What’s Governor’s Privatization Agenda In Australia?

Missouri Governor Mike Parson is going to Australia and meeting with a company that had an interest in privatization of St. Louis Lambert Airport. Billionaire and privatization advocate Rex Sinquefield’s Dimensional Fund Advisers owns 4% of the company.  Sinquefield is also a mega donor to Governor Parson. Most of us thought the company no longer had an interest in privatization here. The company hired lobbyists, including former legal counsel to St. Louis City Board of Aldermen, but dismissed them this year. It was assumed the company no longer had an interest in privatization here. We could be very wrong.

Here are the facts.

In March 2017, as he was leaving office after 16 years as mayor, we found out St. Louis City Mayor Slay was working on airport privatization in private. By June 2017, Slay was at Spencer Fane, same law firm that hired 7th Ward Alderman Jack Coatar, and acquired a lobbyist gig for Ferrovial Airports, a potential bidder on airport privatization.

Beginning in May 2017, Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Estate, a division of Macquarie Group, began hiring prominent Jefferson City and St. Louis lobbyists, including Gamble & Schlemeier and Lewis & Rice attorney David Sweeney, former chief legal counsel to City’s Board of Aldermen.

In May 2019, Macquarie Infrastructure dropped its lobbyists. This led to speculation that Macquarie was no longer interested in securing a privatization deal here. 

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What most of us did not realize at the time, Macquarie Bank of Australia, also a part of Macquarie Group, acquired different lobbyists in December 2018. The company hired land use and economic development law firm Rouse Frets White Goss Gentile Rhodes of Kansas City. Among Macquarie’s lobbyists is former Jackson County Executive Mike White. The firm is legal counsel on Kansas City Airport’s new terminal. Missouri Ethics Commission lists Macquarie at c/o civil engineering company SK Design Group of Overland, Kansas. Among the company’s clients is Kansas City Airport.
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Also in December 2018, Rex Sinquefield donated at total of $1 Million to Governor Parson’s United Missouri PAC. $850,000 and then $150,000.

In April 2019, Rex Sinquefield had lunch with Governor Parson at the Governor’s Mansion.

In May 2019, we found out Rex Sinquefield’s Dimensional Fund Advisers owned 4% of Macquarie and he was bound to make money off an airport privatization deal.

July 31st 2019, we found out Governor Parson was going to Australia and his itinerary included a meeting with Macquarie.

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What does Governor Parson want from Macquarie and/or what does Macquarie want from Governor Parson?

If not privatization of St. Louis Lambert Airport, is the mutual interest some other privatization of State or local asset(s) and, if so, what? 

Feel free to contact Governor Parson and ask him what’s up. Phone: 573-751-3222.
Email:
governor.mo.gov/contact-us

And while we’re on the Rex Inc Airport Privatization Scam, here’s the latest pay outs to the scam consultants. Nearly $10 Million in consultant fees.

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Grow Missouri, one of Rex Sinquefield’s nonprofits, pays the consultants. Grow Missouri would be reimbursed for the payments and its role in the privatization effort should a privatization deal be delivered. The volume of conflicts of interests in the privatization process is mind blowing.

And receipts aren’t necessary. In the event a privatization deal is struck, Sinquefield’s Grow Missouri gets paid without proving what was done for the work. That’s not allowed in government procurement anywhere but this scam, to the best of my knowledge. It should be a particular concern considering one of the consultant’s is Andrew McKenna.

— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman

 

 

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City Continues To Make Capital Decisions Without Citizens Advisory Committee

Fail2 pm Wednesday
St. Louis City Capital Committee
Room 305, City Hall, 1200 Market
Open to the Public

City Online Meeting Notice/Agenda

The City of St. Louis continues to make decisions on Capital Improvements without input from ordinance-required Citizens Advisory Committee for Capital Expenditures. Previous Blog post on this issue and information on the Committee.

Airport Privatization Updates & Action Alerts

St. Louis Lambert Airport Privatization News Feed has been updated.

The Board of Aldermen is on summer break and will return on September 13th. Board Bill 19 and Board Bill 77 by 20th Ward Alderwoman Cara Spencer for a public vote on St. Louis Lambert Airport Privatization are stalled in the BOA Transportation Committee.

Transportation Chair 19th Ward Alderwoman Marlene Davis also serves on the City’s Airport Commission and is a non-voting member of the Airport Privatization Working Group.

ACTION: Text Transportation Chair Davis @ 314-680-9168 and ask her to support Board Bills 19 and 77 for a public vote on Airport Privatization. At a recent meeting, Davis gave out her cell phone number and invited everyone to text her. But be aware she is using the phone for public business, so your texts are just like emails, public records that can be Sunshined.

ACTION: Contact your Alderperson and urge them to support Board Bills 19 and 77 for a public vote on Airport Privatization.

