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Media Barred From Public Meeting on Proposed Development in North St. Louis (Updated 3X)

Earlier today I got word of a meeting regarding Paul McKee’s development in North St. Louis.  I posted about the meeting and decided to go.

It looked like a public meeting:

Sign posted outside door to meeting.
Sign posted outside door to meeting.

However, the first order of business was an announcement that the meeting, about a development project,  was private and all media had to leave.  I stayed seated until a man came over to me and asked me to leave — saying Central Baptist Church was private property.  I left in shock.  Outside I found reporters from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,  KWMU radio and later KMOV that were not allowed inside.  I guess I was in good company.

A security guard was on hand to keep the press in check.
A security guard was on hand to keep the press in check.
Church representative that announced media had to leave locked both exterior doors so nobody could enter.
Church representative that announced media had to leave locked both exterior doors so nobody could enter.

The doors were locked so we could not enter the building.  The doors do have panic bars so people could exit.  While outside some regular citizens arrived.  They had to pound on the door to be let in.  Not all persons inside were residents of the two wards that had their Aldermen on the agenda (April Ford Griffin & Marlene Davis).  A third Alderman was present in the audience, recently sworn Alderman Antonio French from PubDef.org.

I’m no expert on Missouri’s Sunshine Law but I’m pretty sure this was a violation.  I’ve already filed a complaint with Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster.

Developer Paul McKee was not at the meeting but the agenda listed William Laskowsky of McKee’s McEagle Development company and a Mark Johnson from Civitas, Inc.  Alderman Davis told us the public meeting would be on the 21st, most likely at Vashon High School. McKee has substantial real estate holdings in North St. Louis.  Stay tuned.

UPDATE 5/11/09 @ 11pm. KMOV reporter Ray Preston blogged about not being able to cover the meeting.

UPDATE 5/12/09 @ 7:50AM – additional coverage

UPDATE 5/13/09 @3:30PM – response from Missouri Assistant Attorney General Daryl Hylton:

I appreciate and understand your concerns about the meeting referenced.  As I understand the situation, this “meeting” was facilitated by two alderman, so that developers could address concerns of the citizens impacted by the development   Missouri courts, however, have interpreted the sunshine law to not apply to actions of individual members of a government entity when acting independently without any authority of the body;  or to meetings of less than a quorum of the entity absent an attempt to avoid the purpose of the sunshine law. See Colombo v. Buford, 935 S.W.2d 690 (Mo. App. W.D. 1996).

So the meeting was allowed to be closed to the press.  While legal it is not good PR for a project that has yet to garner any good PR.

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Currently there are "61 comments" on this Article:

  1. anonymous says:

    Since the media was excluded, obviously this “meeting” raises more questions than it answers. First off, did the church receive a contribution from the developers? Why is a meeting like this taking place in a church in the first place? Are there no public meeting facilities available? Branding this process behind a clerical collar creates a sense of religious endorsement/sponsorship. Since the media was not allowed to ask questions, all we can do is speculate on the planning, strategy, and motives of the promoters.

     
  2. Chris says:

    I could have sworn from a meeting attendee that Paul McKee was in fact there. I could be wrong.

     
  3. Colleen says:

    This is ridiculous, but not surprising. The rumor mill has been running pretty heavily lately about the project finally getting off to some kind of start. As per the status quo, I guess they still want to be as secretive as possible. A little absurd – it’s all going to come out in the end and it’s just making more people upset and less likely to buy into the plan, whatever it pans out to be. I hope to make it to the meeting on the 21st. Really hope the media is allowed as well.

     
  4. anonymous says:

    By refusing access to the media, this action on the part of the promoters has now become the story, as told in the title of this post. What is the problem? Do they have something to hide? This project has become the worst kept secret in town. Remember the headline, “Tax Credit for One Man? The promoters are obviously trying to get control over the message.

     
  5. John Daly says:

    Not sure Jesus would like the idea of the doors of His church being closed to people. I’m just sayin’.

     
  6. Tony Palazzolo says:

    If publicaly elected officials are present – it should be open to the public which would include media.

     
  7. Bridgett says:

    I’m with John Daly. I can’t see my parish priest, for instance, being ok with a private meeting like that. This isn’t church business–this is city business. I wonder what they had to do/promise to get this guy to come talk to them.

