Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Group Wants to Explore Regional Cooperation beyond City-County Merger

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Group Wants to Explore Regional Cooperation beyond City-County Merger

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS -- If St. Louis city and county were to merge, their combined population would still not add up to half of the St. Louis metropolitan statistical area. So, how about bringing the rest of the area into the conversation about regionalism?

That's the philosophy behind Rally Gateway STL, a grassroots project led by former University City Mayor Shelley Welsch, which is kicking off with a meeting next week in downtown St. Louis.

The effort is unrelated to the Board of Freeholders that will study potential changes in the governments of St. Louis and St. Louis County, including a possible consolidation. Nor is it related to Better Together, the nonprofit group that earlier this year announced and then pulled back an ambitious plan to place a city-county merger on a statewide ballot.

But while Rally Gateway STL differs from Better Together on several fronts, it wants to borrow the momentum from the conversations it started and extend them to the entire metro area, which includes 14 counties and the city of St. Louis. In a report released on Tuesday, the group called for a four-pronged program that over the next year would:

- Identify and summarize existing studies that identify problems holding the St. Louis area back.

- Talk to people across greater St. Louis to gather input.

- Establish a working group to study whether the whole area, and not just the city and county, could benefit from reorganization.

- Form an organization to push for whatever changes are needed.

Welsch, the mayor of University City from 2010 to 2018, said she assembled a group of 11 people to work on the proposal. Among those who worked on the report were former St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, former Greendale Mayor Monica Huddleston and Ron Jackson, a community activist and volunteer who previously worked for former U. …

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