Better Together Means Better for White Folks

By Steppin’ Razor

By now, most interested parties have heard of Better Together’s contentious recommendations amid the heated debate about merging St. Louis City and County. Many residents in the areas of concern don’t like the recommendations- we’re hesitating to call it a “plan-” because, quite frankly, they seem to want to provide country residents greater access to city operations without providing a detailed resourcing plan. Bar none, Better Together leaves people of color and city dwellers in the blast of the storm of divestment and political isolation, and county dwellers fear the results of merging with a starving urban center.

The city/county merger has been an electoral hot button issue for years. St. Louis City is one of only two politically-progressive bastions in Missouri, sharing the distinction with cross state sibling, Kansas City. Each national election, these urban centers have voted impressively blue, while the rest of the state, particularly rural areas, vote staunchly red, with increasing sanguinity coming from the suburbs.

While Blacks enjoy a population majority in the city with 55 percent, the percentage of Blacks in Better Together’s would-be “Metro City” would fall to about 33 percent. Who in their right mind would give away an electoral majority and therefore, political power?

Politically, Better Together’s city-county merger recommendations amount to a Rex Sinquefield-financed power grab, to further entrench conservative values and dilute Black political power in the city and furthermore, the state.

The consensus in the region is that ‘da Lou is due for a shot in the arm, and therefore, the merger COULD be an opportunity to spur growth and equitable development. Some tech companies have started to move downtown and the NGA is preparing to build its metroplex in north city near the Pruitt-Igoe site. But St. Louis has seen a consistent private company, population, and tax base flight over the last few decades, steadily declining after a population growth to almost 900,000 in the 1950s. Much of that lovely tax money is believed to have moved out to the county and St. Charles with the racism of white flight, creating the “St. Louis Metropolitan Area.”

White flight county residents and out state Whites love their access to the St. Louis Zoo, the Stifel Center, the Dome, Soulard, AB InBev, The Fabulous Fox, Grand Center/Midtown, South Grand, Cherokee, the Central West End, but would love to eradicate the Black folks and other people of color who live around these outlets in an effort to preserve the blindness of their privilege. Better Together is here to help them reclaim the Midtown Corridor.

And to add insult to injury, Better Together would have the destiny of this region determined by outstate rurals who have little stake in the matter. They don’t live here. Even a cursory examination of state politics shows us that the rest of the state of Missouri often votes differently than St. Louis City, and often against St. Louis interests. So to suggest that the political, economic, and social destiny of St. Louis should be determined by a state full of folks who consistently walk over our interests lets us know whose needs are the priority.

Better Together merger recommendations include the creation of one executive position, the Metro Mayor, rumored to be set up for county executive Steve Stenger to step into. That makes us wonder… Why would St. Louis city mayor Lyda Krewson be willing to GIVE away her power like that? Was she promised some support for some state appointment or candidacy down the line?

A 33-member council repping districts drawn by a “nonpartisan expert” was also recommended. Talks suggest these districts would be drawn to include approximately 40,000 residents, and would be administrated by two staff members. But how would this form of government work for and with the people? Details were not provided.

Here’s how you can tell Better Together ain’t up to no good: They want to phase out the earnings tax, which makes up about 33% of the city’s budget and is directed to the city’s General Revenue fund. The tax, coming from 1% of salaries collected from city residents, equals about $164 million, according to 2016 data. These are much needed funds St. Louis uses to pay its bills and fund programs.

The most dastardly part? St. Louis city residents voted OVERWHELMINGLY in April 2016 to keep the tax, passing it easily with 72% of the vote for the measure to keep it.

So why is Better Together ignoring the wishes of city residents in trying to eliminate the tax? Some of us believe that the private conservative billionaire-funded group is trying to choke St. Louis City into submission.

One of the most glaring potential pointes of interest to come out of Better Together’s scheme was its hands-off suggestion for school systems. Of all the consolidation to occur as part of this deal, the St. Louis public schools would be essentially left to suffocate.  Everyone who gives a damn knows that our public school system, even after consistent closings over the past few decades, is in need of resources to properly educate our young ones. Wealthy municipality systems like Ladue, Clayton and Kirkwood continue to thrive in their enclaves, while benefiting from school choice transfers from impoverished city locales. After years of decay, neglect, finger wagging and divestment due to culturally-biased test score based resource allocation methods from President George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” barnstorm, it’s a miracle struggling school systems like St. Louis City are still hanging on. But now, Better Together is trying to put the nail in the coffin.

Better Together’s recommendation is racist, unilateral, conservative billionaire-mandated post-Ferguson backlash that essentially sources mayonnaise-flavored fear in creating a region that would erase any notion of political or economic empowerment for people of color. This is especially real and dangerous for Black folks, who make up about 55 percent of the population, and have used those numbers to stave off a conservative devouring by the state of Missour-uh, in concert with sistas and brothas in Kansas City. We’ll see how this plays out, and whose interests surface as true priorities in this process.

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