     
  8. Bill says:

    It is this sort of cloak and dagger bullshit that will be the end of this city. If the alderpeople want a meeting with the developer, have it in their office. If they want a public meeting, have it in public. This is not a ward issue. This is a city issue. This guy is hasting the infrastructural rot of OUR city. We do not want vinyl ranch boxes. We don’t want O’ffallon East. Tell us what you’re planning to do so we can get on board or ride you out on a rail.

    Someone needs to get a comment on this from the Mayor’s office.

     
  9. Tim B says:

    Section 610.011 of the Sunshine Law: “It is the public policy of this state (MO) that meetings, records, votes, actions, and deliberations of public governmental bodies be open to the public unless otherwise provided by law. Sections 610.010 to 610.200 shall be liberally construed and their exceptions strictly construed to promote this public policy.”

    Now, this meeting was dubbed a “public meeting”, was it not? It was also held in as public a place as I can imagine (a church). I believe that Mr. McKee did, in fact, violate the Sunshine Law as it has been stated above, but I guess he changed his mind at the last minute to avoid violating it, maybe. Cloak and dagger indeed. If the meeting isn’t really going to be public, then don’t advertise it as such. Let’s hope that McKee’s plan isn’t the complete annhilation of Old North St. Louis but after this crap, it very well could be.

     
  10. Tim B says:

    “The event, at Central Baptist Church on Washington Avenue, was billed as a “5th and 19th Ward Community Development Meeting,” and because there were only three members of the Board of Aldermen present and it was held in a private facility, it did not fall under Missouri Sunshine Laws governing public meetings, Davis said. A public meeting will be held May 21, probably at Vashon High School.” source: St. Louis Post Dispatch.

    A church is a private facility? Since when?

    What a load of crap….

     
  11. Tim B says:

    http://www.eco-absence.org/blairmont/

    Check this site out. Interesting….

     
  12. dumb me says:

    Tim B – Check out the McKee geography. Old North St. Louis is mostly outside of the map. McKee will not wipe out Old North St. Louis. That would get him ridden out on a rail. He owns minimal land there. His eyes are focused about a half mile west. Look at an aerial of the blocks around 25th and Benton. Some call it “Hiroshima Flats”. Major redevelopment is a definite possibility.

     
  13. ME says:

    This is probably a stupid question, but what is “Blairmont”? I’m drawing a blank here…

    …in reference to “Blairmont” developer Paul McKee.

    Thanks!

     
  14. ME says:

    Just need some clarification here, but what is “Blairmont”? I’m drawing a blank here…

    …in reference to “Blairmont” developer Paul McKee.

    Thanks!

     
  15. cleeland says:

    First, let me say that I do not like what McKee is doing and the systematic way in which he’s spearheading dismantling of the North Side. The North Side has had problems since white flight began, but nothing McKee has done has improved it in any way. I’m not McKee apologist. That said…

    1. McKee cannot violate the sunshine law; he’s not an elected or public official.

    2. A church is not a public place. Depending on the denomination, the church is owned by the denomination or the congregation, not the public.

    3. I don’t see a sunshine law violation–it was not a meeting of “governmental body” as set forth in the sunshine law.

    Just as it’s critical to functioning democracy that deliberations of governmental bodies be done in the open with public foreknowledge, it’s equally critical to preserve the right of citizens to meet privately. From everything described, last night’s meeting was a meeting of private citizens (though facilitated by their elected representatives).

    As a citizen of an affected ward, Steve should have been allowed to stay. But crying about this as a sunshine law violation is the boy crying wolf.

     
  16. Jimmy Z says:

    Since I’m more familiar with Colorado’s rules, I dug into Missouri’s and it looks like the magic number is three elected officials from the same legislative body in one place:

    (4) “Public governmental body”, any legislative, administrative or governmental entity . . . including:
    (d) Any other legislative or administrative governmental deliberative body under the direction of three or more elected or appointed members having rulemaking or quasi-judicial power;
    (e) Any committee appointed by or at the direction of any of the entities and which is authorized to report to any of the above-named entities, any advisory committee appointed by or at the direction of any of the named entities for the specific purpose of recommending, directly to the public governmental body’s governing board or its chief administrative officer, policy or policy revisions or expenditures of public funds . . .
    b. Performs a public function as evidenced by a statutorily based capacity to confer or otherwise advance, through approval, recommendation or other means, the allocation or issuance of tax credits, tax abatement, public debt, tax-exempt debt, rights of eminent domain, or the contracting of leaseback agreements on structures whose annualized payments commit public tax revenues; or any association that directly accepts the appropriation of money from a public governmental body . . .

