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The St Louis Contrarian

Providing Independent and Intelligent Insight on St. Louis Public Policy Issues

Archive for the tag “St. Louis american”

St. Louis American Article About the Significance of Bell Win

Elections are usually about the merits of individual candidates, but every now and then they’re about something more. Zeitgeist is a German word that means “spirit of the times.” It’s regularly used to describe what in a larger sense may be going on culturally, intellectually or politically. There are events and phenomena that one invokes as representative of a defined Zeitgeist.

One of the burning questions for people whose political activism was forged in the sixties is whether the progressive moment we are currently witnessing is a sixties déjà vu, or is seeing a relationship between Black Lives Matter, MeToo, Never Again and the sixties a case of hope triumphing over experience? Just as the Black Power and the Anti-War movements were examples of the sixties Zeitgeist, we believe Black Lives Matter, MeToo and Never Again will come to be seen as examples of the Zeitgeist of this generation.

It’s impossible to know how the August 7 Democratic Primary will be considered in the larger scope of history, but today it feels like a major paradigm shift for the St. Louis region generally and the black community specifically. August 7 has permanently changed St. Louis politics in the way the August 9, 2014 police killing of Michael Brown and its aftermath forever changed the St Louis region. In fact, you cannot understand what happened politically on August 7 outside of the context of August 9.

First, we congratulate Wesley Bell on his historic victory and commend him on a very well executed campaign. We judge candidates in a campaign like we judge young basketball players during a season: Are they learning, evolving, getting better? Wesley Bell, starting as a long-shot but closing like a sure-shot, did all three of those. The candidate who claimed the mantle of victory was not the candidate that filed for office in February. We expect this impressive growth to continue as this inexperienced prosecutor takes office and begins to make some of the changes he has promised us.

We also commend the activist community, not only for providing bodies, energy and legitimacy to the Bell campaign, but for their political maturity that made this victory possible. In order to make progress in the political system, you have to resist the urge to make the perfect the enemy of the good. When the best is not available, but better is, you take better and move the chains. As The Rolling Stones sing, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need!” The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri was especially damaging to McCulloch in educating the community about his record as a prosecutor in an unprecedented public education campaign.

Also, the larger, older African-American community of St. Louis County should be commended for a genuine willingness to pass the baton to a new generation by embracing Bell’s candidacy. For a community to remain healthy and strong, it must always have people willing to serve, but it also needs people who recognize when their service is no longer required and graciously accept the role of supporter. Bell’s absence of a primary challenger was a testament to restraint from many older, more seasoned attorneys who might have liked their chances.

August 7 also showed that the white community of St. Louis County in 2018 does not have the political will of the white community of 2014. Something happened. We doubted Bell when he told us that he was finding support among white voters, but there are not enough black voters to elect Bell as county prosecutor. For Bell to beat McCulloch 103,018 votes (56.62 percent) to 78,934 votes (43.38) in a county whose population is less than 25 percent black, clearly a critical number of white voters decided they have had enough of McCulloch’s tough (i.e., ineffective) on crime approach and his unapologetic arrogance in the face of a worsening crime crisis and over-incarceration. While Michael Brown’s death was a tragedy, how the aftermath of that tragedy was handled was an unmitigated disaster from which the region is yet to recover. Clearly, many county voters are ready to move on.

More than any other public official, Bob McCulloch became St. Louis’ official face for Ferguson. It was McCulloch who made the August 7 primary worthy of the attention of the New York Times the day before the election. White voters in St. Louis County realized they couldn’t restore the county’s reputation and their good name as long as McCulloch was their prosecutor. They moved on.

Oppressed people – the weak, the powerless, the disenfranchised – are taught from an early age about the moral superiority of forgiving those who have been responsible for their oppression. But in politics, the players – and voters – live by the brutal law of payback. We owed McCulloch, and we settled the score. There is nothing wrong with revenge, as long as it advances your interest. By the way, it’s best served cold. Enjoy.

