Paul Berry III, Ed Golterman to face off in August for Republican nod for county executive

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Paul Berry III, left, and Ed Golterman, right.

By Erin Achenbach, Staff Reporter

Republican candidate for St. Louis County executive will be ready to challenge whoever wins the Democratic nomination between current County Executive Sam Page, county Assessor Jake Zimmerman, businessman Mark Mantovani and Jamie Tolliver.

The primaries for both parties are Tuesday, Aug. 4.

Republican Paul Berry, who ran a failed campaign against former County Executive Steve Stenger in 2018, will face off against Ed Golterman of Kirkwood. Neither candidate has held public office.

Golterman declined to return The Call’s candidate questionnaire.

Berry, 11932 Barbara Drive, Maryland Heights, did not provide any personal information on his questionnaire.

He gave the following responses to The Call’s questionnaire:

Will you accept campaign contributions from developers with projects or contracts proposed at the county level? What are your thoughts on the county executive negoatiating leases or contracts with businesses owned by campaign contributors?

Berry said, “Any person who has ever donated to any of my previous (or future) political campaigns received the same answer when I was asked what I am going to do for them … great government. The potential conflict of interest issues involving … donations to … county executives has been partly resolved by … finance limitations currently in effect. The second part of resolving this issue will occur by transparency reforms I intend to bring to all divisions of … government.”

Are you satisfied with the direction the county is headed?

Berry said, “Absolutely not. St. Louis County is facing a true crossroads and if we do not immediately change how … county government operates, we will transform into … Chicago within five years. St. Louis County requires a county executive who … is ready to address serious issues facing our future, from Day 1.”

What measures, if any, will you propose to encourage economic development in South County?

Berry said, “With advice from your … councilperson, I want to identify large properties in South County that are located away from residential communities to establish business development that will support our current South County. South County is ripe for national corporate headquarter development districts … Second, I will utilize current economic development tax credits offered by the state … to guarantee such state tax breaks to private companies who purchase property and relocate to … South County locations.”

What will you do to address the problems exposed by the unrest in Ferguson and nationwide protests after the death of George Floyd?

Berry said, “St. Louis County is one step away from our government surrendering parts of our beloved county to socialism and anarchy … St. Louis County does not need any more consultants or studies to ‘address the problems exposed by the unrest in Ferguson,’ St. Louis County needs to enforce the law against any person who damages property or threatens our residents.

“To answer the question, specifically … I propose the following policy changes: (a) no law enforcement officer shall attempt or cause to restrict the breathing of any person, unless: (i) the same use of force to utilize the discharge of a firearm would otherwise be justified, (ii) the loss of control of an officer could reasonably lead to injury or death … and (iii) no person who has been restrained or is in custody of law enforcement shall ever have their breathing restricted by any corrections or law enforcement officer.”

Do you support a merger of St. Louis County and St. Louis city?

Berry said, “I am absolutely opposed to the merger of St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis.”

What do you think of new Chief Mary Barton?

Berry said, “I have had limited interaction with Mary Barton as police chief of St. Louis County, and as such, have not formed an opinion of Barton’s overall performance as our new police chief. I did take note of Barton’s comments regarding general claims of racism against the St. Louis County Police Department. Simply stated, Barton took ‘the bait’ from the media and responded to such a question in a manner that unnecessarily became a nonproductive soundbite of the day.”

What are your thoughts on the St. Louis County police? Should the SLCPD be defunded?

Berry said, “I am unequivocally against defunding the St. Louis County Police Department. The level of violent crime in St. Louis County coupled with a loss of sales tax revenue due to COVID-19 makes any budgetary cuts to our … police department absolutely out of the question in the near future.

“I truly believe the … police department can ascend to become the top law enforcement jurisdiction in the nation and can serve as the premier model on … local law enforcement. This will require all parts of our community to build a mutual respect for each other.”

What will you do to prevent any more deaths of jail inmates in the St. Louis County Justice Center?