    The specific meeting place is also totally irrelevent – it doesn’t matter if it’s a church, a libraray, a public school, City Hall, Six Flags or a strip club on the east side – if more than two elected officials are discussing public business, public notice must be given and public access, including the media, must be granted, except for certain limited exceptions, primarily personnel and contractual negotiations. As others have noted, this doesn’t pass either the smell test or letter of the law – hopefully appropriate sanctions will be handed out AND a transcript or minutes provided to any interested persons!

     
  17. Reginald Pennypacker III says:

    Tim B wrote “A church is a private facility? Since when?”….Are you serious? Since always, is the answer. Did you not know that? As to everyone else, last time I checked people are allowed to hold private meetings.

     
  18. Tim E says:

    A private individual or even corporation can call for a private meeting on a privately owned property with whomever whenever. Its called privacy and happens everyday, everyhour, everyminute, everysecond in business. Heck, my wife was on a conference for work. It doesn’t mean media is entitled to anything. The alderman could have stayed away if they felt it was not in their best political interest. McKee tried to accomondate the community at a local private facility (unless the government own churches now, maybe, they own car companies now).

    Really dissappointed with how you posted Steve. The information within discussion is much more informative. Instead, any one of the media representatives present could have waited for the end of meeting and ask questions of those who attended. A reasonable set of facts could have been provided on what was discussed. I don’t see any of this.

    Finally, Steve your actions on this website defines you as a media representative. You have mentioned on more then one occassion how you were the first to break the story of Pryamid Development collapsing. So please give me a break on this I’m shocked posting.

    {slp — I’m not shocked to be treated like the rest of the media. I’ve worked hard for that recognition. I was shocked to see elected officials holding a public meeting on a huge subject and exclude the media. I had no way of knowing how long the meeting was going to last and I’m not in a position to be able to stand around for a couple of hours. I returned home and posted what I had. I’ll be at Vashon on the 21st and will be able to report on first hand knowledge.]

     
  19. none says:

    I’m fairly certain 3 elected officials from the same legislative body together in one place makes it a public meeting.

    [slp — I’ve been to events such as fundraisers where there are more than 3 members of the BoA present. These are also paid invite only affairs — not open to the general public. Big difference.]

     
  20. jeff says:

    so no more 3-ways between aldermen after a few drinks?

     
  21. nonesuch says:

    It seems pretty clear that this was a public meeting and that the media should have been allowed to attend. The irony is that it was the inclusion of pub def–whose interests in the project are entirely self-motivated for good and for bad–that tips the balance to the magic number of three.

    Other interesting tid-bits:

    Gail Brown is now on the payroll as the community face and has a new email address that references northcityproject.

     
  22. Jimmy Z says:

    The Sunshine laws are there for one big reason – transparency in government. I agree, “A private individual or even corporation can call for a private meeting on a privately owned property with whomever whenever. Its called privacy . . . ” But that line gets crossed as soon as public officials meet to decide public policy, whether the meeting is held on public property or private property. In this case, it would be a miracle if this development moves forward without ANY public participation. In reality, the deveoper will likely be looking for tax breaks, help on financing and new investments in public infrastructure; the public will be an active participant in the project’s success (or failure) and the funding will not be coming exclusively from these two wards. So this meeting clearly appears to fall under the Missouri Sunshine Law – you have three elected officials meeting who (I expect) plan to report back to the entire Board of Aldermen (aldermanic courtesy) with the “the specific purpose of recommending, directly to the public governmental body’s governing board or its chief administrative officer, policy or policy revisions or expenditures of public funds”. I know it not “how things have always been done here”, but hey, they screwed up – if Alderman Antonio French had not been there, Alds. Ford-Griffin and Davis might have a leg to stand on (only two elected officials), but the law’s pretty clear – three is the threshold, like it or not . . .

     
  23. GiGi says:

    Okay people, let’s just settle for some development like this…on 22 street…the PATINA…Hyde Park that has been vacant for 3 years…a part of Bosley Estates…three homes still stand empty, excuse me, they’re not even finished-since 2005. Is this what we want more of. Let’s think out of the box people.

    http://stlouispatina.blogspot.com/2009/05/they-dont-build-them-like-they-used-to.html

    Cut and paste THIS mess in your browser…this is a Hot Bosley mess!

