A proposal to block St. Louis city tax breaks for corporations like Peabody Energy -- an initiative that officials say could be destructive to the local economy -- is on its way to a direct vote by city residents on an upcoming ballot.
The activists behind the initiative called Take Back St. Louis announced yesterday that the city Board of Elections has reviewed the petition signatures and certified the proposal -- which means that voters may get an opportunity to weigh in on the charter amendment that would drastically impact the funding of local corporations and other entities.
The measure, which would ban corporations like Peabody Energy from receiving public money, could be on the ballot next March or April -- if opponents don't stop it.
See also: - Take Back St. Louis Ballot Initiative: Activists Target Peabody Energy's Tax Breaks - City Slams Activists' Sustainability Ballot Initiative, Says It Will Badly Damage Economy - Peabody Holds Shareholder Meeting in Wyoming: Trying to Escape St. Louis Protests?
The proposal -- full text here -- forbids the city from granting any "public financial incentive" to entities defined as "unsustainable energy producers." Both of those definitions are so broad as written that the measure, if passed, could apply to a very wide range of businesses in the city and even government agencies directly, according to city officials and opponents (who have already lawyered up to fight the initiative).
The advocates behind the measure, spearheaded by activist group Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE), argue that critics are misinterpreting the proposal -- which would amend the city charter and thus requires a direct vote of the people.
As MORE explains it in its press release yesterday announcing the election board certification, "The Take Back St. Louis initiative would change the city charter to assert citizens' right to a sustainable energy future, to end public money from going to unsustainable energy producers, and to require a plan to invest in and open up land for renewable energy and sustainability projects. Since the turning in of signatures on July 31st, the unnamed opposition has stated its intent to keep the initiative away from voters and protect the status quo of development in the city, which favors large developers and corporations."
"The opposition has said it is working hard to keep this off the ballot," MORE organizer Arielle Klagsbrun tells Daily RFT. "We really hope elected officials will allow this to go before the voters."
Next, the proposal heads toward the Board of Aldermen, which can offer symbolic 'yes' or 'no' votes on the amendment. Klagsbrun explains that, either way, the measure has to be placed on the ballot, since the petition garnered 960 more signatures than the required number.
"They seem to want to keep it away from voters," she says of the initiative's critics, some of whom are represented by local attorney Jane Dueker. "People in St. Louis should have a right to vote on this issue."
"We're excited with this victory," she continues. "This is our first success in a larger process."
In advance of the Board of Aldermen reviewing the proposal in September, organizers have sent over a letter, on view below, outlining their intentions and responding to the common criticisms that have emerged.
We left a message with Dueker this morning to get the latest on efforts to oppose the measure and we'll update if we hear back. You can read her comments and the city's response on the initiative in our previous coverage when the group first handed in signatures.
Here's the letter sent out yesterday.