Berry said, “As a career bail bondsman, I understand the challenges facing our … corrections system and our constitutional responsibility to provide for the health and welfare of all persons under … custody. Our St. Louis County Justice Center corrections officers were utilized as a ‘scapegoat’ to explain the increase in deaths of prisoners. St. Louis County Justice Center was placed in the hands of an inexperienced criminal justice operator, and as a direct result … failed to provide a corrections system capable of addressing the health concerns of our … inmates.

“The additional component I will institute at our … Justice Center is the opportunity to participate in an independent physical examination conducted by the St. Louis County Department of Public Health. The proposed medical physicals provided by St. Louis County Department of Health would be offered on a voluntary basis and the results of such physical examination shall be considered a medical record protected by the normal course of doctor/patient confidentiality.”

Read on for web-exclusive questions and answers below: 

Do you believe the St. Louis County Planning Commission is responsive to county residents? How long should appointees serve on the Planning Commission? Is there anything about the zoning process that should change?

Berry said, “Dealing with St. Louis County Planning Commission can be a daunting task for most small businesses, which needs to change. I am also concerned that zoning requests that truly affect the fabric of South County residential neighborhoods are being ignored. The main difference between South St. Louis City and South St. Louis County residential neighborhoods is South St. Louis City encourages business traffic incorporated in their residential neighborhoods. South St. Louis County neighborhood residents have absolutely no interest in bringing unnecessary business traffic where they sleep and enjoy their front yards, and as a matter of the wishes of South St. Louis residents, this should be respected.

“As St. Louis County executive, I intend on restructuring St. Louis County Planning Commission during my two-year special term, as follows (a): each St. Louis County Councilperson will appoint two St. Louis County planning commissioners, and each St. Louis County Planning Commissioner appointed by such St. Louis County Councilperson shall be from a different political party and serve a two year term, (b) St. Louis County Executive will appoint one St. Louis County Planning Commissioner per each St. Louis County Council district and (c) when St. Louis County Planning Commission votes in favor or denial of a zoning request and any St. Louis County planning commissioner appointed to the St. Louis County Council district in question opposes the result of such commission vote, such St. Louis County planning commissioner shall testify by written statement or in person before the St. Louis County Council of the basis or reasoning such St. Louis County planning commissioner believes such St. Louis County Planning Commission vote is not in the best interest of the St. Louis County district in question. Our St. Louis County Planning Commission is an advisory committee, the main function is to provide business experience and community input to our elected St. Louis County Council members so intelligent and sensible zoning decisions are made.”

What is your position on incorporation?

Berry said, “Municipal incorporation (including mergers of municipalities) in St. Louis County should be the decision of the unincorporated residents in question, which should require a vote of 70 percent  of such St. Louis County unincorporated residents. This is solely my opinion: Incorporation and mergers of municipalities in St. Louis County are currently regulated by a set of laws that do not provide for my public policy position on this matter. The committee responsible for approving proposed municipal jurisdictional boundary changes (the county Boundary Commission) should have such authority abolished in favor of the same system utilized by the rest of the state of Missouri, which is a vote by the affected Missouri citizens.”

Should the county executive attend County Council meetings?

Berry said, “Any St. Louis County executive should regularly attend County Council meetings.”

Are you satisfied with the current state of the county’s assessment process?

Berry said, “Absolutely not. During my two-year special term as St. Louis County executive, I will spearhead changes to our St. Louis County Charter that will eliminate ‘drive-by’ property tax assessments currently being performed by St. Louis County.”

Are cuts needed to balance the county’s budget? What do you see as the status of county finances?

Berry said, “As simple math provides, when St. Louis County takes in less sales tax dollars than projected during any fiscal year, the end result requires budgetary cuts to our St. Louis County budget. To answer the question directly, St. Louis County will require budget cuts due to the loss of sales tax revenue from COVID-19 shutdown. St. Louis County needs to reimagine how we generate sales and property tax revenue (by growth of tax base and not by gouging property owners) to meet St. Louis County’s obligations to our citizens. While St. Louis County maintains a positive credit rating utilized by government lending institutions, I am very concerned about the effect of St. Louis County homeowners and businesses fleeing St. Louis County over the next few years.

