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Friday, August 17, 2007

Alderwomen, Representatives Conduct Tour of McKee Properties

For more information contact:
Ald. Ford-Griffin – 941-0186; Ald. Davis – 680-9168
Rep. Oxford - 775-8940; Rep. Nasheed – 409-5730

Alderwomen, Representatives Conduct Tour of McKee Properties
Targeted for Controversial Distressed Areas Land Assemblage Tax Credit

ST. LOUIS – Several local and state elected officials joined today to request changes in a proposed “distressed areas land assemblage tax credit” (DALATC) headed for debate in the special legislative session Gov. Matt Blunt has called for Aug. 20. Alderwoman April Ford-Griffin (Ward 5), Alderwoman Marlene Davis (Ward 19), Rep. Jamilah Nasheed (St. Louis City, D-60), and Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford (St. Louis City, D-59) said that a better tax credit proposal should be designed in cooperation with area residents and presented for full discussion in the 2008 legislative session.

In the 2007 session, the General Assembly passed House Bill 327, an omnibus economic development bill containing the Quality Jobs Act, DALATC and other tax credits to various industries. Gov. Matt Blunt later vetoed that bill. Much controversy arose shortly before the May 18 adjournment of the General Assembly and in the weeks since as to whether DALATC was conceived as a tax credit to benefit one particular developer, Paul McKee.

Numerous media and internet reports have noted that the City of St. Louis is cutting high weeds and grass and clearing trash from more that 500 properties owned by McKee on approximately 150 blocks of the 5th and 19th wards. McKee is reimbursing the city for this maintenance, but some say city workers are needed at other nuisance properties and should not be diverted to maintain the McKee properties. Others question the methods used by McKee in obtaining parcels of land.

“Much positive development is already happening in the 5th Ward,” said Ford-Griffin. “If Mr. McKee would like to join the vibrant efforts that are already underway, he should show area residents the respect of doing so in an open fashion, sharing information freely and receiving their input instead of operating behind closed doors.”

“Speaker of the House Rod Jetton has said that our part of the city is a setting fit for urban warfare training,” said Davis. “He ignores the $700 million in development that has taken place in the 5th ward and $1.5 billion invested in the 19th.”

Ford-Griffin, Davis, Nasheed and Oxford invited all Missouri state senators and representatives from the St. Louis Region to join the Aug. 16 bus tour of the area targeted for the tax credit. They said it was imperative that legislators learn about the existing redevelopment plan, see the properties and hear from area residents firsthand before casting their votes.

Rep. Nasheed said: “This is a historic piece of legislation, and our colleagues from the St. Louis City delegation should think seriously about their vote, because as currently drafted, this proposal could be devastating for north St. Louis.”

“The health of my district in south St. Louis is directly connected to the health of north side districts,” said Rep. Oxford. “We are one community and will sink or swim together. Our best chance for success is an honest and open process wherever development projects are undertaken.”

Davis, Ford-Griffin, Nasheed, and Oxford all said they were pro-development, but wanted to see some changes from the original form of the DALATC bill. The elected officials and community leaders speaking at today’s press conference and tour called for the following to considered during the special session:

• Reduction of the project size so more developers may compete for the credit.

• A requirement that any development plan approved be consistent with the existing redevelopment plan for a ward.

• Historical preservation safeguards.

• Allowing more than one developer to work in each project area.

• Requiring community input into the redevelopment plan.

Tour organizers pledged to continue working on improving the bill. They also said area residents had been asking for a public forum on the McKee properties, and that such a forum has been set for Thursday, Aug. 30, 6 p.m. at Vashon High School. Paul McKee will be invited to attend to share his vision for development in the 5th and 19th wards.

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