Following political blowback and the indictment of the St. Louis County executive who would have run the merged government, backers withdrew the proposal. The Brookings Institution estimated that from 2008 to 2010, on average, 870 more people ages 25-34 came to the St. Louis area than left it (but are they choosing the city?). As Brian Feldman documented in Washington Monthly, St. Louis once had a thriving professional-services industry in sectors such as advertising that served national clients; today, its services firms mostly have local clients. The lingering economic downturn has made people less mobile, perhaps unable to find new work or sell their homes. In 1876, however, city officials, unhappy with the county government, managed to push through a secession in which a newly enlarged city was carved away from the county. The county’s problems blew up in Ferguson in 2014, where the police shooting of Michael Brown led to weeks of unrest. Several Midwest cities are pursuing innovative mass-transit plans—with encouraging results. How can the cycle be broken, and how important is it that it is? In the City of St. Louis, we’re apparently no longer allowed to say that further population decline is bad news. This message may be routed through support staff. More detailed message would go here to provide context for the user and how to proceed. If you’re looking for good news, there is some. 2020 Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, Inc. All rights reserved. The latest Census estimates a city of 318,069, down from 319,294 counted in 2010. Quality news about cities is critical to democracy. And, as serious as the issue is in the city, St. Louis County and its 90 municipalities continue to lose residents as well. The plan to implement a statewide vote also gave opponents an opening to criticize the plan as undemocratic. We’re very nearly at that point now, aren’t we? Practically speaking, the independent city of St. Louis was equivalent to a combined city-county government. To the extent that new suburban growth is occurring in St. Louis, it’s farther out, in places like St. Charles County. Whatever it decides to do, St. Louis needs to do something. Indeed, backers pledged in advance not to lay anyone off. Many aspects of this plan, which directly targeted abusive municipal police and courts, were well designed. Its population has shrunk to 302,838, a drop of 65 percent—worse than Detroit’s population loss. A new plan to turn the whole city into a shelter system might finally be the breaking point for residents. Fire and school districts would stay independent. No big deal. Noble-sounding words won’t improve failing cities, especially for minority residents. How is that trend going to change? The existing St. Louis municipalities would have continued to exist as “municipal districts” but would lose authority over police, courts, roads, and economic development, as well as chunks of their revenue streams. For a long time, independent St. Louis thrived, and separation from the county looked like a smart move. That proved the plan’s undoing, after he was indicted. Do we simply assume the city will continue to lose residents unless and until the schools improve? Will you support us in finding the news and information they need? Southwestern Bell (now part of a reassembled AT&T) moved to Texas. But after 1950, St. Louis fell into steep decline. Better Together, a plan created by local leaders and heavily funded by local billionaire Rex Sinquefield, would have recombined St. Louis city and county and merged their governments. The plan was touted as a money-saver that would generate significant efficiencies, allowing the elimination of the local earnings tax, a long-time Sinquefield priority. St. Louis County planning director Glenn Powers offers another view of the issue. More than 80% of readers say they or their organizations work to achieve greater racial equity. What is that job? His conclusion was prefaced by saying that the continued exodus “is not good news or bad news”. With nearly 1 million residents, the fortunes of the County and its ability and willingness to address decline may hold the key to the future of the St. Louis region. The problem in the American inner city is not racism but drive-by shootings of blacks by other blacks. Local giants like Anheuser-Busch, McDonnell-Douglas, and Ralston Purina were bought out and reduced their local presence. The projected savings were almost certainly a mirage. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that estimates released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau showed 136,168 Black residents as of last July, or 45.3% of the city's population. We won’t have another official count until 2020, but one computer program estimates a bigger loss: 6,000 since 2010. In fact, the opposite is more likely—that wages and benefits would increase. Is it ultimately smart for the city to focus its political power on schools as the bogeyman of decline? New charter schools continue to open, giving parents more options. Surveys consistently show that 74% of our readers use Next City’s journalism in their jobs. In other areas, we bulldoze entire neighborhoods for parking, or a new healthcare facility. They hoped the 348,189 count in 2000 represented a low-water mark for the city that once reached more than 850,000 residents. What about crime and safety, walkable neighborhoods, transit and other issues? The region has stagnated, too; the population of the larger metro area fell slightly last year. Good reasons exist to question a city-county merger for St. Louis. Last decade, investment is some parts of the city created the illusion of growth. And the rhetoric of growth is a mismatch with reality. Perhaps bulldozing neighborhoods for a tax subsidized Menards isn’t the path to growth? A quarterly magazine of urban affairs, published by the Manhattan Institute, edited by Brian C. Anderson. TWA was acquired by American Airlines, which eliminated its hub in St. Louis. Will the Biden-Harris Administration Trust the Ideas of Those in Cities Who Delivered their Victory. The county executive, in fact, was slated to be the transitional mayor. Copyright © Once a major American city, the Gateway to the West struggles to redefine itself. Sign up for our newsletter. St. Louis is a rare “independent city”—not located within a county, that is, but existing as its own separate entity. While state and federal investigations found the shooting justified, the resulting attention revealed many serious problems with how St. Louis suburbs were conducting business. Nevertheless, merger talk continues. Attempts to shake up the region’s governance are likely to continue. Given the complexity of obstacles in the county, perhaps the City of St. Louis will emerge with a comparative advantage despite itself. Many observers believe that reorganizing local government is necessary. Better Together, a drive to consolidate the governments of St. Louis County and its towns with the city of St. Louis, was over almost before it started. The city’s rate of decline has lessened, as has the rate of population growth in St. Charles County.