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Election Results

By Antonio D. French

Filed Tuesday, April 03, 2007 at 9:14 PM

Katherine Wessling and David Lee Jackson, Jr. easily won seats on the St. Louis Board of Education tonight with 37 and 30 percent of the vote respectively.

Proposition P also passed easily with 70 percent of the vote.

UPDATE: Only 6.85% of the city's registered voters came out to cast ballots Tuesday, a record low, according to election officials.

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BJC Expansion Deal Passes

By Antonio D. French

Filed Friday, February 23, 2007 at 10:00 AM

BREAKING NEWS - READ IT HERE FIRST

By a vote of 2-1, the Board of Estimate & Apportionment has agreed to modify and extend BJC HealthCare's lease of a portion of city park land.

At their meeting this morning in City Hall, Mayor Francis Slay and Comptroller Darlene Green voted in favor while Aldermanic President Jim Shrewsbury voted against.

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Green Outlines "Improved" Lease

By Antonio D. French

Filed Thursday, February 22, 2007 at 7:00 PM

The following is from the office of Comptroller Darlene Green:

St. Louis Comptroller Darlene Green is prepared to move forward and support the lease of 9.4 acres of Forest Park to BJC to accommodate the hospital’s future healthcare service expansion in the city of St. Louis. The lease agreement is vastly improved now in large part because of direct discussions between BJC and Citizens to Protect Forest Park facilitated by Comptroller Green.

Compromise has merit and guarantee:

Green space will be preserved in city parks.
  • Prohibition ordinance which prohibits the sale, lease, or giveaway of parkland (see attached PDF file).
  • No net loss of green space in Forest Park will occur with BJC expansion.
  • "Green Ribbon" committee created.
Forest Park and other city parks maintenance is funded.
  • $3.8 million annually for Forest Park maintenance and 1.2 million annually for other park maintenance.
  • All other city parks receive equal treatment and equal funding.
BJC to expand in the city with approved lease extension.
  • City’s largest employer expanding in the city protects jobs.
  • $1.5 billion of construction by BJC in the city creates jobs.
  • Northside 24 hour emergency medical facility plan completed by 2008.

"I believe that all sides have reached some common ground enabling the lease agreement to move forward. I honor the request of Citizens to Protect Forest Park to create a "Green Ribbon" committee that provides for an open, public process in the tradition of the Forest Park Master Plan with citizen involvement in any further park planning.

"While a compromise is never perfect, neither side is getting everything they initially wanted. But working together achieves a greater benefit for all involved," explained Comptroller Green.

The following is a list of improvements to the Forest Park/BJC lease agreement:

  • No net loss of green space to Forest Park as a result of the lease.
  • The amount of land in the lease is down from 12.9 acres to 9.4 acres. When you add that to 4.5 acres of green space additions to Forest Park since the master plan; anywhere from 2 to 7 acres returned to the park from highway 40 construction; and BJC agreeing to setting aside a minimum of 15% green space on the site, there is a net gain of green space to Forest Park.
  • Forest Park will receive $2 million a year (originally $1.6 million) from the BJC lease in addition to $1.8 million a year (originally $1.6 million) from Forest Park Forever for the life of the 99-year lease. This amounts to $38 million for ten years before BJC plans to begin construction.
  • A companion prohibition ordinance to the lease agreement that protects the city’s park land from future sale or lease and holds BJC accountable in the event Proposition P on the April 3 ballot fails.
  • There is an amendment to the lease that requires the city to equally fund north and south side park improvements and maintenance.
  • There is an amendment to the lease that holds BJC accountable for building a 24 hour emergency center in North St. Louis.
The Board of Estimate and Apportionment has scheduled a special meeting on Friday, Feb. 23 at 9 a.m. in the mayor’s office to take up the lease issue. The meeting is open to the public.

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BJC/Park Deal by Friday? [Updated x2]

By Antonio D. French

Filed Wednesday, February 21, 2007 at 7:51 AM

PUB DEF EXCLUSIVE

Following meetings with representatives from BJC, Citizens to Protect Forest Park, the Aldermanic Black Caucus, and other interested parties, Comptroller Darlene Green believes that a deal on the proposed BJC expansion plan may be reached as soon as Friday. That's according to a source in the Comptroller's office and someone who attended a meeting last night at which Green defended her position.

