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The Dictatorship of the Wealthy

July 5, 2007 Guest, North City, Planning & Design, Politics/Policy 31 Comments

A guest editorial by Greg Michaud

A law that gives Paul McKee access to 100 million in tax credits for North St. Louis shows clearly the Dictatorship of the Wealthy is alive in Missouri and in America. No matter what happens in North St. Louis there are serious implications in writing a law that benefit one man and his companies.

The tax credit is unethical and represents a pattern of continual transferring of government resources to benefit a small select group. This pattern occurs on the local level all the way to the nations’ capital.

There are three main aspects of this tax credit law which has turned the political process into a playground for the wealthy. The first problem is the law is clearly written for Paul McKee, he owns some 500 properties in the area, no one else could qualify. The state legislators do not explore alternatives; they simply pass, almost mindlessly, the law for their patron. Donations figure into the passage of this law to the extent we should stopping clowning around and call donations what they are, bribes.

Beyond that serious breach of public trust is the complete exclusion of the citizens in the political process. Apparently neither Mayor Slay nor the aldermanic representatives know of any plans. The State of Missouri passes a 100 million dollar tax credit without assessment of the needs of the area in question is poor leadership, management and shows a lack of legislative skill and judgment. (I wonder if they would give a citizens group asking for passage of a 100 million dollar tax credit the time of day)

The final problem is the lack of a new city plan to accommodate any redevelopment. Citizens without a plan are not represented. If there was a plan, citizens in general would have been less concerned about McKee buying up property, as anything he did with the property would have to fit into an urban framework already agreed to by city government and the people. Unfortunately the city government has a reputation of just the opposite, rather than protecting the interests of the citizens, the wishes of developers are put first, hence the alarm at McKee’s purchases.

For the Dictatorship of the Wealthy topics such as the welfare of the people are meaningless. McKee has a trail of donations/bribes solidifying his interests. There are many variations this 100 million tax credit could have taken to help rebuild north St. Louis. A small scale tax credit is just as likely to be successful. And just why is 100 acres needed before redevelopment occurs? The questions, the options, and the possibilities are endless. Yet the way the state has handled this law it appears granting McKee 1 million dollars an acre to insure his profitability is the only viable option

The city of St. Louis, like most cities was built by many individuals and developers. The delight of a city like St. Louis is the visual variety and beauty. With someone controlling 100 hundred acres the visual monotony would become deadening, if not grim. In any case Soulard, the Loop, Lafayette Square, the West End and other neighborhoods revived without the input of a mega developer.

And is he going to bring his suburban outlook to the City? Will it be cul de sacs and a major strip mall every so often? He controls the real estate; it means his chain store friends will also be in line with their hands out. The little guy will be locked out in a suburban format.

America is at war, possible energy shortages loom in the future, global warming is real beyond a doubt, and fully 40% of the energy America uses comes from the built environment and another 28% from transport. There should be serious debate about what type of city to build now and in the future. It is past time to rethink how St. Louis is doing business. It is astounding there is a lack of political or corporate leadership (and courage) in this area; the conditions are so obviously headed for a potential crisis. Yet like Nero playing his fiddle as Rome burned, these modern day Nero’s don’t want to upset their status quo money making machine.

Reimagining the built environment is essential. Any rebuilding of the city must include all transit, which means a city designed for bicycles, walking, streetcars, trains and mopeds as well as cars. Any rebuilding should consider densities, including energy saving row housing. Any rebuilding should look at dispersing stores into neighborhoods and public space and parks should be included and connected to a city wide system of public spaces (also connected by transit).

In his blog Mayor Slay said he doesn’t know McKee’s intentions are exactly the problem. Mayor Slay and the Board of Alderman as the representatives of the people should be telling McKee what the plans are for St. Louis, not the other way around.

Without taking hold of Urban Planning within the city limits, without a plan that integrates transit, public space, housing densities and commercial areas, city officials and the mayor are derelict in their duty. The citizens are left out of the process.

Mayor Slay attempts to reconcile McKee with the citizens in his blog by saying he will need a “battery of commission and legislative approvals, and a forest of hearings and meetings will be necessary” and he also says “should there ever be a redevelopment plan for the area current stakeholders must be included in the process.” It sounds good, except citizens have been systemically excluded in the recent past; so it is difficult to trust his words now.

