Jesse Irwin is a Republican candidate for Alderman of the 10th Ward. Here are his answers to our 20 Questions for Aldermanic Candidates in the City of St. Louis. Jesse can be found online at irwinforalderman.com. The City of St. Louis general election is April 5. For more information, visit the St. Louis Board of Elections website. Joe Vollmer-Democrat is also on the ballot in the 10th Ward.
1. What is the single most important issue in your ward?
The 10th Ward is pretty solid. I want to take care of it full-time and make sure residents get the service they deserve. I'm concerned about the rest of the city crumbling around it because of the poor financial decisions we've made. We've got to stop big-box retail development and end special favors for the politically well-connected.
2. What is the best thing to happen in your ward in the past five years?
The Morganford Renaissance. The strip looks great; but the credit goes to the business owners, not city government.
3. What is the worst thing to happen in your ward in the past five years?
The mortgage crisis. Until I walked every street in the 10th ward I didn't realize how many houses were empty or for sale. On some blocks its staggering.
4. How does the continuing decline in population affect your ward?
The 10th isn't undergoing as much of a population change as it is a demographic change. The Hill isn't as Italian as it used to be. Tower Grove South is seeing an influx of younger people. North Hampton is rental-heavy and I know a lot of people have moved because I've knocked on their doors. The declining population is making it more expensive for people to live here, and that's what scares me. Even though we have fewer people, the cost to run the city did not shrink. We have to attract new residents or we're in big trouble.
5. What does the City of St. Louis do well?
Unique neighborhoods, affordable housing, an incredible nightlife for those who know where to look, some of the best food I've had anywhere in the world.
6. What must the City of St. Louis do better?
The city needs to let us work. The LRA needs to sell us the 11,000 properties it owns instead of sitting on them until a Walgreen's comes along. We've got to simplify the building permit and inspection process. We've also got to stop using public money to fund private retail development. The city is now $187 million in bond debt with no increase in sales tax revenue. Quit encouraging developers to build strip malls and leave the economic development up to the people of St. Louis. We're educated and we know what we need in our neighborhoods better than anyone else.
7. Do you support city-wide historic preservation review?
I don't know enough about this to make a worthwhile comment. I'm for keeping everything worth keeping and building green everywhere else.
8. Do you support Great Streets projects such as South Grand between Arsenal and Utah, an effort to make city streets more pedestrian friendly?
We should ride the federal money pony as long as we can. If we don't make it easy to get around on foot then we're no better than a suburb.
9. Do you support the City of St. Louis re-entering St. Louis County as an independent municipality?
Yes, but I wish it was the other way around. We have 90-something mayors, fire chiefs, city attorneys, etc. right on top of each other all over the metro area. The region could save billions if we could combine governments.
10. Whether or not the city re-enters the county, should "county" offices be appointed rather than elected?
That depends on the office. It doesn't make sense to elect every public employee.
11. Twenty-eight alderman once represented 856,000 city residents. Today, 28 aldermen represent 319,000 residents. How many Alderman do you believe are needed to represent the residents of the City of St. Louis?
Cut the board to fourteen. That's an easy two million dollars per year in savings by the time you count benefits. All alderman should be full-time. There is no way a person can work a 40-hour week somewhere else and expect to be an effective alderman.
12. How can you/the city support small business development and expansion?
Quit stepping on peoples' necks. A business is not a cash cow that the city can plunder for licenses, permits and fees. I'm going to be an advocate for anyone who tries to start something positive and I will step in whenever I can to help entrepreneurs resolve problems with the city.
13. What role do large employers play in our city?
There is too much of an emphasis on attracting and retaining them. Major employers skate around form one municipality to another in search of a larger tax break or some other subsidy. The largest companies don't end up paying any taxes and when they leave they put a gaping hole in the economy. I would rather see 1,000 businesses in St. Louis hire one person than one business hire 1,000 people. Small, locally-owned enterprises are what we need. Let's be the home of the next big thing instead of playing catch-up in a race we can never win.
14. What should St. Louis do to retain large employers and encourage others to relocate here?
See above answer. I'm all for a major employer relocating here. I'm just against corporate welfare.
15. What is the proper use of tax increment financing (TIF)? Is there a proper use?
I'm skeptical at this point, because it hasn't been working very well for us. Some TIF projects have been successful, but a blind pig finds an acorn every once in a while, too. I have a problem with the government picking winners and losers. Why can Bill DeWitt and Paul McKee get millions in public money when most people can't even get a loan to start a business? Developers, big construction outfits and architecture firms love TIF projects. It usually works out for them.
16. Is eminent domain ever warranted?
If you're building a highway, bridge, water treatment plant or a national monument. Even then, only after just compensation to the property owners.
17. Do you support local control of the city police department?
I would love to see it at some point in the future, but right now our city government can't even figure out how to pick up the trash. The last thing I want to do is put them in charge of 1,200 people with guns. Once we have a balanced budget and we've stopped the exodus of people we should talk about local control.
18. Do you support Prop E and the continuation of the 1% city earnings tax?
For the time being, yes. We've got to reduce our bond debt and restructure city government before we can even think about eliminating it.
19. Does the earnings tax provide a substantial disincentive for businesses and individuals to locate in the city?
I think it's a disincentive for major employees with big payrolls. It's also a concern for people who make serious money. To everyone else it's not that painful.
20. Should the city eventually abolish the earnings tax?
If we are ever in the financial position to do so, why not? That money could be invested in the city in other ways if people had it back.
* 20 Questions for Aldermanic Candidates in the City of St. Louis was posted Monday, March 28. From that article: "This is a public call for candidates in contested races in the upcoming April 5, 2011 general election to answer questions important to residents of the City of St. Louis and nextSTL.com readers. The 20 questions above were posted Monday, March 28. Responses by aldermanic candidates will be posted on nextSTL.com prior to Tuesday, April 5. Responses will be received until Sunday, April 3. Responses that omit any questions will not be posted. All responses should be sent to [email protected]."