By Erin Achenbach
This is the second of two parts of a series of questionnaires on the St. Louis County executive candidates. To see the first in the series with Libertarian Nick Kasoff and Constitutionalist Andrew Ostrowski, click here.
Incumbent Steve Stenger, a Democrat, has three challengers in the Tuesday, Nov. 6 election for St. Louis County executive. He will face Republican Paul Berry III, Libertarian Nick Kasoff and Constitutionalist Andrew Ostrowski. A previous article focused on Kasoff and Ostrowski, and Berry and Stenger are featured in this article.
Berry, 11932 Barbara Drive, Maryland Heights, did not provide any personal information on his questionnaire.
Stenger, 46, 336 N. Forsyth Blvd., Clayton, and his wife, Allison, have two young children, Madeline and Lincoln.
Stenger is the current St. Louis County executive, as well as a certified public accountant and attorney. He previously served as the 6th District St. Louis County councilman.
Stenger received his undergraduate degree from the University of Missouri – St. Louis and his law degree from St. Louis University Law School.
“My vision is a safe, prosperous county where families can work, live and play. That has always been my vision and remains so today,” Stenger said on why he is seeking another term.
The candidates gave the following responses to a Call Questionnaire:
What issue do you consider the single most important issue in this race and why?
Berry did not answer.
Stenger said, “Opioid crisis. When the state of Missouri refused to act, I created a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program for St. Louis County, which was the first jurisdiction in the state to adopt a comprehensive database for monitoring the sale of prescription drugs, including opioids that can cause addition and lead to heroin abuse when overprescribed. We also put Narcan is every police car and saved over 150 lives.
“I’m proud to say that as of today, over 80 percent of the state of Missouri’s population now participate in the county program.”
Other issues you perceive in your race and your position on each:
Berry did not answer.
Stenger said, “Public safety and crime — I also spearheaded the passage of Proposition P, which is adding 100 police officers to county streets, two officers to a police car, increases diversity in police ranks, improves training and adds more equipment like body cameras and dash cameras to increase accountability of officers on the streets. I understand that in order to have real public safety, communities and law enforcement must trust each other and work together.
“Economic Development — Under my leadership, St. Louis County has brought in over $5 billion in economic development and created/retained over 30,000 jobs.”
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, “The biggest complaint I hear regarding the St. Louis County Planning Commission relates to a lack of local representation on St. Louis County planning issues. I am interested in making a small tweak to how St. Louis County Planning Commission appoints board members. Currently, the St. Louis County Planning Commission is comprised of nine members appointed by our St. Louis County executive, with six members required to be residents of an incorporated region of St. Louis County, and three members required to be residents of a St. Louis County municipality.
“As St. Louis County executive, the first change I will lobby for is to reduce the amount of St. Louis County Planning Commission board members appointed by our St. Louis County Executive from nine members to seven members, who shall vote on all matters before St. Louis County Planning Commission. St. Louis County Planning Commission board members appointed by our St. Louis County executive shall each reside in a different St. Louis County Council district and shall be appointed to a four-year term. The second adjustment I would like to see is each St. Louis County council member receiving two appointments to St. Louis County Planning Commission, who shall reside in the district of such St. Louis County council member and shall vote on all matters before St. Louis County Planning Commission directly involving their St. Louis County Council district. I believe my suggested adjustments will provide more community input and representation before our St. Louis County Planning Commission.”
Stenger said, “I think the Planning Commission is responsive to county residents, and I think it should strive to be even more responsive. I think that rotation of those serving on all of our boards is important. At the close of my first term, we will be looking at all of our boards to determine if it is timely for some individuals to be rotated from some boards.”
What is your position on incorporation?
Berry said, “St. Louis County residents seeking to incorporate as a St. Louis County municipality should be permitted to make such decision by vote that includes only St. Louis County residents who would be affected by such incorporation. Any unincorporated group of St. Louis County residents seeking to incorporate into a St. Louis County municipality should require a public vote with a 70-percent percent vote passage threshold.”
Stenger said, “The trend in our community has been disincorporation. We have seen a few of these in recent years. As to incorporation, it has been some time since we have seen such a request. Nevertheless, I remain open to all viewpoints and would engage in conversations and dialogue with all sides.”
Should the county executive attend County Council meetings?