However flawed the planning issues are concerning this project, the Dictatorship of the Wealthy is no more than an inside deal for insiders in the political process. It is a deal signed off by state legislators without investigation and without due diligence.

The Post-Dispatch has shown independence from the pervasive power structure, but cannot ignore this insider trading. Until it is stopped, the notion of a tax credit for one man graphically illustrates the nature and condition of a dictatorship. It is “an autocratic form of absolute rule by leadership unrestricted by law or other social and political factors within the state.” McKee operates beyond the realm of democratic principles.

In summary Governor Blunt should veto the measure. Upon the veto the House and Senate should enact new legislation in cooperation of the people, leveraged for the benefit of society, not to protect the profit margins of McKee and his entourage.

Failure to enact new legislation will demonstrate the corruption of government and its dictatorship towards the public. As stated in the Declaration of Independence “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.”

The Dictatorship of the Wealthy subverts democracy and severely limits debate. It directs government funds into the pockets of a few. In the end it is destroying America with decision making colored with attempts to fulfill the lust of the wealthy. It is not a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

– Greg Michaud has lived in various parts of the world and is currently raising his daughter in South St. Louis.


Currently there are "31 comments" on this Article:

  1. Mark says:


    Nice post. What is the legislation to which you’re referring?

    We have our tax giveaway problems in Kansas City too.

    [SLP – The legislation is the Distressed Areas Land Assemblage Tax Credit Act which was passed by the Missouri legislature this past session — it is now before the Governor for signature.]

  2. toby says:

    A brilliant summation masterfully written. Bravo.

    But one correction:
    Of COURSE Slay knows the details of McKee’s plans. McKee wouldn’t spend the money without City Hall having his back. It was easier to swallow Slay’s silence over the issue than to try and choke down their public fabrications. It is the STL City equivalent of Paris Hilton looking Larry King in the eye and swearing she never did drugs while bloggers resurrected countless photos of her toking it up.

  3. Reginald Pennypacker III says:

    “Beyond that serious breach of public trust is the complete exclusion of the citizens in the political process.”
    It’s a decent enough article, but the writer makes the common error of asserting that “the people” (whoever they are) are excluded from the political process. Nothing could be further from the truth. “The people” are very much involved through a process called “elections”. Perhaps you have heard of them?
    If you don’t like the way politicians are representing you, elect some new ones.

  4. inside says:

    maybe i’m missing the big picture here but i think receiving up to a $100 million in tax credits is actually a good thing for north st. louis. there has been relatively little or no investment in north st. louis the last 40 years so someone wants to come in and build new homes to complement the neighborhoods, retail stores, parks, and other amenities to improve the quality of life is a good thing as far as i’m concerned………why would you complain about the tax credits when they are helping your community?

    [SLP — You need to check out North St. Louis.  There is construction happening all over the place — all likely subsidized on the local level via TIF and/or tax abatement.  The problem, for me at least, is saying someone gets a big tax credit for assembling land.  Make the tax credit for building a great mixed-use mixed-income neighborhood and I might be impressed.  And if $100 million is so great why not make it $200 million or $500 million or even a billion?  Paul McKee had his lawyers write the credit he wanted to get.]

  5. LisaS says:

    An interesting take, Michaud … I find myself wondering, as RP3 ^ noted, who are “the people”? Are the wealthy not people? “The people” who vote are clearly not dissatisfied since they continue to reelect the same sort repeatedly over a half century of decline.

    As I listened to KWMU’s St. Louis on the Air this morning, one of the commentators made a statement about “people voting with their checkbooks” early in this presidential election cycle. As I read your post, I ponder this and JZ’s Golden Rule: “He who has the gold makes the rules.” One could construe from the combination of the two that that the people who matter vote early in every election, (leaving the rest of us to cast our lots out of those preapproved) and thus make the rules.

    A cynical view, perhaps even too cynical for me.

