Monthly Archives: October 2013

Veolia caves to public protest

I know many of you have followed the Veolia issue for over a year – this seems like a success, right?  However, if I am reading this correctly, Veolia can become a subcontractor with MSD, who is now in charge of “analyzing” the City’s water department.  So stay tuned in!

via Stltoday

October 29, 2013 10:00 am  •  By Nicholas J.C. Pistor npistor@post-dispatch.com 314-436-2239

ST. LOUIS • A controversial contract proposal between the city’s water division and an international water consulting company died on Tuesday when the company dropped itself from consideration.

City Hall, led by Mayor Francis Slay, had said a $250,000 consulting contract with Veolia Water North America was necessary to help reduce costs and keep water rates down for city residents. But the process was colored by heated protests of the company’s environmental and business practices, with some residents worried the company would try to seize the city’s water and reduce its quality.

Slay’s staff on Tuesday told the aldermanic Ways and Means committee that the company had dropped itself from consideration for the contract.

“Veolia Water, the firm that was legitimately selected per ordinance, to help improve the Water Division’s level of efficiency, has decided our business is not worth it,” Mary Ellen Ponder, a representative of Slay, told the committee. “It is not worth the damage to their business. Veolia will not go forward with the contract they were legitimately awarded. Frankly, they can’t be blamed.”

At the time, the committee was discussing a bill by Alderman Terry Kennedy to strike the $250,000 from the Water Division’s budget in an effort to block Veolia.

Despite Veolia’s removal from consideration, the committee approved of the bill by a vote of 5-2.

“The fact of the matter is that Veolia has a terrible track record,” Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed said.

The decision was a major victory for a group called the Dump Veolia Coalition, which has protested the contract throughout the year.

“We applaud the Board of Aldermen for working to protect the public and for taking steps toward open government,” the group said in a statement. “Veolia’s interference in our political process in St. Louis is unacceptable.”

Veolia Water North America, based in Chicago, had spent considerable time and money on winning the contract, flying representatives here to appear before committee meetings and hiring local lobbyist and former Missouri Democratic Party Chairman John Temporiti, a former campaign manager to St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley.

Veolia didn’t respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

Slay is now asking the city to work with the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District to analyze the aging infrastructure and find ways to reduce costs in a water system designed for St. Louis when it had a significantly higher population and demand for the resource.

MSD said in a statement on Tuesday that it had reached a verbal agreement with the city to conduct an “operational efficiency review” of the city’s water division.

Previously, Slay had directed Comptroller Darlene Green to sign off on the Veolia expenditure, bypassing explicit approval from the city’s Board of Estimate and Apportionment, setting off a heated dispute over executive authority and the city’s approval process.

Slay had put the issue on hold in February when he failed to find a majority for approval. Slay had brought it before the board in February because the expenditure wasn’t included in that year’s budget.

Expenditures are approved by the city’s three-person Board of Estimate and Apportionment, made up of the mayor, the comptroller and the board of aldermen president.

But Slay brought the issue directly to Green earlier this month and asked for her signature, saying that the $250,000 was a line item in the overall budget approved by the Board of Aldermen, thus not requiring the board’s approval.

Buy-a-bird campaign

I’m proud to let you know that, upon my suggestion, the 8th ward Democratic org committed to purchasing 5 turkeys through this program!!  Such a great way to support our less fortunate neighbors!

Join us in helping those less fortunate have a wonderful holiday season. We’re celebrating 20 years of our Buy-A-Bird campaign! For a donation of $20 you can purchase a turkey for a family in need and for $30 you can purchase an entire meal. Be a part of this blessed holiday tradition. You can mail your donations to: Isaiah 58 Ministries, 2149 South Grand Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63104.

Veolia update

I haven’t heard the most recent on this one, but it is VERY disturbing to me.  High quality water is a human right and doesn’t deserve to be used as a political pawn.

via stltoday

ST. LOUIS • The controversial consulting contract between the St. Louis water division and Veoilia is a signature away from approval.  The city, hoping to cut costs in its water division, had for months considered a $250,000 consulting contract with Veolia Water North America, but the process had been stymied by protests of the company’s environmental and business practices.

Now, Mayor Francis Slay, who has pushed for the contract, has directed Comptroller Darlene Green to sign it, bypassing explicit approval from the city’s Board of Estimate and Apportionment.

“It doesn’t have to be approved by E&A,” Slay said on Wednesday.

Slay had put the issue on hold in February when he failed to find a majority for approval.  Slay had brought it before the board in February because the expenditure wasn’t included in that year’s budget.  Expenditures are approved by the city’s three person Board of Estimate and Apportionment, made up of Slay, Comptroller Darlene Green, and Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed.

In a letter dated October 4, 2013, City Counselor Patricia Hageman wrote to Green saying: “After reviewing the history of the appropriation and the contractor selection processes, it is my opinion that all of the requisite approvals already have been obtained and that you, as Comptroller, have a ministerial duty to sign the enclosed contract.”

