MSD panel misses chance to improve accountability

\Call the Tune\ by Mike Anthony

\”Call the Tune\” by Mike Anthony

We’ve written many times about our belief that the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District should have an elected Board of Trustees.

The six-member MSD board currently is comprised of three trustees appointed by the county executive and three appointed by the St. Louis mayor.

Under this arrangement, MSD trustees are not accountable to the ratepayers who foot the district’s bills, but only to the politicians who appointed them.

We believe the MSD Charter needs to be amended so voters can decide who serves on the board.

But as we recently noted, that’s not likely to happen given the recommendations of the district’s Plan Amendment Commission that the Board of Trustees remain an appointed body and not an elected one. We really believe that’s a misguided recommendation given the opportunity to improve the board’s accountability to the ratepayers it supposedly serves.

After further examining the Plan Amendment Commission’s recommendations, we believe the panel missed another opportunity to increase the board’s accountability with ratepayers — eliminate the archaic requirements that the Board of Trustees be comprised of three city and three county representatives and that two votes from each jurisdiction are needed to pass any ordinance or resolution.

We believe an elected MSD board with proportional representation would better serve ratepayers.

When the MSD was formed in 1954, the city’s population was roughly 850,000 while the county’s population was about 400,000. 2009 estimates place the city’s population at less than 360,000 and the county’s population at nearly 1 million.

We believe the voting-jurisdiction requirement is overly burdensome and ripe for abuse. A simple majority is all that should be required.

Of course, the Plan Amendment Commission — in its infinite wisdom — also recommended against proportional representation and eliminating the requirement that two votes from each jurisdiction are needed to pass any ordinance or resolution.

When MSD trustees consider the Plan Amendment Commission’s report, we urge them to ignore the panel’s recommendations and place before voters charter amendments calling for an elected Board of Trustees with proportional representation and the elimination of the voting-jurisdiction requirement.