The economic development sales tax, which I just signed,
represents a holistic approach to urban revitalization.
It will fund North-South MetroLink, and harness the
project’s full catalytic potential by pairing it with a strategy that includes
innovative approaches to neighborhood and workforce development, as well as
investments in public safety and infrastructure.
The programs and initiatives included in this bill are
based on best practices across our nation, and will connect the City and bring
us together in ways both big and small.
It all starts with North-South Metrolink, which would
receive 60% of the projected $20 Million in new revenues – enough to build the
first phase of the full alignment.
I consider expanding light rail a moral and economic
imperative for our city.
We have a moral obligation to the single parents without
access to a car, cut off from jobs and opportunities, and to their children,
cut off from educational opportunities and healthy food to help connect people
to prosperity and opportunity. Our city
demands action, and North-South Metrolink affords us a unique chance to start
healing the divide that separates north and south.
The North-South line will help connect marginalized
communities to economic growth, grow regional productivity, deconcentrate
poverty, promote healthy living, create vibrant and accessible public spaces,
and catalyze development in struggling neighborhoods.
The economic development tax, together with federal 'New
Starts' funding, is projected to be able to fund a $700 Million Phase I light
rail project, which could extend nearly nine miles and begin operations in less
than 10 years.
While the study currently underway will ultimately
determine the precise route, the line must combine density, need, and
opportunity. South St. Louis has the
region’s densest communities; North St. Louis includes the region’s neighborhoods
most challenged by limited access to transportation; and, it will soon be home
to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which arguably represents the
most impactful development opportunity in the City’s history.
I look forward to working with our partners at BiState,
and East-West Gateway to bring North-South MetroLink to the people of St.
The remaining funds will advance the same goals as
North-South MetroLink: knitting
communities together and catalyzing economic development.
The remaining 40% of the new revenue generated by the
economic development sales tax will serve to both give underserved people a
hand up to a career and a path to upward mobility -- and -- to address the root
causes of crime.
The first is developing neighborhoods through targeted,
place-based investment that is directed by the community itself. When residents identify the challenges they
face, and propose solutions custom built for their neighborhood, outcomes are
Inspired by HUD’s Choice Neighborhood program, we will
replicate its success by dedicating money to one neighborhood each year to
concentrate the program’s impact and ensure that the funds serve to catalyze
Empowering neighborhoods and empowering people is really
what this sales tax aims to achieve.
North-South Metrolink will connect thousands of St. Louisans to job
opportunities across the region, but its impact will be limited without a
simultaneous effort to prepare more St. Louisans to enter the workforce.
Workforce development is about more than job training –
it’s about building a pipeline that affords everyone the same opportunity to
succeed. Our current model, which is
driven by federal funding and its guidelines, leaves some people behind.
Our St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment -- or
SLATE -- for example, must rely on federal grant funding that requires SLATE to
prove that it only serves "job-ready" individuals.
As a result, more than half of the people who come to
SLATE seeking assistance are turned away from job training programs because
they're simply not "job-ready."
We need them to be.
We need skilled laborers to build the new NGA, City
Foundry, and the 36-story apartment building overlooking Forest Park. We need STEM career paths to fill jobs in
Cortex and our health care industry. We
need IT professionals to fill the growing demand here in our city. And we need the flexibility to serve people
who need the basic skills and training to be ready for these jobs or to create
their own through new businesses.
So, revenues from the economic development sales tax will
allow SLATE to expand successful programs and hire outreach coordinators to
embed in our neighborhoods. It will also
create a Youth Empowerment portfolio, which awards funds on a competitive basis
for summer youth employment, recreation programs, scholarship programs and
other educational supports for City youth pursuing vocational, technical, and
These initiatives will be most successful if everyone in
our City has a safe and secure environment to live, work and play.
That's why the sales tax also includes funding for public
These revenues will serve as a dedicated funding stream
that allows the City to invest further in public safety infrastructure, which
could include expanding our camera network and Real Time Crime Center.
As part of this sales tax, voters will also see
improvement plans for the City's infrastructure -- things like better roads and
bridges, city building maintenance, vehicles, and equipment. This new revenue stream will allow the City
to purchase and repair operational equipment and address the needs of City
facilities, as prioritized by our Capital Committee.
Together, these initiatives for North-South MetroLink,
neighborhood and workforce development, and public safety and infrastructure
will help grow existing momentum in the central corridor to neighborhoods north
The next step is yours. If a judge concurs, and I believe
one will, this proposal will be on the April ballot in the City.