The meeting, which took place at the Gateway Classic Foundation, was hosted by former Mayor Freeman Bosley, Jr. and political consultant Walle Amusa. The topic was the BJC expansion plan. Most in attendance — including St. Louis American publisher Donald Suggs and St. Louis Argus publisher and MOKAN executive Eddie Hasan — blamed Green and Aldermanic President Jim Shrewsbury for killing a deal that would have meant hundreds of new jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in new construction.

We're told that many were surprised when the Comptroller herself arrived at the meeting. She was not an invited guest, but she took the opportunity to defend her position and reveal details of her ongoing negotiations which, she says, will lead to a better deal.

Click here to read our earlier story.

UPDATE 1: The Board of Estimate & Apportionment will be meeting today, but the BJC deal is not on the agenda. However, Pub Def has learned that a special meeting has been scheduled for Friday as well. At that time, it is likely that an agreement will be passed by the three-person body.

UPDATE 2: Walle Amusa, the longtime political activist and professional consultant who organized last night's meeting of African-American leaders, tells Pub Def that he accepts full responsibility for not inviting Green to the meeting.

He says the plan was for the participants to meet first to come to a consensus on what benefits to the black community they wanted to see from the BJC lease agreement. Then representatives from the group were to present those things to Green today.

Amusa said that when Green arrived unexpectedly she was still warmly greeted with applause.

"I want to thank Darlene Green for showing up and participating," said Amusa. He said he also wanted to thank the many other people that attended the meeting with less than 24 hours notice, including (in addition to those mentioned above) License Collector Mike McMillan, soon-to-be-alderman Marlene Davis, former Comptroller Virvus Jones, and others.

Amusa also added that the consensus he wished for was not difficult to reach. He said that on the first vote, there was unanimous support from the group for the BJC expansion deal as negotiated with the Aldermanic Black Caucus.

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Comptroller Presses Forward, Seeks Clarification on Caucus Deal [Updated]

By Antonio D. French

Filed Tuesday, February 20, 2007 at 12:17 PM

PUB DEF EXCLUSIVE

Still suffering the calls of "obstructionist" from critics of her decision not to support BJC's proposed expansion plan two weeks ago, Comptroller Darlene Green is continuing with meetings to create a better deal which all sides can agree to.

This afternoon Green will be hosting the third meeting between her office and representatives of BJC HealthCare and Citizens to Protect Forest Park. This follows an earlier meeting Green had with members of the Aldermanic Black Caucus meant to clear up confusion about a deal brokered by the Caucus to ensure north St. Louis would benefit from the proposed lease extension as well. That deal has been threatened by Green and Aldermanic President Jim Shrewsbury's refusal so far to support BJC's expansion.

In meetings with Black Caucus members before the vote of the Board of Aldermen, BJC and Mayor Francis Slay privately agreed to dole up the annual $1.6 million in general revenue freed up by the new terms of BJC's lease of a portion of city park land in the following manner:
  • $1.2 million for capital improvements in city parks, with half going to northside parks;
  • $300,000 for recreational programs for children; and
  • $100,000 to cover low-income kids' access to fee-based recreational programs.
BJC also agreed to work with the Black Caucus to open a 24-hour emergency/trauma center located in north St. Louis.

The aide said Green supports all of those things, but she would like to see them specifically written into the lease agreement; not just as a non-binding attached letter.

An amendment passed by the Board of Aldermen did include the $400,000 for recreation programs and $1.2 million for park improvements, but it did not specifically say that 50% of the improvement funds were to be spent in northside parks -- a point vital to the agreement.

Green's office has proposed the following language be added to that amendment: "...with at least 50% of the One Million Two Hundred Dollars ($1,200,000) to be spent on parks that are located north of Delmar Boulevard in the City".

Green's continued action on this matter suggests that the deal is not dead yet and, with certain amendments and concessions, may soon come again before the Boards of Aldermen and Estimate & Apportionment.

Click here to view the amendment with Green's new addition.

Click here to read a memo obtained by Pub Def from the mayor's chief staff outlining the agreement between the Black Caucus and BJC.

Click here to view a letter from BJC to the Black Caucus agreeing to develop a 24-hour emergency/trauma center in north St. Louis.

