The Outer Provinces Must Send Their Tribute

Here we go again: Milwaukee leaders call for more state shared revenue:

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said Monday that he wants the Legislature and state residents to know that Wisconsin’s largest city is not a drain on state resources but is instead a major contributor to state coffers.

City residents and businesses sent $1.37 billion to Madison in 2015 from all income, sales, utility and other taxes while the state returned only $227 million in the form of shared revenue payments, a difference of more than $1.1 billion, Barrett said. He spoke to several dozen corporate leaders Monday at a meeting of the Greater Milwaukee Committee.

I get to run this bit every couple of months when an elected official in a heavily populated governmental unit points out that a higher unit that collects taxes does not return more money to the lower unit than it collects. Sometimes, it’s California complaining that it’s not getting its fair share of Federal money. In this case, it’s a city saying it should have more money from the rest of the state. That is, Menomonie and Iron River should send their tax dollars to Milwaukee.

Generally speaking, it’s elected officials who think you should take from the rich and give to the poor, too, but that’s because they’re the ones who think in those terms instead of that the government should take tax money to do government things (plow the roads, protect the citizenry, and so on).

From the “If It Helps One Person” Files

Whenever talking about fiscal outlays for the impoverished, I often get “cut down to size” with the “if it helps one person, it’s worth it!” rejoinder, such as discussing this chart with a warm-hearted, caring doctor of comic books:

Sure, the amount spent has gone through the roof. But if it has helped one person! Or a small number of people.

In that vein, we have an excited story in the Springfield News-Leader about a change to a government program in Springfield: New city agreement could help more subsidized housing residents get off welfare.

People who receive federal housing vouchers are eligible for the Family Self-Sufficiency Program, which aims to help them get off welfare. Through an annual grant, the housing authority employs a coordinator who helps people set goals and connects them with resources, like job training programs or tuition assistance.

Since 1992, only 21 individuals have successfully completed the program, according to Erma Owens with the housing authority.

For the love of Pete, fewer than one person per year has successfully completed the program. That sounds like an ineffective program if you ask me. But I’m just a taxpayer.

The partnership the article speaks of is that the city will share an employee with the program.

This has definite benefits.

Adams said working at both places helps streamline the process for clients seeking help because she can tell them exactly what to expect from each office.

“Instead of me just saying ‘Go to the career center,’ I can tell them who to talk to. (That way they can) make a better connection with community resources and the career center,” Adams said.

That is, the benefits are facilitation, communication, and improved processination.

On the plus side, at least it’s not the city or the federal government throwing more money at the program hoping to get it up to 1.25 or 1.4 people per year.

“If it helps one person…” mostly helps one type of person: government or Near Government Organization employees.

A Burden That Will Never Be Compulsory

I saw this sticker on a gas pump in Republic, and I thought it was a capital idea:

It’s provided by an industry group, so to some people that makes it invalid even if it’s true.

You know how the government compels fast food restaurants to post calorie counts? Wouldn’t it be informative to display the tax burden on everything as well?

Of course, the government would never make this information mandatory. And to post sales tax information would be awfully troublesome for retailers, as overlapping tax districts make these rates vary street-to-street.

Ever since the government moved from coming hut-to-hut to collect chickens and crops, it has gotten better and better at hiding how it extracts money from the citizenry and how much.

The Headline Says It All, But The Article Explains

Much of Joplin has been rebuilt since 2011 — but not by the firm the city hired to do it.

Basically, the city of Joplin picked one company to spend a lot of government money, the company didn’t do much but spend the money, lawsuits ensued, and meanwhile, the people and businesses of Joplin lived their lives and livelihoods which involved building things without top-down direction and money-spending.

So the News-Leader is running a reflection on the phenomenon.

I didn’t read it. If you do, remember that the next time the city (any city, or any town) proposes a five-year-plan or other central planning device, the twenty-somethings at the News-Leader will laud it.

IT People Gonna Learn

I’ve had conversations on the Internet with liberalesque people working in IT about government regulation and the excess thereof. I’m thinking in particular of a conversation I had a couple years back with a fellow I went to college with.

