21 March 2010

Kill the Bill

02 March 2010

Jim Bunning, GOP Agenda

Last Thursday Republican Senator Jim Bunning decided to hold up Unemployment Insurance and COBRA benefits, amongst others, in an effort to "protest the growing deficit." Today he continued this insane position. In reality Bunning voted for two of the unpaid Bush Tax Cuts as well as Medicare Part D. He also voted against PAYGO.

Watch Bunning this morning and Majority Leader Senator Reid's response:

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse got it right. Emphasis at 6:00:

Despite some GOP leaders assuring that they do not support Bunning, yesterday Minority Whip Senator Kyl derided those on unemployment essentially calling them lazy. It reminded me on the welfare queen argument espoused since Reagan regarding those on AFDC. I wish I could give Bunning the finger! Simply because you're one of the worst Senators in Congress, thereby asked not to run from your own party, does not give you the authority to attack millions of Americans who are without any income. Regardless, since this economic meltdown it's overwhelmingly apparent which party generally supports those of greatest need in our country.

17 February 2010

Proposed FY2011 Budget Cuts

Everyone needs to contact the Board of Aldermen regarding the proposed FY11 budget cuts.

Also see Tom Duda's analysis regarding our over-issuance of TIF and their detrimental impact upon our sales tax yield.

St. Louis Board of Aldermen FY2011 Budget Letter

Support ZMD Fee

I strongly support Senator Joan Bray's amendment which allows the ZMD to charge for those who reside outside its boundaries. It has already passed, yet local officials must approve any fee. KMOX and the Post Dispatch report that St. Louis Zoo officials are rejecting the idea of charging for those who reside outside the ZMD. I find this abhorrent, especially since St. Charles won't join the ZMD unless they receive their own zoo!

Proposal could lead to elections on expanding Zoo-Museum District

By Mark Schlinkmann



A low-key effort under way in the Legislature could set the stage for a vote to expand the St. Louis Zoo-Museum District and its property tax to other area counties.

Last year property owners in St. Louis and St. Louis County kicked in more than $72 million in taxes to help fund the five institutions in the Zoo-Museum District. The proposal would allow other counties to hold elections on joining the district and funding it.

"There is a fairness issue," said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Joan Bray, D-University City. "We're paying it. Everybody (else) comes as our guests."

St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann said his constituents would be unlikely to vote to join the district unless some of the tax money is earmarked for some institution or service in their county.

Below is the letter I sent to Senator Joan Bray, the St. Louis Zoo, the ZMD, and the SLAM.

Good Morning,

I would like to give my overwhelming support for Senator Joan Bray's amendment which bestows the ZMD the opportunity to charge a fee for those domiciling outside the ZMD. The ZMD was enacted well before our massive amount of urban sprawl. From this sprawl came increasing divestment in the urban core. The ZMD is one of our few regional abilities to counteract the negative fiscal affects of sprawl. Though it has limitations as our current Metropolitan Statistical Area extends far beyond the boundaries of the ZMD while the district has not expanded. As such many metropolitan residents, on both sides of the river, do not pay anything for this nationally unique civic good.

We cannot afford to let free-riders benefit without paying for the high cost of maintaining the institutions within the ZMD. If we are to remain competitive with other cities then we must adequately fund these institutions. We cannot expect to remain at the top of the list if we solely rely upon philanthropy though Forest Park Forever and other non-profits.

I used to live in St. Charles and now reside 5 minutes south of Forest Park on Hampton. I urge everyone to not cater to those who say, according to the Post Dispatch, that they want their own zoo before joining the ZMD. This cancerous mentality erodes our community cohesion and what it really means to the a "St. Louisan!" People chose to constantly move farther out from the urban core. We must not duplicate these indispensable civic institutions. Forest Park remains one of the preeminent urban parks. If alleged St. Louisans refuse to contribute to the Zoo-Museum district then please impose a fee. St. Louis City especially has compromised enough.