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MO Supreme Court issues landmark ruling for tenants’ rights | Local News | stlamerican.com

A Missouri Supreme Court case between a tenant and her landlord was decided in favor of the tenant, in a development advocates are hoping may be a sign that the
— Read on www.stlamerican.com/content/tncms/live/

This case represents a major tenant rights breakthrough. Reprinted from St. Louis American

Prohibit and enforce bans on income discrimination | Business News | stlamerican.com

“Your money is no good here.” It may sound like a line spoken by the barkeeper in an old-timey Western movie.
— Read on www.stlamerican.com/content/tncms/live/

A great article by leadership of Empower Missouri about housing discrimination based upon source of income. If people can pay rent, have decent credit, and are good tenants, that is all that should matter. Written by Paul Dribin

Honest Graft in St. Louis

The St. Louis American wrote an excellent article describing two dubious consulting contracts being awarded by the City of St. Louis. One, picks the higher bidder for the firm picked to be lobbyist for the city. There is also a weird consulting contract regarding privatization of the airport. The consultant would only get paid if the project moves ahead. Guess what there recommendation will be. Attached is the full article. Written by Paul Dribin

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Why did St. Louis hire a more expensive lobbyist with less experience? Jeff Aboussie’s team gets city contract through scarcely public process

By Rebecca Rivas Of The St. Louis American Jan 19, 2018 Updated 5 hrs ago 0


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If St. Louis residents aren’t frequently checking the elevator at City Hall, they may have a hard time finding out that former union leader Jeff Aboussie won the city’s lobbying contract at a December 7 meeting – for an unknown amount.

“Today’s meeting was not posted to the city’s online calendar,” wrote 7th Ward Committeewoman Marie Ceselski on her blog on December 7. “It was taped to an elevator at City Hall. I’m glad Gerry (Connolly) took time out from his busy day to go and get the information for us.”

On December 7, concerned city resident Gerry Connolly was the lone witness to the selection committee awarding Aboussie and his team the contract.

Attending the meeting would have been the only way to find out, other than scouring the Missouri Ethics Commission website for new lobbyists.

The St. Louis American tried to find out more details about the contract on January 17, and the city’s operations director Todd Waelterman said he couldn’t yet say. The American tried to find out who was on Aboussie’s team through Tom Shepard, who was on the selection committee representing his boss, aldermanic President Lewis Reed. Shepard wasn’t sure if he could say yet either, but he did confirm that Aboussie’s new lobbying firm Regional Strategies won the contract. Shepard, Reed’s chief of staff, was the only “no” vote in the 4-1 vote for the contract.

These interactions were odd considering that the meeting where the contract was announced was public – though barely – and the three lobbyists have already registered themselves as representing the city with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

From what The American was able to find out, there were only two applicants to replace former lobbyist, Rodney Boyd, who now lobbies for the City Treasurer’s Office. Aboussie’s proposal was almost $20,000 more than the other bidder, Shepard confirmed, though he couldn’t say the exact amounts. He said it was within the budget. Waelterman said that $96,000 was budgeted for the new lobbyist, and the contract does not have to go before the Board of Estimate and Apportionment. Boyd had been paid $90,000 annually.

Aboussie, who had previously been the executive secretary-treasurer for the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council, has only been a registered lobbyist since February 2016. His competition, Richard McIntosh, has been registered since 1996, and his firm, Flotron & McIntosh LLC, has been in business since 2000.

So why go with someone who was more expensive and had less experience?

The rumblings are that billionaire conservative financer Rex Sinquefield is going to push for a statewide referendum for a city-county merger. And, of course, there’s also the privatization of city-owned and -operated St. Louis Lambert International Airport. Some say that those are the city’s two lobbying priorities going forward. Aboussie and his two team members seem prime to support this effort.

One is Tom Dempsey, former president pro tem of the Missouri Senate, a trusted Republican in Jefferson City. On his lobbyist registration for the Missouri Ethics Commission, Dempsey lists his address as Pelopidas LLC – which is Sinquefield’s primary political shop. Dempsey registered as a lobbyist for the City of St. Louis on January 5. His other teammate is Jacqueline Bardgett, a Democrat who works for her father’s firm, John Bardgett & Associates. She registered on January 5 as well.

Interestingly, one of Bardgett’s clients is the St. Louis Police Retirement System.

Until October 16, Aboussie was registered to lobby for Kiel Center Partners, who owns the Scottrade Center. The city is now paying $1.5 million a year for the hockey stadium’s improvements after many months of lawsuits and litigation. Aboussie registered as the city’s lobbyist on December 29. Aboussie also represents Great St. Louis, which paid for the Prop A campaign (the ballot issue that falsely promoted body cams) and Prop B (for changing municipal election dates) last April. He also lobbies for the Kelley Group, which helped put St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson in office.

Krewson’s office has not yet responded to The American’s request for comment.

Bardgett also has a part to play in the looming city-county merger or reentry, said Ceselski.