    No wonder people think St. Louisans are from the backwoods somewhere because far too many people expect business as usual!!! I’m all for a plan with deep roots people!!!

    This McKee man’s plans look like they are off the chart and off the chain…big enough to make a huge impact which is long overdue for the North Side.

    Forget about the black and white of it, had we been in proper position and trained our own children about economics, maybe they would have purchased the buildings. Didn’t happen and it is what it is. Let’s start handling our business. In the mean time, let’s get north St. Louis developed.

     
  24. JB says:

    I basically agree with you on this one GiGi.
    I also think that people need to get a brain and realize that their alderman can be their best friends or their worst enemies. Anybody in this city who doesn’t already know that April Ford Griffin and Marlene Davis will be getting some under the table money out of this deal is a damn fool.
    I hate how these corrupt politicians act like they are so surprised that a billionaire developer with political leverage can do this. It will be interesting to see how Griffin and Davis vote on this bill. Yet again another reason to reduce the board of alderman.
    By the way all you unrealistic historic preservationists and pseudo urban planners need to stop whining all the time and realize that at the rate ONSL is developing it would take another 60 years before St. Louis is the urban mecca you want it to be. Be grateful for the development McKee will give you in the next few years. McKee is not stupid, $400 million in requested TIFs (not including the state and federal money he will receive) doesn’t equal vinyl siding. This will likely be a brick New Town East.

    [slp — Agreed as well. Old North is doing amazing things but the area of North St. Louis needing redevelopment is so huge. I’ve taken the wait and see approach. I just wanted to see last night. I’ll go on the 21st with an open mind.]

     
  25. I’m extremely excited to see this development moving forward.

     
  26. anonymous says:

    There is no doubt that McKee is challenging the urbanists of St. Louis. Urbanists talk loudly (usually about neighborhoods where they don’t live), but what constructive contributions do they make? Talk is cheap. Development is expensive. Doug Duckworth says he supports this project. What are we to make of that?

     
  27. Money Box says:

    Neighborhoods where they don’t live? Puh-leaze. “Urbanists” (and frankly, to even identify the group as such suggests that you spend too much time online) all live in neighborhoods where they are involved. And all city residents are urbanists by definition.

    Bottom line: we all matter in decision making, and labels are like navel-gazing.

     
  28. Jimmy Z says:

    GiGi, JB and others – the question here is not whether or not (re)development should happen, the question is how (or even if?) the public should be involved? If public money and power is going to be used, who “gets a say”? Does the city rely solely on the developer? Only on the aldermen of the affected wards? The residents of the wards? The major property owners? All property owners? Of the city? Of the region or the state? I understand why the developer wants to “play his cards close to the vest”, to minimize public input. I get it, it makes his life more difficult, having public meetings and, presumably, having to respond to public concerns. But the reality is we have a state law that requires both public access and public records specifically for situations like these, and we can either follow the law or we can continue to cut backroom deals and thumb our nose at the law. It may even mean “teaching old dogs new tricks”, reeducating the members of the BoA that we all, as citizens, deserve to be informed, to be heard, and to have our opinions respected, considered and incorporated, where appropriate. It means shifting from the concept of ward healer to one approaching more of a true democracy. I may be naive and idealistic, but if my government wants to spend my taxes, I want to be given the opportunity to be a part of the process, and knowledge is power. If there’s nothing to hide, why even try? In the long run, it simply increases the mistrust, of both government and the development community.

     
  29. john says:

    The greatest fear JZ is not about involvement but rather having community input trumped by Eminent Domain. ED abuse is common here and as you may know, MO laws allow the developer to dictate prices-time schedule once blight is declared. To learn more review the history of Hadley Township if you want to be real: “I may be naive and idealistic, but if my government wants to spend my taxes, I want to be given the opportunity to be a part of the process,”. In designing the New 64 and the Extension, extensive community input was conveniently ignored.

     
  30. dumb me says:

    Eminent domain is the least of the concerns. Eminent domain will be a key tool in the developer’s toolkit, and will very likely be needed to get this project done. We (the city) should be encouraging the use of eminent domain for a project like this.

