I wanted to get some facts on the table before I move on to some topics like regionalism and cross-county cooperation.
Whenever I say 'St. Louis', I mean it literally. I don't mean the combined statistical region, I don't mean our TV market, I don't mean Cardinal Nation, I don't mean unincorporated St. Louis County, I mean St. Louis...the city, you know? The place with the Arch and the Big Muddy to the east, Forest Park and Skinker Boulevard to the west, The bluffs along the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers & the old Chain of Rocks Bridge to the north and the St. Louis Skatium to the south (alright can you think of a better landmark between St. Louis and Bella Villa or Lemay, Missouri?) Klebs Clothing or the River Des Peres would be righteous choices as well...
Anyhow, I don't point out these facts to further divide us or to be contentious in any way. If I come across like that it's because I'm fed up with the fact that the majority of people I talk to DO NOT GET THIS. I simply want the truth to be realized. I am not drawing a line in the sand and saying St. Louis (my favorite city in the region) should separate itself from it's less exciting, but much more well-monied/well-educated influential neighbors. It's actually quite the opposite. I simply want to speak honestly and accurately about our region and my city. In order to do that you have to face some facts:
- St. Louis City is its own County as well. St. Louis is not part of St. Louis County. It is in St. Louis City County (I kid you not, I learned this the first time I used Turbo Tax to file...it's true).
- There are 90 cities in St. Louis County (St. George just dis-incorporated) and huge swaths of unincorporated land, none of which can accurately be called St. Louis.
- Each city in St.Louis County has its own political, tax and other city entities. They have nothing to do with St. Louis.
- If you live in St. Louis County and work there, you don't pay any St. Louis income or property taxes.
- If you live in St. Louis County or elsewhere in the region and work in St. Louis, you pay 1% earning tax to St. Louis.
- If you work in St. Louis County or elsewhere but live in St. Louis, you pay an additional 1% income tax earnings tax to St. Louis.
- If you live in St. Louis County you cannot vote on St. Louis issues (mayor, taxes, reducing the # of aldermen, etc); and vice versa.
- As of July, 2011 official Census data, St. Louis had a population of 318,069.
- St. Louis is the 58th largest city in the United States, wedged right between Santa Ana and Riverside, California. (source)
- The Greater St. Louis combined statistical area's (CSA) population of 2,878,255 and is the 16th-largest CSA in the country, the fourth-largest in the Midwest. The Greater St. Louis area is the largest metropolitan area in Missouri.
- St. Louis has the 62nd greatest population density/square mile of land area, wedged right between Erie, Pennsylvania and Detroit, Michigan.
- In the late 1960's the city and county voted for a special Metropolitan Zoological Park and Museum District to raise money based on property taxes in the county AND city to go toward funding essential cultural institutions in St. Louis. The Art Museum, Zoo and Science Center were included; Botanical Gardens were added in 1983 and the History Museum was added in 1988 (source).
- On March 23, 2007, the Missouri State Board of Education ended its accreditation of the St. Louis Public Schools and simultaneously created a new management structure for the district. A three-person Special Administrative Board was created, with members selected by the Missouri governor, the mayor of St. Louis, and the president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. The current board has authority to operate the district through 2013. The local school board remains in place but has no administrative authority over the district. Cities in St. Louis County have their own school districts, distinctly separate from St. Louis'.
- St. Louis does not have local control of its police force. St. Louis County and many municipalities have their own police and fire depts.
A brief break from the facts into opinion: what are the 2 biggest issues facing St. Louis? Many will tell you the schools and crime. Hmmm, we don't have local control of either...
Similarly clustered up, St. Louis runs the suffering Lambert International Airport located in unincorporated St. Louis County between the cities of Bridgeton and Berkeley, Missouri. The state voted down our ability to lure in international cargo business with the 2nd largest economy in the world: China (
). We are being held back as a region by competing interests and entities that should be feverishly working together to stem the bleeding and disinvestment. We have external interests more powerful than our own controlling many of our key local interests. I feel the county and state work against St. Louis more often than not. That needs to change.
But when we
work together, the results can be astounding. For example, the Zoo, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens are world-class institutions. Every property owner in St. Louis and St. Louis County should be proud of there contribution to these amazing places. This is the premier example of x-county monetary cooperation that I can think of. Another prime example of x-county fruit is the
, funded by a 1/10th of 1 cent sales tax raised in St. Louis City, St. Louis County and St. Charles County, which generates $10 million annually. We can all be proud of that one too, and the bike trails seen throughout the city and county unite us as opposed to dividing us.
Maybe I'm in the minority in thinking that this region is drastically over engineered from a political standpoint...but the simple fact is, both St. Louis and St. Louis County are losing population. People are voting with their feet and vacating this region at alarming rates.
Here are some other Midwestern cities and how we compare:
- Indianapolis, IN #12 in population @ 827,609
- Columbus, OH #15 in population @ 797,434
- Nashville, TN #26 in population @ 609,644
- Oklahoma City, OK #30 in population @ 591,967
- Kansas City, MO #37 in population @ 463,202
- St. Louis, MO #58 in population @ 318,069
We are a tiny city bleeding residents. We are a large metropolitan region that is fractionalized more than maybe any region in our country. The political systems are bloated and the people are stubborn. We are an
(read: promotes from within entreched ranks) region that doesn't like change and is wary of new comers and progressive thought patterns. We're now seeing where that is getting us. 2010 Census data indicate that the mighty County of St. Louis has posted its first population loss in its short history. The city is bleeding, the formerly shiny all white suburbs are aging and showing signs of slipping infrastructure, unsafe streets, mounting debt, etc. The County population is wicking out to St. Charles and other green fields to find cheaper new construction and less pesky poor people, with their social ills and minorities. We have to fix this. We need to be honest about where we live and how services get paid for and who foots the bill. We need to embrace our problems and assets as a unified region, not a bunch of petty little suburban fiefdoms and one formerly grand city. We need to become the biggest city in Missouri.
Understanding these facts are an important place to start.
I am not from St. Louis, so I had to learn these things myself. And don't believe the Interstate signs sprinkled throughout St. Louis County, they too are misguided in false local lore, as the "Welcome to St. Louis" signs exist miles from St. Louis' actual borders:
I hope these facts are clear and provide readers with the proper context when thinking about and debating regional issues in an honest manor.