My friend shared a post on Google+ about a software entrepreneur who said he heard a Republican candidate who said people weren’t starting businesses because of excessive taxation and regulation. The software entrepreneur said that was RIDICULOUS, HE was an entrepreneur, and this never entered his thinking!

So I argued that software was a low-footprint industry, that you could start a software business with a laptop at the coffee shop, but that getting into other real-world businesses runs into a lot of regulation. I cited examples of renting a stall in a salon, which requires a certain amount of regulated training; opening an automobile garage, which runs into all sorts of Federal, state and local regulations and inspections; and a restaurant owner I knew who had to pass so many inspections that he blew through his seed money and ultimately spent more time trying to comply with regulations than he did actually cooking food for the public.

I can’t link to the actual post since it wasn’t shared publicly, but rest assured, I was eloquent, self-assured, and presented a compelling case.

Still, so many people in the industry I’m in harbor a certain shortsightedness about how government regulation chokes off the little guy (on purpose, often).

Maybe not for long.

Computer coding program delays launch after inquiry from state agency:

Ward 5 Code Camp, which had planned to open Wisconsin’s first computer coding boot camp this month, has delayed its launch after a state agency said it had to register for regulatory oversight.

The Educational Approval Board, a Wisconsin agency that oversees 245 postsecondary schools, approached Ward 5 in early December after hearing about it from another school it oversees. Ward 5 this month postponed discussions with the agency, but it said it is working to find a way to open.

Welcome to the party, pals.

Involuntary Checkpoints Good, Voluntary Checkpoints Bad

Truly the logic in this story is dizzying: Local officials decry feds ‘voluntary’ sobriety checkpoints

Some St. Louis-area police and elected officials are questioning the effectiveness and propriety of federal roadside impaired driving checkpoints at which motorists were asked to voluntarily submit blood and saliva samples in exchange for cash.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it conducted the tests as part of a nationwide survey designed to reduce drunken and drugged driving. The tests were conducted over the weekend in St. Charles County and in September in south St. Louis County.

However:

“I don’t think it’s proper use of law enforcement authority to flag people to the side of road for the voluntary testing of anything,” Fitch said.

He said such stops should be confined to regulated sobriety checkpoints.

Please, understand, it’s okay when the local law enforcement stops everyone in an involuntary checkpoint to write a handful of citations, but it’s bad when a Federally funded research outfit conducts research and gathers DNA.

Citizens, is it matter of degree or a matter of kind?

Senator Claire McCaskill Thinks The Government Should Record You More

McCaskill questions why Springfield traffic footage is not recorded:

As Jason Haynes, a city of Springfield traffic engineer, led McCaskill on a tour of the center’s control room, which features a number of cameras and computers displaying live video from the traffic cameras along with other information, the senator asked if the video was recorded. The answer was no.

McCaskill responded that recording would be helpful for law enforcement, if for no other purpose. She mentioned the Boston Marathon bombing this spring, where images helped identify the Tsarnaev brothers on the street at the time of the bombing.

Indeed, whyever would a government entity not capture images and data on its free citizens when it can? That just makes sense to a Federal-level Democrat.

The Saga of St. Louis County’s Garbage Collection Saga Continues

Meanwhile, back in St. Louis County, where St. Louis County a couple years back determined it had the right and the obligation to select medical care and providers garbage haulers for residents of the unincorporated St. Louis County, those trash haulers have won in court a lawsuit that says the county violated the law in not giving them two years’ notice in their lack of livelihood. Story:

The Missouri Supreme Court upheld on Tuesday a 2010 St. Louis County Circuit Court ruling that the county violated state law when it failed to give three waste haulers two years’ notice before setting up trash districts.

The haulers — American Eagle Waste Industries, Meridian Waste Services and Waste Management of Missouri — had sued after they did not get contracts when the county set up the districts in 2008.

. . . .

The plaintiffs’ attorney, Jane Dueker, with the Clayton firm of Stinson Morrison Hecker, had asserted that Wallace’s award was too low and that her clients were due about $23 million in lost revenue.

Dueker predicted Tuesday that her clients would end up winning more than Wallace had initially awarded them. Dueker would not estimate how much that total would be.

“The real shame is that the taxpayers of the county are the ones who are on the hook for the damages,” Dueker said.

Hopefully, the city of Republic, which is currently seeking to expand this dominion over its citizens, is paying attention.

A Penny Saved Is A Penny Earned; A Federal Dollar Saved Is A Fiscal Disaster For Someone

The Government Services Agency, recently in the news for its expensive and lavish conferences which sometimes mocked the thought of fiscal restraint, has cut a conference from its docket. St. Louis businesses who would have benefited from the largesse this time around are unhappy:

That was the case this week, when a scandal-plagued federal agency, still reeling from revelations about a lavish conference in Sin City, pulled the plug on an upcoming gathering here in the Gateway City.

Now 10 downtown hotels are left with a bunch of empty rooms and wondering if they will ever get paid.

The General Services Agency, which manages nuts-and-bolts federal purchasing, told St. Louis convention officials this week that they are canceling a big energy trade show scheduled for America’s Center next month. It would have filled nearly 2,500 hotel rooms downtown for four nights, generating an estimated $6 million in hotel and convention spending, plus cab rides, meals and more. Now? Nothing.

“It’s impossible to fill almost 2,500 hotel rooms for four or five nights in a month,” said Kathleen “Kitty” Ratcliffe, president of the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission. “Those hotels are going to sit empty. Cab drivers won’t be working. Restaurants won’t be as busy.”

As we have seen in Missouri, we get an article from this template when the legislature performs any sort of spending restraint that caps spending increases, reallocates fiscal resources according to some sense of priorities, or even eliminates some programs. Open your local paper today, and I’ll bet you’ll find a story about people who won’t receive money from the state or nonprofits who will not receive some sort of state funding. I even had a full schtick going during the Blunt governorship pointing out all the people Matt Blunt hated by cutting their funding.

It’s easy to report on the people who lose the federal dollars because that impact is focused, and journalists can find people to quote and photograph. It’s easy to mobilize these people to call their legislators to get that funding restored.

The savings impact, though, is diffused throughout the budget. That $6,000,000, not all of it government funds, will get spent on something else. But, still, savings are savings. Cancel a couple of these conferences, and you can buy an Apache. Which is more important to the country? Ask the GSA or some energy company, and they’ll say the conference. Ask any number of soldiers, if they think about it, and they’ll say air support. That’s optimistic, of course; the six million dollars will remain in the GSA budget for something like a fleet of Chevy Volts or something, but still, that’s at least not quite as ephemeral as a conference.

It’s unfortunate that the city of St. Louis’s publicly funded convention facilities have lost publicly funded conferences to trickle some money into the hands of actual citizens and torrents of amenities into the pockets, maws, and alcohol-fueled sleep of government employees and government hangers on. But it’s a step in the right direction, and further steps, if they’re taken, will lead to news stories much like this one, rending garments and wailing.

Gritty Urban Scenes from Southwest Missouri

The sensational Census story proclaims Census: 8 of 10 Americans now urbanites:

Move over, New York City. Nine of the 10 most densely populated areas in the U.S. are out West, and eight out of 10 Americans are now urbanites, a U.S. Census Bureau report released Monday shows.

However, like the recently trumpeted “Chocolate leads to weight loss” study that’s gotten a lot of brief mentions by radio personalities in between their shallow playlists and brief Internet mentions, looking behind the headlines will reveal something that pretty much contradicts the headline.

In the chocolate study, it was the fact that everyone in the study was exercising 3.6 times a week (more than I do, certainly).

In the Census Bureau study, it’s the definition of urban:

The census data identifies two types of urban areas: “urbanized areas” of 50,000 or more people and “urban clusters” of at least 2,500 and less than 50,000 people. There are 486 urbanized areas and 3,087 urban clusters nationwide.[Emphasis added.]

You know what we call an urban area of 2,500 people in the real world? A small town.

But going by the Census Bureau’s definition, ladies and gentlemen, here is the gritty urban world of Republic, Missouri. Continue reading “Gritty Urban Scenes from Southwest Missouri”

Pinnacle Falls Short On Its Promises

The city of St. Louis chose Pinnacle Entertainment to build a casino (Lumière Place) after extracting promises that the developer would pour an additional $50 million dollars in urban Renaissance development in the city.

Well, it got a profitable casino. But Pinnacle has not delivered on the promised Renaissance development:

In 2004, Pinnacle Entertainment made a deal with the city to invest $50 million in revitalizing the riverfront area within five years of opening its $507 million Lumière Place casino.

A year later, Pinnacle promised a $25 million condo tower on Laclede’s Landing. In 2006, the company announced plans to build stores and additional condos as part of a second phase of Lumière Place, which opened in December 2007.

But the recession hit — and the projects were canceled.

Pinnacle now faces a December deadline. Its only investment outside of its casino complex: the $9.8 million Stamping Lofts project. And even though it is getting full credit for the project, its financial investment was just $2 million.

To recap how these gilded deals play out:

  • Pinnacle promises urban Renaissance development if it gets to build a casino first. Pinnacle builds the casino, then does not meet its other promises. 
     
  • The St. Louis Cardinals promise a $550 million dollar urban Renaissance development if they can build a new tax-subsidized stadium first. The new ballpark opened in 2006. Six years later, the promised mixed use development is coming soon. After additional tax subsidies, please. 
     
  • A series of developers promise to urban Renaissant (we might as well coin a verb for it) with a series of tax credits, incentives, loans, and the city of Springfield’s construction of parking garages. (The saga unfolds here.) Decades after the first attempts at public/private glory, the building remains boarded up at city expense, but the parking garages and their debt and annual maintenance costs are there.

What happens over and over: The private developer gets what it wants and breaks its promises. The iron-clad contracts to which the city thinks it has bound the developer are renegotiated when the developer is going to not meet them to save face for the city, or the developer walks away from the contracts entirely.

Sadly, the lesson tomorrow’s leaders won’t learn a lesson that these sorts of agreements benefit the private at the expense of the public. The lesson they will learn is to make their iron-clad contracts iron-cladder as they continue the same pattern.

Republican Sponsors Bill To Nullify Contracts

That’s one way to look at Missouri Representative Kurt Bahr’s proposed law to abrogate the contracts between subdivision/neighborhood associations and their members:

That would change statewide for future elections under a bill proposed by a legislator from nearby O’Fallon. The measure, by Republican Rep. Kurt Bahr, would prevent homeowners associations from enforcing or adopting bans on political signs.

“Should a private organization allow you to contract away constitutionally protected inherent rights?” Bahr asked.

Strangely enough, contract law does this all the time.

Consider:

  • Employer contracts that require non-compete, non-solicitation, and non-disclosure agreements. These contracts “violate” the rights to assemble and to free speech and press. 
     
  • Employer or other contracts that require drug testing. These violate the right to be secure against unreasonable searches. 
     
  • Lawsuit settlements where terms include nondisclosure and nondisparagement. These also violate the right to free speech. 
     
  • When employers fire you or taverns kick you out without a jury trial. This violates the 7th Amendment 
     
  • Mortgage agreements. Have you ever actually read a mortgage contract? You would be surprised to find out what you cannot do. Storing flammable liquids like gasoline for your lawnmower might put you in violation, which might make you think the bank is violating your private property rights.

And so on and so forth.

The fact of the matter is that people sign contracts and make individual agreements that limit what they can do. This does not “violate the rights” of either party in the contract or agreement any more than holding one’s tongue when one has a snarky remark violate’s one’s own right to free speech.

What Representative Bahr confuses here, as so many do, is that the Bill of Rights limits the government’s authority, not other organizations.

Anyone who signs a contract with a neighborhood association needs to honor that contract. Anyone considering moving into a home bound by such a contract needs to recognize that it is a contract, not a formality, and they need to honor it.

And the Missouri government should not step in and break these codicils when the citizens who signed the agreement didn’t read them or didn’t really expect to be held to them.

I’m not sure the non-enforcement part of the law could stand up in court anyway. After all, ex post facto is not just a river in Italy.

