Councilman Joe Garritano Gives Update on Proposed City-County Merger
Wildwood's history traces back to controlling our own destiny. During the 1990's, the state highway department had proposed to improve or replace Route 109 with a 10-12 lane interstate style expressway, through the parks and residential neighborhoods known as the "Outerbelt" project. This was the catalyst for the community to come together to protect the area known as the Greenbelt.
PHOTO: Wildwood Councilman Joe Garritano, Ward 8
Did you know that the name Wildwood reflects the northern boundaries along Wild Horse Creek Rd, while the southern boundaries are reflected by Rockwood Reservation - hence, the name "Wildwood". The hard work and persistent efforts of many ultimately led to the incorporation of Wildwood. On February 7, 1995, 61% of voters supported incorporation for the city of Wildwood.
The reason I share this history is because of the theme of 'local control'. The Better Together (BT) proposal wrestles local decision making out of the hands of St. Louis County and City residents by diluting our voices. BT's approach is to make the decision of merging the county and city a statewide vote. In this case, over 70% of the voters are from outside St. Louis. If a decision must be made, it should be the decision of St. Louis County and City citizens. Had the state been successful with turning 109 into an interstate highway, Wildwood would likely not exist and the area would drastically be Photo: 1990s Cover Story
different than it is today. It is local control that has made the Wildwood we know today possible. The BT folks are well aware of what they are doing. They know we have a serious disadvantage to protecting our cities and they are exploiting that weakness. BT is a non-profit organization that can do what it wants in private, and raise and spend as much money as it wants. Our local governments are held to a different standard. We must comply with open records laws and have a fiduciary responsibility with managing tax payer money. We can not spend the tax payer's dollar advocating for or against a ballot item; we can only educate. From a government perspective, this limits our ability to protect our city. Protecting local control will take a massive effort by our citizens. Here are some of the recent updates:
BT has filed a new petition to alter the proposal for the first metro mayor. The initial version proposed that St. Louis County Executive, Steve Stenger, would serve as metro mayor through 2025. This change came after news reports that Stenger is under investigation by the federal government.
House Joint Resolution (HJR 54), filed by St. Louis County Rep. Dean Plocher (District 89), passed the House Committee on April 8th. This resolution calls for amending the Missouri Constitution to require a vote concerning the merger or dissolution of a city, or counties, to only be approved if the cities or counties involved in the action agree. There are four weeks remaining in session and it will be up to the Speaker of the House to schedule this for a vote. We need continue to watch for this.
Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR 1), a non-binding resolution was approved on April 18th. It denounces a statewide vote on the merger.
The Wildwood Preservation Commission held its second meeting on April 18th and hosted Pat Kelly, Executive Director, for the Municipal League of Metro St. Louis. The league is encouraging residents to sign petitions on its freeholder effort, which allows for the formation of a local board to examine the form of government.
I and Wildwood Matters will keep you informed of updates regarding the proposed merger.
Paid for by Steve Taylor