If possible, however, I would urge that those who reside outside Missouri and Illinois (this maybe difficult to define) remain free if possible. Logically enforcement might impose a cost in terms of equipment and admittance delays, yet I strongly believe that the Zoo and Art Museum should remain free for tourists. Museums like the Louvre, the British Museum, and basically every in New York, do charge a fee. Yet I believe keeping ours free would competitively place us against other national cities. Last year my friends came in from Manhattan. They very much enjoyed the SLAM and St. Louis Zoo, especially the absence of a fee. Given our low cost of living, and that according to East West Gateway our region has near zero annual regional population growth, I believe we should keep in place every incentive that might attract new residents from outside out Metropolitan Statical Area. St. Louis desperately needs new residents and firms. This would be an incentive opening the door to residency.

Thank you for taking the time to read my email. If I missed anyone that needs to read this please let me know.

Senator Joan Bray's response:

Thank you for your recent email supporting my proposal to allow institutions within the Metropolitan Zoological Park and Museum District (ZMD) to have the option to charge an admission fee to non-district residents.

Currently these institutions are funded by property taxes that St. Louis City and County residents have been paying since 1971. The tax was levied in response to financial troubles that three of these institutions faced. Since that time many circumstances affecting the ZMD have changed: two more institutions have been added to the district, the population of the city and county has significantly decreased, and attendance at these institutions has steadily increased, in part due to their continual expansion and improvement.

Over the years these institutions have continued to rely on a combination of public tax dollars, individual and corporate donations, and grants to keep them functioning as top-tier entities. As the economy has declined, however, so has area philanthropy and revenue from declining property values. Providing these institutions with a mechanism that allows them to safeguard their financial security, at their discretion, makes sense.

For these reasons, I filed Senate Bill 903. This bill simply puts into statute the ability for the ZMD institutions to charge an admission fee to non-St. Louis City and County residents; it is in no way a mandate. Furthermore, I have an exemption clause that would, should any of the institutions decide to charge an admission fee, allow the institution to exempt certain groups of people of their choosing, such as students, senior citizens, etc.

At the heart of this proposal lies preserving the quality of these institutions that are cherished by so many. Their excellence cannot be maintained unless they have an adequate source of revenue, and should their income ever decline to such a level as to be insufficient I would like them to have a means to act against that. This proposal is not a mandate, but rather the creation of an option that leaves the decision to charge admission fees with each institution, where it belongs.

Thank you again for writing. Do not hesitate to contact my office again should you have any further questions or concerns regarding this or any other issue pertaining to state government.

Senator Joan Bray

07 January 2010

Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan on Welfare Reform

Delivered September 16, 1995

On this, the likely final day of the debate on the welfare reform measure before us, it is worth noting that in the lead story of The New York Times this morning, a story by Robin Toner, we read that "the White House, exceedingly eager to support a law that promises to change the welfare system, was sending increasingly friendly signals about the bill."

That is a bill that would repeal Title IV A of the Social Security Act of 1935 that provides aid to dependent children. It will be the first time in the history of the nation that we have repealed a section of the Social Security Act. That the White House should be eager to support such a law is beyond my understanding, and certainly in thirty-four years' service in Washington, beyond my experience.

I regret it. I can only wish some who are involved in the White House or those in the Administration would know that they might well resign if they disagree with the proposal that violates every principle they have asserted in their careers, honorable careers in public service.

I will state once again, we yeasterday read Mr. Rahm Emanuel, a White House spokesman, saying the measure was coming along "nicely." Today we get the same message in a lead story in the Times. If this administration wishes to go down in history as one that abandoned, eagerly abandoned, the national commitment to dependent children, so be it. I would not want to be associated with such an enterprise, and I shall not be.

There being some spare time in our schedule just now, I would like to take the occasion, and exercise the privilege, as I see it, of reading to the Senate the lead editorial in The Washington Post. It is entitled "Welfare Theories." This is an editorial page which has been dealing thoughtfully, supportively, with welfare problems for thirty-five years.

On the opposite page, columnist George Will musters the most powerful argument against the welfare bill now on the Senate floor. The bill purports to be a way of sending strong messages to welfare recipients that it is time for them to mend their ways. But as Mr. Will notes, "no child is going to be spiritually improved by being collateral damage in a bombardment of severities targeted at adults who may or may not deserve more severe treatment from the welfare system."

The bill is eckless because it could endanger the well-being of the poorest children in society in the name of a series of untested theories about how people may respond to some new incentives. Surely a Congress whose majority proudly carries the mantle "conservative" should be wary of risking human suffering on behalf of some ideologically-driven preconceptions. Isn't that what conservatives always accuse liberals of doing?

