by Michael R. Allen
A Kinder tax break – St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 17, 2007
Read today’s editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch if you want your heart broken. Decades of progress on the near north side are threatened by a proposal that does not prohibit the use of eminent domain, even in rehabbed areas like Old North St. Louis.
Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, posing as some sort of urban hero, and Mayor Francis Slay have not once addressed letters, phone calls or emails from residents or community leaders afraid of the impending attack on the near north side’s fabric. Yet they find the time to let the editorial board know they support a policy proposal designed to benefit one developer that has not been reviewed by St. Louis city planning officials, neighborhood organizations or St. Louis legislators.
Here we see that our region’s lack of leadership on development issues is staggering. As painful as it is to admit, the only “leader” here is Paul J. McKee, Jr., who assembled the land on his own according to a very well-developed plan. After ignoring citizen complaints and growing media coverage of the debilitating effects of McKee’s plan, Slay now quietly jumps on board for this tax credit proposal. Republican Kinder has watched his party attack the poor and urban residents of the state without helping, but now acts as if he is enacting a grand gesture that is in fact a reactionary proposal.
Meanwhile, McKee’s companies are still acquiring properties at a fast pace and phony eminent domain letters are circulating in some parts of St. Louis Place, although the source is unknown. The near north side is wounded and suffering, and the leadership needed to heal those wounds is hard to find. Even if such leadership emerged, the Kinder proposal is a blueprint for unending pain and community-busting.
Here is a challenge: Lt. Gov. Kinder and Mayor Slay should come meet with residents of the near north side in a public forum to hear their concerns, fears and hopes. So far, these leaders have not countered the rhetoric of this being a “unpopulated area” nor have they responded to the citizens whose lives they affect. What we on the near north side assume as a result is that we do not matter to them as constituents, and our removal is their end goal. After all, not once has the full text of Kinder’s proposal circulated around here where it will have its biggest impact. Not one letter has been answered. Not one statement has come from these men that shows respect for the largely poor, African-American near north side population.
Our assumption may be unfair, but we will never know without communication.