Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Now That Better Together's Plan Is Dead, Let's Create Something That's Truly Better

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Now That Better Together's Plan Is Dead, Let's Create Something That's Truly Better

Article excerpt

David Rusk spent as much time as anybody picking apart the now-abandoned Better Together plan.

He's written 11 white papers, published by Construction Forum STL, in which he criticizes everything from the plan's financial assumptions to its penchant for centralizing things that don't need to be centralized.

When Rusk came to town Wednesday, though, he also wanted to talk about three things Better Together got right. One is that many municipalities in St. Louis County are too small to fund their infrastructure needs. Another is that fragmented government is closely connected to racial and economic segregation. The third is that fragmentation can hold back economic growth.

Rusk, who was part of a Construction Forum speaker series, is worth listening to on these issues. He's been mayor of Albuquerque, N.M., and a scholar at various think tanks, and his book "Cities Without Suburbs" has influenced a generation of urban planners.

Though he wasn't a fan of the Better Together plan, Rusk doesn't believe doing nothing is an option for St. Louis. He also thinks any future reforms should be sold on the basis of making government better, not cheaper.

"It's tempting, but you must not sell any kind of a merger on the basis of saving money," he said. "What you can sell is a better, more professional standard of service. You need to find a way to establish structures … that can facilitate cooperation, and then let people reap the benefits."

Rusk endorses having the city re-enter St. Louis County, which could be accomplished through a board of freeholders. The St. Louis County Municipal League is already gathering signatures to start such a process.

That change alone, however, would do little to address the inequities that are one of the region's most pressing problems. Rusk would like to see the Missouri Legislature expand St. …

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