“As St. Louis County executive, my process for establishing our St. Louis County budget is outlined as follows: (a) review all current St. Louis County spending and operations for effectiveness, waste and fraud, (b) establish the liabilities, responsibilities and priorities of St. Louis County government for the upcoming fiscal year, (c) organize and lead St. Louis County government in a manner to effectively provide government duties and services based upon the requirements of our Constitution and Charter, (d) inform and provide access for input from St. Louis County businesses and citizens of our budgetary choices to meet the liabilities, responsibilities and priorities of St. Louis County government.”

Should the County Council have its own attorney besides the county counselor?

Berry said, “Yes, with limitations that would be outlined in our St. Louis County Charter. St. Louis citizens are best served when our St. Louis County Council has access to independent legal advice when performing legislative functions on behalf of St. Louis County. The legal counsel I propose for St. Louis County Council would provide legal advice regarding the constitutionality of current and proposed laws to our St. Louis County Council, draft county legislation at the direction of St. Louis County Council members, determine lawful appropriation of state of Missouri and federal funds that require legislative appropriation by St. Louis County Council and draft any information request made by St. Louis County Council members to any government entity (including St. Louis County), all of which would be performed independent of the St. Louis County counselor.

“As a government entity, all legal interests of St. Louis County government should only be represented by one St. Louis County legal division, which should be performed by the office of St. Louis County counselor (and not an attorney employed by St. Louis County Council). The only situation where my proposed legal counsel provided to St. Louis County Council should be able to take court action on behalf of St. Louis County citizens is when the official actions of the prosecuting attorney or county executive violates the clear rights of St. Louis County Council to perform their duties established by our St. Louis County Charter.”

Should the city of St. Louis enter the county as a municipality?

Berry said, “No. St. Louis County taking over county-level government services means St. Louis County has to provide such county-level government services under the debt agreements currently maintained by the city of St. Louis. If the city of St. Louis maintains their debt related to county-level government service borrowing (instead of St. Louis County assuming current debt agreements involving the city of St. Louis), the city of St. Louis would need to maintain their property tax revenue to satisfy such debt maintained by the city of St. Louis. It’s a horrible deal for St. Louis County taxpayers, and I believe that issues plaguing North and South St. Louis County should be addressed over the failures of city of St. Louis leadership.”

What is your greatest accomplishment for the county?

Berry did not answer.

How will you attract new businesses and jobs into the county?

Berry did not answer.

How will you ensure transparency?

Berry did not answer.

What will you do about the county’s animal shelter?

Berry said, “Animal control should remain the responsibility of St. Louis County (or your St. Louis County municipality when such services are provided), although domestic animals that are housed by St. Louis County that are designated available for adoption should be under the stewardship of a competent and dedicated nonprofit agency. As St. Louis County executive, I propose re-establishing St. Louis County animal shelter under the following operation procedures: (a) St. Louis County shall continue responsibility for maintaining facilities, utilities and food for adoptable animals, (b) St. Louis County shall enter into a contract with a university that provides veterinarian training to provide medical supervision and services on behalf of St. Louis County adoptable animals at no cost to St. Louis County and (c) St. Louis County shall enter into a contract with a well-qualified nonprofit agency to provide all other operational costs and staff required to house and facilitate the adoption of animals located at St. Louis County animal shelter.”

Do you have plans to expand MetroLink? What will you do to improve MetroLink security?

Berry said, “I will not support the expansion of the MetroLink system in St. Louis County (or anywhere else) until Metro can prove their ability to address crime and passenger safety associated with MetroLink transportation over an extended period of time.