The best thing that can be said of this bill is that it's not as bad as it might have been. Some of the most obviously flawed proposals--mandating that States end welfare assistance to children born to mothers while they are on welfare and that they cut off assistance to teen mothers--have been voted down. There will be at least some requirements that States continue to invest resources in programs for the poor in exchange for their current federal budget allocations. But they are still not strong enough, and are potentially loophole-ridden. Some new money for child care may also be sprinkled onto this confection.

But the structure of the bill is wrong, and a fundamental untruth lies at its heart. Congress wants to claim that it is (1) doing something about a whole series of social and economic pathologies, while at the same time (2) cutting spending. But a welfare reform that is serious about both promoting work and helping children in single-parent homes will cost more than writing checks, especially given the extremely modest sums now spent by so many states on the poor.

Going to a block grant formula would destroy one of the few obvious merits of the current system, which is its ability to respond flexibly to regional economic upturns or downturns. On top of this, the bill's provisions on foodstamps and its reductions in assistance to disabled children under the Supplemental Security Income program go beyond what might constitute reasonable reforms. And its provisions cutting aid to legal immigrants would backfire on states with large immigrant populations.

Many senators will be tempted to vote for this bill anyway, arguing that it has been "improved" and fearing the political consequences of voting against anything labeled welfare reform. But many of the "improvements"" will disappear once the bill goes to a conference with the House, which has passed an even more objectionable bill. In any event, voting this bill down would be exactly the opposite of a negative act. It would be an affirmation that real welfare reform is both necessary and possible. To get to that point, a dangerous bill posing as the genuine article must be defeated first.

That is the end of the editorial.

What I cannot comprehend is why this is so difficult for the administration to understand. The administration has abandoned us, those of us who oppose this legislation.

Why do we not see the endless parade of petitioners as when helath care reform was before us in the last Congress, the lobbyists, the pretend citizen groups, the real citizen groups? None are here.

I can recall the extraordinary energy that went into any change in the welfare system thirty years ago, twenty-five years ago. Fifteen years ago, if there was a proposal to take $40 out of some demonstration project here on the Senate floor, there would be forty representatives of various advocacy groups outside.

There are very few advocacy groups outside. You can stand where I stand and look straight out at the Supreme Court--not a person in between that view. Not one of those flaunted, vaunted advocacy groups forever protecting the interests of the children and the helpless and the homeless and the what-you-will. Are they increasingly subsidized and therefore increasingly co-opted?

Are they silent because the White House is silent? They should be ashamed. History will shame them.

One group was in Washington yesterday and I can speak with some spirit on that. This was a group of Catholic bishops and members from Catholic Charities. They were here. They were in Washington. Nobody else. None of the great marchers, the great chanters, the great non-negotiable demanders.

There is one police officer that has just appeared, but otherwise the lobby by the elevators is as empty this morning as it was when I left the Chamber last night about 10 o'clock.

I read in The New York Times this morning, the front page, lead article:

And the White House, exceedingly eager to suppot a law that promises to change the welfare system, was sending increasingly friendly signals about the bill.

I see my friend from Indiana, Senator Coats, on the floor. I know his view will be different from mine on the bill. But I recall that extraordinary address he gave yesterday on civil society, citing such as Nathan Glazer and James Q. Wilson. In response, I quoted some of their observations to the effect that we know we have to do these things, but we do not know how to do them. We are just at the beginning of recognizing how profound a question it is, as the Senator so brilliantly set forth. But first, do no harm. Do not pretend that you know what you do not know. Look at the beginnings of research and evaluation that say, "Very hard, not clear." Do not hurt children on the basis of an unproven theory and untested hypothesis.

That is what the Senator was citing, persons yesterday who said just that. This morning The Washington Post in its lead editorial, speaks of the structure of the bill begin wrong, that a fundamental untruth lies at its heart.

Congress wants to claim that it is (1) doing something about a whole series of social and economic pathologies, while at the same time (2) cutting spending.

The nostrums, the unsupported beliefs, the unsupported assertions, are quite astounding. White House spokesman Rahm Emanuel yesterday told us things are going well. I say once again there is such a thing as resigning in government, and there comes a time when, if principle matters at all, you resign. People who resign on principle come back; people whose real views are less important than their temporary position, "their brief authority," as Shakespeare once put it, disappear.