    Why should one (or a few) holdout landowner(s) be able to stand in the way of transformative change in an area which obviously meets the legal definition of blight?

    People need to have a better understanding of the issues and the development process. Dumb me.

     
  31. cleeland says:

    What decision-making abilities were endowed to this group that met? From every account, it sounds like this was a group of citizens organized to get first-look information/presentation.

    The “three alderman were there” litmus test is insufficient. Once again, if somebody holds a dinner and invites three people who happen to be alderman, does that constitute a public meeting and trigger sunshine law? No. Absurd. What if they attend a baseball game?

    Once again, from what I’ve heard (b/c I wasn’t there), this was more of a presentation than a meeting. If the target audience had good internet connectivity, it could probably have been held online with an invite-only password-protected site with opportunity for feedback.

    Get over the whole sunshine law violation theme. Save it for when it really matters. Believe me, there are enough real violations that never go protested or punished that if you really want to dig into it, go dig into those.

     
  32. dumb me says:

    Who cares if the Sunshine Law were violated in this case anyway? Nothing was decided. If they wanted to, they could have a conference call or meeting in McKee’s office that no one would ever no about. What are we supposed to do, put a tail on every elected official? Ridiculous.

    Debate the project. Debate the use of eminent domain. Debate the demolition or rehab possibilities. Debate the role of neighbors or community groups. Debate the merits of public financing or other incentives.

    Concern over whether a meeting in May is a violation of the Sunshine Law? Sheesh. Get your eye on the ball, people. Or are these discussions merely wonkish sideline chats among the uninvolved and less committed?

     
  33. anonymous says:

    “Get your eye on the ball, people.”

    How can you have your eye on the ball when you don’t even know what the ball looks like?

     
  34. Jimmy Z says:

    Rarely is a formal government decision actually “made” when the final vote is taken. The ground work, and most, if not all, decisions are made in multiple meetings that take place well before the final vote. If you show up at a public hearing the day the vote will be taken and expect to have much input, you’re truly the one’s that’s naive.

    “If the public body intends to hold a meeting by conference call or other electronic means, the notice must specify the location where the public may observe and attend that meeting. If the public body meets via Internet or other computer link, it shall post a notice on its Web site in addition to posting the notice at its principal office.” (state website)

    “If a member of a public body transmits an e-mail relating to public business to at least two other members of the body so that, when counting the sender, a majority of members are copied, a copy of the e-mail shall be sent to either the custodian of records, or the member’s public office computer. Any such message, subject to the exceptions of Section 610.021, shall be considered a public record upon receipt by the custodian or at the public member’s computer.” (state website)

    Is the Sunshine Law inconvenient? Yes. “Who cares if the Sunshine Law were violated in this case anyway?” Me, for one. “What decision-making abilities were endowed to this group that met?” Well, at least three of the attendees will be voting on any TIF, ED, zoning change, etc. associated with the project. “Get over the whole sunshine law violation theme.” I don’t think so – it just smacks of classic, back-room politics, and given all the controversy and suspicion that’s accompanied the project to date, I have every reason to expect an open dialogue. And no, we don’t need to “put a tail on every elected official.” There’s a huge difference between going to a ballgame, going out for drinks and holding a formal (or informal) meeting to discuss a major redevelopment project.

    I’ll concede that, given the size of the BoA, the threshold of three members is likely too low – most suburban councils have 7 members, not 29 – but the law’s the law – if you don’t like it, change it, don’t just ignore it. The bigger issue is the apparent “need” for pervasive secrecy, on this and many other government initiatives. Those attending don’t appear to have had to sign confidentiality agreements, so whatever was said will be getting out. Is it better for the media to get their information second or third hand? Or to be able to obtain it directly? Remember, the Sunshine Law only allows access to listen and observe, there is absolutely no right to speak or participate, for either the media or for ordinary citizens!

     
  35. dumb me says:

    Where does it say the threshold is three? Three members of the Board of Aldermen is barely ten percent.

     
  36. john says:

    “Who cares if the Sunshine Law were violated”? Anyone and everyone, including me who cares about honest, open, and accountable government. Otherwise look for a Stalin type leader and plan to pay to play. This is a sad story that only gets worse with time.