Hageman argues that the board has already approved the water division’s budget, which included a $1.3 million appropriation for generic “professional services.”  She said that Director of Public Utilities Curtis B. Skouby appeared before the aldermanic Ways and Means Committee during the budget process and said part of the appropriation included the $250,000 Veolia expenditure.  The Board of Aldermen approved the budget.

“After receiving that information, the Board of Aldermen did not exercise its authority to eliminate the $250,000 appropriation for the Veolia contract from the water department’s overall appropriation,” Hageman wrote.

Hageman concludes that since the Board of Estimate and Apportionment okayed the budget, which included the expenditure, as did the Board of Aldermen, the contract can be signed without being brought back up for specific approval.

Comptroller Darlene Green made a last minute addition to Wednesday’s Board of Estimate and Apportionment agenda to discuss the issue, gaining approval to remove language of a “phase two” study beyond the contract’s $250,000 authorization.

Lewis Reed abstained, saying it was the first he has heard of the issue.

Green’s lawyer, Elaine Harris Spearman, wrote in a letter dated October 16 that the comptroller “could be required by a court to execute a particular contract.”

She advised that the contract could be signed if the “phase two” language was removed.

The company would be charged analyzing the water division and studying ways to reduce costs to help the city avoid raising rates. Protesters point to a variety of issues with the company, from environmental to its business practices, saying the company has cut water quality testing and has operated lax maintenance in other cities. Some have argued the city is attempting to outsource the entire water division, although officials state that is prevented by the city’s charter and would take a public vote.

Green didn’t say if she will sign the contract, but said it is “in the process of approval.”

Spearman said after Wednesday’s meeting that the contract will be amended, and that she expected that Green would bring it back before the Board of Estimate and Apportionment before she takes action.

Drones over St. Louis

I’m really uncomfortable with this – what do you think?

via the StL Beacon

 Chief details police plans for drones over St. Louis

By Jo Mannies, Beacon political reporter

11:38 pm on Wed, 10.09.13

His timeline may be delayed a bit, but St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson is optimistic that within 18 months, his department will have its first drone to police the skies.  Dotson’s initial plan calls for a small one – 25 pounds or so, and the size of a small table – that would be armed with camera and fly as high as 400 feet in the air.  If the drone performs as hoped, more will follow.

Such a drone could track stolen cars threading their way through city side streets, check for potential evil-doers in Busch Stadium, and help “apprehend felons who flee from us, and do so safely,’’ the chief said.

And while St. Louis area residents are mulling over the idea, Dotson offered a bit of assurance to wary members of the audience at Wednesday night’s latest Holden Policy Forum at Webster University. “You are never going to see a predator drone that has missiles and shoots at people,’’ the chief said.   Any St. Louis drones also would be used solely outdoors, in “the public space,’’ he added. Not peering through windows or flying into homes.  Dotson’s plan also calls for a “real time information center,’’ where personnel would operate and oversee the drones, as well as the cameras increasingly posted around the city.

His chief message, though, centers on versatility, safety – and cost.  Dotson already has applied for approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, and has the funding lined up for the first drone, which is estimated to cost around $30,000-$60,000.  That compares to a typical cost of a helicopter that’s “$1.6 million, not including night vision, not including the optics’’ nor the cost of the two pilots.

The city of St. Louis jointly operates a law-enforcement helicopter service with St. Louis and St. Charles counties, the chief said.  “Drones allow us to operate less expensively, and safer and keep officers out of harm’s way,’’ Dotson said.  Among other things, the chief said that drones could end the dangerous high-speed chases between police and suspects that can end in deadly crashes.

The forum audience appeared split, with some concerned about privacy while others seemed receptive to the chief’s arguments. Dotson said he’s used to it, and hearing from all sides as he travels around the city – and the region – to explain what any city-owned drones would, and would not, do.  The cities who already have drones, or are considering them, he said, include New York, Miami, Dallas and Memphis.

Although he didn’t come out and say it, Dotson’s unspoken message is that drones soon will be policing urban skies around the country. Whether the public has misgivings or not.  But he emphasized that St. Louis was being careful: “We’re actually stepping into this very softly.”

 

Voter Registration

Brrrrr – I just got back from a day at the Shaw Art Fair!  This is the 5th year I have organized a voter registration table at the fair.  It was so enjoyable to sit and people watch, dog watch, and talk to interested citizens.  Thank you to all who stopped by to say hi!  We took 24 registrations which were mostly address changes, but one new 18-year-old and one new citizen! Since I was at the same tent as the Shaw housing corporation, the Shaw neighborhood association and UIC (who is the developer of the new DeTonty Commons), I really got to network and strengthen relationships.  Face to face time is so important as a lot of people either know my name or know my face but sometimes don’t put the two together as their Committeewoman!  Today I feel good about my part in democracy – especially hearing the “thank-you for doing this” from passersby and knowing that every registration, every vote, is hope for a brighter future.  It really does matter!