I’m not opposed to development of the north riverfront. In fact, I think it’s one of the most underutilized land resources this great city has. I’m not opposed to football stadiums. I recognize that professional sports bring excitement, economic activity and hopes and dreams to youth in our schools. I don’t oppose the use of public funds, or entertainment taxes generated by stadiums to build boxes for men to throw balls at each other. In fact, building a stadium has the potential to revitalize the riverfront, create much needed jobs, and excite the region.
What I am opposed to is skirting the vote of the people. The residents of St. Louis, through an initiative petition, voted in 2002 to require public funds for a stadium to go to the general public. Even though this was thrown out of court on a technicality, the will of the people was to have a say in this funding.
This vote is particularly important because for me as an elected official because while I want to support exciting regional opportunities for jobs and growth, I see some major red flags with this particular proposal. Although the Board of Aldermen has been kept largely in the dark about the financial plan, and we know little more than the general public, what I do know and what does worry me is this:
- Louis County is off the hook. We all know that residents of the county enjoy football as much as residents of the city. The county committed to the Edward Jones Dome, and should commit to this regional project as well. Letting them off the hook gives the city a larger than fair share of this tax burden.
- Our Comptroller has stated that appropriation of over $6M puts our city’s credit at risk. Our rating has already slipped this year from A1 to Aa3. This will lead to higher interest rates on much-needed city services such as public safety and infrastructure. I would like to see the state step up and issue these bonds especially in light of our governor letting the county off the financial hook.
- We don’t currently have a strong commitment from an NFL team. It is clear to me that Kroenke may move to California. There is no indicator that another team wants to move here. I would like to see a real commitment before moving forward with spending millions of our city’s money.
- A financial plan. A $1BILLION investment should not move forward without an economic study. If this is being conducted, it is being done in a vacuum, without including the elected officials expected to blindly support this.
- The will of the people, though an initiative petition in 2002, was to put stadium funding to a vote of the people. Skirting this would mean ignoring the very people who elected us.
Let’s not forget there are a lot of ways to generate jobs, build infrastructure and strengthen our region. The expansion of MetroLink, for example, can accomplish all of those things. I want to reiterate that what I am doing today is calling for a vote, I am not calling for opposition because, as an elected alderperson in the City of St. Louis, I still have not been informed as to the details of any financial plan enough to offer support or opposition. And at the end of the day, I am opposed to rejecting the will of the voters of this city.