Thuston issues call for citizen involvement on Green Park panel

Chairman has no stance on issue; Hayden sees no need for business licenses

By MIKE ANTHONY

The chairman of a Green Park committee established to study business licenses last week issued a call for citizen participation on the panel.

Ward 2 Alderman Tim Thuston, chairman of the committee, reported during a Board of Aldermen meeting Jan. 22 that while the panel’s first meeting drew several business representatives, no residents other than Mayor Tony Konopka, board President Anthony Pousosa of Ward 1 and Ward 3 Alderman Mark Hayden attended. As a result, Thuston urged aldermen to nominate residents to serve on the committee.

“… If any of you have citizens that would like to take a look at what we’re doing and join our committee, I’d certainly appreciate Tony (Pousosa) or anybody that has one resident from their ward, I’d appreciate you putting the nomination in to join the committee. We’ll meet one more time and if we don’t make any progress, we’ll dismiss it,” he said.

“If any of the other citizens have any comments or input, I’d greatly appreciate it to get. I’ve not had anybody step forward and bring any comments about the business license to me directly and if I don’t have any participation from the citizens, I think we’ll dismiss it,” Thuston added.

The Board of Aldermen voted in November to establish the committee to study business licenses and named Thuston chair-man. At that time, Thuston announced five appointments to the panel with Don Bley, Cindy Summers and Jack Mika representing residents and Jeff Budrovich and Hank Block representing businesses.

Thuston also said additional appointments would be made. Since then, the chairman has named Bill Fant of Shop ‘n Save, Ed Gapsch of Gapsch CARSTAR Collision Center and Dennis Shaw of Neighbors Credit Union to the committee.

Thuston also is seeking additional citizen members.

City officials have discussed business licenses on and off since 1996, but never have established a requirement that city businesses obtain a license. Past discussions have ranged from establishing business licenses that included a provision for city merchants to pay the city an “annual license tax or fee” based upon each $1,000 of gross receipts or simply having an administrative business license.

During the committee’s first meeting Jan. 17, all of the business representatives with the exception of Block were present while no citizen members attended. Also attending was Green Park Chamber of Commerce President Jim Smoot, a historical opponent of business licenses.

Thuston emphasized to committee members that he doesn’t have a position on business licenses and said he could “argue” the issue both “pro and con.”

“… I can argue it as a business guy — and I represent businesses in my daily life — and I can certainly represent the businesses and say: ‘This is unnecessary.’ I can represent the citizens and say: ‘This is necessary.’ And there’s ample, sustainable information to argue it both ways,” he said.

Regarding business licenses, Thuston said, “… You’ve got to look at it in two ways. You have to look at it administratively, basically attain and maintain a list of who’s here and what they’re doing for several different reasons — or having a revenue-generating source of revenue. That has its pros and cons as well. Every branch in this tree has got pros and cons …”

He later added, “… Me as a citizen, I’m not a big advocate of having another layer of tax or another administrative layer. However, I do see some form of registration as a necessity. But if the administrative costs outweigh the potential gain, why have it?”

During the meeting, committee members representing businesses voiced their opposition to establishing any type of business license, even an administrative license.

They contended a list of businesses within the city is available from several sources, including the Mehlville Fire Protection District and the St. Louis County Police Department.

“… So the idea of having a list and somebody to maintain that list, all of the honest business people will put their name and address down and so on. It’s the dishonest guys — somebody that’s doing something illegally … he’s never going to be on a list to begin with,” Smoot said.

Thuston later said to Smoot, “… I think what we really need to do — and Jim with your participation in the chamber — if we could help promote the city … the businesses in the city. I think that would help …”

Regarding promoting the city, Smoot said at one point, “So you ask me how we do promote the city? Well, first of all, I think we have to have some stability. No fighting and infighting between parties. In other words, this is how it operates. It’s fair. It’s equitable for everybody. Then there has to be a cooperation between the business people and City Hall that says: What does the city of Green Park have that would make you want to come here instead of Sunset Hills or Crestwood or Arnold or Lemay?

“The one thing that jumps out to me is the fact that we would be one of the only communities that could say: ‘We don’t have a business license because we don’t need another layer of paperwork. We don’t need another tax and we want you to locate and expand your business in the city of Green Park, and, by the way, we’d also love to have you as a resident …”’

Noting the number of vacant properties on both sides of Lindbergh, he added, “… This place looks like somebody dropped an H-bomb down here … And then I look at the three-million-plus dollars that we have just on — just coasting by. That’s all this city has been doing — just coasting and we’ve had all this money come in. If we would have some kind of stability within the government and a campaign that says: ‘Live and shop in Green Park. Your money stays here.’ We could fill these vacancies. Instead of having $3 million. We’d have $6 million in the bank …”

Thuston asked Smoot how long he had served as chamber president, and Smoot said four years.

“Now just being a devil’s advocate, in that amount of time why hasn’t the chamber promoted the city of Green Park?” Thuston asked. “There hasn’t been a business license. Why hasn’t the chamber — not necessarily you — but why hasn’t the chamber gone out and said: ‘Hey, come to Green Park. We don’t have a business license.’ I mean if we don’t have one now and now we’ve got all these vacancies, how is having one going to increase those vacancies?”

Smoot replied, “Well, to answer your question about promoting. First of all, our organization is all volunteer. We have free membership and we have no staff. There are no secretaries, no directors or what have you.

“So in just like trying to get people to show up to a meeting, to go out and somehow promote people to come into the city and then have them run into some of the things that they’ve run into, it’s almost a folly.”

At another point during the meeting, two aldermen — Hayden and Pousosa — discussed their views on the issue of business licenses.

Hayden, who had cast the sole “no” votes on the formation of the committee and the naming of Thuston as chairman at the November Board of Aldermen meeting, said he was opposed to establishing a business license.

“… The city has been around for 10 years. We are running on a surplus. We never have had a tax imposed except for the capital-improvement tax. We have a plan to replace every street in this city that will be (completed) by 2012 and we are going to be running with extra money in the bank account by the time we get done with that,” Hayden said.

“I don’t see the need for it. I’ve never been explained the need for it except for we want to know who’s around here, and that is none of our business — personally to make somebody come in and sign up to pay five bucks or $25 or $2,000 just to find out who they are. That’s none of our business. We can look in the phone book if we want to see who’s in Green Park …,” he added.

But Pousosa later said, “… We’re talking about lists and I think that’s secondary to the reason why we’re discussing business licenses. It has to do with maintaining the infrastructure … When the (Green Park) Commerce Center is 95-percent complete, the city’s going to take over maintenance of the roads, snow removal, crack sealing, striping, sign replacement and any other things that come up.

“And then that’s going to add extra expense to the city and sure we do have a surplus right now, but we’re a young city and as a young city gets older, things are going to come up that are going to be problematic — that they’re going to be beyond our control and there’s going to be expense involved,” he continued. “And what we need to be discussing is a way to implement this in a way that it’s going to be fair, but it helps us maintain the infrastructure in a way where it doesn’t drain the city if something goes drastically wrong.

“Let’s say the bridge over Gravois Creek collapses. That’s a major issue that the city’s going to have to deal with immediately at major expense …,” Pousosa said.