A citizens group has been formed to oppose the local control issue that is expected to be on the November 6 ballot in Missouri.
The initiative petition proposed would transfer control of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to the City of St. Louis. Currently the State of Missouri controls the police department through a Board of Police Commissioners that includes the Mayor of St. Louis and four citizen members appointed by the Governor.
The committee against the ballot measure is called Defeat Slay/Roorda Political Control. Francis Slay is the mayor of St. Louis and Jeff Roorda is a former police officer and the business manager for the St. Louis Police Association.
Proponents of the initiative say state control does not allow city leaders to direct overarching police policy or set police budget priorities. In addition, local control would provide new layers of protection for police pensions. Under the ballot initiative, the City of St. Louis would be able to establish control of the police department on July 1, 2013.
Opponents of the proposal say local control is nothing more than a back door collective bargaining deal between the police union and Mayor Slay.
“In the agreement, Fair Share was agreed upon, which is the forced collection of dues by the union of non members,” said 36-year retired Sgt. Vince Smugala. “The battle in Wisconsin and the attempted recall of Gov. Walker was over Walker’s refusal to enforce Fair Share.”
Gary Wiegert, former president of the St. Louis Police Officer’s Association and now a lobbyist for the St. Louis Tea Party, says the fight is over who acquires grants paid for by the federal government. The police department currently gets federal money to pay for a number of police officers and their pensions.
As long as the city continues to take federal funds, the citizens should have a say in it, Wiegert argues. He would prefer to see the conservatives at the state level administrate the $600 million pensions, rather than the Democratic-controlled City of St. Louis.
Another 34-year retired veteran of the force said he does not want his pension benefits negotiated between Mayor Slay and Roorda. “The safeguards of the state legislature protect my benefits with fiscally responsible Republican involvement,” he said. “I do not want my pension to finance Ballpark Village, Aerotropolis or a retractable dome to support Mayor Slay’s financial boondoggles.”
Aerotropolis was the failed deal for $360 million in tax credits to turn Lambert-St. Louis International Airport into a Chinese trading hub.
The Secretary of State’s office is in the process of verifying the petition signatures and will determine the wording for the November ballot.