Newsletter Issue: March 2019

Download the March 2019 Issue (PDF Version)

Upcoming Meetings

Membership Meeting
03/28/2019 - 6:30 PM
Wild Acres Park in Overland

March 28 Meeting - Overland, Wild Acres Park

The next League meeting will be held at Wild Acres Park in Overland, 2500 Ashby Rd at Midland Blvd. Map (Directions:  from I-270 exit at Page Ave. eastbound. Travel about 3 miles east to Ashby Rd. and turn left  (Steak & Shake on the corner).  The park will be on the right about 3/4 mile north of Page. From I-170, go west on Page about 2 miles and turn right on Ashby). Refreshments will be served at 6:30 pm., the   meeting will begin promptly at 7:15.

Program:  Professor Terry Jones will give an overview of the Better Together Plan including the financial implications. League staff will present updates on League initiatives including the board of freeholders   initiative petition drive.

The membership will also be voting on a resolution opposing the Better Together Plan.

 

The op-ed below was published in the Illinois Business Journal

Self-determination is the bedrock of our   democracy. America was founded on the principle of self-rule, closest to the people. This is one of the fundamental and overarching fallacies of Better Together’s proposal to force the merger of all the municipalities, St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis into one Metro St. Louis.

This proposal was hatched by corporate chieftains, the County Executive and Mayor of the City of St. Louis behind closed doors without any input from elected municipal officials, city administrators or municipal  police chiefs or the general public. It conjures up an excuse to amend the State Constitution requiring a statewide vote on this local matter.  The reason Better Together’s plan requires a statewide is very clear, because it violates the constitution and the Missouri Revised Statues. 

Better Together is using the Constitution which is supposed to protect the rights of citizens to take their rights away.  There are several types of municipalities authorized by state law; 3rd class, 4th class and villages, but the Missouri Constitution also authorizes the formation of charter cities.  Under a charter city form of government the residents create and approve, by a vote of the people, the governmental structure under which they want to live. There are 17 charter cities in St. Louis County including some of the oldest in the state; Florissant (1786), Kirkwood (1853), Webster Groves (1896) and City of Ferguson (1894) just to name a few. Under the Better Together plan they would lose their sovereignty. 

Their charter, approved by a vote of the people, authorized  and protected by the constitution, would be discarded.  This is undemocratic and un-American.  

The constitution also requires that if two counties wish to merge, the voters of both counties must approve the merger by a majority vote in each county.  The Better Together plan takes that right and protection away from the residents of St. Louis City and County and gives it to the voters across the  state in cities like Kansas City, Arrow Point, Clinton and Shelbyville.   

Why should voters in distant parts of Missouri vote on merging the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County? Would any other city and county in Missouri want St. Louisans voting on their self-government?  Better Together’s contrived excuse for a statewide vote is specious at best and disenfranchises and dilutes the will of the people in our City and County. It’s  an end run around local control of our communities that is the fiber of our democracy.

Better Together’s plan also changes the municipalities into what they are calling municipal districts.  The municipalities are no longer a political subdivision of the State of Missouri, they become a political subdivision of the new Metro St. Louis.  All authority, property and ability to exist is controlled by the 33-member council of the new Metro St. Louis.  Metro St. Louis also takes control of all municipal sales taxes, authorized by the state of Missouri for local use upon approval by a local vote.  This confiscating of local taxes violates state law.  For those taxes to be used outside of the communities they were authorized requires a vote of the people.  This is a bald-faced redistribution of wealth, leaving municipalities in St. Louis County without the means to provide essential services.

The Missouri Constitution already has provisions that would allow forms of consolidation by local voters. A statewide vote is unnecessary and purposely circumvents the right to decide these issues for ourselves. That is why the Municipal League of Metro St. Louis and volunteers across the City and County are gathering signatures calling for the formation of the board of freeholders. This is the constitutionally authorized process allowing City and County residents the opportunity to voice their opinions in a transparent, public and open forum on their governmental structure and ultimately cast their votes on any proposed plan.

The Better Together proposal, if approved, will also eliminate the board of freeholder’s process from the constitution, taking away the ability for the residents to change the structure in the future without making another constitutional amendment.  

Better Together has stated as part of their outreach they collected information from some 2,100 residents at seven public forums and online surveys in addition to some 250 stakeholders’ meetings.  Let us assume there were 10 people at each stakeholder meeting since they didn’t give a number and there is no public record to support the information.  This would mean that they collected input from 4,600 people or 0.35% of the population of St. Louis City and County. This is not a good representation of the people.  They would have had more participation if they had asked for input on the elimination of municipal police departments, local control of zoning or reducing municipalities in St. Louis County to no more than homeowner associations.   

If Better Together values the rights of the residents of St. Louis City and County, they would insist a majority of voters in St. Louis and St. Louis County approve it first and then seek to amend the constitution.

Better Together’s proposal is unconstitutional, undemocratic and un-American.  Both the United States and Missouri Constitution start with, “We the people” not “We the many”.  As Abraham Lincoln stated at the Gettysburg Address, “that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”. 

Better Together believes it knows how our cities and neighborhoods should be governed and by whom. We believe local voters know better. Who do you trust?

          Pat Kelly, Executive Director

          Municipal League Metro St. Louis

Nominating Committee to Meet in April

The League’s Nominating Committee will meet in early April after the municipal elections. The committee will make recommendations to the full membership on a slate of candidates for officers and board members for the 2019-2020 year. There will be at least one vacancy on the Board to be filled.

The Board meets about nine times per year and is open to any elected official from a member municipality. If you would like to be considered by the Committee, please send a letter to the League office by April 1 indicating your interest and outlining your qualifications, including service on committees and attendance at League meetings or other events.