     
  37. Otto says:

    Even if it is three, I’m not following the math. According to Steve’s post, Davis and Griffin called the meeting. That’s two. If the Sunshine Law requirement is three, then how is it a public meeting? I guess the issue is that Antonio French showed up and was in the audience? But this would mean that a lot of conversations could be instantly transformed into public meetings when a third alderman walked into earshot.

     
  38. Jimmy Z says:

    That’s just my read from the state website: “610.010 (4) (d) Any other legislative or administrative governmental deliberative body under the direction of three or more elected or appointed members having rulemaking or quasi-judicial power;” Since at least three aldermen were apparently present, it kinda boils down to the phrase “under the direction of” – it was obviously under the direction, or at least the active participation, of two of ’em; adding the third both creates the gray area and potentially triggers the violation. And the “barely ten percent” part is irrelevent – the law states that “It is the public policy of this state that meetings, records, votes, actions, and deliberations of public governmental bodies be open to the public unless otherwise provided by law. Sections 610.010 to 610.200 shall be liberally construed and their exceptions strictly construed to promote this public policy.”

    Admittedly, it’s less clear than Colorado’s statute, which states that “All meetings of a quorum or three or more members of any local public body, whichever is fewer, at which any public business is discussed or at which any formal action may be taken are declared to be public meetings open to the public at all times.” I also have no idea what sort of court precedences, if any, have been applied to the quorum question in Missouri, but since the statute is otherwise silent on quorums, I default to both what’s explicitly stated and the overall intent, that the public business be conducted in public unless one of a limited number of criteria defined in 610.021 can apply. This just come from my experience of serving five years on a 15-member, quasi-public, elected board – all committee meetings were posted and open, as well as board retreats, and yes, the press was frequently there.

    And since we continue to ponder the definition of a “public meeting”, it’s found in 610.010 (5) as “any meeting of a public governmental body . . . at which any public business is discussed, decided, or public policy formulated, whether such meeting is conducted in person or by means of communication equipment . . .” A “community development meeting” would be expected to be one where both “public business is discussed” and where “public policy [is] formulated”

     
  39. Otto says:

    From the court decision portion of the web site:

    “Defino v. Civic Center Corp., 780 S.W.2d 665 (Mo. App. E.D. 1989)
    No issue of a Sunshine Law violation was presented to the court where less than a quorum of a board of aldermen met with constituents. The court determined the Sunshine Law does not require public notice of every meeting between a constituent and an alderman.”

     
  40. Jim Zavist says:

    The issue here is not notice, it’s access. The press was aware of this meeting (whether or not proper notice was made), yet was not allowed inside. The fundamental issue here was whether or not this constituted a “public meeting”. If it was, any member of the public, including the press, is legally allowed to sit quietly and observe – you can’t just let in selected members of the public while excluding others, unless it’s either not a public meeting (narrowly construed) or one where a limited number of criteria defined in 610.021 can apply.

    The only other applicable part of the court decision part of the web site states:

    Kansas City Star Company v. Shields, 771 S.W.2d 101 (Mo. App. W.D. 1989)
    A violation of the Sunshine Law occurred when three members of a four-person budget committee of the city council met with the city budget officer and city manager and discussed the city budget in a luncheon meeting that was not announced as required by 610.020. (Kansas City does have a 13-member city council, of which the budget committee is a part of, which would imply 3 out of 15 does trigger the Sunshine Law requirements.)

    Again, this doesn’t address what a quorum is or should be, especially with a body as large as the BoA. If anything, this sounds like an ideal test case . . .

     
  41. Otto says:

    I’ll save the courts some time. Under the charter, a quorum is half the number of aldermen plus one. Even if you’re talking about one of the small committees, it’s going to be at least four or five.

     
  42. Steveo says:

    Weak conversation – go ahead and keep your eye on some random Sunshine Law that very, very obviously does not apply in this case and in the meanwhile others will be involving themselves in the actual decision making and feedback necessary for any quality development to take place.

    [slp — I plan to address the development issue next week prior to the meeting on the 21st as well as a post-meeting review of what is presented.]

     
  43. Jim Zavist says:

    If you’re not allowed to participate, because the leaders choose to ignore the basic intent of the Sunshine Law, how is one supposed to become informed, and thus be able to participate in “the actual decision making and feedback necessary for any quality development to take place”?!

