Pevely Moves to Boot Bewig from Ballot

30 Jan

On December 7, the Pevely board of alderman impeached one of its own, Dave Bewig, for a variety of offenses. At the time, there was nothing preventing an impeached official from running for office again. So, one week later, the board passed a long revision of its impeachment ordinance (old version here) that included a provision that an elected officeholder that is impeached will never be eligible to hold, regain, or serve in elected office in Pevely.

However, Bewig went ahead and filed to run for the board of alderman for ward 2 in the April election. Three days ago, the city filed a lawsuit in the 23rd circuit court to have Bewig removed from the ballot (the case is City of Pevely vs. Wes Wagner, et al).

It seems that Bewig’s hopes center on the idea that he was impeached before the ordinance was passed, so it does not apply to him. However, they did pass the ordinance before the election filing period began, so I am thinking Pevely will win this, but we will see.

If Bewig is removed from the ballot, there will still be plenty of candidates. Incumbent Ed Walters, Linda Hahn, and Dan Hall are all registered to run for the ward 2 seat.

Byrnes Mill Court Revenue 2014-2015

27 Jan

Byrnes Mill has submitted its financial report for the 2014-2015 fiscal year to the state auditor, as required by law. The city’s fiscal year ended on June 30, 2015, which was two months before Senate Bill 5 took effect. This law caps revenue a city can earn from minor traffic violations to 20% of total revenue (12.5% in St. Louis County).

For some reason, Byrnes Mill reported its total court fine revenue, not just its revenue from minor traffic tickets (see page 30 of the report linked above). One assumes, though, that minor traffic tickets make up a substantial portion of the total amount, which was just over $292,000, amounting to 24% of total city revenue. If Byrnes Mill wants to comply with SB 5, it will need to reduce this number in the current fiscal year, which is now about half over. Alternatively, it can separate out revenue from minor traffic tickets and state that amount, and we can see if it exceeds the 20% cap. But using these numbers, Byrnes Mill would be more than $50,000 over the new cap. If this is the case a year from now, the city would have to send that money to local schools.

Furthermore, cities are required to submit certification of compliance with several municipal court procedures. Byrnes Mill has yet to file this certification (it was due by 12-31-15). Byrnes Mill was one of 115 cities that did not file this certification.

Brazeal Airs Arnold Grievances

26 Jan

John Brazeal, CFO of the Fox C-6 school district, is running for city council in Arnold ward 2. He has taken to Facebook several times since declaring to air his grievances against Arnold government in true Festivus fashion. This harkens back to his first broadside against the city, when he ripped the can plant deal with Anheuser-Busch. I thought I would go ahead and reprint his latest statement here:

Anyone else annoyed by these unholy deals orchestrated by Mayor Counts’ administration in Arnold, Missouri?

On the November 3, 2015 ballot, the City of Arnold sought voter approval for a new half-cent sales tax in Arnold. That measure failed.

By the way, my opponent in the April 2016 city council race (incumbent Brian McArthur) voted in favor of seeking voter approval for increasing sales tax rates on Arnold residents. But I digress.

Leading up to the election, a slick advertising campaign supporting the city’s sales tax proposal was organized by the Mayor and members of his administrative team. That campaign, financed through a political action committee known as Building a Better Arnold, spent nearly $40,000 attempting to sway public opinion in favor of higher sales taxes. Who contributed to the $40,000 attempt to sway voters, and why?

Anheuser-Busch contributed $15,000 just a few days after the Arnold City Council wiped out approximately $20M of future property taxes due over the next 20 years for the $150M Metal Container can plant expansion owned by Anheuser-Busch. Arnold forgives $20,000,000 of taxes due from Anheuser-Busch, and then Anheuser-Busch reciprocates by contributing $15,000 per the request of Mayor Counts to the campaign to increase city sales taxes.

It is patently offensive that Anheuser-Busch seeks to escape property taxes for itself, but funds an advertising campaign attempting to convince Arnold voters to impose higher sales taxes upon themselves. All orchestrated by the Mayor with the cooperation of the City Council.