If that brief authority is more important than the enduring principles of protecting children and childhood, then what is to be said of those who prefer the one to the other? What is to be said of a White House that was almost on the edge of excess in its claims of empathy and concern in the last Congress but is now prepared to see things like this happen in the present Congress?

All they want, and I quote again from The Washington Post, is that "some new money for child care may also be sprinkled onto this confection."

It will shame this Congress. It will spoil the conservative revolution. The Washington Post makes this clear. If "conservative" means anything, it means be careful, be thoughtful, and anticipate the unanticipated or understnad that things will happen that you do not expect. And be very careful with the lives of children.

I had no idea how profoundly what used to be known as liberalism was shaken by the last election. No president, Republican or Democrat, in history, or sixty years' history, would dream of agreeing to the repeal of Title IV A of Social Security. Clearly this administration is contemplating just that.

I cannot understand how this could be happening. It has never happened before.

I make no claim to access. Hardly a soul in the White House has talked to me about this subject since it arose. They know what I think and they know what I would say; not about the particulars but the principle--the principle. Does the Federal Government maintain a commitment to State programs providing aid to dependent children?

It is not as if we had just a few. Ten million is a round number, at any moment.

As George Will observes in his column, and the Washington Post editorial refers to his column--the numbers are extraordinary:

Here are the percentages of children on AFDC at some point during 1993 in five cities: Detroit (67), Philadelphia (57), Chicago (46), New York (39), Los Angeles (38).

Then he cites this Senator:

There are... not enough social workers, not enough nuns, not enough Salvation Army workers to care for children who would be purged from the welfare rolls were Congress to decree... a two-year limit for welfare eligibility.

Mr. Will goes on to cite Nicholas Eberstadt, of Harvard and the American Enterprise Institute. Citing Eberstadt, Mr. Will observes:

Suppose today's welfare policy incentives to illegitimacy were transported back in time to Salem, Mass., in, say, 1660. How many additional illegitimate births would have occurred in Puritan Salem? Few, because the people of Salem in 1660 believed in hell and believed that what are today called "disorganized lifestyles" led to hell. Congress cannot legislate useful attitudes.

I can say of my friend Mr. Eberstadt, I do not know where his politics would be, save they would be moderate, sensible, based on research. He is a thoughtful man; a demographer. He has studied these things with great care. And he, too, cannot comprehend national policy at this point.

Scholars have been working at these issues for years now, and the more capable they are, the more tentative and incremental their findings. I cited yesterday a research evaluation of a program, now in its fifth year, of very intensive counseling and training with respect to the issue of teen births--with no results. No results. It is a very common encounter, when things as profound in human character and behavior are dealt with. The capacity of external influences to change it is so very small.

And that we should think otherwise? That men and women have stood in this Chamber and talked about a genuine crisis. And I have said, if nothing else comes out of this awful process, at least we shall have addressed the central subject. But if it is that serious, how can we suppose it will be changed by marginal measures? It will not.

Are there no serious persons in the administration who can say, "Stop, stop right now. No. We won't have this. We agree with The Washington Post that, 'It would be an affirmation that real welfare reform is both necessary and possible. To get to that point a dangerous bill posing as the genuine article must be defeated first.'"? If not, profoundly serious questions are raised about the year to come.

Senate debate. Go to 33:24 for Wellstone.

Senators Moynihan, Leahy, Simon, Wellstone, Kerrey:

16 December 2009

Al Franken on Health Care and Budget

Mr. FRANKEN. One last word on the deficit and the debt. May I remind everyone that when the Republicans were in the majority and President Bush came to Washington, we had a surplus, a record surplus. At the time the Chairman of the Fed, Alan Greenspan, testified to Congress that we had a new problem. The new problem was that because of the projected surpluses, we were, in a number of years, going to have too much money, that we were going to pay off the debt and the Federal Government would be forced to buy private equities and that this would not have a maximizing effect on our economy. That is what he said, after Bush became President. That was what he said. He said we were going to have too much money. That is what the Chairman of the Fed said. So we handed the ball off to President Bush, and we handed the ball off to these Republicans. The problem was, we were going to have too much money.