     
  44. Jim Zavist says:

    AG Opinion No. 18-81: “Once a public governmental body has properly voted to close a meeting, all members of the general public should be removed from the meeting. The governmental body cannot discriminate in which members of the public it might wish to remove or allow to stay. Note: The case of Smith v. Sheriff, 982 S.W.2d 775 (Mo. App. E.D. 1998), recognizes that a body may allow certain members of the public into a closed meeting to provide information to the body.”

     
  45. dumb me says:

    Anyone who thinks this project won’t get extreme public scrutiny needs to start looking for black helicopters.

     
  46. Jim, in order to become informed one need only read the plethora of stories in the press this week. Check out Kevin Killeen’s story on kmox.com for a good summary.

     
  47. Urbanists make no contributions. We don’t try to save buildings and promote higher standards for development. We simply take money from developers and become their mouthpiece to the public. Wait, that’s aldermen.

     
  48. Turd Ferguson says:

    McKee’s actions thus far have destroyed any inkling I might have had that he is up to any good. Massive political campaign contributions, paranoid secrecy, neighborhood rot, etc etc etc. I for one hope this creep goes bankrupt and his properties sold off to small, independent developers which have been dying to get a foothold in the north side, but outside of the relatively small Old North, haven’t been able to. (Largely because of those same politicians he got into office).

     
  49. dumb me says:

    Name one small developer (with financing capacity) trying to get a foothold in North City, and I’ll show you a developer north side aldermen would love to have work in their wards.

    “Saving buildings and promoting higher standards of development” means…?

     
  50. Tim E says:

    Turd, I’m confused on who are the independent developers who are dying to get a foothold into the north side based on what is on the ground and the city literally giving properties away to anyone who can pay a tax bill?

    I give credit for steve stating that he is going into the May 21st meeting with an open mind. I also give Slay some credit on his website. He stated fairly that their was a large disinvest from the private sector during the 1950’s and it will take a large investment on someone’s part to revive the area. In between has been some fifty plus years for anyone to come along and give it a try. The results of dismal to date.

     
  51. Blue Shutters Development would be an example of a developer making great efforts towards rehabilitation in areas which are certainly not a given. Unlike ONSL, Hyde Park does not have an established rehab/preservation effort which began decades ago. Yet they chose to make an impact and go ahead anyway. Other developers should do the same, along with new infill construction, yet given his divestment through brickrustling, this was not McKee’s intent from the beginning.

     
  52. dumb me says:

    Who’s stopping Blue Shutters from doing more work in North City? McKee? McKee isn’t in Hyde Park. Or most of North City for that matter.

    While Blairmont takes up a big area, it’s a small percentage of the whole northside. North St. Louis includes 14 full or partial wards, with Blairmont only in parts of two of them.

    There’s a lot more to North St. Louis than “Blairmont” and Old North. In fact, most of it is far away from either of these two areas.

     
  53. chippewa says:

    Whats gonna happen to those INDIVIDUAL rehabbers who chose to invest their time, money and sweat in JVL, St. Louis Place, etc?Their homes will be bulldozed for exurban vinyl crap, that’s what.

     
  54. Turd Ferguson says:

    “”Saving buildings and promoting higher standards of development” means…?”

    Exactly that.

     
  55. dumb me says:

    Turd, Doug, the question is…how? Actions speak louder than words.

     
  56. GMichaud says:

    If the tax credits that are available to McKee were generally available to the public it would certainly help jump start development on the north side. I am still aghast how one man could receive this personal tax credit for efforts that, if designed to be available to the larger populace could have major impacts.

    Beyond that discussion all urban planning is in the public interest, irregardless if Paul McKee or any other developer gets public money or not. Individual developers such as McKee, even on a large scale do not represent the interests of the total city or region. He is strictly for shoving money into his pockets any way possible.

    Not unlike the lack of regulatory apparatus that has caused Americas’ current meltdown, city and regional governments have not stepped up to the plate to insure development projects fit larger community goals. (democracy)

    It is especially troubling when you consider how everyone is scrambling to see what the God McKee is planning for the area. It should not be a concern. The St. Louis City government should already have a framework in place that the citizens of St. Louis are comfortable with. Such a framework should include goals for transit, density, housing, commercial, schools and on and on.

    The lack of vision allows developers like McKee to dictate the terms of development and while there are people who seem hopeful, I question whether a self centered, if not greedy developer will consider anything other than his imagined self interests.

