The thing you need to understand about the City of St. Louis is that it is not in the public information business. You cannot ask the City for information. How much did that cost? Who is the person responsible? When did this happen?
In order to obtain an answer to a question from the City, you must phrase it in the form of a public records request. You make a Sunshine request for a Report, Meeting Minutes, copy of correspondence, etc. that might have the answer you seek.
In most cases, these records should be posted online and easy to find in a search. But this is St. Louis, and it must be dragged kicking and screaming to #OpenGov and transparency.
Our Board of Aldermen are considering placing a $50 Million Bond Issue on the August 7, 2018, ballot. The proposal was initiated by the City’s Comptroller and was sent to Aldermen by the City Capital Committee. That committee is created by 5.35.040 of the City Code and consists of…
1) City Budget Director (who chairs)
2) Director, Community Development Agency
3) President, City Board of Public Service
4) Lewis Reed, President, Board of Aldermen (or designee)
5) One Alderman appointed by Board President: 16th Ward Alderman Tom Oldeburg
6) Board of Aldermen Ways & Means Chair (or designee) – 26th Ward Alderman Frank Williamson
7) Comptroller Darlene Green (or designee)
8) One management staffer @ Comptroller Office
9) Mayor Lyda Krewson (or designee)
While researching the Capital Committee, I came across 5.35.030 of the City Code which creates the Citizens Advisory Committee for Capital Expenditures. This committee consists of…
2 members appointed by each of the City’s 28 Aldermen
4 members appointed by Mayor
4 members appointed by Comptroller
4 members appointed by Board President
The Advisory Committee’s duties are “to review and assess capital needs and to advise the Capital Committee on the development and recommendation of the Capital Improvement Plans (CIPs) and corresponding Capital Budgets and to review the City’s accomplishments with respect to the Capital Budgets approved in previous years.”
Those Reports, along with Meeting Minutes, should be available online. But they are not.
I’m not interested in the Reports. I’m interested in finding out who is on the Committee and talking with some of them about their input on the $50 Million Bond Issue.
In order to find out who is on the Committee, I made a Sunshine request for their most recent Meeting Minutes. The member names will be in the attendance paragraph of the Minutes.
Not so much.
Wednesday, January 10, 2018, I made the request.
Tuesday, January 16, 2018, the City Counselor’s Office responded with a copy of the most recent Meeting Minutes for the City’s Capital Committee- the wrong committee.
Wednesday, January 17, 2018, I asked for the Meeting Minutes, again, and attached a copy of my previous request showing I gave correct information.
Tuesday, January 23, 2018, City Counselor’s Office responded and said, I am paraphrasing here, “When hell freezes over.”
The City Counselor’s Office will get back with me, at the earliest, by February 15, 2018, but will give me the price tag by February 12, 2018. The City is taking more than a month to produce a copy of one Meeting’s Minutes. I’m not asking for it to be set to music and performed on stage.
The City Counselor’s Office says my request involves research and more than one City department. There is someone in the Mayor’s office who is in charge of appointees. You contact this person to find out who the Mayor’s appointees are and who is in charge. Or you ask the City’s Budget team because it’s highly unlikely the Advisory Committee meets without them in the room.
The City Counselor’s Office says they might need to redact information. It’s a committee of 58 volunteers. There’s no secret information being shared with them. There’s no hiring, firing, or disciplinary actions going on.
The whole thing is preposterous.
The City of St. Louis is not above Missouri’s Sunshine Law. The City Counselor’s Office works for Mayor Lyda Krewson. I don’t know what the Mayor is hiding here. But I will continue to pursue answers.
— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman