4 min read
Posted on 02.03.17
  • 4 min read
  • Posted on 02.03.17

 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. Louis.

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 measurably better.

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 real change.

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 secondary education.

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 safety.

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 and south.

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.