Spring 2019 Edition
Important Information for all Chesterfield Residents
Chesterfield – Historical Perspective
“The government closest to the people serves the people best.”
– Thomas Jefferson
As many of you know, in 1988 the residents of Chesterfield incorporated, primarily driven by the perceived neglect of their representation at the County Government, to provide local government control. Chesterfield was created as a non-partisan, professionally-run city to avoid political patronage and interference in the day to day operations. As with other communities in St. Louis County, residents were unhappy that their input was not valued, as commercial development was encroaching into residential areas. Streets were deteriorating and police officer sightings were rare. Chesterfield, and other communities, elected to become cities to promote their individual priorities. These cities established their own volunteer planning commissions, consisting of their own residents, to receive and review development proposals and offer recommendations to the elected officials, ensuring that the local community voices were heard and heeded.
On the one-year anniversary of Chesterfield’s incorporation, the Chesterfield Police Department rolled onto the streets of Chesterfield with the mission to improve the delivery of services by being a customer based, service oriented professional agency focused on community policing. The Chesterfield Police Department obtained CALEA (Commission of Accredited Law Enforcement Agencies) Accreditation soon thereafter and has received re-accreditation as a flagship meritorious agency not less than five times since. They are leaders in the metropolitan public safety community, serving on the major case squad and numerous multi-jurisdictional task forces.
The City next addressed the neglect of its infrastructure. The Chesterfield community addressed the prior neglect of its streets by improving construction standards for new development to achieve a 30-year design life. Street thickness was increased, a rock sub-base added, added under-drains and a filter layer all to ensure that new streets being built would last and not be a burden on its taxpayers. Chesterfield residents then approved a sales tax to remove and replace the old, sub-standard streets and to ensure that once replaced they would be cared for and maintained. A professionally run public works department ensures the infrastructure is managed and resident concerns are addressed efficiently. Unlike the City of St. Louis or St. Louis County, the City of Chesterfield Department of Public Works is internationally accredited by the American Public Works Association.
City residents then prioritized creation of our parks system, purchasing land and constructing Central Park the same year the City was fighting the great flood of 1993. Subsequently, the City built the athletic complex, the amphitheater, acquired public art, Rivers Edge park, Eberwein park, and Dierberg’s park. We manage other properties, trails, and programs. The Parks Department manages the countless acres of manicured road medians and landscaping along the highway quadrants as our residents have prioritized these improvements. Unlike the City of St. Louis or St. Louis County, the City of Chesterfield Parks Department is nationally accredited by the Commission of Accredited Parks Agencies (CAPRA).
Even though Chesterfield does not levy any municipal property tax, and we only capture roughly half the 1% pool sales tax generated within the City, we’ve accomplished these things while being fiscally responsible. The City has maintained a fund reserve exceeding 40% of the City’s annual operating expenses, and has managed to save $8 million for the proverbial emergency rainy day. Over and above the savings in fund reserve, the City has set aside more than $4 million the last two years in an effort to retire our debt earlier than planned.
By any means or measure, Chesterfield is a success story. Chesterfield proves that Thomas Jefferson was correct in asserting that government closest to the people serves the people best.
The organization “Better Together” was formed in 2013, and has created the impression that the problems of the St. Louis region were caused by fragmentation and the fact that there are too many municipalities. The plan developed by the Better Together committee members strips away authority and responsibility of providing basic municipal services as we know them today from existing municipalities. Control over policing, public works, courts, and zoning is transferred to the central government located in downtown St. Louis. The 33 newly-designated Municipal Service Districts would be left with the responsibility of managing the parks, collecting trash, and providing an advisory planning commission function.
All revenues currently coming to the municipalities, other than utility taxes and property taxes (Chesterfield receives no property tax) would be diverted to the “Metropolitan City of St. Louis.” The language indicates that the debt, obligationsof the heretofore “City of St. Louis” may be distributed and assumed throughout the entire newly created “Metropolitan City of St. Louis”. The residents of St. Louis County, including Chesterfield, may assume debt that they had no part in creating. Language also seems to indicate that a similar assumption of debt would be applicable to the St. Louis City Fire Department.
(This predatory power and money grab would be voted on statewide in November 2020, after a multi-million dollar campaign, financed in large part by billionaire Rex Sinquefield.)
Municipal League Alternative
In response to this forced reorganization plan of the City and County, the Municipal League of Metropolitan St. Louis has unanimously supported the formation of a “Board of Freeholders,” which could create a plan for re-organization that would ultimately be voted on separately by the voters in St. Louis City and St. Louis County. This process to create the Board of Freeholders is already supported by the Missouri State Constitution. The time-frame for this process would be that:
- Three percent of signatures of city and county voters from last Gubernatorial election would be collected this spring
- Within 10 days following certification of petition, appointment of a 19- member Board of Freeholders would be made by the Mayor of St. Louis, St. Louis County Executive (with approvals by respective board and council), and Governor
- Within 30 days after appointment, board would begin to meet to consider a plan of re-organization
- Board would have no more than one year to agree upon a plan (or not to agree)
- If such a plan is constructed and agreed upon, it would be put to the voters of the city and county separately, and if approved by each entity, would become effective as agreed upon.
The City of St. Louis has serious economic and crime issues that certainly need to be addressed and ameliorated. However, the best method to achieve this goal is through mutual input and agreement among BOTH city and county members. For this reason, I fully support the municipal league in their previously described efforts. A petition drive is currently underway to obtain the required number of signatures within the City and County of St. Louis to mandate the formation of the Board of Freeholders, thus allowing the residents of the City and County to vote on the structure of their governance.
By my estimation, the proposed “Better Together” plan equates to a giant hostile takeover of municipalities to financially bail out the city of St. Louis at the expense of the taxpayers of St. Louis County. (The City of St. Louis Comprehensive Annual Financial Report of 2018 shows an outstanding city debt of 2.8 billion dollars!). St. Louis County would surely experience a decrease in the caliber of its services, coupled with an increase in taxes to feed this new enormous government.
If passed, the “Better Together” plan will cause the following:
* The proposed governmental structure shifts from a non-partisan, professional management, to a centralized, strong Chicago- style patronage system. All power is placed in a centralized distant government.
* Your voice will be diluted. Chesterfield is a City of 47,484 residents, divided into four wards. Each ward includes roughly 12,000 residents who can and do regularly call or meet with their elected officials. They have an individual and strong voice in the operation of the City. Contrast this to the proposed structure, which includes populations of over 1.3 million, broken into 33 representative districts. Each district will represent approximately 40,000 residents. Clearly, your voice and representation will be diminished.
* Chesterfield’s assets will be seized and confiscated by the Metro-City. All assets of the City of Chesterfield become the property of the Metro City, including all reserve deposits. Initiative petition: Page 7, paragraph 8, second half of paragraph “…property, contracts, records, and personnel of a municipal district related to providing or securing a general district service shall be transferred to the Metro City...”. All of the City’s assets, including trucks, plows, art, police cars, absolutely everything that we purchased for the purpose of providing services to the residents of Chesterfield acquired becomes the property of the Metro City.
* Despite the proponents assuring you that the proposed Metro City would not bail out the debt of the City of St. Louis, the initiative petition states otherwise. Page 10, last sentence of paragraph 4(b) of the initiative petition states, “The metropolitan city may assume any outstanding obligation of the St. Louis Municipal Corporation, provided that no such assumption shall impair any obligation of contract.”
* While the proponents assert efficiency and reduced costs, they’ve made sure to ensure that the newly elected representatives are compensated at higher levels and with built in annual increases. While a County Councilmember currently makes $20,000, the proposed Metro City district representatives will be compensated at the level of a current City of St. Louis representative, roughly $37,000, increased annually based on a percentage equal to the average increase recommended by the Civil Service Commission.
* Finally, the petition empowers the Metropolitan City to simply dissolve whatever is left of Chesterfield after the takeover. All they need to do is to pass an ordinance and we no longer exist.
This is a very important time for the region. This is a time for serious people to discuss serious reforms. However, the Better Together plan was hatched by unelected city representatives behind closed doors, without collaboration with county members, and without any meaningful debate. Over the next several months, please take the time to study the issues and become educated as to the actual facts and not be swayed by careful sound bites and misdirection.
I suggest that you refer to the text of the actual initiative petition which Better Together has submitted to the Secretary of State. We have provided a link to the document for your convenience: Better Together Petition.
Missouri House of Representative Paula Brown of Missouri District 70 has requested that we provide her e mail address such that you can let her know your feelings on the proposed statewide vote and the better together plan specifically. Please e-mail her your thoughts at Paula.Brown@house.mo.gov.
Mayor Bob Nation