Arch Grounds and Parks Sales Tax Hearing This Thursday

The City of St. Louis Board of Aldermen Parks Committee meets at 10am this Thursday to hear Board Bill No. 258: Ordinance relating to parks-Arch tax. This is the only public opportunity to address the Board of Alderman prior to the full board voting on the resolution. Attendees will be able to address the committee regarding the bill. If approved by January 22, the 3/16 sales tax increase will appear on the April general election ballot. I do not believe that the Parks Committee should pass the ill-conceived and improperly vetted bill. My argument against the bill.

Below is the Parks Committee roster with email addresses and a draft letter. Please feel free to cut and paste, edit or otherwise utilize the text. It's important that your alderman hear from you regarding this matter, especially if he or she is a member of the Parks Committee.

Parks Committee
Tom Villa 11th Ward: [email protected]
Donna Baringer 16th Ward: [email protected]
Joe Roddy, 17th Ward: [email protected]
Antonio French 21st Ward: [email protected]
Joe Vaccaro 23rd Ward: [email protected]
Frank Williamson 26: [email protected]
Chris Carter 27the Ward: [email protected]
Lyda Krewson, 28th Ward: [email protected]

Hearing: Board Bill No. 258: Ordinance relating to parks-Arch tax
Date: December 13, 2012 
Time: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM 
Event Type: Aldermanic Committee Meeting
Location: Kennedy Room – Alderman chambers, City Hall

The letter below is a suggested text to voice opposition to  Board Bill No. 258, a measure that would levy a 3/16 (0.1875%) sales tax increase in the City of St. Louis to support the CityArchRiver project, Great Rivers Greenway and city parks. Read more about the bill here. Please feel free to cut and paste, edit or otherwise utilize the text below. Contact information for Aldermen.

I’m writing to express my opposition to Board Bill No. 258.

The Board of Aldermen should not support this measure that would ask residents of the City of St. Louis for nearly $162,000,000 over 20 years. Our city faces many challenges, crime, failure of basic infrastructure such as sidewalks and streetlights, schools, declining population and jobs and more. The effort to revitalize the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (the Arch) and surround grounds is a noble one, but must not require millions of dollars in local funds. As the project kicked-off several years ago, we were told that the now $577,000,000 project would be funded by a combination of government and private sources, including foundations, companies and individuals. Now we’re told we need to pay. It is the duty of our elected leaders to do more than pass along a sales tax vote to residents. The Board of Aldermen should reject this bill.

The Board of Aldermen should not be asking city residents for a sales tax increase following the $64M bond issue of last year. At that time city residents were told that the virtue of the bond issue was that it would fund local parks and give a boost to Forest Park Forever’s efforts without raising local taxes. Asking resident of our city that is losing population, jobs and tax base to pledge more than $150,000,000 in sales tax revenue in an unprecedented measure to fund a National Park, goes too far. If we choose to fund a National Park now, we will set a new precedent and will forever more we will be funding a National Park. No one would expect Wyoming residents pay for Yellowstone, but the core of our metro region is going to be asked to give more than $200M for the Arch project and millions more for GRG and other parks. (In fact, the Wyoming State Legislature defeated a bill earlier this year that would have increased sales tax by 1% inside Yellowstone National Park.) 

The Arch grounds investment is predicated on attracting 2M more visitors to the Arch each year as attendance has flagged. It's a "heads on beds" strategy that attempts to fight nationwide macro-trends of museum and destination attraction attendance decline. It's an unproven strategy that's been invoked for every massive redevelopment project in our city's history. Our city has many needs. Obligating taxpayers to $162,000,000 in future payments is fiscally irresponsible. When the city wants more police officers, or hopes to incentivize job creation, or install streetlights, there will be $162,000,000 less to work with. The merits of this financial commitment has not been discussed or justified. This is an unacceptable burden to place on city residents.

I ask that you vote to reject Board Bill No. 258, Proposition P, do not pass it out of committee, and do not place the measure on the April ballot.