City council meeting: dire prediction if food tax is removed; legal costs; board members code of ethics; Revel Kitchen coming

27
770

in Maplewood’s city council work session meeting on Tuesday Mayor Nikylan Knapper said a state bill being considered would abolish the food tax, which would cut Maplewood’s income so drastically that police and fire staff could be cut. She was considering sending members of the council to Jefferson City to advocate for the city.

Former city manager, Michael Reese, in a memorandum to the mayor and council last year said that one bill, SB 131, would be would amount to a $2.1 million loss in revenue for Maplewood, representing 25 percent of the budget, which would mean “massive layoffs,” especially in police and fire. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the tax cut would affect other cities similarly.

City Manager Amber Withycombe said in a memorandum to the council this month that the current state’s analysis estimates that Maplewood would lose up to $3 million in annual revenue if a grocery sales tax exemption were to be implemented. Both memorandums are in the work session agenda.

——

Also in the work session, the council reviewed the city’s legal costs.

Maplewood city attorney Jacqueline Graves said the city’s legal costs in 2020 were lower because of Covid. In 2021-’22 the city was getting ready for a class action lawsuit so costs were up, and in 2022 the city had a mediation. In 2023-’24 the council was very active, which required a lot of legal time, resulting in higher costs. The last two months were higher because of personnel matters she said.

After the attorney’s report Mayor Knapper asked Councilman Matt Coriell to tell what he had found out in researching the number of ordinances passed. He said from 2021 through 2023 the council had passed 28 ordinances, and in the three years prior to that (2018-’20) eight ordinances were passed.

Following the meeting Councilman Nick Homa said the legal costs discussed doesn’t show what a proposed city-funded defense attorney (Proposition J) might cost the city.

The following information of calendar year 2023 legal costs in is in the work session agenda.

——

In the regular meeting the council passed the first two votes for a code of ethics for members of city boards and commissions. Previously there was no standards for board and commission members. The beginning of the ordinance is below. The full ordinance is in the agenda.

Appointed members of the City’s boards and commissions shall be committed to promoting the highest standards of conduct in public service and shall adhere to the following code of conduct:
(1) Commitment to Public Service: Members shall serve the community with
dedication, placing the interests of the municipality and its residents above personal
or private interests.
(2) Integrity and Honesty: Members shall act with honesty and integrity, avoiding
conflicts of interest and disclosing any potential conflicts promptly. They shall not
use their position for personal gain.
(3) Transparency: Members shall conduct their duties in an open and transparent
manner, providing accurate and timely information to the public. They shall comply
with all applicable open meeting laws and regulations.
(4) Fair and Impartial Decision-Making: Members shall make decisions without bias,
considering the best interests of the entire community. They shall avoid favoritism
and treat all individuals and groups fairly.

——

The council also passed first votes to approve permits for VR Wholesale International (car repair and used car sales) on Big Bend between Hazel and Maple avenues, and for Revel Kitchen to operate at the former Jack in the Box location on Manchester. The illustrations of the new restaurant’s patio are from the agenda.

——

In the Mayor’s Report Mayor Knapper said that at the next meeting there will be a presentation by the real estate developer she has been talking with about developing the Immaculate Conception site — Chad Hartle of RCH Development. She would like to develop it into senior housing. A representative of Catholic Charities will be there too.

27 COMMENTS

  1. Doug, I’m also seeing that you’ve mis-spoke regarding who is concerned about layoffs of public safety personnel. If you read the actual memos attached to the work session agenda, you’ll find that the only official actually concerned with laying off public safety workers was the *former* city manager. The Mayor wrote a memo voicing her concerns about that potential (referring to Mr Reese’s memo) and asking the current City Manager to respond by clarifying whether this would actually happen. The current city manager replied with a *slightly* more optimistic tone regarding the prioritization of public services and highlighting the work the city is doing (in collaboration with other municipalities) to advocate for the sustained revenue. It sounds like it’s worth watching MOLeg on this issue… I can certainly see it forcing some consolidations of municipal resources in places like Maplewood; but I don’t see anyone using “scare tactics” from the *current* leadership.

    • I’d say the former city manager, the current city manager and the mayor all sounded pretty concerned. Seems to be a concerning situation.

      • Oh I absolutely agree that it’s a concerning situation. But the specific idea of cutting access to police and fire personnel was a claim made by the prior city manager; not the current administrators. The Mayor specifically addressed this concern in her memo to Ms Withycombe, who states in her returning memo that public service would be prioritized.

        There was absolutely a concern about the loss in revenue (understandably) but nowhere in the discussion during the work session do any of the council people or the City Manager state that public service resources would absolutely be cut.

        You conflated those claims in your wording and I think it would be worthwhile for you to make that distinction; as people are calling the Mayor out for using “scare tactics” in this comment section.

      • Yes-rational people should be, but when you lose common sense over your cult-like devotion to political figures, things get…murky.

      • Scot: Totally agreed! I am glad the city is working closely with other municipalities to address this concern with MoLEG. I also encourage you to reach out to our representatives in Jeff City (I have) as suggested by the Mayor; and also read the memos included in the work session to have a better understanding of how things are looking in terms of where these bills stand and what the city plans to prioritize in the event of a revenue cut.

        Councilwoman Garcia pointed (rightly) that it would be good to have a contingency plan in place for *any* possible big hits to the budget; given that so much of our resources rely on taxes collected from a few big entities. It will be interesting to see how we can possibly continue to partner with neighboring municipalities to assure that public services don’t suffer. The concern is real, but I’m glad there’s not a “sky is falling” response, but rather a pro-active one.

        Ugh. It’s a lot, and I’m glad I’m not the one who has to figure out how to keep the lights on!!

