Sunday, July 03, 2011

County Population Will Jump Should St. George Unincorporate

St. George, MO, has about 345 homes, 380 condos, 1400 residents and one reputation they would like to lose.

The area along I-55 south of St. Louis has been referred to as a notorious speed trap. A video posted on-line got national attention showing a St. George police officer berating and threatening a motorist. There have been other cases of alleged corruption and abuse

If St. George decides to disband, unincorporated St. Louis County would get 1,300 new residents overnight. Citizens in this small city are collecting signatures as part of a petition drive to decide whether or not the cost of being their own city outweighs the benefits.

So far, the town has gotten rid of its own police force and opted for county police protection instead. Other city responsibilities, like road repair, would also fall to the county if the city disbands.

A small city like St. George feels more like a neighborhood than a municipality.

Most of South St. Louis County, in fact, is unincorporated. That is, places like Mehlville, Affton, Lemay, Sappington, Oakville, Concord and Tesson are not actual places with boundaries, mayors or city halls. Many probably live in one of these places and never realize it.

The only municipalities in South County are St. George, Crestwood, Green Park, Sunset Hills, Marlborough, Shrewsbury, Wilbur Park, Bella Villa, Grantwood Village and Lakeshire. Many of these cities are also neighborhoods with just a few hundred residents.

What difference does it actually make whether you are in a city or not? For one thing, living in an unincorporated area means you have no mayor or town council to vote for, and no mayor or town council to directly complain to when there are problems in your neighborhood that a city would typically handle.

The closest person to your mayor is Sixth District County Councilman Steve Stenger or County Executive Charlie Dooley, who are both responsible for much larger areas of the county.

Unincorporated areas also don't qualify for some federal and nonprofit grant money for neighborhood cleanups, main street revitalization or small business tax credits. Services such as coordinated trash collection, community centers, streetscape renovations, street banners, neighborhood parks and swimming pools are often run by municipalities, so the unincorporated areas generally have fewer of these types of opportunities.

The benefits of unincorporated areas like Mehlville can include lower tax rates, because there is no municipal level of government to fund. We can also leverage the cost of larger-scale services like the police department to keep us safe.

Unincorporated areas cannot speak with one voice to make long-lasting decisions about the community’s future. We have to rely on St. Louis County initiatives to define who we are.

Many South County residents are fine with that, because paying lower taxes is more beneficial to them. To others, being able to define future developments and focus on fixing blighted spots in our neighborhoods would be worth having a municipal presence.

Wherever you live, take responsibility for your community. It is the residents who make or break a place, not a label or boundary. Just don’t expect to run for mayor anytime soon

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7:56 AM

    I think every municipality under a population of 5000, should dis-incorporate and merge back to St. Louis County. We need to capture the synergies and effecienies of a less franchised government.