The last meeting of the Transportation Committee (video) was very confusing. Beginning around 13.20 is a discussion started by 22nd Ward Alderman Jeffrey Boyd on whether Airport Privatization requires approval by the Board of Aldermen. We don’t know where this idea came from. Alderman Boyd only said at the meeting that he had heard something.

Alderwoman Spencer has since secured an opinion from City Counselor Julian Bush that indeed Airport Privatization requires approval by Board of Aldermen.

In a bizarre twist, the City Counselor Bush also informed that he, not the Board of Estimate & Apportionment (Mayor, Comptroller, Board President), entered into the contract with Airport Privatization consultants.

A Sunshine request for a copy of the opinion from the City Counselor to Alderwoman Spencer was rejected.
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We got it anyway.

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Opinions issued by the Missouri Attorney General are all posted online. “State legislators, statewide elected officials, state department heads, and county prosecuting attorneys may request opinions—but only on topics relating to the duties of their respective offices.” The City Counselor should do the same for opinions issued to City elected officials and department heads. Make these documents public.

stlnotforsalelogoSt. Louis Not For Sale continues to collect Prop V initiative petition signatures to place a public vote on Airport Privatization on the ballot.

ACTION: Sign the Prop V petition and/or volunteer to collect petition signatures from 6-8 pm Wednesdays @  3406 Roger Place.

The Federal Aviation Administration is accepting public comment on St. Louis Lambert Airport Privatization.

ACTION: Make your voice heard to the FAA. Post your opposition to Airport Privatization here. Read comments to the FAA here.

20th Ward Alderwoman Cara Spencer has introduced Board Bill 93 for the City to apply for a grant to secure a consultant for the Board of Aldermen to assist them on Airport Privatization.

ACTION: Contact your Alderperson and urge them to support Board Bill 93.

The next meeting of the Airport Privatization Working Group is 1 pm Wednesday, July 24th at City Hall West, 1520 Market and is open to the public.

— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman

 

8 Reasons To Oppose Another Tax Hike For Soulard (Soulard CID)

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Tomorrow/Tuesday is the Public Hearing on the Board Bill 83 to establish another special taxing district for Soulard. This one will not have any renters on the Board.

10 am Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019
Board of Aldermen
Ways & Means Committee
Kennedy Hearing Room, Room 208, City Hall, 1200 Market
Open to Public

Public Hearing on Board Bill 83 by 7th Ward Alderman Jack Coatar to create the Soulard Community Improvement District, a special tax district. Passage of the Board Bill would facilitate a vote on sales tax funding of the District. The vote would be by registered voters within the district by mail.

Soulard Community Improvement WebsiteThere is no mention of Tuesday’s Public Hearing on the website.

City Online Calendar Notice/Agenda. Committee’s Agenda was not posted until 8:34 am Monday. We previously only knew Board Bill 83 would be heard because property owners within the proposed District received their meeting notice required by law (from the CID’s legal counsel, Husch Blackwell). These types of board bills are aldermanic privilege bills, meaning the hearing is a formality and no one will vote against it.

Members of Ways & Means Committee: Chair/10th Ward Alderman Joe Vollmer; Vice Chair/19th Ward Alderwoman Marlene Davis, 5th Ward Alderwoman Tammika Hubbard; 13th Ward Alderwoman Beth Murphy; 14th Ward Alderwoman Carol Howard; 16th Ward Alderman Tom Oldenburg, 20th Ward Alderwoman Cara Spencer, 21st Ward Alderman John Collins-Muhammad, 23rd Ward Alderman Joe Vaccaro, 26th Ward Alderwoman Shameem Hubbard, 27th Ward Alderwoman Pam Boyd. Board President Lewis Reed is a voting member of all committees.

Contact Information for all Alderpersons and President Reed.

Some good people have worked very hard on the proposed Soulard CID. But I ask that you look at this issue on its merits and not on the personalities involved.

Here are some reasons to oppose the proposal.

1) State Auditor Nicole Galloway says Community Improvement Districts are a hot mess. Yes. As proponents point out, there are lots of CIDs. What they don’t point out is that most CIDs are for developers to pocket tax money, not neighborhood improvements, and most are poorly run transparency fails. Just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t mean they are doing it well.

2) Taxation Without Representation. The Soulard CID would be a political subdivision governed by Directors appointed by the Mayor, not elected by voters of the District. If someone suggested that the City Charter be changed to provide for Aldermen appointed by the Mayor instead of elected by the people, most of us would think that’s crazy. What is proposed for this CID is the same thing, the Mayor appointing people to spend our tax dollars without checks and balances. Let’s say you like the current Mayor Lyda Krewson and think she makes good choices. Fine. But she won’t be Mayor forever. It’s poor public policy to agree to something long term based on the personality of a person. Had Rex Sinquefield had his way, City CID appointments would be made by someone City voters did not elect, the County Executive.