“As St. Louis County executive, I seek to restructure MetroLink security operations, as follows: (a) Metro shall establish a law enforcement agency cross-designated and licensed by the states of Missouri and Illinois dedicated to the safety and security of all Metro passengers, staff and facilities, (b) Metro shall provide for all administration, training and supervision of all persons who provide law enforcement services to Metro system, (c) Metro law enforcement officers who patrol MetroLink trains and stations shall be comprised of active law enforcement officers seeking secondary (part-time) employment while continuing to work for their primary law enforcement agency (which will eliminate pension and health insurance costs of such Metro law enforcement officers patrolling MetroLink trains and stations), (d) Metro shall establish a detective bureau to investigate any crime against property or misdemeanor violations committed against any Metro system passenger or staff and (e) require Metro to enact my proposed Metro Safety First clause, which will require Metro to first fund my proposed Metro security plan before utilizing any St. Louis County tax dollars for any other purpose.”

Should the county spend more or less on the Metro budget? What changes would you like to see, if any?

Berry said, “I am absolutely against any increase of St. Louis County’s tax dollars committed to Metro operations. St. Louis County currently provides approximately $165 million (or $165 per St. Louis County resident) of sales-tax revenue per year towards Metro’s $298 million yearly operations budget. The typical sales tax benefits generated by county jurisdictions investing in light rail service (such as Metro) are enjoyed by the city of St. Louis and their downtown attractions, not by St. Louis County taxpayers.

“As St. Louis County executive, I will seek a substantial restructuring of Metro operations in a manner that will provide more direct benefit to St. Louis County residents. I personally love public transportation, but St. Louis County cannot continue to spend $165 million per year to fund a failing transportation partnership. Mounting fiscal deficits Metro will face due to the loss of sales tax and ridership revenue due to COVID-19 presents the opportunity to reimagine Metro operations in St. Louis County.

“As St. Louis County executive, I will compel the restructuring of Metro operations by amending St. Louis County’s $165 million sales tax commitment to Metro, as follows: (a) St. Louis County will cap our yearly sales tax investment towards Metro general budget at the set rate of $100 per St. Louis County resident per year (currently set at $165 per person, approximately $100 million per year), (b) St. Louis County will purchase from Metro on a yearly basis 50,000 Metro system yearly passes, which shall be issued by St. Louis County with a focus on youth, senior and low income St. Louis County residents (proposed at cost of $500 per Metro rider, approximately $25 million per year), (c) St. Louis County will require implementation of my proposed Metro security plan to receive any sales tax revenue from St. Louis County ($35 million dedicated towards Metro security per year), (d) identify employment centers in St. Louis County that can be more effectively covered by private multi-passenger rideshare from current MetroLink stations and (e) require Metro to produce a plan before St. Louis County to maximize the use of affordable private multi-passenger rideshare from current MetroLink and major bus stations to employment and residential destinations beginning January 2022.”

Should Proposition P sales-tax funds be used as outlined at the time of passage by then-Police Chief Jon Belmar?

Berry said, “I envision Proposition P funds (St. Louis County’s dedicated sales tax towards law enforcement expenses) to only be utilized towards funding the base salaries of county and municipal law enforcement officers in St. Louis County.”

What will you do to oversee spending from Proposition P?

Berry said, “As St. Louis County executive, I seek to limit use of Prop P funds to the payment of St. Louis County and municipal law enforcement officer salaries, as follows: (a) 50 percent of Prop P funds disbursed to St. Louis County and municipal law enforcement agencies based upon the resident population such law enforcement entities provide police services on behalf of, (b) 20 percent of Prop P funds dedicated solely towards emergency law enforcement services associated with disaster, pandemic or civil unrest, including the reserve of such funds by St. Louis County for the same purpose, (c) 15 percent of Prop P funds provided to St. Louis County Police Department for the sole purpose of payment of police officer salaries who are dedicated to investigate and/or apprehend murder, organized crime, crimes against persons, sex crimes and terrorism suspects, including the location of missing persons, and (d) 15 percent of Prop P funds provided to St. Louis County Police Department to establish a law enforcement mental health officer designation program which shall recruit and pay an additional salary stipend to St. Louis County and municipal law enforcement officers who have achieved both education and training in identifying, assessing and defusing situations involving persons who may have a mental issue or domestic violence situations.”