    This is all especially distressing considering America is facing global challenges which point to the absolute necessity for new solutions, solutions I do not see in the making.

    The fact the public and media is not allowed in discussions, irregardless of breaking any laws, demonstrates beyond a doubt the self serving motives of both the politicians and their partners, the corporate dictators of government policy.

     
  57. Jimmy Z says:

    We, as citizens, urbanists and politicians, can plan until we’re blue in the face, creating all sorts of standards and utopian visions – been there, done that. The vision will only come close to being realized if and when the city is in a position of power and feels like it can occassionally say no to a developer, even one with big plans and lots of funding – when was the last time that happened here?! Developers, both big and small, do it for the money – I don’t fault them for that, that’s what they do, and without them, development, especially redevelopment, simply wouldn’t happen. So, given where we are in the current ebb and flow of the local economy, the best we can hope for is steering any reinvestment in a better direction.

    Given our current ward structure and tradition of aldermanic courtesy, most development seems to be narrowly and parochially focused – the “need” for closed meetings just reinforces this. It also helps explain why the county has embraced their multitude of small municipalities – the end result is pretty similar – keep things on a need-to-know basis and do the bare minimum to comply with the Sunshine Law, because, dag nab it, “We know what’s best for our community (and you outsiders quit poking around in our bidness)”! Developers know this and play it to their advantage. “If you don’t play it our way, we’ll take this project somewhere else” only works when a) there ARE multiple other wards and cities, and b) you don’t really know what “they” have in the works or are willing to do!

    That’s why Sunshine Laws are so important, including making sure our elected officials follow them. Knowledge is power. Both politicians and developers have their reasons, some good, some bad, for keeping taxpayers in the dark until it’s time to actually write the checks. That’s also why I’m more than a bit confused about some of the previous responses, that closing this meeting was no big thing, that there will be plenty of other opportunities for input. Land use decisions are huge public policy issues. One of two things happened behind these closed doors. Either a preliminary plan was presented, discussed, and those present offered their comments OR a preliminary plan was presented, promises and/or veiled threats made, and discussion may or may not have occurred. Under the first scenario, if the meeting had been “open”, the larger community would simply have learned more accurately what was being planned and what the local community thought of the plans. Under the second scenario, an open meeting probably would have never happened in the first place, and if it had, could have put a whole different spin on any future discussions. I guess more than a few people just remain satisfied with the status quo, especially since it’s working so well . . .

     
  58. john says:

    Amen. This is MO, the supposedly “Show-Me-State”. Does that mean: 1) “Prove it” OR 2) “I don’t get it, show me how it’s done”? Reality: it is a combination of both.
    – –
    The skeptical side says “there’s no proof that planning works and therefore “we see no need for it”. The other side, typically elected leaders/appointed officials, takes the reigns of power and claims “we know what’s best-leave us alone”.
    – –
    Rules requiring full disclosure is causing major headaches for the second group while the first group is satisfied with the status quo as it works for them. Simplified explanation (of course) but it allows for super-citizens, those who know how to pay to play better than others.

     
  59. Jimmy Z says:

    The AG’s response is still silent on both the role and the impact of having the third alderman present. Was he just a passive observer or an active participant? What if four or five other aldermen decided to “observe” or participate? If the meeting is closed, how will anyone know? I agree, only two is not an issue, but adding the third appears to cross a threshold defined in the law, since the law doesn’t define either “facilitating” nor what constitutes a “committee”. No, this was obviously not a meeting of the entire BoA, but can it logically be “liberally construed” as a meeting of an “advisory committee appointed by or at the direction [of the BoA with] the specific purpose of recommending, directly to the public governmental body’s governing board or its chief administrative officer, policy or policy revisions or expenditures of public funds including, but not limited to, entities created to advise bi-state taxing districts regarding the expenditure of public funds”? I think so. Missouri’s law isn’t clear, Colorado’s is, and my guess is that the intent in both states is identical, “All meetings of a quorum or three or more members of any local public body, whichever is fewer, at which any public business is discussed or at which any formal action may be taken are declared to be public meetings open to the public at all times.”

     
  60. northsider says:

    I can’t believe that you guys are still talking about this — meanwhile McKee is plotting and planning for Thursday unnoticed!

     
  61. Jimmy Z says:

    We obviously differ about what we think is “important” . . .

     

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