No reason for south county voters to back Metro tax, Campisi says

SLACT spokesman: Don’t be tricked by ‘Salci and his band of pickpockets’

By BURKE WASSON

Sixth District County Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, sees no reason for his constituents to support a proposed half-cent sales-tax increase that would expand MetroLink to the west and north and provide maintenance to Metro light-rail trains and buses.

The County Council voted 5-2 last week to place the proposal on the Feb. 5 ballot. Campisi and 7th District Councilman Greg Quinn, R-Ballwin, were the two “no” votes at the Nov. 13 meeting.

With the expansion of MetroLink to south county currently off the table, Campisi sees no reason why he or south county residents should support the sales-tax increase.

But County Chief Operating Garry Earls believes that despite the fact that south county would not be part of the proposed light-rail expansion, the area’s residents still have ample reason to support the measure because of expanded job opportunities in west county and north county.

“You don’t have to have the train come to you,” Earls previously told the Call. “You could go to the train … You have an extension that’s available in Shrewsbury, which people that live in south county … could easily access the end of the train that would ultimately end up at jobs in the Westport area. So where we’re proposing to put the train out toward the west is where the greatest concentration of jobs are in St. Louis County. So what we’re trying to make available for those folks in south county is a way to use transit to get to and from their job through the Shrewsbury station that’s already there.”

As proposed, the half-cent sales tax would be added on top of the quarter-cent sales tax that county residents already are paying for Metro operations. The proposed half-cent sales-tax increase is split into two parts — a quarter-cent increase that would expand the MetroLink line north to Florissant and west to Westport and a quarter-cent increase that would provide additional revenue for maintenance of existing Metro operations.

The measure would have a 20-year sunset and generate an estimated $75 million to $80 million per year for Metro operations in only the county and not the city of St. Louis.

But as long as south county is not part of the expansion, Campisi has said he will oppose any further tax increase for Metro.

As recently as 2004, the then-East-West Gateway Coordinating Council studied five possible routes to expand MetroLink to south county. But those options were shelved in late 2004.

Richard Dockett of the St. Louis Area Concerned Taxpayers, a group of residents who often have criticized Metro’s financial accountability, told the County Council last week that he would also reject the sales-tax increase because of Metro Chief Operating Officer Larry Salci’s views of local residents.

Councilmen and residents alike referred to Salci’s KTVI-TV appearance on Nov. 8 when he was overheard saying the following of station reporter Elliott Davis — “He fits right into St. Louis. He’s a (bleeping) clown.”

Dockett said if the Metro CEO is not respectful of St. Louis area residents, he would not vote for any tax increase to benefit his organization.

“I’m not stupid,” Dockett said. “I don’t think St. Louis County voters are stupid. And I’m not going to support a tax increase by Larry Salci and Metro so he can keep on continuing to not be accountable to the citizens of St. Louis County … He’s expressed his utter disdain for the taxpayers of the city of St. Louis once again. To the taxpayers and the citizens of St. Louis County, keep your money in your pocket and don’t be tricked by Larry Salci and his band of pickpockets.”

County Council Chairman Michael O’Mara, D-north county, said while he also was disturbed by Salci’s remarks, he will continue to support the Metro sales-tax increase because it is “vital.”

“I’d also like to reiterate that Mr. Salci pay a little more respect to the citizens in St. Louis County,” O’Mara said. “We are smart people and I think we deserve a little bit more. But this is an important issue and it is vital for transportation in our area.”

Fifth District Councilwoman Barbara Fraser, D-University City, also said that while she was concerned with Salci’s apparent unwillingness on KTVI-TV to accommodate all Paraquad and disabled residents who would like to use Metro facilities, she voted to place the sales-tax increase on the Feb. 5 ballot to allow residents to decide for themselves.