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After decades of contemplation and debate, a group known as Better Together is recommending an end to the “Great Divorce” between St. Louis and St. Louis County.Better Together is proposing an ambitious plan to create a unified metro government and police department and limit municipalities' ability to levy sales taxes. The plan would be decided through a statewide vote.Proponents contend it will scrape away layers of local government that has been holding the St. Louis region back. Opponents believe the plan will create an unwieldy and large centralized government that could be implemented against the will of city and county residents.

Politically Speaking: Alderman Coatar On Medical Marijuana — And What’s Next For A Merger

St. Louis Alderman Jack Coatar
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Alderman Jack Coatar

Alderman Jack Coatar joins St. Louis Public Radio’s Rachel Lippmann and Jason Rosenbaum in talking about what to expect in the next few months at the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.

Coatar represents the city’s 7th Ward, which includes neighborhoods like downtown St. Louis, Soulard, Lafayette Square and Compton Heights. He was elected to a full term on the board in 2017 after winning a 2015 special election.

Coatar grew up in suburban Chicago, attending a Catholic high school before moving with his family to Kansas City, where he graduated. He moved across the state to attend St. Louis University.

He had been working as a lawyer in Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce’s office when he decided to run for the 7th Ward aldermanic seat after then-Alderwoman Phyllis Young resigned.

Since joining the board, Coatar has handled some major initiatives — including proposals for professional football and soccer stadiums. He also was the sponsor of an incentive package for an expansion to Ballpark Village near Busch Stadium, as well as an expansion to the America’s Center and Convention Complex.

This year, Coatar is planning to shepherd legislation laying out zoning regulations for medical marijuana-related facilities. Missouri voters legalized the drug for medical use last year, and the state is currently laying the groundwork for the program.

Here’s what Coatar said during the show:

  • His medical marijuana bill is less restrictive than the constitutional amendment voters approved in November. It limits production and growing facilities to industrial areas, and dispensaries to commercial districts.
  • Coatar says he's not expecting much pushback from his colleagues. He says the medical marijuana measure passed by wide margins in every ward. "You've got to remember, this is a heavily, heavily regulated industry. It's not like kids are going to be able to walk into one of these facilities,” he said. “I mean, only two to three percent of the population of Missouri will acquire one of these medical marijuana cards and be able to walk into one of these facilities."
  • He also discussed a new plan to build a stadium close to downtown that would house a Major League Soccer franchise if the league grants St. Louis a team.
  • With the demise of a statewide bid to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County, Coatar talked about what’s next. He supported the Better Together plan, and is worried there may not be enough momentum to sustain the issue. "My fear is, OK, now that this Better Together proposal's dead, that we're all just going to fight and talk about this for a couple of years, and then it's going to fizzle out, and nothing's ever going to happen," he said.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Follow Jack Coatar on Twitter: @jcoatar

Music: “We Built Another World” by Wolf Parade

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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