County Council approves America’s Center funding

CLAYTON, MO - The St. Louis County Council voted on Tuesday to approve a plan to help fund the Dome at America’s Center in downtown St. Louis.  The vote came along party lines with the four members who are democrats voting in favor of the plan and the three members who are republicans voting against it.

Before the vote was taken, Councilmember Hazel Erby accused Councilmember Ernie Trakas of bullying.   She said Trakas hand-delivered a note during the meeting telling her to hold the bill.

“He slammed the paper down and was kind of shaking,” said Erby.

Trakas told Erby she had promised to hold the bill and believes the funding is a waste of money.  The bill calls for $6 million a year from the County’s hotel/motel room sales tax to go toward funding the downtown convention center.  The bill also calls for a recreation center to be built in north St. Louis County.

Trakas believes money spent on the convention center has not sparked economic development and has not delivered a return for St. Louis County taxpayers.

“We have employees we can’t give raises to and roads you can’t drive on and we're going to give you $6 million a year with no return to the county,” said Trakas.   “Shame on this body.  Shame on it and shame on my democratic colleagues if they pass this bill tonight.”

Questions about the investigation into recent deaths at the St. Louis County Justice center were also raised.  Questions from the public and council members were directed toward St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger.  He said the investigations into the deaths are ongoing and said because of that he was unable to comment or go into any detail about the recent deaths.

A family member of one of the inmates who died questioned whether Stenger was distracted by a federal investigation.   She claimed the County Executive had not met with any of the family members whose loved ones died in the St. Louis County Justice Center.

Stenger said his heart went out to those who were grieving the loss of their loved one and promised the investigations will get to the bottom of what happened.

St. Louis Councilmember Lisa Clancy has questions over whether the County Executive has been distracted by the federal investigation.

“We’ve got a lot going on right now and the County Executive obviously does too, and I think It’s a real question whether or not he has the leadership that’s necessary right now for the people of St. Louis County,” said Clancy.

Erby was hesitant to comment on the County Executive’s effectiveness when asked.

“I’ve been trying not to weigh in on that and just let the process to play out and so I would rather do that,” she said.  “I do think we need leadership.  It’s important that we have leadership and right now I feel that for instance with the jail, we need leadership and we don’t have that right now.”

One of the County Executive’s staffers abruptly announced his resignation on Tuesday.  Councilman Mark Harder said he is waiting for the process to play out but expects more resignations from the County Executive’s office will follow.

“When a government or an organization is in crisis, I would imagine that were would be more resignations or people finding other positions in the future.

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