St. Louis city-county merger discussions on pause following protests in Ferguson

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ST. LOUIS — Discussions about the city of St. Louis rejoining St. Louis County are now stalled because of the unrest that followed Michael Brown's shooting death by a Ferguson police officer.

"I'm coming into a job that demands an overhaul of St. Louis County government," said St. Louis County Executive-elect Steve Stenger. "We have a lot of issues to address and we don't need those issues compounded by a merger with St. Louis city."

Mayor Francis Slay still backs the city rejoining St. Louis County, which it departed in the Great Divorce of 1876, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/13q9E5l ) reported. But before discussions can resume, his chief of staff said it's imperative for the region to regain its footing after the sometimes-violent protests that followed a grand jury's November decision not to indict Ferguson officer Darren Wilson in 18-year-old Brown's death.

"The mayor understands that it takes two to tango," said Slay's chief of staff, Jeff Rainford. "He understands we need a willing partner."

Meanwhile, Better Together, a civic and business group formed to study the St. Louis city-county merger issue, contends Brown's death and the subsequent protests highlights its mission by bringing issues like police training and tactics to the forefront. It has commissioned the Washington, D.C.-based Police Executive Research Forum to conduct a study into improved law enforcement training procedures and community relations.

"We have to recover when this is over and we have to do it quickly or we'll lose a couple of generations," said its executive director, Nancy Rice.

But some aren't convinced about Better Together's intentions.

"They are still trying to communicate that small (government) is bad and big government is good," said St. Louis County Municipal League Executive Director Tim Fischesser.

During his campaign, Stenger limited his comments on consolidation with only a promise to analyze the issue. He will take office Jan. 1.


Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com

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