To help you feel more connected to and involved with your County government, each week I'll be sharing with you the report that I present at the County Council meetings. You are welcome to attend County Council meetings; they are open to the public and feature time for public comment. The next meeting is on February 11, 2020 at 6:30pm.
Below is the County Executive Report I delivered during the February 4, 2020 County Council meeting.
Thank you, Lisa, and good evening everyone.
Today’s only the fourth day of February, but we’ve already seen one of our warmest Februaries in history and my favorite football team’s Super Bowl victory. Thank you to Dr. Jenny Page for using your money and frequent flier miles to make that trip possible.
In February we also celebrate Black History Month. The heritage and contributions of the African-American community in St. Louis County is rich and inspiring. February is an opportunity every year to acknowledge our black heroes who brought civil rights and social justice to the forefront.
February is also an opportunity every year to remind ourselves of just how far we still have to go. Racial inequity still pervades the St. Louis region. We must commit ourselves to rethinking, restructuring, and reconstructing the systems that created that racial inequity. And that racial equity conversation must transcend all we do.
Our conversation about racial equity must start with the historically black communities in our county. Kinloch, for example, is the oldest African-American community to be incorporated in the state of Missouri. Between 1990 and 2000, Kinloch lost over three-quarters of its population due to economic disinvestment and the buy-out of property associated with Lambert Airport.
I toured Kinloch recently with Representative Rachel Proudie. The vacant lots there, the abandoned homes, the litter, the illegal dumping, the economic devastation — all struck a chord with me. They underscore just how much work needs to be done. We have to do what we can to rebuild Kinloch and similar struggling communities.
From the County’s perspective, Transportation and Public Works Director Deanna Venker has been preparing a plan that can clean up the vacant lots that are legally owned by the county trustee. My understanding is that the airport and the City of St. Louis are working on plans as well. It will take all hands on deck to get Kinloch back on its feet again, and St. Louis County must do its part.
The people in Kinloch also face the challenge of crime. Crime is a challenge, in fact, throughout our region. We’ve been working closely with the Police Department to give it the tools it needs to reduce crime and improve public safety. That’s included body cameras, new technology, and pay increases.
Those pay increases led some to ask questions about how St. Louis County has spent the proceeds of Proposition P. Those questions are good ones to ask. If I didn’t know how it had been spent, I’d be asking questions too. But the fact is that every dime spent from Prop P is accounted for in the Budget Office’s reports that are presented to this council quarterly and posted on the county website. We remain willing to work with you and the County Council’s Budget Coordinator so that we can clear up any remaining ambiguity about those reports.
Also, County ordinance allows for the County Council to hold a budget hearing on Prop P funds. That hearing could serve as another way to gather information about Prop P funding. It is true that recent decisions, such as the one to add $1.3 million in new salary increases to the Family Court budget, have reduced the available Prop P revenue. In fact, if we remain on this trajectory, the County will need to spend into the reserve from Prop P the way the County has been doing from General Revenue for years. To address this challenge, we are currently looking for opportunities to clarify what expenses should be taken out of Prop P and what financial transactions we could undertake to best allocate costs over several years within Prop P.
Some have also asked whether Prop P proceeds would be used to pay a legal settlement. In St. Louis County government, all settlements are paid out of the insurance fund that is maintained by the Department of Administration. Prop P revenue is a completely separate fund. No matter what department within County government was sued, a settlement of that lawsuit is paid from the insurance fund — even if that department is one that this Council has determined should be funded by Prop P.
Over the past several years, we have worked together to build a collaborate environment on this Council. Political seasons and media outlets like to pit people against each other. But I hope that collaborative environment continues throughout this year and into the future.
That’s all for now. Thank you.