  6. Stef says:

    Aside from pro or anti-McKee comments, this piece comments on a REALLY important point: designing our cities NOW for future needs. With gas prices already going through the roof it is absolutely stupid to be building another car-dependent suburb. Or a heating-fuel or natural-gas-centric suburb. We absolutely need to preserve what is left of the 18th & 19th century infrastructure because these sorts of neighborhoods were able to function without depending on cars, natural gas, electricity, etc. – resources that are going to become more and more expensive and scarce in the coming years. We need neighborhoods like these for practical, not just aesthetic reasons … dense, walkable neighborhoods are sustainable neighborhoods … neighborhoods which will continue to function even when gas prices make driving all the time less feasible for a lot of us.

  7. LisaS says:

    Inside, What is the definition of “helping” a community? Given the process, the 100-acre requirement, McKee’s silence, and the posturing politicians, the NStL community is left only to believe that the development will follow the notion advanced by State Sen. John Griesheimer, original sponsor of the tax credit: “My idea of redeveloping is taking a blighted area and bulldozing it, putting mixed-uses in.” (from the RFT article, quoted on ecoabsence.blogspot.com) Obviously, supposing this follows the example of McKee’s past developments it doesn’t respond now to future needs as Stef and Michaud remind us it must.

    As Steve noted, there’s a lot happening now supported by local subsidies. A state tax credit to support small scale development would be probably be even better than the current proposal because it would create incremental change more likely to respond to the slow shift in perception required to create mainstream demand for properties in the area. It would also spread the money around to more than one entity–a little more democratic.

  8. dude says:

    I’m partial to red brick buildings myself and adore areas of St. Louis like Soulard, like Lafayette Park, and St. Louis Hills. Driving, walking, or biking around in these places is a joy on unto itself. On occasion I’ve driven on Grand or Kingshighway, or West Florissant road, starting at I-70 and I make my way south to highway 40. If it’s been a while for you I’d recommend giving this a go sometime. I get pleasure from this drive that is different than the previous parts of St. Louis I mentioned. This is more of an urban safari with some potential element of danger around every corner. It is an adrenaline rush even if it is for the wrong reasons. With this comes a lot of sadness as well. I realize people do live there and it probably doesn’t feel good to know people think of your neighborhood as a lifeless lawless place but that’s the harsh truth. I doubt I’d walk much of it or ride my bike and usually drive with my car door locked mostly because I stand out and I believe the best bet for one’s personal safety in public is keep a low profile. You see some of the same nice architecture and population that you see in the previous mentioned places, but you also see abandonment on a monumental scale and abandonment of some neat looking buildings. It must be the same attraction to ghost towns for people as it is for me and the northside. This is where Paul McKee has decided to buy. Slay’s eagerness for reform has and will embolden Paul McKee. The fastest way to get change to occur is to let McKee take the lead and some of it will be irritable. I don’t know how much of the architecture I like to see will be kept. We don’t know for sure but many of us suspect we’re stuck now with which is the lesser of two evils; Paul McKee subdivisions or the ghost town urban safari landscape. Frankly it’s scary to think anybody would be willing to debate that. I’m not saying those are the only two possible outcomes but for what they are one represents change, they other status quo. Fighting the tax credit will ensure the status quo will continue. I’m assuming he has uninviting gated and walled in streets in mind, like you already see in some of the affluent larger single dwelling housing in the CWE, for single-use zoned residential, which I suspect Slay will happily approve. Come election time, the people who decide to vote can decide whether they approve of Slay’s approval. I suspect they will though I could be wrong. The tax credit represents the insurance for profitability a cash laden tycoon would require at this point if Slay wants them to do something on the northside that resembles progress out of the chaotic urban safari it is now. I’m not sure how that is unethical or immoral. To do nothing I think would be unethical or immoral. That being said I think the article’s second paragraph is erroneous. It has that pro-socialist anti-capitalist “money is the root of all evil” ring to it that normally rallies the masses but I disagree with it in this context. McKee has the money because he’s a shrewd businessman. Planning translates to bureaucracy and forfeits the business benefits of the surprise attack which means deflated profits. McKee knows this (see two sentences back). We can be annoyed but not surprised. OK running for cover now.

