Maplewood Props S (Streets) and J (Justice) presented, discussed in town hall meeting

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About 25 Maplewood residents, business owners, city staff and elected officials gathered Wednesday evening for a town hall meeting at Schlafly Bottleworks to hear about the city’s fiscal year 2025 budget and propositions that will be on the ballot in Maplewood. It was the propositions, not the budget, that had the most interest and prompted the most questions.

City Manager Amber Withycombe presented the information on Proposition S, with director of public works, Anthony Traxler adding information from the floor. The $6 million bond issue is for “constructing, reconstructing, extending, repairing and improving city streets, sidewalks, and street lighting,” from the ballot wording.

One of the first questions had to do with speeding. Traxler said traffic calming measures are planned — which will likely be speed bumps/speed ramps — on five streets. They are:

Bellevue Avenue – Manchester Road north to city limits
Lyndover Place – Big Bend Blvd. to Bellevue Avenue
Flora Avenue – Laclede Station Road to Sutton Blvd.
Rannells Avenue – Laclede Station Road to Big Bend Blvd
Oxford Avenue – Big Bend Blvd to Kensington Avenue

Traxler said bids for the street work are out already. He said that if it passes we will begin to see improvements by this summer.

He also said the Great Rivers Greenway bicycling route project is progressing, as a collaboration between Great Rivers Greenway and the city. The route will run up Oxford from Big Bend, the turn north up Sussex, then east on Greenwood and south on Canterbury. There will be neighborhood meetings on the project in 2025 he said.

Proposition J, presented by council member Nick Homa (Ward 3), prompted the most discussion. The proposition has been passed by the city council and needs to go to the voters before becoming law.

The proposition would make two changes: it would add a defense attorney to the city’s law department, which currently includes a city attorney and a prosecuting attorney. It would also make the change that the mayor and not the city manager would appoint all three with the approval of the city council.

The defense attorney would represent defendants in Maplewood court accused of: 1) driving while license or driving privilege is cancelled, suspended or revoked, 2) driving without a valid license, 3) failure to have the minimum required insurance, and 4) operating a vehicle that is not registered.

Someone asked if DWI would be defended, and Homa said, no. He made clear that these four citations are the only offenses that would apply.

Some wondered if this change wouldn’t incentivize some to break the law, since their defense would be paid for? David Schlafly, CEO of Schlafly Brewing, said there has been a year-long crime spree of break-ins on the Bottleworks parking lot, with no arrests so far. He asked if it wouldn’t incentivize robbery, and also wondered if it would tell the victims that the city doesn’t have their backs.

Homa said later that since the defense attorney won’t provide counsel for anything other than the four citations listed, he can’t make the connection to see how it would incentivize higher level crimes like robbery.

Another resident asked if given the recent controversy over the hiring of the city manager, do we want the mayor also appointing the defense attorney? Homa responded that the council has to confirm the appointments so the mayor doesn’t have total control. He also said having the mayor appointing the attorneys brings the process in line with similar appointments, (such as the municipal judge and commission members, Homa said after the meeting).

Maplewood Richmond Heights School Superintendent Bonita Jamison said she appreciates that the proposal would provide defense for anyone of any income, that this would help many people of color, who are unfairly impacted by the current system. “I’m proud of the city council for trying to dismantle racism,” she said.

There were more questions when Homa presented the ballot wording:

Shall Article IX. – Department of Law of the City Charter of the City of Maplewood,
Missouri, be amended as outlined in City Ordinance No. 6035?

Withycombe said the ballot wording was recommended by the city attorney, and also that the length is limited — which is why the wording doesn’t describe what the voters are voting on in practical terms. Homa said the city will put out information about the proposal.

There were also questions about why the cost to taxpayers for the attorney isn’t mentioned on the ballot. Homa said the reason is that the city doesn’t know the exact amount. He said it can’t just be based on what the city attorney and prosecuting attorney are paid, which is a retainer.

Maplewood Fiscal year 2025 initiatives, presented by the city manager

16 COMMENTS

  1. Exactly! I don’t want to pay for or have our funds used for those who don’t follow laws…period! I struggle too, but somehow manage to be a law abiding citizen. I will not vote for this.

  2. BV, there will be a choice in the next local election. Former mayor Barry Greenberg is going to be a write in candidate for mayor. Hopefully we will have a better turn out than the last local election and people who love Maplewood and have been paying attention will vote. Local elections are the most important and yet seem to have the lowest turnout. Encourage your neighbors and friends to make their wishes known in the April election.

    • ABSOLUTELY==lots of people sat the last one out for whatever reason–do NOT sit this one out! Sadly, many are too busy with their daily lives trying to make ends meet to pay attention to all of this “stuff” as this smug little group of elites continue to talk down to the rest of us and insist that they always know best.

  3. So to be clear… they’re asking the City of Maplewood taxpayers to:
    – Pay Officers to write citations
    – Pay Prosecutors to prosecute the citations
    – Pay for the Defense attorney to defend the citations

    Why? What is the point? How does this improve the quality of life for tax payers?