That is not a problem anymore, is it? Now you hear them screaming about the deficit. Think about the deficit they left us. Think about the economic circumstances they left us in. We are talking about getting rid of this excise tax, but we are talking about paying for it. The CBO has scored this bill as cutting the debt in the next 10 years by $179 billion and then $500 billion in the next 10. That is responsible.

What we saw in the years that we had a Republican President and a Republican House and a Republican Senate was an explosion in the deficit. I don't want to hear lectures about the deficit. When I hear presentations from my colleagues, I want them to remember what Senator McCain said when he said facts are stubborn things.

When we debate in this Hall on this floor, let's stick to the facts. So many of the benefits in this bill start immediately. It is simply not fact to say they don't.

01 December 2009

Holiday Party on December 11 to Raise Funds for Preservation Legal Efforts

Friends and Supporters,

Friends of the San Luis Inc are hosting a second fund raiser in order to support our legal battle seeking to protect democratic control over the built environment. We appealed Judge Dierker’s decision to the Missouri Court of Appeals. This effort cannot succeed without your support — and it’s quite easy to participate.

Support the policy which brought about St. Louis’ recent economic resurgence. You can do this on December 11th 2009 by paying only 10 dollars for unlimited drinking and fun. Located in Old North St. Louis Restoration Group’s new office, attendees will promote historic preservation and witness the impact of nearly 30 years of community development.

If you can’t attend we are accepting donations. Any amount will help ensure your citizen-rights.

Anti-Wrecking Ball Holiday Party on December 11 to Raise Funds for Preservation Legal Efforts

December 1, 2009

For immediate release.

Contact: Douglas Duckworth 566-3465

On Friday, December 11, local preservationists will host another Anti-Wrecking Ball to raise funds for ongoing legal efforts. Darren Snow, host of KDHX’s “Rocket 88” program, is the DJ for the party. Alll who attend will be entered into a raffle for prizes from STL Style, St. Louis Cinemas and other local businesses.

When: Friday, December 11

Where: Old North St. Louis Community Gallery, 2700 N. 14
th Street

Cost: $10 (includes beer)

The Anti-Wrecking Ball will raise funds for the ongoing appeal of this year’s ruling by St. Louis

Circuit Court Judge Robert Dierker that citizens have no standing under city preservation law.

When the Preservation Board approved -- by a close 3-2 vote -- demolition of the modern San Luis Apartments in June, the Friends of the San Luis filed an injunction in court. Under city preservation law, the citizens who make up Friends of the San Luis have a right to appeal – but only after a demolition permit has been issued! The Friends sued to stop demolition so we could appeal the Preservation Board ruling.

However, Judge Dierker ruled against the Friends, and not because he thought their argument was wrong, but because he thinks that citizens who are not owners of property threatened with demolition should have no right to protest or appeal. The San Luis Apartments were demolished this summer, but the ruling left a bigger issue that affects all citizens regardless of what they think about that one particular building.

Unchallenged, Dierker’s ruling could impede citizen efforts to save community landmarks across the city. The Friends of the San Luis filed an appeal to the Missouri Court of Appeals in September to stand up for future preservation efforts. The Friends of the San Luis believe that citizen rights should not be demolished along with the San Luis Apartments.

Consequently, the Friends of the San Luis and other preservationists have organized the Anti-Wrecking Ball to raise funds to cover attorney’s fees. After the Friends wins its appeal, the Anti-Wrecking Ball movement will continue to raise money for legal costs associated with citizen preservation action.

Gustavo Rendon Arrested

They share their experience, on Charlie Brennan, about being arrested this Sunday for placing fliers on cars outside April Ford Griffin's church. They were spreading the message for a referendum against eminent domain and McKee's plan.

Brennan points out that McKee wasn't arrested for negligent property management -- in violation of city ordinances.

27 November 2009

Thanksgiving "History Lesson" from Todd Akin

West County Congressman Todd Akin says that Thanksgiving was about rejecting socialism, a political and economic theory that didn't even exist at that time...

Capitalism wasn't around either. Adam Smith published the Wealth of Nations in 1776. Thanksgiving was 1621.

How much longer will ignorance rule?

Alternate reality tarts at 2:20.