Berry said, “As St. Louis County executive, the only way to serve as a true leader is to show up to St. Louis County Council meetings. As St. Louis County executive, I believe it is important to be present at St. Louis County Council meetings, if nothing more than to provide county executive activity reports to our St. Louis County Council and engage with St. Louis County citizens. I believe any St. Louis County executive should appear at St. Louis County Council weekly meetings unless you are sick, on vacation or performing other business on behalf of St. Louis County.”
Stenger said, “Council meetings are important for the county executive to attend, and it should be noted that at times, other pressing county business can take precedence. The county executive is not part of the council and does not vote at the meetings, so at times his presence is required elsewhere.”
Do you believe the County Council should approve legislation or voters should approve a Charter amendment prohibiting council members from accepting campaign contributions from developers? What are your thoughts on the county executive negotiating leases with businesses owned by campaign contributors?
Berry said, “I support a uniform campaign finance system for all local officials in the state of Missouri. Permitting each jurisdiction to create their own campaign finance laws is the wrong approach and a recipe for disaster. My suggestion to our St. Louis County Council: Disclose on St. Louis County’s website the total amount of campaign donations accepted by their candidate campaign over the previous year from any property developer or business who receives any contract or lease executed on behalf of St. Louis County, which shall be updated on a monthly basis.”
Stenger said, “I didn’t negotiate the lease for NW Plaza. That was done by a team of attorneys in the law department.
“I am in favor of campaign finance limits. However, I think the County Council’s legislation didn’t go far enough. It should also apply to self-funders to prevent them from simply buying an elected office.”
Are you satisfied with the current state of the county’s assessment process?
Berry said, “No. The purpose of St. Louis County’s property assessment process is to provide equal and fair assessment of St. Louis County properties for tax purposes. While most St. Louis County property tax assessments are reasonable, there is a small population who are receiving property assessments from St. Louis County with substantial increases without any real explanation as to why. As St. Louis County executive, I will conduct an extensive review of our entire property tax assessment process, and make recommendations to St. Louis County Council in support of including appropriate property assessment taxpayer safeguards to our St. Louis County Charter.”
Stenger said, “I think the current assessment process has come a long way from where it was years ago with drive-by assessments. I am in favor of as much actual in-person review and analysis as possible.”
Are you satisfied with the direction the county is headed?
Berry said, “St. Louis County’s economic and population growth has been stagnant over the last four years, with no future large-scale economic development on the horizon. The St. Louis region is no longer a ‘top 20’ region in the United States despite maintaining excellent highway and waterway transportation system access. The loss in St. Louis County growth can be attributed to regional crime, issues with city of St. Louis government operations and maintaining a national reputation of being an unfriendly business environment. Without an immediate turnaround over the next four years, St. Louis County’s population will continue to migrate to Jefferson County and St. Charles County, thus decreasing our tax base, overall property value and economic development opportunities.”
Stenger said, “Yes.”
Do you support a merger of St. Louis County and St. Louis city?
Berry said, “No. St. Louis County should not merge with the city of St. Louis, which has a $1.1 billion yearly operating budget, in comparison to St. Louis County’s $650 million yearly operating budget. The solution for city of St. Louis citizens to address failed government policies is at the ballot box, not St. Louis County taking over city of St. Louis county-level services. St. Louis County taxpayers would not enjoy any tax dollar savings by merging with the city of St. Louis.”
Stenger said, “The group Better Together created a task force and is currently performing a study to look at the duplication of services in our local governments. Currently we are overspending by $750 million a year on services. They are going to release their findings later this year and provide options on how to streamline government.
“I think we need to see what the data shows and gather community input before we make any decision in this matter. Our residents should have an opportunity to vote on this matter.”
What measures, if any, will you propose to encourage economic development in south county?
Berry said, “My general plan for economic development in South St. Louis County is the same for all of St. Louis County: Remain committed to no earnings tax upon St. Louis County businesses and workers, promote Missouri’s 4-percent business tax (second lowest rate in United States), eliminate any unnecessary St. Louis County business regulation, streamline licensing and permits process in St. Louis County, engage Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and our Missouri General Assembly to increase access to employment skills training in St. Louis County, serve as an effective ambassador on behalf of St. Louis County to national and international business relocation opportunities and build St. Louis County as the top e-commerce shipping and customer service center in the United States.
