'Better without us': Missouri mayors prepare to fight consolidation plan

ST. LOUIS • Missouri mayors from Blue Springs to Ferguson, from small towns to wide suburbs, are vowing a broad and urgent campaign against the forced consolidation of St. Louis County municipalities into a single government that could effectively eliminate their towns — and their jobs.

The mayors said they are considering options now and preparing for action. Several suggested reaching out to every single resident through city-run “informational” campaigns. Others said they hope to quickly create a less-extreme alternative to wholesale unification. Still others threatened to mount an offensive equal in scope and size to the $25 million consolidation campaign yet to officially be announced.

“We’re absolutely against the statewide vote on any plan,” said Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III, a board member for the Municipal League of Metro St. Louis. “No one wants to have an outsider telling them how to run their community.”

In recent weeks, news has trickled out that a St. Louis nonprofit called Better Together, funded largely by billionaire financier Rex Sinquefield, is on the cusp of formalizing a plan years in the making.

Leaders plan to announce at the end of this month an initiative to gather at least 160,199 signatures and place on the November 2020 statewide ballot a measure to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County — and combine under one megacity the police departments, court systems, roadways and economic development arms of the city, county and all 88 county municipalities.

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