  9. Adam says:

    sure, just “elect some new ones.” just like that. so what are we to do, say, in the middle of a four-year term while our “representatives” are making back-room deals with shady developers. just wait it out? by the time next election roles around, for example, we may have 500 fewer historic homes on the north side and the beginnings of a lovely new suburb! this idea that elected officials represent their constituents all of the time is ridiculous. sure, if they don’t represent the majority they may get voted out of office 2 or 3 years down the road AFTER they’ve caused plenty of damage and received plenty of kick-backs from pigs like McKee. but that doesn’t do much good in the present, does it? this whole blairmont ordeal, in particular, is certainly a large enough issue to warrant DIRECT public input.

  10. Craig says:

    I would normally take someone’s use of the word “dictatorship” when describing the activities of a state legislature to be hyperbole, but, in this case, I think that the author genuinely believes that the citizens of Missouri, and presumably all states where pushy wealthy people reside, are subject to dictatorship.

    This is unfortunate because the author ignores the very definition of “dictatorship” that he bothered to cite — “an autocratic form of absolute rule by leadership unrestricted by law or other social and political factors within the state.”

    The key component to the definition is the portion about being unrestricted by law or other social and political factors. Well, our leadership is restricted by numerous social and political factors. Most prominent among these factors are a press uncontrolled by the government (the author even confusingly acknowledges the Post Dispatch) and elections.

    While the wealthy certainly have an advantage in that they can donate more money to candidates than the rest of us, it’s too bad that one has to use the dictatorship word in light of the scores of dictators that tormented millions throughout world history.

  11. Adam says:

    not that an aristocracy is any better.

  12. Maurice says:

    In any case Soulard, the Loop, Lafayette Square, the West End and other neighborhoods revived without the input of a mega developer.

    Many of the city’s neighborhoods were at one time farm land or forest, torn down to make way for another ‘new’ development.

    Developement will always be contriversal. Either save the past or get damned for running it over. But with time, needs change some buildings can adapt, others cannot and will be lost.

    As for our elected officials. If the voters can not get to the polls to prevent the drastic healthcare cuts or any of the other important issues, do you really think they can do much change? And then of course, if the elected officials don’t like the vote, they just override it.

    And it doesnt help either that many of the elected officials dont’ even bother to read (or cannot read the 1,000’s of pages) that are tossed at them a day or two before a needed vote or that one can add unrelated bills to an item up for vote.

  13. Jim Zavist says:

    There are two distinct issues in play here, special treatment for a small group of special interets and what will become of McKee’s holding on the north side. Large developments are not inherently evil, there are some good examples out there. The biggest one that I’m familiar with is Forest City’s redevelopment of the Stapleton Airport site in Denver. The big difference between Forest City and McKee is that Denver (the city and its Planning & Community Development Agency) pretty much master planned (WITH much public input) a green community BEFORE Forest City was selected as the master developer (and received a variety of incentives to assist in developing the land). Here, the opposite appears to be happening, with a private developer buying enough property to create enough critical mass to (potentially) justify condemnation of the properties that they can’t acquire on the open market, combined with a master plan that is evolving WITHOUT any real public input. The other huge difference was Denver was redeveloping essentially vacant land (runways don’t have a lot of sentimental value or direct reuse potential), while McKee’s holdings are a patchwork of sites in existing neighborhoods.

    Incentives are a fact of life on any project, especially one of this potential scope, and especially around here. The fundamental question is will the city/state receive a significant return on its investment? Using Stapleton, again, “The first five years of the multi-year redevelopment of the former Stapleton International Airport has generated $5.7 billion in economic and fiscal impact for the Metro Denver region, according to a study released today by the non profit Stapleton Development Corporation (SDC).

    The study conducted by Development Research Partners (DRP) also projects the redevelopment of the 4,700 acre property will generate a total of $36.3 billion for the Metro Denver region upon completion of the project. Forest City Stapleton, Inc., the master developer for the former airport property, anticipates full build out of the mixed use community will occur by 2020 when an estimated 12,000 homes and apartments, 13 million square feet of commercial uses and more than 1,100 acres of new parks and open space will be completed in a community of 30,000 residents supporting 35,000 jobs.” (http://www.stapletondenver.com/news/press_detail.asp?pressReleaseID=85)

    If McKee comes close to generating comparable numbers, will he be viewed, in retrospect, as evil or a savior, or something in between? The big issue I see with the whole Blairmont situation is the secrecy combined with the assumption that whatever is brought forward will be “rubber stamped” and approved without defining a public vision or seeking (and responding to!) significant public input. The public financial “contribution” seems to be “generous” simply because it’s huge compared to our own personal budgets. Given the likely scope of this project, it’s not so big. But the real question is not what’s going in, it’s what’s coming out? Are/will we be making a “good” or “great” investment (one that will generate steady returns for years to come) or will we simply be lining another developer’s pockets for a project like too many others around here, that open weakly and fizzle quickly, leaving us taxpayers holding another empty bag?