“I do have a tourism-related south county development project in mind that will bring $300 million in economic development directly to South St. Louis County during a two-year span and will generate millions in yearly sales and hotel tax revenue to South St. Louis County municipalities and St. Louis County, without any major expenditures utilizing St. Louis County tax dollars.”
Stenger said, “Under my leadership, the STL (Economic) Partnership has focused a great deal on economic development in south county. The St. Louis County Port Authority has given multiple grants during my tenure to enhance south county as a place for companies to do business. There is also a successful STL Partnership Business Center in south county on Lemay Ferry Road. It currently houses 11 startups and has room for more. This incubator provides business support, mentoring and financing to help these entrepreneurs grow and add new jobs.”
Are cuts needed to balance the county’s budget? What do you see as the status of county finances?
Berry said, “There is no question that both St. Louis County’s discretionary budget and non-discretionary expenditure of tax dollars need serious reform. I am confident as St. Louis County executive we will balance our county budget by addressing county government waste and eliminating bloated unethical St. Louis County contracts.”
Stenger said, “St. Louis County has a AAA bond rating and over $100 (million) in our reserve fund. I made millions of dollars of cuts from our expenditures to eliminate wasteful spending. I also reformed our pension, saving $300 million. St. Louis County finances are in good shape.”
Should the County Council have its own attorney besides the county counselor?
Berry said, “Yes. Due to the size of St. Louis County’s population, and the cost placed upon St. Louis County taxpayers when St. Louis County Council authorizes unconstitutional St. Louis County ordinances (such as St. Louis County landlord bill or St. Louis County mortgage foreclosure mediation bill), suggests St. Louis County Council would be well-served to have an independent ‘in-house’ legal counsel assisting with research and drafting of St. Louis County laws.
“However, I do not support St. Louis County Council hiring any ‘in-house’ or outside legal counsel to represent any legal interest of St. Louis County outside of assisting with research and drafting of St. Louis County laws. Our St. Louis County Council or any legislative body should not represent St. Louis County in any legal controversies concurrently with our St. Louis County counselor. You can’t create a situation where there are too many cooks in St. Louis County’s legal kitchen.
“Under my policy position, in the event St. Louis County Council deems our St. Louis County executive has unjustly threatened the basic operations of St. Louis County Council, such as withholding payment to St. Louis County Council employees, the proposed St. Louis County Council ‘in-house’ attorney may request a legal opinion from our Missouri attorney general clarifying if our St. Louis County executive has violated any duty unjustly threatening the basic operations of St. Louis County Council.
“In the event our Missouri attorney general concurs with the legal position(s) to which St. Louis County Council seeks to file a lawsuit against our St. Louis County executive, St. Louis County Council may authorize funds to hire outside legal counsel to represent St. Louis County Council upon such legal positions agreed upon by our Missouri attorney general. The checks and balances I propose for this issue limits the potential for frivolous political-related court litigation paid for by St. Louis County taxpayers, which essentially involves St. Louis County suing St. Louis County before our circuit court.”
Stenger said, “The County Charter prohibits the County Council from having an attorney outside of the 25 attorneys our county has on staff for utilization of every department. The county executive appoints the chief county attorney and the council approves the appointment, as they did with the current attorney.”
What will you do to address the problems exposed by the unrest in Ferguson?
Berry said, “First, let’s talk about protests. Both the United States and atate of Missouri Constitutions provide all citizens the right to protest, and such right to protest shall be upheld in St. Louis County. When utilizing the official authority of the office of St. Louis County executive, and pursuant to the Constitutions of both the state of Missouri and United States of America, I have no constitutional authority to determine whether any civil protest is for a righteous cause, or should even be permitted to occur in St. Louis County.
“Our Constitution protects the right to civil protest, which means one or a group of people bringing attention to any issue or cause in an orderly and lawful manner. However, the millisecond you break a window, set a fire, loot from a business, threaten a police officer, assault a citizen or impede another citizen’s free movements, you are a rioter, and you are going to jail in St. Louis County. I don’t understand over the last four years why it is so hard for St. Louis County to understand and implement the concept of constitutional governance. Ultimately, St. Louis County’s prosecuting attorney will determine if rioters are charged with criminal offenses before our court system.