    • That’s how I see it. Can someone point me to where the city council discussed this issue.

      The first order of business will be for the defense attorney to defend the incoming lawsuits.

      Has the city attorney weighted in on this matter. Is this actually legal?

      When Barry wins the election and this prop passes….Will he be required to follow through and hire the attorney or will he be able to say No.

      smh

  4. All I hear is the taxes are too high in Maplewood. The county has already frozen the taxes for senior citizens because everyone is getting ate alive by taxes. Now the city is asking us to increase our taxes yet again. My money is that the citizens will once again not show up to vote, and the school district will encourage everyone to vote ‘Yes’, and the dumb residents will vote ‘YES’. Oh, and it gets better, they won’t understand why there taxes are going up.

    I actually know residents who had vote ‘Yes’ signs in there yard for the last school district props and then complained about their taxes being too high and all for a $34 million dollar add-on to a building.

  5. Regarding unlicensed, unregistered, uninsured motorists (Prop J)- I feel it would be far more effective to be proactive and identify MAPLEWOOD residents that are struggling to be insured, registered and licensed to drive. This certainly seems to be something the city social worker might be able to help with. If we get our own residents legitimately insured, registered and licensed, isn’t that more important than bailing out anyone from the surrounding counties who gets caught driving through our city? It seems this might be more cost effective as well. (And why get more attorneys involved in the first place?).

    • that makes too much sense and prevents our mayor from hiring more lawyers/buddies! It’s also VERY performative as it will truly do nothing to address the root cause of what they say they are “fixing.”

      • The defense attorney would represent defendants in Maplewood court accused of: 1) driving while license or driving privilege is cancelled, suspended or revoked, 2) driving without a valid license, 3) failure to have the minimum required insurance, and 4) operating a vehicle that is not registered

        This is really puzzling, when you THINK about it. Folks that refuse to follow the law, will be represented in court for getting caught. The lawyer gets that off (or reduced sentence, etc.). After the court date they go back to driving not having insurance and operating a vehicle. How does this address the situation? Are we saying there too stupid or too broke to follow the law. Someone tell me how this fixes anything.

        I have an ideal…..Let’s not hand out tickets for these ridiculous laws for any of the citizens, the mayor obliviously thinks they are not needed. What’s the benefits of these laws?

        I’ve seen folks with license that don’t know how to drive, I’ve seen cars that have never been properly licensed, really didn’t affect me. I’ve been in an accident where the motorist was uninsured and my insurance company picked up the tab, because I was insured.

        We may be asking the wrong question.

  6. Very interesting ideas! A social worker to extend support finding help for folks in such situations might be part of positions we already fund? Give current lawyers some leeway?

    • My thought as well. I don’t see how this addresses the real issue at its core. I also don’t think we should be doing it for people who reside outside of Maplewood. Let’s focus on our own community and help get these folks set up with their plates or insurance or whatever. Also-I have been hit twice by uninsured motorists and my insurance had to pick up the entire cost-one of which was the car being totaled. And my insurance went up significantly after that as we all know how this works.

      I guess this is the type of “victimless crime” they are referring to…?

      And how is that fair to anyone?

      Cyclical poverty IS a thing–this proposal does nothing in terms of a long-term solution. It also shifts power from the city manager to the mayor, and I don’t think there is a valid need or rationale for that. Also-for something that is is 2 1/2 months away from a vote and they can’t tell us the cost? Seriously?

  7. School Superintendent, who isn’t even a Maplewood resident, said Prop P “would help many people of color, who are unfairly impacted by the current system.” What system: being required to purchase insurance, title their cars, or have a valid license? Get out of here with that. Knapper just wants to hire yet another crony—-this time to empower lawbreakers.

    Imagine getting hit by an uninsured driver. Maplewood citizens get screwed twice: once for paying the taxes that hired the lawyer who got the criminal off, and twice for covering the entire cost of the accident themselves.

    Gee….thanks Mayor Knapper….

  8. I’m sorry but Prop J is like something a middle school civics class would come up with for a class project.
    A concerningly unserious charter amendment that does little to solve a very real problem of systemic poverty but WILL further pull power away from professional staff and place it with volunteers, who while they are well intentioned—their primary virtues are enthusiasm, not legislative ability or even as of late good judgment.
    You are asking to use public funds to hand out a political patronage job but you can’t tell us how much of those public funds you require? Insulting.
    I would honestly rather have the city take funds intended for their “department of law” and use them to directly pay for indigent offenders to become compliant with license and registration laws. At least then a small number of people would receive real help in breaking the cycle of poverty rather than just having us feel warm fuzzies while kicking that can down the road. Literally down the road, as we would allow non compliant drivers to go down the road through the patchwork of predatory municipalities that is Saint Louis County, potentially ticketed at each one.

    • 100%-there are better ways to do this-address the root cause rather than band-aid a very real issue with this half-baked stuff. And yes-it’s very insulting in its present form.

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