What is your opinion of the performance of county Auditor Mark Tucker?

Berry said, “As a one-million-citizen jurisdiction, St. Louis County absolutely requires an internal auditor to perform periodic audits of each St. Louis County department and tax dollar spent. I refrain from stating my opinion of St. Louis County Auditor Mark Tucker because it is unclear what independent authority Mr. Tucker has to perform audits of St. Louis County operations. As St. Louis County executive, I plan to restructure the entire operations structure of the St. Louis County auditor’s office, to which will be founded with transparency protocols and qualified nonpartisan personnel.”

What is the biggest issue facing St. Louis County today? What will you do to fix it?

Berry said, “Economic development. Addressing fallout from COVID-19 crisis and the increase in crime and racial tensions in St. Louis County all have one common denominator, stagnated business development growth in St. Louis County. My St. Louis County First public-policy platform will create substantial economic development in St. Louis County.”

What are your thoughts on how the current County Council is operating? Should the council have taken more control over coronavirus funds?

Berry said, “Any county council, by definition, is a body of citizens who each represent a subset of such county. Any group of people, whether a county council or a church picnic planning committee, will have disagreements and dissension amongst the ranks. Unfortunately, the level of utter disrespect by and between some St. Louis County Council members has reached an all-time low. As your next St. Louis County executive, I will have veto power over future St. Louis County Council legislation and I will utilize such veto power to force our St. Louis County Council members to work with each other to create the best laws possible for St. Louis County citizens. As a Republican, the veto power I wield as St. Louis County executive will extinguish partisan bullying that has plagued our current St. Louis County Council process.

“As relates to our St. Louis County Council approving appropriation of $174 million of COVID-19 relief funds from the federal CARES Act to be distributed solely at the discretion of our St. Louis County executive is one step above being criminal, exploits the COVID-19 shutdown to hijack your citizen vote on how such funds are used, and the use of such COVID-19 relief funds has been poorly managed by St. Louis County.

“Republicans representing the state of Missouri in Jefferson City and the Democrat leadership of the city of St. Louis were both able to appropriate COVID-19 relief funds without giving sole discretion of how such funds would be spent to the elected executive of such jurisdictions (Missouri governor and the mayor of St. Louis). Stupid is what stupid does — any St. Louis County Council member who supported giving any St. Louis County executive a $174 million checkbook with zero checks and balances should resign for surrendering the duties pursuant to our St. Louis County Charter and the voters of their respective St. Louis County Council district.”

What would you implement to prevent corruption and fake contracts on the level of former County Executive Steve Stenger?

Berry said, “As St. Louis County executive, the way you prevent corruption and fake contracts is not to engage in corruption or authorize fake contracts. In addition to increasing transparency of St. Louis County executive operations, communication and community input from St. Louis County residents are the best way to rebuild the trust between St. Louis County and her citizens. The reason that Steve Stenger was able to engage in unchecked corruption is those who were aware of such corruption had no process to report Mr. Stenger’s conduct. I am in favor of whistleblower protections for St. Louis County employees who report corruption and fraud to the state of Missouri.”

Are you satisfied with the county’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Berry said, “Absolutely not. The core issue with St. Louis County’s response to COVID-19 is St. Louis County operated in a reactive manner and not proactive. St. Louis County sat around waiting on our governor and president to figure out PPE (personal protective equipment) acquisition and other critical needs of St. Louis County residents, instead of St. Louis County being competitive and scoring the supplies St. Louis County needed ourselves.

“St. Louis County chose to shut down the entire county, instead of focusing stay-at-home orders to protect vulnerable seniors and persons with specific health issues. St. Louis County residents who are otherwise healthy and personally wished to keep our economy going should have been provided the opportunity to continue working with policies established by St. Louis County to keep them safe.”