“The lobbying team is really about coming up with a chunk of money to pay pension liabilities, so we can be forced into the county by the [Missouri Legislature],” she said, “so I can see how that is one of her connections that she brings to table.”

The Missouri Constitution is clear that county does not acquire the city’s liabilities with re-entry, Ceselski said. Re-entry means the city would become the 91st municipality in St. Louis County.

“Police will go along with re-entry and being county police funded by a special tax district if their old pension system is secure,” she said.

Currently the Missouri Constitution states that city and county residents would be the ones to vote on any merger or reentry referendum. But it’s no secret that some state legislative leaders are aiming to change that, allowing the issue to be voted on statewide. Sinquefield has been making hefty campaign contributions to those who would support this cause.

‘Leasing’ the airport

Sinquefield is also bankrolling the privatization process for the airport. Just weeks before then-Mayor Francis G. Slay left office, Slay initiated the application process for the Federal Aviation Administration’s airport privatization pilot program.

The application process is being paid for entirely by Sinquefield’s nonprofit Grow Missouri Inc.

Going forward would require a city ordinance, approved by the Board of Aldermen, or a City Charter amendment, which would require 60 percent voter approval.

Grow Missouri has also launched “Fly314,” its outreach project to gain support for privatizing Lambert. If the deal is successful, Grow Missouri will be reimbursed for the application fee and its promotion efforts. Slay’s former chief of staff Jeff Rainford is a lobbyist for one of the potential bidders.

On January 17, a selection committee met to review proposals for a consultant firm that would advise the city on whether or not it should “lease” the airport. About seven city aldermen showed up to the meeting to ask questions.

Deputy City Counselor Michael Garvin explained that the Request For Proposals (RFP) went out in October, and they have received 11 proposals.

However, he said there are only two full proposals. And only one of them truly meets the requirements, though they are flexible and could make the other work through negotiations, he said.

Alderwoman Carol Howard (D-14th Ward) asked about the wording in the RFP that states the consultant will not get paid unless a deal is cut in leasing the airport.

“That’s strange,” Howard said. “That’s very strange.”

Deputy Mayor for Development Linda Martinez said it is a very typical approach to financial transactions.

“But this is not a financial transaction,” said Alderwoman Cara Spencer of the 20th Ward. “This is an agreement to hire a consultant to tell the city whether or not we should privatize. So we are setting up a situation to hire a consultant to consult us on whether or not we should move forward, and only agreeing to pay them if we do move forward.”

Garvin responded, “We all understand that the analysis we receive could be affected by the financial interest of the … It’s like a realtor telling you to sell your house.”

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On January 16, St. Louis Post-Dispatch’sTony Messenger wrote a column about the city’s airport privatization process through the eyes of a nonprofit think tank that studies the privatization of public assets.

Donald Cohen, executive director of In The Public Interest, said that going forward with the consulting contract wasn’t a good move.

“If this contract gets executed, it really puts the finger on the scale,” Cohen said. “It gets harder and harder to say no because there is momentum.”

Cohen also said that the closed nature of the process is not normal – along with the fact that Sinquefield is paying for it.

The aldermen agreed.

Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia of the 6th Ward said she and her colleagues feel like the public has been left in the dark.

“When we go to the chair of transportation and commerce, who should be able to answer those things, she is not able to either,” Ingrassia said. “I understand that there is a process and some of this information is closed for a reason. But I find it very troublesome that we just have had zero proactive communication on this.”

The mayor went to the Airport Commission two months ago, Martinez said. In June, they had a half-dozen briefings on what the process would be, he said.

When asked how many other airports are privatized, he said that a few cities, including Kansas City, are looking into it.

(The Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, is the only airport currently operated privately under the FAA program, which began in 1997.)

“Bottom line is there are zero private airports in the United States,” Spencer said. And St. Louis is one of the few cities that get considerable amount of income from their airports, she said.

“But we are looking to see if there is a way to make more,” Martinez said.

The aldermen asked to hear from Comptroller Darlene Green, and her deputy of finance, Jim Garavaglia, told the aldermen, “We believe that there is an opportunity to answer the question of whether it is something we should consider doing.”

The selection committee consists of representatives from the offices of the mayor, comptroller and President of the Board of Aldermen. The committee did not take a vote on the proposals on Wednesday.

Reed released a statement on January 18 that the city needs to “carefully and diligently” examine the idea.

He said, “Communication needs to be a key part of this process.”

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