The Jaco Report: UMSL Professor Terry Jones

Terry Jones literally wrote the book on civic division in St. Louis, and says the Better Together plan to unify St. Louis city and St. Louis County into one huge “metro-city” is undemocratic, autocratic, and a waste of valuable time.

Jones, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, is the author of “Fragmented by Design”, a 2000 book that traced the history of political divisions between the county and the city, from the city’s leaving the county in 1876, to efforts in the 1920’s and 1960’s to reunify the two.

“This has been very much a top down effort, more top down than any of its predecessors,” said Jones, appearing on The Jaco Report. “The process is very dangerous to have that kind of autocratic top-down inability of the people to develop their own government.”

Jones said re-unification efforts in the ‘20’s and ‘60’s involved public officials, public hearings, and public meetings long before any actual plans were developed, but the secretive Better Together process stood that process on its head.

“Better Together released it on a January morning, and by mid-afternoon, it was filed in the Secretary of State’s office,” Jones noted. “So there was no opportunity for people to say what about this or how about that instead.”

Jones’ objections to the plans go beyond the secrecy of the process. His main complaint is that Better Together would eliminate the entire government of the city, along with one of the city’s main sources of revenue, the 1% earnings tax. In doing so, Jones said, it would also eviscerate local black political power.

He also said that claims that city-county mergers elsewhere—from Indianapolis and Louisville to Nashville and Jacksonville, FL—have saved money and helped economic growth just are not true.

Jones said that racism, not governmental division, is what holds St. Louis back, and that focusing on the Better Together plan wastes time and energy that could best be used dealing with issues of racism and racial inequity.

“Our racial divisions and separation keep us from achieving so much. So not only is it a just thing to do, to have racial equity, it’s also a pretty smart thing to do in terms of improving economic and other parts of quality of life in the region,” Jones noted.