Lessons for fragmented St. Louis: Pittsburgh expert shares insights on regionalism

Mar 6, 2018
Originally published on March 7, 2018 4:51 pm

The fact that the St. Louis region encompasses nearly 90 municipalities comes up frequently in discussions about how the metropolitan area can move forward – and is sometimes cited as an explanation for regional challenges.

But David Miller doesn’t blink at that statistic.

Miller’s home city, Pittsburgh, and its surrounding Allegheny County have St. Louis beat when it comes to lots of local governments, with a total of 130 municipalities within their Western Pennsylvania bounds.

“I would be the first to say, ‘Gee, you only have 90 governments here – that’s an improvement over where I come from,’” the University of Pittsburgh professor told St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh on Wednesday. “And my sense is if we reduce the number of governments in Allegheny County from 130 to 90 or 60, we would not have solved any really significant regional problem in the process of doing that.”

In terms of building regional collaboration, Miller said, there’s a more fundamental issue to tackle. He added that while questions about efficiency or, for instance, reducing the number of police departments within St. Louis County, are valid public policy questions, he starts with a broader view focused on quality of life for millions of people.

“When I think of the region, I think of 2.8 million people in St. Louis, and in Pittsburgh’s case it’s 2.6 million,” he said, “and it spans out into multiple counties … The bigger picture, to me, is how does St. Louis and St. Louis County become a player as part of this broader region.”

It’s not the number of governments, he emphasized, but rather “how those governments work together.”

The author of “The Regional Governing of Metropolitan America,” Miller spoke Wednesday morning during a Construction Forum STL event and also met with a variety of economic development and business organizations during his four-day stay in St. Louis.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex HeuerEvie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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