Imagine having a municipal tax with a ten year sunset requiring renewal and your City used some of that money to pay for the campaign to renew the tax. That would be illegal under Missouri law. You cannot use public resources to campaign for elected officials or ballot issues.
And, yet, that is very similar to what the Downtown St. Louis Community Improvement District is doing. The difference is that this CID is funded by an assessment on property within the CID boundaries. While CIDs are political subdivisions of the State, some more than others. In the case of the Downtown CID, it appears to be more nonprofit than political subdivision. Still, does use of CID assessments for political purposes violate state law? Is this CID subject to the same laws as other political subdivisions or is it a business version of a Home Owners Association on steroids?
In August 2018, State Auditor Nicole Galloway issued a scathing audit of CIDs across Missouri, including the Downtown CID. That would imply that the revenue collected is indeed a public resource. However, the Downtown CID and its assessment funding are approved by petition, not election. Does the petition process constitute an election? Good question.
The Downtown CID is certainly treating its renewal like an election. It recently issued a Request for Proposals for “Political and Public Relations Consulting Services.” Proposals are due 3 pm Monday.
The RFP clearly states that the job is “related to the impending expiration, and potential renewal or reorganization of the CID.” Qualifications include experience in “ballot or petition issues in Missouri” and “crisis management.” One has to wonder how big a mess a CID is in to need a crisis management professional.