re heading east, just before the McCausland Avenue overpass is a sign that says, “St. Louis City Limits.” There’s no wall, no change in pavement, nothing other than the MoDOT sign noting the invisible line of demarcation. But to the St. Louis Metropolitan Area that line means everything.
I’ve never been one for beating around the bush. Frankly, I think our current political environment demands bluntness, no matter how uncomfortable. The geographic line between city and county has led to socioeconomic and political lines that propagate systematic racism, widens the gap between the have’s and have not’s, and creates a culture of “not in my backyard” that has led to infighting between towns, cities, neighborhoods, and citizens. Our political system has done nothing in the last two decades to address any of the shortcomings that so violently were exposed over the last two years.
This is why liberals clamor for change. Indeed, a reconciliation between city and county would lead to a leveling of the playing field in many ways: from the tax code to the distribution of social services to the representation in government, unification would greatly benefit the least among us. No longer would communities be able to rob from each other, resulting in a vicious cycle of over-taxation and a lack of the most basic services needed to make a community thrive, such as a vibrant police force or flourishing school district.
But there’s a deeply conservative argument, too. Reconciliation and unification lends itself to several fundamentals of the conservative foundation. By rearranging or possibly reducing the number of municipalities, hundreds of millions could be saved after eliminating excessive administrative costs, redundant social services, a simplification of the regional tax code, and a general cut in the layers and levels of government. Additionally, because all communities would be united under one umbrella, the competition for commerce would be drastically reduced, leading to a more hospitable environment for the transfer of goods across lines without interference from complex and imposing bureaucratic red tape.
A divorce that was passed before women and most African-Americans could vote has led to a handcuffing of our metropolis. Just scan the headlines; St. Louis gets walloped by cities such as Nashville and Indianapolis that long ago reunified with their counties. Nashville, in particular, has seen an explosion in development in their downtown. Fortune 500 companies flock to their region (including one recently usurped from St. Louis). They’ve received investment in a near billion-dollar convention center, which is reaping the rewards of a region-wide approach to tourism and commerce.
We will have a choice before us. We can erase the line that divides us. We can break free of the chains that are binding our region to stagnation. With innovation and courage, like Charles Lindberg and his Spirit of St. Louis, we, together, can lift the Gateway higher.
Derrick Neuner resides in the City and works in the County. He graduated from St. Louis University receiving both his Bachelors in Kinesiology and Exercise Science and Masters in Athletic Training. The views expressed by guest writers are not necessarily those expressed by St. Louis Strong.