  14. dude says:

    I get the impression with the repeated references to green communities that it’s more important to some of us that North St. Louis not become eco-unfriendly than a social liability and financial embarrassment it is now. It’s like, it’s more important to worry about melting glaciers than it is the lives of people in North St. Louis.

  15. streetcar says:

    Wow, I feel a kindred spirit in “the Dude”. The Dude asks good questions. Improve the lives of people or build green communities? Some will say green environments are for bettering the lives of people. Others will show how current residents can’t afford the high cost of entering the market for modern, green homes. Others will point out that few current residents will be around when McKeeTown is built. What will come of McKee’s plan for his holdings? How will the community change? How will it respond? How will leadership in STL play into the mix? These are exciting times to be a St. Louisan. We are rebuilding our city one neighborhood after another. Downtown’s revival proves that to the world.

  16. Ben H says:

    Dude! which is it for you? The “lives of people in North St. Louis” or “social liability and financial embarassment”. Dont represent the start-over redevelopment of North St Louis as helping the poor and unfortunate, that is just lame. First, the problems of poor communities arent caused by old houses (lead paint aside). Put simply, the areas of the north side that are largely abandoned and functionally obsolete (a minority of the entire north side) got that way because of family and economic problems, and yes discrimination, and the CIA conspiring to introduce street drugs. Start over redevelopment wont address that, in fact it will exacerbate them. New development will exclude most current North siders as a matter of course, new construction will simply be unattainable to many.
    The north side was at one time a strong majority African American community, sadly parts of it have devolved somewhat. If you find that embarassing, start addressing the real problems of people, along with reconstructing the built environment around them, not over them.

  17. I am not sure what is more disturbing: Slay and the BOA knowing of the plans, or rendering support while being left in the dark? Either way, St. Louis City’s legislative and executive branches need a good spring cleaning. Yet, who will step up?

  18. headcounter says:

    Does anyone know if the population of the potential McKee Town is going up-down-to the side?

    I hear about all of this burgeoning development on the northside, but I can’t say for sure that voters, people who vote with their feet, are impressed enough to replace the population that is leaving for whatever reason. In 2000, the northside lost a ward to the southside while the city population as a whole decreased.

    [SLP — Most likely the population of McKee Town will be greater than what is there now but that is a good question.  I personnally would like to see some fairly high densities around a commercial district with a bus center.  

    Remember that the last redistricting was based on the census from 2000 which reflected patterns from 1990-2000.  Quite a bit has happened in the years since, get away from the river and check it out.] 

  19. headcounter says:

    sources tell me bill 327 will be vetoed by Governor Blunt. Man, I hope I am not wrong.

  20. dude says:

    I guess the addictiveness of this is always trying to get the last word. Assigning blame won’t improve the current situation. I’m letting the CIA off the hook on this one. Addressing the “people’s” problems I suspect will be as productive as talking to a stalk of corn. I think that plan is unlikely. Getting middle class families into the city is probably the mayor’s agenda on this. Starting over is the quick way of achieving that goal and won’t please everybody. If McKee promised Slay 5000 families, he probably gave him the keys to city hall. McKee’s got the upper hand. It’s too hard for city hall to haggle over its ugly duckling that McKee wants ownership of. Now if McKee tries to get Kingshighway converted into an interstate I hope they put up a stronger fight.

  21. ballots says:

    There is no guarantee that McKee is planning any residential development for his McKee Town project. There has been no plan announced one way or another. Everything is mystery. All we know is that Paul McKee has amassed a huge amount of property on the near northside. The man is loaded. We can only speculate on his next move.

