Saturday, May 24, 2008

CASE IN POINT by Joe Koester

Honest bread is very well, it’s butter that makes the temptation.

-Douglas William Jerrold

You may have heard about a statewide petition drive that asked to increase the casino tax by 1%. Enough signatures were collected to put the matter to a vote in August. Signatures were collected by a company hired out of Michigan and under the pretense that the main goal of the petition is to raise money for schools. Who hired the Michigan firm to collect signatures for the cause? Well, the casino industry did, of course. Didn’t you know that the generous folks who run the gaming business in Missouri would like to voluntarily pay 1% of their income to support our kids? I’m betting there’s something rotten in the state of Denmark. As you may have learned, the casino industry would like to have the loss limits removed in Missouri so that you are free to hand over more than $500 per gaming period. Each of us can make up his or her mind whether or not we think this law is good or bad; however, in my opinion the casino industry used deliberate obfuscation in its petition drive. It talked up the 1% increase for schools while saying nothing about removing the loss limit in our state.

If you did sign the petition and would like to have your name removed, you may contact the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office and they will give you the address where you can send a notarized letter requesting your name’s removal.

I have a question regarding the casino industry – what happened to the original promises made when the industry came to our state? Do you remember that the casinos were to be on the river and cruise and I’m pretty sure they were to be voted on once every ten years for their re-approval? Those who fought against their entry to our state can certainly say, “I told you so.” Imagine the ability of the people every ten years to decide whether or not they wanted to keep this industry or not. Wow, that would be a pretty powerful bargaining chip in the hands of the people of the state. Heck, we could even raise the taxes they pay to 33% and I bet they’d still be making money hand over fist.

Maybe someone should start a statewide petition drive to go ahead and ask for 12% increase in taxes to support education. The casino industry has shown that they are willing to increase their taxes in order to help out our schools, so let’s allow them a chance to really shine. Maybe we should demand that the casinos cruise the rivers per original intent – I want to see Lumiere Place in Saint Louis gracefully sailing along on the Mississippi.
A further petition drive worthy of consideration is one that requires all the local ordinances to apply to the casinos without exception. If smoking is banned in restaurants, then it’s banned in the casinos too. Or inversely, any exceptions made to casinos would apply to local businesses. If the casino can have a 3AM liquor license, then a local bar can too. I guess that would make things a little too fair for an industry that likes to keep the odds overwhelmingly in their favor.

A recent look was given to the biking situation in Missouri and it made me think about the trail plan for Saint Charles. The council got a glimpse of the plan a few years ago and I was excited about the proposed trail system throughout the city and hope that these plans are moving forward. One hope I had was to work towards greening up Saint Charles in the coming years. In my second term it was my wish to see the city consider several environmental issues that would make our town more environmentally friendly such as municipal tax rebates on CFL lights and a reduced utility tax to homes meeting energy star compliance. I believe too that a tax break for housing putting in better insulation may be a good use for the local utility tax. If the tax is going to stay on the books, it would make sense for it to promote energy savings.

A further project that might be helpful is for the city to promote removal of asphalt where it has been shown unnecessary and replaced by trees and grassy areas that do not require extensive maintenance. At least two places come to mind: 1) the back half of the Target parking lot (which is actually the lot closest to Interstate 70) and about half of the former Target parking lot on Truman. Both of these projects would be voluntary with incentives built in. Actually, there are many lots around town that could be reduced, albeit smaller in scale, but all the same. I think that a lot more things could be considered – these are simply a couple things that come to mind. Of course, incentives are often better received than mandates but cooperation between business and city hall could result in a win-win.

Speaking of greening up - I hope all of you have a good spring and enjoy the warmer weather (when it arrives).