“Second, St. Louis County executive has stated publicly that his response to the unrest in Ferguson was to enact recommendations from the Ferguson Commission. The Ferguson Commission report lacked any recommendations about any criminal justice reform. The issue in North St. Louis County is St. Louis County has not taken leadership to protect our own citizens from cumbersome and overbearing government policies. All citizens shall have the ability to walk into a county or municipal court in St. Louis County without fear to address traffic ticket issues, and St. Louis County residents will not be charged any bail the first time they miss a court date, provided they appear at court prior to arrest upon such traffic warrant. I will transform North St. Louis County into greatness, not by regulation but by leadership and constitutional governance.”
Stenger said, “St. Louis County has implemented more recommendations from the Ferguson report than any other government.”
Should the city of St. Louis enter the county as a municipality?
Berry said, “No. The city of St. Louis entering St. Louis County as a municipality requires St. Louis County taxpayers to fund city of St. Louis county services, such as the 22nd Circuit Court system, city of St. Louis circuit attorney’s office, city of St. Louis correctional facilities, property assessments, tax collections, road maintenance, business licensing and several other county-level government services. Currently, city of St. Louis utilizes a significant amount of their county-level property and sales taxes to satisfy city of St. Louis revolving debt commitments. I don’t understand the argument that city of St. Louis could re-enter St. Louis County without St. Louis County taxpayers taking care of county-level government services on behalf of city of St. Louis residents. This makes no sense.”
Stenger said, “No.”
If you are currently the county executive, what is your greatest accomplishment for the county? If you are not county executive, what is your greatest accomplishment for the county?
Berry said, “As an African American Republican, I believe that I have brought to our fractured county a better understanding of each other. When North St. Louis County was engaged in unconstitutional behavior by treating our citizens like vending machines, I brought the issue to both our Missouri elected officials and the United States Department of Justice to change how we do business. I always made sure that I highlight the issues without disrespecting our law enforcement community, who are only following orders of courts and our criminal laws. There is not a member of our St. Louis County Council who I will not work with better than our current St. Louis County executive.”
Stenger said, “The passage of Proposition P, which is adding 100 police officers to county streets: Two officers to a police car, increases diversity in police ranks, improves training and adds more equipment like body cameras and dash cameras to increase accountability of officers on the streets. I understand that in order to have real public safety, communities and law enforcement must trust each other and work together.”
How will you attract new businesses and jobs into the county?
Berry said, “The first thing I will do on this issue as St. Louis County executive is clean up serious corruption within St. Louis County government public contracting process. The cloud currently over St. Louis County is unhealthy for job creations. No startup business or international corporation wants to relocate to a county jurisdiction with a reputation of engaging in questionable public contracts.
“The second step to create jobs in St. Louis County is to remain committed to no earnings tax upon St. Louis County businesses and workers, promote Missouri’s 4-percent business tax (second lowest rate in United States), eliminate any unnecessary St. Louis County business regulation and streamline licensing and permits process in St. Louis County. The third step is to promote the heck out of St. Louis County to any business looking to relocate their operations. I will make sure St. Louis County is well-promoted to business industry decision-makers.”
Stenger said, “Under my leadership, St. Louis County has brought in over $5 billion in economic development and created/retained over 30,000 jobs. I meet regularly with local CEO’s and business leaders as well as elected and civic officials. I work daily to attract and retain companies to our region. I do most of this work through collaborating with the economic development apparatus for the region.”
Has the county violated the Sunshine Law?
Berry said, “Due to the fact I don’t serve as the current St. Louis County executive, it is difficult to determine as a matter of fact whether St. Louis County government has violated Missouri Sunshine Law related to the current Sunshine Law controversy. St. Louis County is currently being investigated by the Missouri Attorney General for violating the rights of St. Louis County citizens demanded by Missouri Sunshine Law.”
“Based upon my personal experience of being denied public records from St. Louis County, I am under the belief that there is a high likelihood St. Louis County government is continuing the practice of not providing public records to St. Louis County citizens. As St. Louis County executive, I will demand all St. Louis County agencies comply with Missouri Sunshine Law requests in a timely and cost effective manner.”
Stenger said, “No.”
What are your thoughts on the county’s lease for a new North County Government Center in the former Northwest Plaza mall?