  22. anon says:

    The Post should run an editorial cartoon featuring a Cheshire Cat-faced McKee looking down on north city, with a sly look on his face. Captions?

  23. dude says:

    I read the news post from Blunt’s site
    there’s hardly a mention of tax credits. It looks like Blunt vetoed crap like fuel tax exemption for commercial trans-atlantic flights to europe that don’t currently exist in the Missouri. Was that some airline trying to find a competitive edge (dodge certain costs) by moving their departures from O’Hare to Lambert? That has nothing to do with North St. Louis realestate development. If this was the same bill the noise is about, I’m assuming McKee & Co. will be pushing a next round without the aviation fuel tax or dinner theater trains. Where did that stuff come from? No wonder it got vetoed. May be I followed the wrong link.

  24. barbara_on_19th says:

    Dude, Are you lost?

    I have to thank you. I am a northsider, dug in for a fight to the death over eminent domain, finding the whole McKee subject about as funny as a heart attack right now, and find myself enjoying a much-needed laugh as I read your post about lifeless-lawless-urban-ghost-towns and the adrenaline rush you get when going out for a northside spin with your bad self.

    You get off the highway at a major artery, zip along it in your car noting the run-down commercial districts, and you think you have seen my neighborhood? Kingshighway and Grand are *west* of the area McKee is buying. W Florissant is far *north*. You are frankly squirrelling around the edges of the COUNTY. If you go east on Natural Bridge to N Florissant and go south, then you would be closer the affected residential areas, but still driving past, not through. (Note that both sides of N Florissant from Nat’ Bridge to Cass are lined with derelict McKee properties. Everytime you see one with an operating business and maintained building, you will know it does not belong to McKee.)

    This is a link to a city neighborhood map, which also
    happens to be the St Louis Developement Corporation’s price map for vacant land.


    Please note the big square *orange* (meaning higher value) area north of downtown. That is the area we are talking about. Your driving tour areas are well over in the sea of green. I don’t doubt McKee has seen this map at some point, his buying pattern just homed in on the orange.

    If your idea of fun really is to lurk wherever and occasionally zip through “scary urban areas” in your car in a state of artificially induced heightened adrenaline, check out the crime stats so you can locate the truly dangerous areas of St Louis, namely CWE. Hard to zip there, though, too many cars.

    I know the stats are dry, but take a minute to note that even if you adjust for a larger square footage or a larger population, ONSL has similar crime stats to St Louis Hills.

    Look, if you like Soulard architecture, you will like Old North. Call or email me, I will meet you at Crown Candy, buy you an ice-cream and then you can have a walking tour of the neighborhood. Meet residents who work at SLU, KWMU, have their own blogs, or people whose families have been resident here for over 100 years. Meet moms with strollers, who are apparently not afraid to trundle an infant around on our mean streets. Then, you will have some actual knowledge about the area and can go back to commenting, more interestingly and persuasively with a few more facts.

    No, really, don’t be shy! I am very nice and not too snarky in person and I give this tour about 2x a week. And free ice cream! Who can resist in this weather. (Invitation is open to anyone, not just Dude.)

    Barbara Manzara

  25. Jim Zavist says:

    Barbara – you have every reason to be scared about eminent domain. No sane developer would move forward with a major redevelopment using the patchwork assemblage that McKee has at the moment. There are simply too many variables that a developer can’t control, so getting the government to give you that control through ED is the most logical and viable answer (for the developer).

    The real scary thing about all this is the secrecy. You live there and will have to deal with the direct impacts. I don’t live there, but as a city and state resident, I’ll have to deal with the indirect impacts, things that I’d like to have some input on BEFORE they’re “finalized” (as if any development of this scope is ever actually built exactly the way it was first proposed). And the “need” for secrecy is becoming more moot every day – we all know that there’s a “plan” somewhere.

    I’m enough of a libertarian to say that he can choose not to disclose IF he won’t be asking for any public funding or participation, ever. The reality is, as we all know, that public participation WILL be required. So, I don’t get it. He can continue to create shell companies to acquire properties at a “fair” (not inflated) price. But sooner or later, any plan will need vetting and approval. Rhetorically, why wait? Oh yeah, it’s easier to placate the elected officials than it is to work with neighborhood activists. And, apparently and unfortunately, I can’t count on my southside aldermen questioning the wisdom or any of the components of a northside project . . . aldermanic courtesy, you know, even though I/we will all be “on the hook” for the economic and social impacts of a project of this apparent scope.

