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Spending Money on the Way Out the Door

April 9, 2009 25th Ward, Politics/Policy 13 Comments

Four years ago, in March 2005, I lost my bid to become Alderman for the 25th Ward.  My opponent was Dorothy Kirner, the incumbent.  Kirner had won the office through a special election in 2004 when the previous Alderman, her husband Dan Kirner, died while in office.

I ran on the premise that I’d do something. I didn’t win.  Kirner was elected to a full term.  She did something  — she hoarded $625K in capital improvement money rather than, you know, make needed capital improvements in the ward.

Alderman Dorothy Kirner incurred the anger of a neighborhood group when she approved a repaving package for her ward that includes $21,600 to repave two blocks in front of her house.

The allocation is part of $409,600 in capital spending she signed off on recently to repave parts of 12 streets in her 25th Ward.

Chris Wintrode of the West Dutchtown Neighborhood Association said there’s more pressing needs and that she didn’t obtain comment from the residents, some of whom have other concerns.

“The issue’s not that Alderwoman Kirner has no authority to spend money in the account. It’s that she’s secretly spending taxpayer money less than a month before she leaves office resurfacing the road in front of her house,” Wintrode said.

The repaving money came from a $624,469 reserve built up from 25th Ward capital money not spent for several years. Kirner is free to allocate it as long as it is spent on public property or a public right-of-way.  (source: Suburban Journal on 4/7/09)

So Kirner hoarded $625K over her four years in office and then spent 2/3 of it in her final month.  Why wait until you are a lame duck?

I should note that some money was spent in her four years.  Streets were repaved.  Beautiful brick alleys were covered in asphalt.  Sidewalk repairs were made.  Dumpsters were replaced.  But six hundred twenty-five grand was not spent.  Amazing!

The Dutchtown West Neighborhood Association has listed all 28 wards in both numerical order and in money unspent (link).  As of December 2008, the 25th’s $624,469 placed it second to the 1st ward with $745,617 in unspent money.  On the other end of the scale the 18th & 24th wards have fully exhausted their allotments.  The city’s fiscal year ends on June 30th.

The city’s 1st ward is located on the Northside and includes the intersection of Kingshighway & Natural Bridge.

The total unspent funds was nearly $5.5 million!  Are these wards so perfect we have no projects worth doing?  Aldermen too afraid of Eliot Davis questioning the use of the money allocated for capital improvements?

The city could certainly benefit from $5+ million in capital improvements.  I can think of many things likely needed in these wards with stockpiles of money.  Bike racks, street trees and ADA curb ramps come to mind.  Street furnishings like trash receptacles and benches are also good projects, in the right spots.  Parks always need improving as well.


Currently there are "13 comments" on this Article:

  1. Ann says:

    1st Ward is Troupe. He does nothing for his ward. He is nothing but a crazy old slum lord.

    I feel bad for his ward. They believe his lies and re-elect him while he does nothing but hold the ward back.


  2. Jimmy Z says:

    Rhetorical questions – why give each alderman such a large discretionary amount every year? And why not do what most governments do – use it or lose it – require that the money be spent in the year for which it’s budgeted, so it can’t be hoarded? The only reason why hoarding makes any sense is to “save up” to fund a project that’s larger than the annual allotment. Deciding which blocks get paved shouldn’t be left up to the alderman, it should be done on a documented, quantifiable, as-needed basis, with the ones in the worst shape done first!

    The reality is that some parts of the city are in worse shape than others, and logically (I know, logic will never trump politics), capital spending should be allocated to the most critical projects. If the whole city looked better, not just the “good” parts, we’d likely have a better perception, both regionally and nationally. And Elliot Davis has gotten it right more than once – building brick gateways in struggling residential neighborhoods will do little to attract more jobs, and it’s our stagnant (dying?) local economy that is the biggest challenge we all face!

    (And yes, I get it, this will “never change”. It’s been the way it’s been done for decades, no alderman will give up one iota of perceived power, and money is power. It’s just frustrating, as a resident of a “good” part of the city, to both know that I’m probably receiving a higher level of service because it’s it’s always been higher and to see the truly fragmented and mostly-ineffective efforts happening in some of the poorer parts. It also explains why the County will continue to be made up of dozens and dozens of smaller cities, most of whom continue to see absolutely no need to “do” anything for the city!)

  3. dumb me says:

    JZ, you’re trying to bring western styled municipal government to an eastern styled old world city.

  4. samizdat says:

    What dumb me actually said: You’re advocating cleaning up the the most corrupt and venal system of gevernment we could buy and we don’t like that. St. Louis’ new motto should be “Still stupid after all these years”.

  5. Chris says:


    [slp — thanks for providing the link. In my hurry I forgot to include it. I’ve added it above in the original post. And thanks for bringing this issue to our attention along with the supporting docs.]

  6. County Lover says:

    All that coverage of the election and no discussion of the results. Seems like somebody didn’t like the outcome. At least you will have plenty to write about for the next four years as city hall continues to make decisions you don’t agree with.

  7. Tim says:

    Did I read this right? A politician is being chastised for being frugal? Yeah, big shock she paved her own street. Yawn.

  8. JP says:

    Hey. Her street is my street too…

  9. Turd Ferguson says:

    County Lover:
    Francis (L’il thug) Slay might have been reelected with about 15% voting, but I’ll bet my gas bill is smaller than yours. 😉

  10. County Lover says:

    Mr Ferguson, can I call you Turd? Your gas bill very well may be lower than mine. With my job and my wifes job both in the county, along with the babysitter and most of the family in the county, it makes sense for us to live there. In fact, after looking at living in the city I found my gas bill would actually go up. It doesn’t make sense for me to live further from work in a bad school district. By the way, let me know how big your sewer bill is in a couple years.

    Today’s lesson – The city is not the best place for everybody in the area to live.

  11. Jimmy Z says:

    I agree with being frugal, but I also believe in the Law of Unintended Consequences. What happens to unspent funds? Can they be rolled over to future years? If they’re not spent in a Ward, where do they ultimately end up? And when it comers to accountability, looking at the city’s budget as a comprehensive document is much more informative than having “discretionary” accounts with few paper trails. Plus, I have little confidence that discretionary funds are always spent on the most critical or deserving projects – “delivering” items like dumpsters and sidewalks shouldn’t be viewed as perks, they should be viewed as basic city services and be the responsibility of the departments charged with providing and maintaining them!

  12. Becker says:

    “Beautiful brick alleys were covered in asphalt.”

    I hope you are not saying that like it is a good thing?

    [slp — no, sarcasm. Beautiful alleys now will have increased maintenance while a few alleys that needed serious attention didn’t get fixed.]

  13. Equals42 says:

    Alley paving is just Aldermanic B.S. They paved my alley last year because 4 people complained. 4 people out of 80+ houses! It was a great concrete alley with two pot holes which could have been patched.

    Waste of money and they paved over our unofficial community tomato plant which came back every year in a crack around a utility pole. Damn shame as it kept the squirrels fed and away from my plants.

    As Joker said: This town needs an enema!


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