Darin Morley has submitted the following article about the April 2nd ballot initiative, Prop P also known as the Arch Tax. Morley blogs at Reboot Congress.
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Improving the Arch grounds has been a dream of Bryan Cave attorney Walter Metcalfe since at least 2007. As the St. Louis Beacon reported in January of this year:
Back in late 2007, then-Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne took a walking tour of the Arch grounds with Bryan Cave attorney Walter Metcalfe and former U.S. Sen. John Danforth. Metcalfe said that Kempthorne, a former Idaho governor, wasn't impressed.
“He said at the time, this is the worst entrance to a national park in the United States,” Metcalfe said.
After the tour, Kempthorne went back to Metcalfe’s office with Danforth, Missouri Botanical Garden President Emeritus Peter Raven and then-Missouri History Museum President Bob Archibald.
I've included a map below so that you can better understand the arduous journey these men under took when they "went back to Metcalfe's office". Looks like a four block walk from the Arch grounds--the green line on the map.
The men probably had to wait for traffic lights while cars zoomed by on I-70 below. Unsurprisingly, Metcalfe took up the cause of revitalizing the St. Louis Arch and boosting the property values of neighboring businesses like his own law firm, Bryan Cave, as well as Arch tax cheerleader Civic Progress.
You might wonder: Who is Civic Progress? They are the lead donor pushing for the passage of the Arch tax. They're also a client of Bryan Cave. None other than Walter Metcalfe is listed as Civic Progress's legal counsel.
Part of the Arch improvements include a roof over I-70. That should improve foot traffic from the Arch to Bryan Cave, but since the tax that appears on the April 2nd ballot is a sales tax, downtown law firms will not be collecting it. In short, Bryan Cave will reap the benefits of the Arch Tax while someone else foots the bill.
In fact, Bryan Cave has already realized some revenue from this project. The pro-Arch tax Committee (Citizens For Safe And Accessible Arch And Public Parks Initiative In Collaboration With Civic Progress Action Commitee) filed a report 2/21/2013 which shows that Bryan Cave had already been paid about $5,800 for legal services. That report also identifies the sources of the pro-Arch tax Committee's funds: about $250,000 from Civic Progress, $75,000 from the Regional Business Council, and about $34,000 in in-kind donations from Washington University.
The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that in total the tax will raise $780 million over twenty years. What they don't report, is where that money will be raised. If we assume that everyone in the region is hit by the tax about equally, then we can use the 2010 census numbers to approximate how much St. Louis city and county are each contributing to these projects. The 2010 census put the population of St. Louis city at 319,294 and the population of St. Louis county at 998,954. In other words, roughly three-quarters of the funds come from St. Louis county.
If the Arch tax passes, other parks in the St. Louis area will benefit from some of the funding. And a portion is slated for the unaccountable public-private Great Rivers Greenway. The Arch portion is 30% of the project or about $234 million. That means that roughly $175.5 million of St. Louis county funds will be exhausted on a project that boosts the property values of the most valuable land in the St. Louis region. In other words, those who own property adjacent to the area's premiere venues--the top 1%--reap the financial benefits while Target shoppers in the county foot the bill.
Mark your calendar and remember to vote NO on Prop P on April 2nd.