State law, per Section 67.1451 RSMo, enables appointment of CID Directors OR election. That’s right. This taxing district could have elections for its directors but campaign organizers or the law firm putting everything together made a decision not to.

3) Taxation Without Representation. The Soulard CID Board would have no representation by renters within the District’s boundaries. Renters make up over 70% of the neighborhood’s residents. The CID was drafted deliberately to leave a super majority of the neighborhood without a voice in how their tax dollars are being spent.

The statutory options for who sits on the Board, per Section 67.1451 RSMo, include Directors who are own real property or a business operating in the District OR are registered voters within the District. I’ve heard from some supporters that the law did not allow for renters to serve and that is not true. Look at the above link to the actual law.

4) The proposed CID Sales Tax Is Regressive, affecting our senior citizen and low income neighbors more than those better off.

5) CIDs are parochial, increase fragmentation in the City and region, and further widens the Haves and Have Nots gap. Tax Revenue is not escaping Soulard. This proposal does not capture revenue currently going to City General Revenue. It’s as if some proponents are saying, vote for this Sales Tax and then vote against future citywide tax hikes. Once we have ours, screw everyone else. The City’s problems need to be addressed citywide, not as every neighborhood its own city-state. Soulard’s sales tax is lower than neighboring areas with CIDs, a competitive edge that should be exploited in marketing. Dine in Soulard, lower sales tax than…

6) The boundaries of the proposed CID are ridiculous.  Soulard is part in 7th Ward and part in 9th Ward. Some proponents say that former 9th Ward Aldermen Ken Ortmann wanted to exempt all of 9th Ward Soulard, everything south of Sidney. Why does a former alderman get to decide these things? Exempt are his bar (Cat’s Meow), Anheuser-Busch Brewery, and a lot of other businesses.

Then there are many blocks in the 7th Ward part of Soulard that are exempt, including Soulard Market. Perhaps the plan is for Soulard Market to collect it’s own CID tax after the Soulard CID is approved. Again, more fragmentation.

If there is to be a Soulard CID then make it all of Soulard. Wait until after 2020 Census and lobby for Soulard to be redistricted into one ward with one alderperson. If you’re going to make improvements to the neighborhood, then the entire neighborhood should  be included. It’s not the Soulard CID if huge areas are left out. Organizers say this was the easiest way to do it and areas can be added later. “Anything worth doing, is worth doing right.”Hunter S. Thompson, admittedly not someone with a Soulard connection that I am aware.
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7) We don’t know what specifically the money will be used for and transparency is a already a known problem among CIDs. Lots of vagueness in the proposal.

Money for infrastructure improvements? Does that mean subsidizing a development or enhancing sidewalks and lighting for existing businesses?

Money for Clean Up and Maintenance? Does that mean paying for Mardi Gras clean up?

Money for Marketing and Branding? Will there be an RFP for a consultant or will someone everyone knows get the job?

Money for Community Development? Does that mean fixing up a slumlord’s property?

Will the money be used to hire a political consultant? The Downtown CID is currently doing that.

Will the money be used to sponsor Mardi Gras?

Are there big projects that might enhance the neighborhood and be worthy of some kind of special tax district specific to the project? Sure. A parking garage perhaps. And, as it turns out, State law provides a number of funding district options for that sort of thing. Soulard is not constrained to a sales tax CID.

Soulard has enough transparency issues already. Soulard Special Business District (property tax for security) doesn’t post Meeting Agendas or Minutes on its website and it doesn’t post meeting notices to the City Online Calendar, a violation of Mayor’s Executive Order #60.

The CID’s biggest proponent is Soulard Restoration Group. A number of SRG Board members quit over the past year because of transparency issues. The organization quit posting its Minutes of Board Meetings online and it hasn’t posted General Membership Minutes since February.

Mardi Gras Foundation last posted Board Meeting Minutes online in September 2015

8) Taxes are already too high. It doesn’t matter if Soulard votes down the next citywide tax/rate hikes from Zoo & Museum District, Metropolitan Sewer District, St. Louis Public Schools District, Bi-State Metro public transit, or proposal from Board of Aldermen. If it passes citywide, is adopted by all those areas that don’t have special taxing districts, Soulardians will end up paying as well. So if you think, OK, this CID tax is the last sales tax increase, think again. Rex Sinquefield wants to replace all income taxes with sales taxes statewide. Imagine what 15-20% sales tax would do to Soulard.

Enough is enough.

The BOA Ways & Means Committee will rubber stamp this thing Tuesday and then the Full Board will rubber stamp it and it’s on to the mail in election on the sales tax. I have zero optimism this thing can be stopped. SRG will spend whatever it takes to get it passed. But I do think there should be a conversation and that’s my purpose here.

If you’re not already registered to vote, you can obtain the form here.

— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman

Downtown CID Hiring A Political Consultant For Renewal Campaign

CIDDTmapImagine 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.
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