    Oh well, enough of a Sunday afternoon rant . . .

  26. headcounter says:

    While I would like openness, I can understand the secrecy. With things like the 327 bill in the air (dead, for now), the environment is in flux. Unveiling a plan now may count on certain things that may or may not be feasible. Then the plan has to be re-worked and it is a PR nightmare. Then the developer looks like an idiot.

    As for some wanting to have input into the project, the state has five and half million residents. Realistically, all Missourians can’t expect more ‘input’ more than their elected representatives. Somebody has got to make the decisions, and the state makes decisions that I disagree with all the time, but sitting around doing nothing (save talk, of course) isn’t a solution either.

  27. john says:

    GM, is the issue really the dictatorship of the wealthy or rather “how easy is it to buy political favors from easily corruptible elected leaders”? Well maybe corruption is slightly unfair and that is why I usually substitute with the concept of “desperate”. We shouldn’t blame the wealthy for wanting to be wealthier but rather the enablers, those desperate leaders begging for solutions they cannot envision or enunciate themselves.

  28. Jim Zavist says:

    headcounter, I don’t get it: “As for some wanting to have input into the project, the state has five and half million residents. Realistically, all Missourians can’t expect more ‘input’ more than their elected representatives.” Are you saying that we constituents do not or should not have ANY input? That we shouldn’t be informed about what’s involved in a proposal of this size? That all decisions should be made “behind closed doors” and simply rubber stamped, without comment, in the public forum?! I don’t expect to a have a referendum on every government action (like should we buy twenty new police cars), but I do expect to have a chance to shape the destiny of the community that I live in. The people we elect are not (and cannot be) experts in every field and every issue that comes before them. But when the goverment (we, the people) is talking about a $100 million tax credit when our TOTAL FY 2008 St. Louis City budget is $867.7 million, damn straight, I want a voice in the decision! This ain’t no Walgreens replacing a gas station. This is potentially 100 acres of brownfield redevelopment. It WILL have an impact on the city’s budget, and in doing so, will affect the city’s ability to deliver needed services everywhere in the city. The question is whether the impact will ultimately be negative or positive.

    Redevelopment IS needed in the city. The question is whether or not it’s “good”, and I don’t have the confidence to rely on three dozen elected officials to make that determination, especially when more than two thirds of them will “defer” to the remaining handful. If this (or any) development is “good”, there’s no reason for any developer to fear a public review process. Secrecy is only needed if there’s something that needs to be “snuck thru”, something that inordinately enriches the developer with public monies and/or negatively impacts existing residents and businesses. Sure, there will always be people opposed to any change, but most people are receptive to positive improvements in their neighborhoods. Secrecy is a red flag, even if it’s the way things “have always been done here” . . .

  29. hallooo says:

    Zavist, it’s a state tax credit, not a city tax credit. The state tax credit would not affect the city’s budget. However, in the long run, redeveloping approximately 100 acres in the City would have a tremendously positive impact to the city’s budget and its capacity to deliver services to its residents.

    And as for fears of eminent domain, the state statute (I don’t remember the number right now) was amended last year to require that a developer to blight all of the area on a parcel-by-parcel basis in order to exercise it, and the statute makes it more difficult to do even that. It would be very difficult, if not impossible, for the developer to blight, and take via eminent domain, recently rehabbed and currently occupied properties.

  30. Jim Zavist says:

    I’m not opposed to positive redevelopment. I’m opposed to secrecy and excluding all but the “select few” from the decision-making process. (See today’s post about the parking pad for a microcosim of the whole dynamic and why I’m “concerned”.) Tax money is fungible – it’s all green and it’s all coming out of we the taxpayers’ pockets. The Missouri state budget is $7.1 billion. A $100 million credit would reduce it by 1.4%. $100 million would also pay for a lot of critical needs across the state. And if you’re a legislator from KC or Branson, when push comes to shove, the shortfall will be made up by cutting St. Louis-area projects, not the ones in their parts of the state!


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