UPDATE @ 6:45 p.m.: According to sources in the Comptroller's office, today's meeting was positive and "there is now light at the end of the tunnel."

"We are closer today than we were a week ago and the Comptroller expects a positive outcome by Friday."

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Forest Park Deal is Dead

By Antonio D. French

Filed Wednesday, February 07, 2007 at 11:08 AM

BREAKING NEWS

Comptroller Darlene Green, nor Aldermanic President Jim Shrewsbury, would second Mayor Francis Slay's motion today to approve the lease agreement that would have allowed BJC Hospital to expand into a small portion of Forest Park on which it already operates a parking garage.

Green and Shrewsbury's silence came just minutes ago at a morning meeting of the three-member Board of Estimate and Apportionment.

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BJC/Park Deal Vote Coming?

By Antonio D. French

Filed Tuesday, February 06, 2007 at 7:09 AM

A special meeting of the Board of Estimate and Apportionment has been scheduled for Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. in City Hall Room 200. The meeting agenda has not yet been posted, but will be sometime this morning.

The three-member Board of E&A is made up of the mayor, the comptroller and the president of the Board of Aldermen.

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BJC/Park Deal Vote

By Antonio D. French

Filed Friday, January 26, 2007 at 3:58 PM

The vote today on the perfection of the Barnes-Forest Park Lease deal was 22-2.

President Shrewsbury and 22nd Ward Alderman Jeffrey Boyd were the only votes against.

We haven't gotten the official vote yet, but according the President's office, Aldermen Florida, Kennedy, McMillan (who's vacated his seat for higher office), Troupe, and Williamson were not present at the time of the vote.

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BJC/Park Deal Opponents Say Wait

By Antonio D. French



Board Bill 376, the controversial BJC/Park deal, moved closer to passage by the Board of Aldermen today. Earlier this week, opponents of the deal had a chance to voice their concerns to the aldermanic Parks Committee.

Carla Scissors-Cohen spoke on behalf of the group Citizens to Protect Forest Park. She asked the aldermen to delay acting on this bill until after the voters get a chance to vote on the City Park Protection Initiative, which would amend the charter to require voter approval for any sale or lease of city park land.

Click here to view video of the bill's supporters.

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Park Deal Passes Another Hurdle

By Antonio D. French



Board Bill 376, the controversial BJC/Park deal, moved closer to passage by the Board of Aldermen today. But a veto by the three-member Board of Estimate and Apportionment still looms.

Where E&A's members stand:
Mayor Francis Slay is in support of he deal, Board President Jim Shrewsbury says he'll vote against it, and Comptroller Darlene Green, who's consistently been critical of the deal, keeps her cards close to the vest.

Click here to view video of the bill's opponents.

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BJC Deal Dead on Arrival?

By Antonio D. French

Filed Thursday, January 25, 2007 at 9:42 AM

At an endorsement meeting of the 24th Ward Democrats last night, President of the Board of Aldermen Jim Shrewsbury said he will vote against the plan to extend BJC's lease of a portion of park land once it reaches the Board of Estimate & Apportionment.



The Board of E&A is made up of the President, the Mayor and the Comptroller and its approval is required for any major financial dealings in the city. Mayor Francis Slay supports the deal while Comptroller Darlene Green has for months been critical of it.

Yesterday the aldermanic Parks Committee approved Board Bill 376 which amends the lease agreement (check back for video from that meeting later). Shrewsbury's was one of three votes against the bill.

But just prior to that vote, the Shrewsbury voted in favor of a bill co-sponsored by him and 24th Ward Ald. Bill Waterhouse that would take a portion of Arsenal-Ellendale Park to build an animal care facility. Representatives from Citizens to Protect Forest Park also spoke against this taking of park land. At last night's 24th Ward meeting, he was asked why he opposes taking park land for hospital beds, but supports taking park land for animal beds.



Shrewsbury won the ward's endorsement 38 to 4 with 1 abstention.

Shrewsbury and his opponent in the March election, Lewis Reed*, were asked why the Board of Aldermen is moving BJC/Forest Park deal forward before voters get a chance to voice their opinion on the matter in a March ballot initiative. Reed deferred the question to Shrewsbury saying that as the current president, Shrewsbury had pledged to kill the bill. Shrewsbury strongly denied ever making such a statement and said he doesn't have the ability to kill a board bill.



*Lewis Reed is a client of A.D. French & Associates

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Park Advocates Turn in 28K Signatures

By Antonio D. French

Filed Saturday, December 09, 2006 at 10:42 AM


Political Briefs

By Antonio D. French

Filed Friday, December 08, 2006 at 11:53 AM

political briefs PARK PROTECTION PETITION? PERHAPS. -- The group seeking to protect a part of Forest Park from the latest attempt to take it for commercial use might be turning in their petition this afternoon.

The petition, which needs more than 20,000 valid signatures, seeks to put to city voters any question of giving park land to BJC Hospital for future use. Mayor Francis Slay supports extending BJC's current lease, while Comptroller Darlene Green, Pres. Jim Shrewsbury, and several aldermen have voiced concerns about the deal.

political briefsNOW THERE ARE THREE OF THEM -- Ed Martin, chief of staff for Gov. Matt Blunt, and his wife Carol today are celebrating the birth of young Mr. Edward Robert Martin, III.

The third Mr. Martin entered the world at 5:16 am this morning at St. John's Hospital. Look at that, not even a day old and his name is already in bold.

political briefsHULL OF A GUY -- Ald. Phyllis Young has introduced a bill to rename a portion of Clark Street downtown in honor of former Blues hockey star Brett Hull. The new "Brett Hull Way" will stretch between 14th and 16th streets in front of the arena in which his old team now plays (very badly).

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VIDEO: BJC Makes Its Case

By Antonio D. French

Filed Monday, June 26, 2006 at 9:54 AM

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO

Three representatives of Barnes-Jewish Hospital made their case Friday for why it is in the best interests of both the City and the hospital expand a current lease on a section of Forest Park.

June Fowler, BJC's Vice-President of Communications, Michael DeHaven, BJC’s general counsel, and Linda Martinez, a partner with the Bryan Cave law firm, told members of the Forest Park Lease Committee that, while BJC would prefer to outright purchase the land, the hospital would be willing to commit to the following as part of a 90-year lease:

(1) building a health care facility on the land, (2) including a price escalator in the annual lease payment, (3) ensure all of their lease payments went to maintaining the rest of the park, and (4) pay for moving the Hudlin tennis courts and playground wherever the city decides.

In this video, Fowler gives a brief history of the different appraisal amounts of the land. Clearing up one source of concern, she says that the public parking meters near Euclid are not part of this land.



In this video, Fowler outlines the things that BJC is willing to commit to in the agreement.



In this video, Alderman Freeman Bosley, Sr. (3rd Ward) questions Fowler and DeHaven about BJC's intentions with the land. One of the things to come out of his questioning is that BJC has future plans to tear down Barnes-Jewish West Plaza and Queeny Tower, which was just built in 1965. DeHaven pointed to the buildings' inability to withstand a major earthquake.



In this video, Fowler outlines what she sees as the benefits to the city and hospital from this proposed deal. She said that the proposed lease payment is the highest per square foot rate in the city.



In this video, Fowler says it does matter who is asking for this lease. She says BJC is a good and committed corporate citizen and deserves consideration for the services it provides to the area.



Editor's Note: These video postings include our 100th YouTube video. It is also our 570th blog posting since PUB DEF returned in October 2005.

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Company News: Rockin' the Mics

By Antonio D. French

Filed Monday, June 12, 2006 at 4:42 PM

I'll be on the radio tonight talking about, among other things, an Arch City Chronicle poll which suggests that city voters are split on Mayor Francis Slay's plan to turn over a part of Forest Park to BJC Hospital for the next 90 years. Listen to "Collateral Damage" tonight on KDHX 88.1 FM at 7:00 p.m. You can also stream it over the Internet from the station's website.

In other company news, regular viewers of our videos will be happy to hear that we've upgraded our camera equipment. Good-bye Canon ZR-80. Hello Canon GL1!!! One of our longest supporters was kind enough of loan us the equipment for a while. And for that, we are very grateful.

So now all we need is a couple of professional microphones and Watch out Elliott Davis!

If anyone out there has any such shotgun, handheld, or wireless mics for sale or loan, please email me at antonio@pubdef.net. Thanks.

UPDATE: You can download the radio show here.

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