(Representative Bahr’s HB 1380 text here. United States Bill of Rights text here)

The Rams’ Dome Dilemma in the Wall Street Journal

On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal ran a story about the forthcoming taxpayer holdup by the Big Football/St. Louis City Government gang. The gist:

The fight to save St. Louis’s NFL franchise comes at a tough time. The city of St. Louis, St. Louis County and the state of Missouri together still owe $153 million on the downtown dome and face deep budget cuts in other areas. But they are proposing a $124 million plan to build new club seats and a 50,000-square-foot plaza at the dome—with nearly half the cost funded by taxpayers.

In Los Angeles, taxpayers would pay almost nothing for the proposed stadiums.

Economists say large cities often fare better than smaller markets in stadium deals with professional sports teams because they can offer franchises a bigger base of potential fans, and because the larger cities are less reliant on a team to help shape their area’s image.

Despite evidence that these investments rarely pay off in purely economic terms, smaller-market cities continue to offer sports teams millions of dollars in hopes the investments will pay off by improving the quality of life, aiding in the recruitment of new businesses and burnishing their national reputation. Minneapolis and Minnesota are offering more than $600 million for a new Vikings football stadium. And Indiana still owes $649 million on the Colts’ four-year-old stadium.

Two decades after the Rams arrived from Los Angeles, St. Louis is offering millions to try to close an escape clause that could allow the team to return to the glitz of its former home. Jack Nicas has details on The News Hub. Photo: Getty Images

In larger markets, however, cities have managed to keep taxpayers largely off the hook for stadiums, such as the New York Giants’ and Jets’ $1.6 billion, two-year-old stadium and the San Francisco 49ers’ planned $1.02 billion stadium.

Indeed, taxpayers have shouldered about four-fifths of the funding for NFL stadiums in the eight smallest media markets with new facilities since 1995, according to an analysis of data from the consulting firm Convention Sports & Leisure International. During that period, taxpayers have funded less than a fifth of the cost of NFL stadiums in the eight largest media markets where new facilities have been built or are planned, according to the data.

“Investments” in public/private partnerships always work out for the private half, don’t they? The public? Not so much.

Bear this in mind when the state cuts benefits to certain constituencies and when local cities cannot provide basic services like police protection or animal control without additional taxes.

Omitted Information

Christian County, Missouri, bills itself as the fastest growing county in the state. And with that growth comes growing pains:

Christian County voters will consider a pair of ballot proposals that will control the flow of money at the courthouse and sheriff’s office.

County officials link a population boom to a need for more revenue for law enforcement. Voters will consider two questions on April 3. The first asks to postpone the 2015 sunset of a quarter-cent sales tax. The second question asks voters to OK a new quarter-cent tax. If both measures pass, the Christian County sheriff’s office and judicial system would stand to gain between $600,000 and $1 million annually from a sales tax totaling a half cent on every dollar.

The last sales tax hike in Christian County occurred in 2001. Since then, the county’s population soared from about 54,000 to nearly 77,500. The 42 percent population increase sparked some changes and new pressures on law enforcement.

What’s not mentioned in the article is the impact of an additional 23,500 residents owning property and making purchases in Christian County at the existing tax rate. All those additional residents have already increased the revenue available to Christian County government spenders, but those numbers are not to be found in the article.

The important thing, as always, for the reader to take away is that ever-increasing population demands ever-increasing tax rates (regardless of actual, absolute revenue dollar amounts). It’s very important to keep government officials from having to establish and stick to priorities, like fund law enforcement before recycling programs.

Any Budget Cuts Will Cut Someone’s Budget

The Springfield News-Leader runs a story about a local organization set to lose government funding:

The Big House, a center for men with alcohol and drug abuse issues run by the Recovery Chapel in Springfield. Director Farris Roberston complains that the State of Missouri is pulling an important funding source.

When Farris’ organization received a letter last week from the Department of Mental Health the terms were clear: the organization’s contract to receive funding would end in 60 days.

What the letter didn’t say was why.

Access to Recovery funds, which come from the federal government but are administered by the state, assist organizations in providing drug and alcohol abuse recovery programs. The funds account for about 20 percent of Recovery Chapel’s $560,000 budget.

