Abolishing boundary panel would benefit citizens here

‘Call the Tune’ by Mike Anthony

By Mike Anthony

It’s no secret residents here are up in arms over being disenfranchised because they’re not receiving any representation from 6th District County Councilman Kevin O’Leary, D-Oakville.

Given O’Leary’s abysmal failure to fulfill even the most basic of his campaign promises, we can’t help but wonder if some south county residents soon will start discussing the possibility of incorporation.

However, if some residents seriously begin to broach the subject, they soon will discover a gigantic, perhaps insurmountable, hurdle to incorporation — the St. Louis County Boundary Commission.

Ostensibly, the panel was established to oversee orderly incorporation in St. Louis County, but it might just as well be called the Commission to Prevent Incorporation.

As we’ve noted before, the commission has a long and colorful history. At least twice in the mid-1990s, the Missouri Supreme Court declared that laws establishing the Boundary Commission were unconstitutional — first for violating the Missouri Constitution’s prohibitions against special laws and again for violating the Constitution because the law applied only to St. Louis County and no other first-class county.

Ironically, the existing St. Louis County Boundary Commission is the only one in the state. No other county has such a panel.

A later incarnation of the Boundary Commission was abolished in 1999 under legislation signed by then-Gov. Mel Carnahan. The panel’s abolishment essentially rendered three lawsuits involving the commission moot, but also authorized the County Council to establish the current panel, which has been in place since 1999.

As we’ve written many times in the past, we believe the Boundary Commission is unconstitutional on its face because it serves as a barrier to the constitutional right of citizens to petition their government for change.

In 2014, Rep. Marsha Haefner, R-Oakville, introduced a bill that would allow any unincorporated area in St. Louis County to bypass the Boundary Commission and incorporate under the state’s regular municipal incorporation laws if the city of St. Louis becomes a city within St. Louis County. Unfortunately, the measure died in committee.

We believe one of the top priorities of the General Assembly when it convenes in January should be to adopt legislation abolishing the St. Louis County Boundary Commission.