Berry said, “Our current St. Louis County executive states publicly that he spearheaded economic development at Northwest Plaza by shutting down North St. Louis County government services offices, when all he did was to move St. Louis County government services offices to a building owned by a major donor to our St. Louis County executive’s campaign. Simply taking all the county office jobs in North St. Louis County and stacking them inside a Northwest Plaza office owned by a Stenger donor does not constitution either job creation or economic development. The city of St. Ann, Northwest Chamber of Commerce and law enforcement community, and not our current St. Louis County executive, deserves all the credit for creating economic development at Northwest Plaza.
“The main issue I have with the actual Northwest Plaza lease is the 20-year lease term, lease renewal terms favoring Northwest Plaza owners and an over 3-percent rental rate increase. No government office building lease should be longer than 10 years and should be renewable at the option of St. Louis County. Outside of the actual Northwest Plaza lease terms, our current St. Louis County executive’s authorization of Northwest Plaza lease is coupled with what is at best irresponsible fiscal management of St. Louis County taxpayer dollars, and at worst, is federal criminal corruption.
“Our current St. Louis County executive entered into a lease agreement to move our workforce development operation from North Oaks office location to Northwest Plaza office location. The Northwest Plaza location is costing St. Louis County a prorated amount (space used for workforce development office) of over $700,000 per year, while the North Oaks office location cost St. Louis County taxpayers $335,000 per year, which more than doubles St. Louis County’s yearly taxpayer expense for such St. Louis County workforce development leased office space. Unfortunately, this situation gets much worse for St. Louis County taxpayers.
“Our St. Louis County executive renewed the $335,000 North Oaks year-to-year office lease in 2017, after our St. Louis County executive already planned to vacate St. Louis County employees from North Oaks office for Northwest Plaza office location, and our St. Louis County executive renewed $335,000 North Oaks year-to-year office lease again in 2018. St. Louis County does not utilize North Oaks office in any capacity, despite St. Louis County paying $670,000 of St. Louis County taxpayers dollars for North Oaks office lease to a Stenger donor who has previously been accused of public corruption by our St. Louis County Executive during his 2014 campaign for St. Louis County executive.”
Stenger said, “This is a good deal for taxpayers and was the right thing to do. Additionally, the County Council approved this lease with a 5-1 vote. The lease is a market rate lease at $18 per square foot for exceptional space and has resulted in over 2,500 jobs and $300 million of economic development for our region.”
Do you have plans to expand MetroLink? What will you do to improve MetroLink security?
Berry said, “While I believe in the necessity of public transportation systems, I cannot support any expansion of MetroLink transit system until we resolve the lack of safety currently endured by St. Louis County MetroLink passengers. I propose Metro enter into a security contract with St. Louis County Police Department to provide security upon the entire MetroLink transit line in Missouri, provided Metro funds 100 percent of cost associated with St. Louis County Police Department providing MetroLink security in the city of St. Louis.”
Stenger said, “It is premature to talk about MetroLink expansion without addressing the crime issue first. St. Louis County has 44 police officers working on the line, and while crime has decreased on the line, Metro has a long way to go to make the line safe. We will continue to assist them in any way we can.”
Should the county spend more or less on the Metro budget? What changes would you like to see, if any?
Berry said, “I have been presented no information that suggests any need to increase St. Louis County taxpayer participation in Metro operations. While I am supportive of St. Louis County Council’s reasoning for cutting Metro’s budget for MetroLink security, I am very concerned that St. Louis County Council cut MetroLink’s budget without a proposed Metro security plan in place. I believe that leadership on major regional issues, such as MetroLink violence, rests with our St. Louis County executive.”
“The logic presented by St. Louis County Council supporting MetroLink’s security budget decrease is to motivate Metro to get serious about establishing a MetroLink security plan, which I understand. My concern stems from cutting Metro’s operating budget during Metro’s CEO transition process. As St. Louis County executive, I would have informed Metro they had 60 days to provide St. Louis County with an acceptable MetroLink security plan or St. Louis County shall immediately defund all MetroLink funding provided by Metro permitted by Missouri law.”
Stenger said, “I believe that now that new leadership at Metro is imminent, all expenditures of Metro should be closely examined and evaluated before any budget request is met.”
Are changes needed to the county Charter at this time?
