Florissant mayor blasts Better Together merger plan

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FLORISSANT, Mo. – Municipal mayors in the St. Louis area have lined up against a proposal to combine the city and county governments under one central authority.

If the Better Together merger plan goes on the ballot, voters statewide could decide the issue during the 2020 presidential election. If the constitutional amendment passes, the transition would begin in January 2021.

Under the plan, the number of elected officials would drop dramatically from the current 679, police departments would be consolidated into one law enforcement agency, and most—if not all—municipal courts would be eliminated. School districts would not be affected by the proposal and neither would fire departments.

However, Florissant Mayor Thomas Schneider wants nothing to do with the Better Together amendment. He said a city-county merger would “terminate 233 years of Florissant sovereignty.”

Mayor Schneider released the following statement Wednesday afternoon:

“Florissant is the oldest and largest city in St. Louis County, and only Ste. Genevieve, St. Louis and St. Charles are older in the entire Louisiana Purchase Territory. Founded by the Spanish governor of the Louisiana Territory in 1786, Florissant is older than St. Louis County, older than the State of Missouri and even a few years older than the Constitution of the United States. We have been a sovereign community under three countries — Spain, France or the United States — for 233 years. We appreciate our long history as a sovereign city and wish it to continue for another 233 years.

“We would like to continue to be protected by police whom we know and trust. The award-winning Florissant Police Department is one of the best law enforcement agencies anywhere and was one of the first to receive the gold standard in public safety, the CALEA certification from The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. Other agencies including the St. Louis County and St. Louis City police departments, have always had the highest respect and have tried to emulate our department. The Florissant Police Department is our most valuable asset and is highly appreciated by our residents and is also one of the reasons why many investors continue to locate and develop their businesses in Florissant.

“We would prefer to maintain our streets, bridges, sidewalks and other infrastructure rather than surrender it to the Better Together Mega Metro. Florissant has a very pro-active Public Works Department which has been validated by our voters with additional revenue to continue proven programs to maintain and systematically rebuild our streets and sidewalks. We are way ahead of the curve compared to the rest of the nation in that we have been systematically replacing our bridges and culverts for more than 40 years, ever since I served under long-time Mayor James J. Eagan as City Engineer from 1976 to 1978.

“We want to participate in a conversation on how to be a part of a more competitive Metropolitan area, but neither I as Mayor nor our City Council members were asked by Better Together for our opinions. Nor were we consulted by the St. Louis County Executive or the St. Louis Mayor despite the fact that we are acquainted and have been in the same room at the same time many times.

“We find it contradictory and puzzling that one day the editorial page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch laments the dysfunction of St. Louis City or County or their chief executives or their law enforcement agencies and the next day’s editorial page proclaims that everyone should happily embrace the idea of a statewide vote to create a one-size-fits-all mega-government controlled by the remotest of leaders.

“We think any regional decisions on governance change should be made by the citizens who would be affected. We would be reluctant to entertain the idea of voting to compromise the sovereignty or the method of governing of Rolla, Poplar Bluff, Independence, Springfield, Hannibal et al. It is hoped that the information in the 160-page Better Together report and other reports such as the 25-page report prepared by UMSL’s Terry Jones in 2014 titled “TOWARD REGIONALISM: THE ST. LOUIS APPROACH” and other relevant material such as the written position of SLACMA (St. Louis Area Police Chiefs Association) will be useful to the forthcoming Board of Freeholders.

“We support and will participate in the initiative of the Municipal League of Metro St. Louis to collect the necessary signatures to enable a Board of Freeholders (also called Board of Electors) to be formed, who will be mandated to hold open public meetings and hearings so that the will of the citizens can be heard in open dialogue and testimony. Open to the public discussions have been a bedrock tradition in our republic called the United States of America for about as long as Florissant has been a sovereign city.”

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