Those of us of a certain age can remember the Matt Blunt years, when the governor led budgetary responsibility that trimmed state spending. The newspapers were full of stories explaining how each individual organization that would receive less funding would suffer for it. Why, some of us even blogged about it, mocking the media’s tone that Matt Blunt hated everyone.

But the fact of the matter is this: If our Federal government is not to collapse under the weight of its overspending, it will have to trim its budget. Some of that budget is doled out to states as money the states can grant to various local communities or community organizations for service.

If cuts are to be made, organizations will have to find other sources of funding. Unfortunately, fundraising for so many organizations has come to rely on grantwriting and getting some sort of taxpayer money, which the organization the builds into its operating budget and needs that tax money to survive.

Instead of a story lamenting the passing of the Federal tax dollars coming to this organization, I’d rather have seen it phrased as a story to tell people about this organization, what it does, and its budgetary needs so that the public could put $20 in an envelope for them.

Instead, it falls to the government to fund this organization, and maybe individuals can remain unengaged with the needs their community.

Chesterfield Bans Discharging Air Guns

Because the government cannot legislate safety, it continues to ban things citizens can use unsafely. To whit, the St. Louis suburb of Chesterfield has banned the use of air guns:

Chesterfield City Council voted 6-2 Monday night in favor of a tighter weapons ban after two hours of testimony from the public both for and against the measure.

Councilmen Bob Nation and Barry Flachsbart voted against the heightened ban, saying it restricted rights provided by the Missouri Constitution.

Chesterfield’s Mayor Bruce Geiger said the modification of the existing weapons ban was really a public safety issue.

City Attorney Robert Heggie said the city felt “confident” about its new ordinance, since neighboring cities have much the same bans.

“It’s a common sense approach,” Heggie said.

Before the vote, Geiger and Police Chief Ray Johnson showed a piece of wood and a bulletproof vest they shot earlier with guns and darts, to apparently show the dangers, and need for an ordinance that would ban shooting small animals in subdivision yards.

When a government official says “common sense” it generally means they’re about to ban something and they don’t want to have to build a logical case for it.

In this case, Chesterfield has banned people from firing air guns and dart guns at varmints on their property because of the threat to public safety danger posed by a pellet gun. Bear in mind that shooting someone with a pellet gun, using a pellet gun to hold up a Quik Trip, or damaging property is against the law: no, that’s beside the point. Common sense demands further restrictions. A ban would not pass Congressional muster, but fortunately a common sense restriction will.

TIFs Ad Absurdum Achieved

Here at Missouri Insight, we come down very hard on the concepts of TIFs because they favor one business over another. In Illinois, the Collinsville Gateway Center takes it to the logical conclusion, asking not only for the government to collect taxes to build infrastructure for the independent business, but to help pay its bills:

Declining revenue has prompted the Gateway Center to ask the city of Collinsville to allow it to keep the city’s portions of tax increment financing funds to cover the center’s operating costs.

Under a 2006 agreement between Gateway and the city, the convention center is allowed to use TIF funds collected in the hospitality district to satisfy shortages on its bond debt. The remainder of the funds collected are to be distributed equally between the center and the city. Gateway keeps 50 percent to cover maintenance and improvement costs and the city keeps 50 percent for future development.

Earlier this month, during a City Council strategic planning meeting, Gateway Center Director Cindy Warke asked the council to allow Gateway to retain the entire amount, which averages to about $250,000 a year, according to the city’s Community Development Director Paul Mann.

To sum up: because the business cannot generate business enough to cover its bills, it’s asking the city to give it money collected as taxes.

Why is this business more special than the hotel across the highway? Because government officials have said so, and will again.

In other convention center news, Springfield, Missouri, has a convention center that it feels is underperforming:

Inadequate facilities and the lack of a connecting hotel have been cited as reasons Springfield’s Expo Center isn’t doing more business.

In a report distributed to City Council on Tuesday, city staff said John Q. Hammons Hotels’ management of the center has fallen short of expectations, as well.

“Staff does not believe the Exposition Center has been marketed or used to its maximum potential,” the report says, noting Hammons Hotels has failed to submit required reports on a regular basis.