Berry said, “Generally no. The vast majority of St. Louis County Charter amendments on the ballot predicate from disagreements between St. Louis County Council and our current St. Louis County executive. The Charter amendment proposed to address St. Louis County Councilman Ernie Trakas was correctly resolved in favor of Councilman Trakas by our court system.
“As I suggest in my answers to other questions, there are viable solutions to some disagreements between our executive and legislative branches of St. Louis County government that don’t require changing our St. Louis County Charter several times in 2018. Part of my reluctance regarding the various St. Louis County Charter amendments placed on this year’s ballot is related to my opposition to simple majority constitutional or Charter amendment changes. With any political issue, I believe that a higher threshold of 70-percent majority should be required to amend the state of Missouri Constitution or St. Louis County Charter.”
Stenger said, “No.”
Do you support the construction of a new county police station at Sappington and Gravois?
Berry said, “In general, I support St. Louis County building a police station at Sappington and Gravois location, however I am seriously concerned about St. Louis County Port Authority’s involvement in purchase of Sappington and Gravois location property.” (Following are just a bunch of what I am assuming are quotes from somewhere, something?? But he doesn’t attribute them to anyone…) “St. Louis County Port Authority purchased 150% more land than is necessary to build new police station at Sappington and Gravois location. St. Louis County Police Department seeks to replace our current South St. Louis County police station facilities, which are over 30 years old.” “The need for modern police station facilities is not for vanity purposes, in the event of a natural disaster or civil unrest, it is essential to maintain well-constructed facilities for our St. Louis County Police Department to organize and operate from.”
Stenger said, “Yes.”
What will you do to oversee spending from Proposition P?
Berry said, “Most St. Louis County taxpayers were sold on Proposition P for two reasons: Pay raises for St. Louis County Police Department and addressing rampant increase in crime in St. Louis County. As St. Louis County executive, I will continue to monitor the progress St. Louis County law enforcement agencies are making towards reducing St. Louis County crime and shift resources to high-crime areas to combat violent criminals operating in St. Louis County.”
Stenger said, “I established an accountability portal on the St. Louis County website so residents can see where every dollar of Prop P is being spent. Further, I continue to fight at times against the County Council to make sure Prop P dollars are being spent for its intended purpose.”
What is your opinion of the performance of county Auditor Mark Tucker?
Berry said, “I am at an absolute loss as to why St. Louis County Auditor Mark Tucker has performed scant auditor activity upon St. Louis County government. I have hesitated on criticizing St. Louis County Auditor Mark Tucker personally because it is very unclear to me why Mr. Tucker is not reporting (or possibly not performing) auditing activities funded by St. Louis County taxpayers. Absent a directive from federal authorities to temporarily not release audits performed on St. Louis County or some unknown interference from our current St. Louis County executive, I would advocate St. Louis County immediately move on from Mark Tucker as St. Louis County auditor. There are several unanswered questions about St. Louis County Auditor Mark Tucker’s situation that St. Louis County deserves answers to.”
Stenger said, “I think he should be fired ASAP. Further, I was opposed to his hiring in the first place. He has no accounting experience and has not performed an audit in the 19 months he has been employed by county government.”
What are your thoughts on the St. Louis County police?
Berry said, “St. Louis County Police Department needs love and support from our citizens and elected officials. From a tactical response and manpower prospective, I believe St. Louis County is in great shape. As St. Louis County executive, my focus upon our St. Louis County Police Department will be geared towards increasing mental health and substance abuse interdiction training available to St. Louis County police officers, and establish ‘out-of-uniform’ activities between St. Louis County officers and our most vulnerable St. Louis County youth population.”
Stenger said, “I think the St. Louis County Police Department is one of the best police departments in the country. We have a strong leader in Chief Jon Belmar.”
What is the biggest issue facing St. Louis County today? What will you do to fix it?
Berry said, “St. Louis County cannot take on opioid abuse, stagnant job growth, violent crime rate, lack of mental health resources, MetroLink issues, economic development or balancing St. Louis County’s budget without our St. Louis County Council working in tandem with our St. Louis County executive to address our county’s most pressing issues. Our elected St. Louis County Council members have been begging St. Louis County voters to give them an opportunity for a fresh start, and I intend on giving them exactly what they want and need.”
Stenger said, “We are currently facing an opioid crisis.