The Committee will be chaired by Chuck Caverly, Immediate Past President. The recommended slate of candidates will be presented at the April meeting. If you are interested in serving on the Board please let us know!

 

Muni Awards & 100th Leagues Installation Dinner

Since their inception, the MUNI Awards have provided an opportunity for League members from across the County to come together to recognize their fellow municipalities and take home a MUNI Award.  You can be a winner this year by nominating your city or a group within your city for achievement in one of the following categories:  Arts/Culture;    Citizen Engagement; Collaboration; Parks/Recreation/Wellness; Public  Safety, and Sustainability/Preservation.  To nominate, send a letter to the League office identifying the city, organization or person and why that group or individual should be recognized for accomplishment in one of the designated categories. Nominations must be received at the Municipal League office by April 19. Winning a   MUNI Award tells your residents what you are doing right for your               community. Then, join us on May 23 at the Renaissance Hotel in Berkeley when the MUNI Awards will be presented and new Municipal League  officers will be installed.

Information about Gathering Board of Freeholders/Electors Petition

Thank You for participating in the petition drive to establish a St. Louis Board of Freeholders/Electors.  Here is some helpful information about collecting, notarizing, and delivering the petitions.

  • There are separate petitions for St. Louis City and St. Louis County. If you are gathering county signatures, make sure you have the county sheet (noted at the top of the sheet) and if you are in the City, make sure you have the city sheet.
  • Only registered voters should sign the petition as only they will be counted. Voters need to sign with the name used to vote.  For example, if Tom is Thomas as a registered voter, then Thomas must be used in the signature.
  • If you are carrying a petition, ensure that you have witnessed the signature.
  • Each petition page must be notarized. It is required that the person who witnessed the signature sign the bottom of the petition page in front of a notary.
  • Notaries are available in city halls and the League office.
  • Notarized petitions are not to be mailed. If they are not collected through your city, please deliver them to the Municipal League of Metro STL office.
  • Make sure the signature and printed name is legible. If you can not read the printed name, the signature will most likely not be counted. 

      Make every signature count!

February Meeting Synopsis

At the February 28 meeting, the membership noted that the Better Together plan is very detrimental for residents of St. Louis County and the municipalities. A motion was unanimously approved to formally oppose the plan and create a resolution for consideration at the March meeting to outline objections. Executive Director Pat Kelly updated that membership on the progress of efforts to collect signatures for the creation of a Board of  Freeholders/Electors who could create a plan that would require public input and a local vote, as opposed to the statewide vote proposed by Better Together.

The membership also heard a panel discussion on issues related to medical marijuana. The panelists were Attorney Carl Lumley, from Curtis Heinz Garrett & O’Keefe; Attorney Brian Hey from McMahon Berger; and Jim Pennington from Savoy Properties. Mr. Lumley said that the law passed by voters in November 2018 created new uses for medical marijuana – cultivating, manufacturing, testing and dispensing. Cities cannot prohibit these uses but can set some parameters for locations, such as not being close to schools or not within 1000 feet of another facility. Regulation of days and hours would be legal but cities cannot license the facilities. Mr. Hey suggested that city officials anticipate   potential problems for personnel who may be using medical marijuana. Mr. Pennington introduced several members of MoCann who were in attendance. This group helped get the issue on the ballot. He said they wanted to create standards for how the industry should work. They have prepared a guide for cities, including  model ordinances, which has been posted on the League website. Mr. Pennington said the ballot initiative set out numerous guidelines for operations including: 51% of a facility ownership group must be residents; there may only be 24 dispensaries per congressional district (which are  estimated to generate $5-7 million in revenue); there can be only 60 cultivation facilities and 75 manufacturing sites. 

Thanks to Mayor Edward Mahan, city officials and employees of the City of Rock Hill who hosted the meeting at their impressive new City Hall.

Auditor’s Office Releases Better Together Fiscal Note

Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway released the fiscal note on Tuesday March 5.  The report raised more questions about the Better Together proposal then it answered. The Missouri Budget & Planning  stated, “that abolishing the property tax for St. Louis County could have a significant negative impact on the revenues available for the newly created metropolitan city”.  To review the entire report go to; http://www.Fiscal-Note-State-Auditor-2019 .  We hope to have a complete financial analysis completed by the end of March.

Important Resolutions You Should Support

For the second time in two years, St. Louis area legislators have filed legislation opposing a statewide vote on the restructuring of St. Louis City and County.  Sen. Gina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors, sponsored  SCR 1 in the Senate, and Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, filed HCR 25 in the House. SCR 1 was Voted Do Pass S Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics Committee on February 28.

Representative Dean Plocher filed two resolutions calling for constitutional amendments, HJR 54 and HJR 51.

HJR 54 states, “Any new political subdivision or new form of     government for territory located in an existing county, or city not within a county, that is created by an amendment to this Constitution shall not become effective except by a vote of a majority of the qualified voters voting thereon in each existing county, or city not within a county, within the territory of the proposed new political subdivision or of the new government. In addition to amendments to this Constitution adopted after the enactment of this Section, this Section shall also apply to any amendment to this Constitution that is adopted concurrently with the enacting amendment of this Section. Section 5(a). No ballot measure that would dissolve any city or county or merge any city or county with another city or county shall go into effect unless the ballot measure is approved by a majority of the votes cast on the measure in each affected city or county”.

HJR 51 amends the state constitution to require a 60% majority vote for a Constitutional Amendment.

Contact your legislators asking for their support on these key pieces of legislation. With your support and successful passage of the resolutions, the Governor could place these measures before the voters prior to the targeted Better Together vote on November 4, 2020.  

Call your legislators right away. A complete contact list of St. Louis area legislators is on the League website at:             http://www.stlmuni.org/.  We suggest calling your legislators to  telling them to support HJR 54 and HJR 51 and to oppose the Better Together plan.