Candidate rhetoric often has it own special standards of accuracy, somewhere between the lifestyle promises made by glossy ads in the New York Times Sunday Magazine and the claims of bass fishermen. But, even by the relaxed standards of campaigns, an allegation by a candidate for the Missouri General Assembly stands out as mistaken. He said that the City of St. Louis has cut its police and firefighting forces in half.
So, how "true" is that?
St. Louis has the same number of firefighters today as it had ten years ago. In the same time period, the department's budget has increased 39 percent, including pensions. Most of that increase was eaten up by rising employee and health care costs.
During the same decade, the police budget, including pensions, also increased by 39 percent, but that increase was also eaten up by the cost of benefits. The city actually has 80 fewer police officers today than 10 years ago, but it still maintains one of the largest per capita police forces in the country.
Public safety is a bigger and bigger part of the City budget, as it should be. But, employee benefits -- many which are mandated by the Missouri General Assembly -- have prevented the city from hiring more firefighters and police officers.
It would be interesting to hear what that candidate for the state legislature has to say about that.