What’s billionaire free market crusader Rex Sinquefield buying these days? Better Together, his faux civic organization, has purchased a front row seat to Post-Ferguson Decision plotting and scheming on courts and police.
Sinquefield has enough money to make thousands of no interest loans to small businesses and entrepreneurs without it hurting him if they all go belly up.
Sinquefield has enough money to set up a fund to hire thousands of local youth to shovel snow and rake leaves for old people, pick up trash, plant flower bulbs along highways, and run recreation and arts activities for kids and senior citizens.
Sinquefield has a whole lot of money that could be doing a whole lot of good these days, making a positive difference in the lives of thousands.
True. He and his wife have a charitable foundation to fund their favorite art and cultural institutions and nonprofits, including scholarships for parochial school students.
But nearest and dearest to Sinquefield is his political Agenda– fighting the great evils of our time as he sees them: income taxes, public education, unions, and campaign finance reform. He is Missouri’s Koch Brothers. For Sinquefield, Ferguson is a means to an end, the end of St. Louis City’s earnings tax.
Sinquefield dropped over $11 Million on a 2010 constitutional amendment to require St. Louis and Kansas City to perpetually reauthorize their earnings taxes with a public vote. Statewide voters approved the amendment. Later, local voters approved retaining the taxes. The alternatives were raising sales taxes or property taxes to replace the loss of revenue, neither viable. Until Ferguson.
And it’s a police chiefs think tank that’s been hired to do the study. Naturally. Because when you have a crisis of confidence regarding police, the best course of action is hire police to come up with a plan to reform policing.
The earnings tax is 32% of St. Louis City’s General Revenue Fund. The City Police Department’s budget is roughly $10-15 Million more than what the earnings tax brings in. Create a regional police department funded by a sales tax and you get rid of the City’s earnings tax.
The region served will not, of course, be the St. Louis Region. It will be the City of St. Louis and poorer communities, small and large, in St. Louis County.
Tony Ladue, with 8,560 people, will get to keep its police because 36% of Ladue’s Budget comes from property taxes. Less affluent Ferguson, with 21,111 people will, of course, have to join the regional department.
High income Frontenac, population 3,484, will continue with its own force but Pagedale, population 3,304, with 30% below the poverty line, will have to join the regional department. There is but 180 citizens difference in population but they are many millions apart in income.
It’s not about the size of the municipality. It’s about revenue to run the department.
There are speed trap funded police departments all over this state, including towns half the size of the St. Louis City’s LaSalle Park Neighborhood. In the Ozarks, poor Hispanics or poor Whites get the shakedown. In other places, it mostly impacts tourists. But Rex Sinquefield doesn’t care about them. They don’t have an earnings tax he’s passionate about eliminating.
Ferguson is not a small city in Missouri. Ferguson is Missouri’s 35th largest city of over 900 cities and towns. Ferguson is larger than half of Missouri’s 115 counties. It’s home to Emerson Electric. A regional earnings tax with a split between place of work and place of residence would allow Ferguson to afford its own police force without speed traps, if it so desired.
Indianapolis has a regional police force funded by an income tax. But there can be no regional earnings tax to fund either independent police departments or a regional police department here. Thank Sinquefield for that. The constitutional amendment he sponsored prohibits any political subdivision from ever establishing another earnings tax in Missouri.
We’ll be told by a
police chiefs group “Experts” that a regional department is what is best for us. Then we’ll be told by Sinquefield’s PR Machine “Experts” that the best way to fund it is a sales tax. Thought Leaders will rush to support it and few in Media will question it because, you know, “Experts” were involved and there’s an official looking report.
In order for Sinquefield to get rid of the City’s earnings tax via this regional sales tax for a St. Louis City + Poor Communities Police Department, the Missouri General Assembly will need to pass some enabling legislation creating a new political subdivision, a funding district.
This new funding district will have a pricey Chief Executive Something and a weak oversight board or commission appointed by Mayor of St. Louis and St. Louis County Executive, or Governor, or, well, it really does not matter. There will be zero accountability to the people served. Sure. Some kind of weak civilian review board will also be included. But the more layers insulating elected officials, the less accountability there is. If you want accountability, you do not look to Metropolitan Sewer District or Bi-State Development Agency (dba Metro) as role models.
Sinquefield will drop blimp loads of money on the ballot campaign, which will be conveniently held in a low turnout election. We’ll be told the proposal will restore peace. The high voter registration and turnout wards in South City will vote for it. And it will pass.
But there can be no real peace without justice. And only in Missouri would someone have the audacity to suggest we can have justice with an unaccountable regional police force suggested by a police chiefs association to be funded with a regressive sales tax.