“When the state of Missouri refused to act, I initiated a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program for St. Louis County, which was the first jurisdiction in the state to adopt a comprehensive database for monitoring the sale of prescription drugs, including opioids that can cause addiction and lead to heroin abuse when overprescribed. We also put Narcan is every police car and saved over 150 lives.
“I’m proud to say that as of today, over 80 percent of the state of Missouri’s population now participate in the county program.”
What are your thoughts on how the current County Council is operating? Should the council continue pursuing its lawsuit against the county executive?
Berry said, “I am seriously concerned about the amount of time and legislative resources St. Louis County Council has utilized to address conflicts with our current St. Louis County executive. Unfortunately, I believe the actions by St. Louis County Council against our current St. Louis County executive are very necessary and warranted. Upon my election as St. Louis County executive, I will immediately discuss with St. Louis County Council regarding dismissing their lawsuit against our current St. Louis County executive. It is poor leadership and fiscal mismanagement for our St. Louis County executive to create a situation where different entities of St. Louis County are required to sue and respond to each other in court.”
Stenger said, “The County Council is currently completely dysfunctional and should reconsider its mission to serve the people of St. Louis County. As of late the council has been completely consumed with politics and has turned its attention away from the needs of its residents. The lawsuit is a perfect example of the dysfunction. While the executive branch led by me looks for ways to bring better public safety, economic development and reduce expenditures, the council seeks to hire additional attorneys and staff and give itself and its members unlimited spending authority.”
If elected, will you accept campaign contributions from developers with projects pending or recently approved in the county?
Berry said, “As a political candidate in a competitive political environment, I have to accept campaign donations from lawful sources, including property developers. Accepting campaign contributions from any campaign donor, including property developers, is not the real issue St. Louis County must address. The lack of integrity to allow campaign donations to influence decisions of our St. Louis County executive constitutes textbook government corruption. When dealing with campaign donors, my process is very direct and simple. Based upon any campaign donor’s business interests, I sometimes have the foresight to tell them that there is nothing I can do to help them secure contracts with St. Louis County, and it does make me an inferior campaign fundraiser compared to my opponent. The best I can do for campaign donors is let them know what I can do is create a great county government environment where the best-run St. Louis County businesses will thrive.”
“As St. Louis County executive, I intend to disclose on St. Louis County’s website the total amount of campaign donations accepted by my candidate campaign over the previous year from any property developer or business who receives any contract or lease I execute on behalf of St. Louis County, which shall be updated on a monthly basis.”
Stenger said, “I will abide by campaign finance laws.”
What is your opinion of a subdivision proposed at the Tower Tee property?
Berry said, “Before I address the subdivision proposed at the Tower Tee property, I would like to address Tower Tee. Well before I was born, Tower Tee has served South St. Louis County residents with affordable athletic-based activities nestled in the city of Affton. If I was asked to support zoning for a facility similar to Tower Tee as St. Louis County executive, I would have to be presented a very compelling reason not to support a family-owned community business wishing to operate in St. Louis County.
“With the uniqueness and history of Tower Tee as a St. Louis County business, as St. Louis County executive I would have first considered if Tower Tee could be a viable St. Louis County economic development project. From a fiscal prospective, Tower Tee currently generates $15,000 of taxes for St. Louis County per year. The purchase price of 27-acre property leased to Tower Tee is $4 million. Not including property value increases and inflation, it would take St. Louis County 266 years to recover St. Louis County’s suggested purchase of Tower Tee. Without the potential to create additional job growth, St. Louis County’s investment by purchase of 27-acre Tower Tee property is not a viable economic development project from a taxpayer prospective.
“Because I have not had the opportunity to receive a government-level analysis of Tower Tee subdivision zoning concerns, I cannot yet speak to my specific position on zoning for Tower Tee subdivision. I disagree with utilizing St. Louis County zoning process to keep a property tenant at a leased property, even if the tenant is as well-respected and loved as Tower Tee. St. Louis County zoning laws cannot be utilized to for any reason other than bona fide zoning concerns. In regards to bona fide zoning issues, and as with any property development project, either effective solutions to any such zoning issues shall be established, or I would withhold my support for the related property development project.”
Stenger said, “I will reserve my opinion after I have seen the proposed subdivision. I have not seen a current proposal, and it is my understanding that potential proposals have been potentially changed dramatically.”