The memo, drafted in response to questions posed by Councilman Tom Bieker, said the problems likely fall short of justifying termination of the Hammons’ management contract, which runs through at least 2028 and could be extended a decade past that.

As a result, it might seek to terminate its designated private half of the public/private partnership that is floundering and to find, undoubtedly, another private half to rain public funds on to chase the dwindling convention and conference market. And when the new management underperforms, what then? More of the same, one might expect.

Holdup Time Again Already?

As some of us predicted as early as fifteen years ago, the Rams are going to need more public funding to stay in St. Louis:

The St. Louis Rams’ future here could be in question because of two words that many fans don’t usually associate with the Edward Jones Dome: first tier.

Those words give the Rams a door to walk away from the team’s lease at the Dome — the building has to be a “first-tier” stadium by 2015, or among the top 25 percent of National Football League venues.

The lease itself, however, doesn’t offer much clarity on what constitutes first tier. It identifies several components that need to meet that bar, but also includes vague factors, such as “the physical structure of the facilities.” Another says simply ‘stadium seating.”

The lease includes enough broad language that negotiators could argue just about every inch of the Dome is subject to the standard.

Winning over Rams owner Stan Kroenke could involve millions in publicly funded improvements. The key may be not necessarily to offer enough to make the Dome one of football’s first-tier shrines, but perhaps enough to get the Rams to look the other way or renegotiate the agreement.

You might say to yourself, “It doesn’t seem that long ago.” But you might be thinking about the St. Louis Cardinals demanding a large share of scarce public resources or they would move to Highland, Illinois, or something. That holdup was only seven years ago.

Home Improvement Chain Understands Risks of Community Improvement Districts

Springfield has recently become as district-crazy as the larger cities in the state, creating improvement districts to benefit Hy-Vee and other retail developments. Through the improvement districts, the city pays for improvements to make an area hospitable to a private development and then levies an additional sales tax on purchases made at the development to recapture those outlays.

Personally, I’m against helping some developers out at the expense of other development types. The government should not pay favorites in this way. If a private citizen is to build a house or whatnot, he has to pay to hook it up to the infrastructure. But if the private citizen is a development corporation with enough clout and promises of jobs and sales–regardless of whether those sales are merely moving sales from another retailer in the area to the new one with the additional sales tax levy–then the districts happen.

But a Wisconsin-based home improvement center wants no part of the CID where it wants to open:

Menards, however, does not want to be included in a 1 percent sales tax Community Improvement District the council previously approved for the Hickory Hills Marketplace.

The CID tax would pay for certain infrastructure improvements as tax revenues roll in over time.

According to a council bill explanation, “One of the conditions of Menards locating at the development is that their site not be included in the CID.”

Having a CID tax in place potentially could make Menards products more expensive.

“They do a lot of business on a large scale, like prefabricated home kits,” said Mayor Jim O’Neal. “That extra percent is probably not something they really want. I think the necessary improvements can be made without them.”

It’s quite obvious when you’re a contractor spending thousands of dollars per purchase the difference between buying it at Menards or buying it at Meeks.

On smaller purchases, like groceries and department store items, it’s easier to lose sight of that 1% extra you’re paying. It’s only an extra dollar per $100 trip, but if you’re cumulatively spending thousands of dollars a year, you’re cheating yourself of those dollars if you shop at a store in a CID.

Good for Menards for opting out, although they’re doing it for the principle of being competitive and making profit, not the principle that special favors for esteemed land developers are morally wrong.

It Sort Of Worked For The Buses

The Post Office’s budget is falling short, so it responds appropriately: It threatens to close a pile of local offices.

Browsing the list, it looks like they would close pretty much all of the nearby ones. That should save a pile of money. Maybe not.

About 1,750 people work for the Postal Service in the St. Louis area. Hughes said the closings would not entail layoffs.

Probably not.

I get it, though. I’m supposed to get into high dudgeon that they’re going to close my local post offices and contact my Congressman to provide additional subsidy.

You know what? They’re not closing the local FedEx Kinko’s. So I will pass, and I’ll insist that my vendors and friends and family will ship that way so I don’t have to drive downtown to pick up packages.