        • Thanks for sharing information and helping others to interpret some of this as most people are just too busy to do deep dives like you clearly do on the regular as an engaged citizen. One thing that ALL of us can do is VOTE on April 2nd.

          And just like any good democracy, we have a CHOICE this time around between two candidates. I am sure you agree that having options helps promote robust conversations and hopefully encourages more transparency in our local government as they know we are paying attention!

  2. Okay, I was lazy.

    I’ve now looked it up. City council meetings are at 7 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month.

    The next council meeting is Tuesday, February 27.

  3. I don’t understand the Cities, Mayor’s thinking. If the city is in threat and of loosing needed tax revenue why are we building affordable housing? We should be helping seniors who are struggling to stay in their homes.

    • A developer buying land from a tax exempt organization is a good thing for the city’s tax revenue. Developing that land into affordable housing for seniors would be a great addition to our community. That doesn’t mean other seniors or being left out of the conversation. If you’ll recall, the Mayor worked with several seniors last year to appeal their real estate tax increases.

      • Yes, we’ve all heard–repeatedly–how the mayor helped like 2 older adults complete some paperwork. As much as she’s touting it in her campaign you’d think she’d cured polio.

        • She also touts the “Crown Act” as if it were her idea or achievement when it’s basically a copy and paste of existing legislation elsewhere. It’s a good thing but it’s not original and required almost zero effort on her or the council’s part-not like they persevered through opposition to get in on the books.

  4. Before we add new affordable housing for seniors, shouldn’t we check on the conditions of the “affordable ” housing in which some of our less fortunate senior citizens are living here in Maplewood?

  5. Knapper says tax cut would cost our government existing fire department and police department personnel. Yet she still wants to hire a defense attorney to support people breaking the law? She is using fear tactics to influence voters away from cutting her purse strings.

    Speaking of the tax cut: the entire reason for the cut is to provide economic support to the poorest and most insecure portion of society. Now Maplewood leadership doesn’t care about those folks? I guess inclusion is only important when you can put it on a campaign flier.

    • She’s comes across as insincere and insecure. Authoritarian leadership style that will not be challenged or questioned. And people are wising up to the BS.

      • Tell me what evidence you have for the Mayor coming across as insecure or authoritarian? I simply don’t see what you see. I see that she and council worked together to respond as fast as was possible (3 readings are necessary) to some really passionate pleas from the community to set ethical standards for boards and commission members and someone who has put in the WORK; and that only happens if the council works as a team (the Mayor doesn’t have the power to pass legislation alone, she’s only one vote): *Twenty eight* ordinances passed in her tenure, versus only *eight* during the Greenburg era? Show me the evidence you have for the conclusions you have drawn, because it doesn’t make any sense to me. Thanks!

    • If you read closely, the statement regarding the “massive layoffs” came from the memo Mr Reese wrote; not from the Mayor or current City Manager. It would be a huge hit to our budget, sure, but your conclusions got a little muddled there.

      Also, why do all the folks saying the most inflammatory things only use initials or pseudonyms on this site?

      Doug: please hold commenters accountable by requiring them to enter their actual, verified names on their statements.

      The comments section here gets ugly so stinking fast. It’s bad for our community. I really wish you’d change your policy on commenting. It’s so harmful.

      • Gina, you might be interested to know that commenters of every sort use pseudonyms and initials. Also, I do monitor comments.

        • Doug: I appreciate that you monitor comments (Lordy, what are you weeding OUT??); but I hope you can appreciate what I’m saying about the level of nastiness that pops up when people can hide behind anonymity or pseudonyms.

          It doesn’t take much more than casual following of your site and a basic understanding of human behavior to see that trend happening here over and over.

          • I appreciate your point! It’s just like on facebook when people float false rumors about candidates being homophobic or transphobic with no evidence whatsoever. It’s horribly toxic!

            • Hi Jeff S! You must be referring to the concerns I echoed from parents of queer kiddos in the MRH Village.

              It was so great to see that those concerns were *countered* by both candidates in question.

              It’s refreshing and so reassuring to have their support in writing.

              Sounds like you missed my follow up post with screen grabs from both candidates asserting their support for LGBTQIA students? If you circle back to the post, you’ll see it.

              Thanks for holding me accountable.
              It’s much easier to do that when we take the anonymity out of comments. This is the perfect example of that 😉

          • Interesting point–any idea who is behind the anonymous blog that popped up a few weeks ago and sounds exactly like the voice of several very close allies of Mayor Knapper? I mean-not even initials…just stuff that almost sounds…like astroturfing.

            I will refer you back to one of the stltoday articles (I lost track of which one, so you may need to read all 4 of 5) about what helped shape my opinion about our current mayor.

            Treating a former loyal campaign worker like trash because he dared to question her on something/literally shutting off his system access…bringing in the freaking NAACP to talk to the two female council people who dared to try and hold her accountable to process with board appointments*avoiding accountability by deflection and misdirection.* Two women who actively supported her and arguably helped get her elected. Two LIBERAL/Progressive women.

            Spoiler alert–not everyone has to adore Mayor Knapper and can even criticize her-a shocking concept to you, apparently.

            Enjoy the rest of your SUN!

          • Wow! Doug has been running his site just fine for years. Very informative and a blessing for Maplewood residents and readers. Just out of curiosity, why would you need to know peoples names?

            • easy-that crowd LOVES a good “dog pile” and enjoys discord masquerading as community involvement. Ironically they also idolize some of their crew who have MULTIPLE fake accounts and have been booted off other community pages for harassment.

              And let’s not forget about the anonymous blog (side eye).

Comments are closed.