Missouri American Water contributed $10,000 to the sales tax campaign. Earlier in the year, the City sold its profitable sewer system to Missouri American Water. Since that sale, the cost of sewer service in Arnold has been on the rise. First a utility tax was added to sewer bills, thereby increasing our cost of sewer services. This increase to the cost of living in Arnold was not disclosed to voters before the Mayor and City Council sought voter approval to sell the sewer system. Now, Missouri American Water has filed a request with the Missouri Public Service Commission to increase sewer rates about 20% higher than current rates.

It is patently offensive that Missouri American Water, after purchasing the profitable cash machine of a sewer system from the City, and knowing they would be seeking to raise sewer rates with no objections coming from the Mayor and City Council, would also fund ballot initiatives seeking to increase sales tax rates upon Arnold residents. This too orchestrated by the Mayor with the cooperation of the City Council.

By the way, Missouri American Water purchases sewer pipes and related appurtenances and equipment needed for the sewer system from vendors outside the City of Arnold, thereby avoiding payment of Arnold sales taxes on its purchases.

Yes, I’m annoyed by these city hall deals pinned on Arnold residents. Better decisions could have been made. Which is why I am running for a seat on the city council.

I would like to add that an employee of the law firm of Arnold city attorney Bob Sweeney serves as deputy treasurer of Building a Better Arnold. As I posted yesterday, another city council candidate, Vern Sullivan, serves as treasurer.

Finally, it is worth remembering that American Water poured $244,000 into the campaign to persuade voters to approve the sewer sale.

What You Need to Know About Arnold Council Candidate Vern Sullivan

25 Jan

Vernon Sullivan is running for Arnold city council in ward 3. He is currently on the Fox C-6 school board.

Sullivan serves as treasurer for Building a Better Arnold. This is a political action committee that led the failed charge to raise the sales tax in Arnold in November 2015. This was the city’s attempt to blackmail city residents suffering from recurring stormwater problems into supporting the tax before they could get some long-awaited help from the city, despite the fact that the city just earned $9 million by selling the sewer system to American Water.

The campaign to pass this tax was funded by several groups. One was Anheuser-Busch, who gave $15,000 after getting a $20 million tax abatement from the city. The Missouri American Water Employees PAC gave $10,000, after the aforementioned sewer sale, the campaign for which was boosted by the city council’s pre-election threat to jack up sewer rates by 75%. Arnold construction company Kozeny-Wagner gave $5,000, likely with an eye on future construction contracts funded by the tax hike.

If he was such a big backer of this tax hike, how will he vote on future tax hikes if elected? His selection for this treasurer job also suggests a certain coziness with the current regime, which is not what we need.

Fox Issues

Sullivan was head of the Fox C-6 Scholarship Golf Tourney from 1999 until it was discontinued in 2014. Money from this tournament was used by disgraced former Fox superintendent Dianne Critchlow as part of her scholarship slush fund, through which she funneled scholarships to the children of her cronies (and to her own kids). If Sullivan didn’t know that Critchlow’s kids were receiving golf scholarships, he probably should have.

Sullivan was elected to the Fox board in 2014, about two months before the (first) Critchlow scandal broke. Here are some decisions he has contributed to since then:

  • Allowing Critchlow to retire without being fired
  • In the wake of the scandal, he voted to appoint Tim Crutchley, whose hands are of questionable cleanliness in all this, as interim superintendent.
  • He voted to hire the daughter of board member Cheryl Hermann.
  • Awarding fired nutrition director Kelly Nash, a nepotism hire, a $20,000 settlement after likely failing to get her required certification.

All told, Sullivan seems like an establishment, status quo candidate when that’s precisely what Arnold does not need.

Wieland Leads Fight to End Missouri Death Penalty

18 Jan

State senator Paul Wieland (R, 22nd district, Imperial) has introduced a bill to repeal the death penalty in Missouri, SB 816. He introduced a similar bill last year that did not make it out of committee. One might think of this as a surprising move from a Republican, as the GOP is generally thought of as the law-and-order, pro death penalty party. But anti-execution feeling on the right seems to be growing in the state:

The bill, SB 816, is sponsored by Sen. Paul Wieland, R-Imperial, has received immense grassroots support from a group called Missouri Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. The group, which is joined in support by members of the Students for Life, College Republicans, and the Missouri Federalist Society, credits growing grassroots support for the early session hearing.

Here’s what Wieland said in November:

“I’m a pro-life Catholic and I believe that if you’re going to be pro-life, you should be pro-life on both ends of the spectrum,” said Wieland, suggesting that such a position means opposing not just abortion but also the death penalty.  “I don’t think it’s a fiscally smart thing that we do as far as dealing with the death penalty. I think we spend a lot more money with the appeals and going through the process of putting people to death than if we just give them life in prison.”

There are also concerns about the way Missouri acquires its execution drugs (for lethal injection) as it tries to work around lawsuits and foreign boycotts:

“They’re so fiscally responsible about everything else, but they turn a blind eye to the idea of some correction officer getting a paper bag, putting cash in it and driving across state line and picking up an execution drug,” said Wieland.

Another argument against execution is that, given the high number of wrongful convictions we are seeing overturned (including the widely-reported Ryan Ferguson case here in Missouri (not a death penalty case)), we should not risk executing an innocent person. The justice system needs to be treated with healthy skepticism and oversight by small government conservatives, just like any government agency or program.

Given the bill’s lack of advancement in the last session, I am skeptical that this will pass this year. Wieland’s bill has three co-sponsors (two Democrats) and a companion bill in the House from GOP Rep. T.J. Berry, HB 2064, has six cosponsors (four Republicans). The bill has a committee hearing tomorrow, though, which is more that it got last year, and receiving action early in the session makes a bill more likely to get a floor vote, so we shall see.

GOP Reps Targeted Over Right to Work

17 Jan

A political action committee is targeting a number of Republican members of the Missouri House of Representatives who voted against right to work (RTW) back in September, thus upholding Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of the legislation. Pat Martin wrote about this in his most recent Leader editorial. Four of the singled-out representatives are from Jefferson County:

  • Becky Ruth (114th district, Festus)
  • Elaine Gannon (115th, De Soto)
  • John McCaherty (97th, High Ridge)
  • Shane Roden (111th, Cedar Hill)

The override vote fell 13 short of the necessary 109 votes. For that reason, it seems like a hopeless effort to try to swing enough representatives to enact RTW over a gubernatorial veto. Best to focus on winning the governor’s race this year and electing someone (like, say, Eric Greitens) who will sign a RTW bill into law. RTW has enough votes to pass the legislature, but not enough to override a veto.

There were some rumblings in September that some JeffCo reps were open to switching their votes on RTW, and in fact, one did. Rep. Dan Shaul (113th, Imperial), who voted no on the original bill, voted yes on the override. One argument in favor of passing RTW now is that it would take the issue off of the table for the 2016 Missouri elections, possibly reducing outside union interest in the state and increasing the chances for Republicans to defeat the Democratic candidate for governor, Attorney General Chris Koster (something that I presume all of the anti-RTW Republican legislators want to do).

There will be a few tests of how much power unions still have in JeffCo in the 2016 election. Rep. Rob Vescovo (R, 112th, Arnold) will face a rematch against Democrat Robert Butler, who will be sure to make RTW an issue. Shaul will also have to defend his vote in his race against perennial Democrat candidate Mike Evans. Roden has already attracted a primary challenger in Jason Jarvis (a rematch of the 2014 primary). Jarvis has come out in favor of right to work. I know of no primary challengers to Ruth, Gannon, or McCaherty at this time. The anti-RTW candidates will have union contributions to assist them. Even before these votes, unions have been contributing to JeffCo Republicans (that is the focus of the advertisements targeting anti-RTW Republicans). But before the election, we can expect another round or two of RTW votes in this year’s legislative session.

Fox Audit Update

8 Jan

Posted on Facebook by Mark Jones, who you people should have elected to the school board:

I spoke with the person in charge of the State Audit of the Fox C-6 School District. He said that the field work has been completed and he hopes to meet with the school board in closed session in February to review the findings with them. They will then have a few weeks to form a response before the report is made public. He said not to hold him to those dates, but that is what his target is at this point. We might finally have some answers in March to the mess that was our school district’s past under Diane Critchlow and crew.

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