Racial Equity and Tax Incentive Policy in St. Louis

By on July 7, 2017

From The St. Louis American:  St. Louis is proposing a temporary reform of its tax incentive policies, until the city gets enough money to do a permanent overhaul.

While that’s how the city’s development authorities are touting it, that’s not how Aldermen Joe Roddy of the 17th Ward is explaining it at public meetings. Roddy sponsored Resolution 33, which proposes the interim guidelines, and the board has not yet taken a final vote on the resolution.

The EYE attended one of the Board of Aldermen’s public “listening” sessions on June 13. Here, Roddy, who is chair of the aldermanic Housing, Urban Planning and Zoning Committee, started off the meeting by saying that the aldermen want to have these new “interim guidelines” so developers don’t get scared away if there is an extensive debate at the Board of Aldermen. (Aldermen have the power to vote on whether or not projects receive these incentives – not that they have ever voted down a project, to the EYE’s knowledge.)

At the June 13 meeting, Roddy said that the city needed “clear guidelines so when it gets down to the Board of Aldermen, there’s a predictable outcome. That’s what we’re hoping to do.”

Nowhere in the introduction did Roddy mention that the need for incentive reform actually came from an analysis of economic incentives – which the city commissioned – that showed the city’s current system was inefficient.

It wasn’t until a resident asked at the end of the city’s presentation why they hadn’t gone through a review of the city’s history of incentive use did Otis Williams, director of the St. Louis Development Corporation (SLDC), point to the PFM study as the reason for the reform.

Throughout the rest of the meeting, it was nauseating to hear Roddy and his vice-chair Alderwoman Marlene Davis of the 19th Ward, continuously justify and defend their old ways of doing things any time a community member tried to challenge them.

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