Bond Issues for Capital Improvements are first approved by City Capital Committee, then debated and voted on by Board of Aldermen.
Sounds like a good process.
Except the City of St. Louis has been ignoring the requirement for citizen input on Capital Expenditures via Advisory Committee for four years.
January 10th, I requested the Last Meeting Minutes of the Citizens Advisory Committee.
January 16th, the City Counselor sent Meeting Minutes for the wrong committee.
January 17th, I requested the correct Meeting Minutes.
January 23rd, the City Counselor’s Office replied the earliest that I would get the copy was February 15th and they would let me know the copy and research cost by February 12th.
January 31st, I sent another Sunshine Request for the Minutes. I suggested that the City Counselor’s Office contact City Budget Director Paul Payne, who had mentioned the Advisory Committee during a Capital Committee meeting on the 2018 GO Bond proposal. That follow up did the trick.
February 2nd, the City Counselor sent me copies of so-called Minutes from the 2014 Meetings of Citizens Advisory Committee. I use “so-called” because the Minutes do not list names of Committee members present and votes, both required by Missouri’s Sunshine Law. When members pose questions or state opinions, they are noted merely as “Citizen.” This does not qualify as Minutes under Sunshine Law.
I have posted all the 2014 Citizens Advisory Committee for Capital Expenditures documents sent to me here. These are, of course, public records that should have been available all along on the City’s website.
The documents were all sent in PDF format.
PDF Properties for the 06/19/2014 Comments & Recommendations on Proposed 2014 GO Bond Issue show the file was created 6/23/2014 by Budget Director Paul Payne.
However, PDF Properties for the 5/28/2014, 06/04/2014, 06/12/2014, 06/18/2014 so-called Meeting Minutes show the files were created 1/18/2018. That’s the day after I resent my request for records and 15 days before I received copies. So, apparently, the Advisory Committee never saw or approved any Minutes, also a Sunshine Law problem.
Some takeaways from the documents:
- The Advisory Committee failed to follow Missouri Sunshine Law.
- Based on the 5/28/2014 Minutes, the only document with some member names and ward identification, it appears the Advisory Committee consisted mostly of South City residents.
- The Advisory Committee discussed improvements to City Workhouse- including air conditioning- but they were not included in 2014 GO Bond Issue. It was noted that it was not something appealing to voters. Two years later City Treasurer Tishuara Jones called for shutting down the Workhouse. Four years later, we have a campaign to shut down the Workhouse– Close The Workhouse. The 2018 GO Bond Issue includes funding for improvements at the Workhouse. But you have to wonder if that would have happened had the hell hole that is the Workhouse not received protests and elected officials speaking out on conditions.
- The Advisory Committee was tasked with helping pass the 2014 GO Bond Issue more than providing input. It appears they were assembled to be steered to certain recommendations.
The City Capital Committee met several times this year without advice of the Citizens Advisory Committee for Capital Expenditures as required by City Codes 5.35.020.
— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman