The holiday season is a time to reflect on how the generosity of others has helped us succeed. Whether through education, mentorship or financial assistance every person or organization could not have succeeded alone and reflecting on our success in relation to the benefits provided by others is a humbling and healthy exercise.
A derivation of this exercise has been done by pragmatic regional leaders over the past decades regardless of party affiliation with regards to the consolidation of local governments in order to benefit the metropolitan area as a whole. Mitch McConnell in Louisville and Richard Lugar in Indianapolis are two great examples of big thinking politicians that risked their own political capital to better a region.
The St. Louis region has been plagued by politicians unwilling to admit to the fact that their municipality has benefitted from the infrastructure, educational institutions and entertainment districts financed by the City of St. Louis and participating County entities. The City of Chesterfield is the most egregious example of our regions inability to come to terms with the reality that their municipality does not operate in a vacuum and would not be in the position it is today without the funding and organizational contributions of the region.
Chesterfield Mayor Bob Nation has spent the past sever years attempting to overhaul the County’s sales tax distribution system insisting that his City does not receive its fair share that he believes “penalized a city that had exercised responsibility in the development of an expanding retail base(1) stating “No one is required to pay into the pool to the extent that Chesterfield does”(1). In the current regional economy in which Chesterfield generates a large share of the regions sales taxes Nation appears to oppose any sales tax sharing measure including measures to increase regional public safety.
In 2017 Nation based his opposition against Prop P (a County wide sales tax aimed at increasing funding for the St. Louis County Police Department) based on the fact that his City would pay more in more sales tax dollars than it received stating it was “a $5 million a year net loser”(2) and dismissing the importance of public safety needs of other municipalities stating “If a city wants these cameras, it can purchase them. We don’t need them in Chesterfield,” (2).
What makes this opposition such a blantantly selfish endeavor is the fact that the City of Chesterfield’s high sales tax generation could not have occurred without regional and national support provided after the great flood of 1993 which devastated the Chesterfield Valley economy. This support includes:
- Hundreds of millions in infrastructure investment paid by the Missouri Department of Transportation to repair and improve Interstate 70 including the addition of on and off ramps that service the retail district
- $9 million in County funding for general infrastructure repair
- $23 million in annual County funding for the Spirit of St. Louis Airport which located in the Chesterfield Valley
- Security for the bonds funding the 500 year levee protecting the Chesterfield Valley of which over 25% was paid by regional and State Institutions
The City of Chesterfield’s recent threat to leave St. Louis County in favor of St. Charles County and withdrawal from the St. Louis County municipal league (and all dues required) shows an utter lack of appreciation for their current prosperity which has only been possible through the contribution of funds from regional entities after a time of hardship. It is high time the region end its toleration of this type of self-centered hypocrisy by denying regional funding such as the $2.5 million in municipal park grants Chesterfield has received, $4.5 million in anticipated grants for future infrastructure projects and access to resources of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership for proposals aimed to bring jobs to Chesterfield. The State could also consider adding tolls to Chesterfield Valley exits serving their retail developments until MODOT has recouped the hundreds of millions it has invested in the area.
This new direction in regional politics will require strong will from the County Municipal League, Mayors of other large suburbs and the County Executive and a candidates willingness to contribute to this effort should be a major consideration at the polls.