LOCAL Announcement :: Health issues : Housing and Development : Local politics

Petitioners Near Goal for Audit of St. Louis City

Join us at a press conference to announce that

Petitioners Near Goal for Audit of St. Louis City

3:00 pm, Friday, May 11, 2007
St. Louis City Hall, Tucker entrance

Petitioners now have over 7500 signatures calling for an audit of the City of St. Louis. Missouri statutes indicate that the number of signatures must equal 5% of those who voted in the most recent race for governor. That would be 7200 signatures. Spokesperson Willie Marshall says that Greens will continue to collect signatures because challenged petitions need more than the required number.
Petition coordinators ask that everyone interested in signing or circulating the petition to call 314-727-8554. They also invite Mayor Francis Slay([search]) to endorse the audit as a principle of good government and that he urge people to sign the petition.

Members of the Gateway Green Alliance began circulating the petition because the City of St. Louis was unresponsive in answering questions concerning where money for lead poisoning prevention was being spent. After ignoring requests for information throughout 2006, the City finally responded in early 2007. "But they really did not answer our questions," reported Marshall.

The limited data supplied by the City only included 28-35% of lead remediation funds, combined data for 30 months so that it was impossible to compare lead poisoning and lead spending rates for individual years, and only included HUD funds, which meant there was no data for funds that were not already examined by the federal government. The data which was provided did not indicate that the most funds went to neighborhoods with the highest rates of lead poisoning.

"This was pitiful," observed Marshall. "We met with City officials several times in 2006. We coordinated a letter writing campaign to ask for information. And we held a picket to 'Unmask the lead money' last Halloween. And they still refused to answer our questions."

The Greens have been joined by American Federation of Teachers Local 420, the Universal African Peoples Organization and the Organization for Black Struggle. They feel it is important to know if lead money is being spent where the greatest number of children are poisoned. But they also believe it makes good sense financially for someone outside of the City to audit it. The audit would be conducted by the Missouri State Auditor. The last audit of the City of St. Louis, 21 years ago, uncovered over $9 million being misspent.

A scandal broke in April 2007 which brought together the issues of lead poisoning prevention and financial accountability. Following a three year decline in meeting targeted dates for home clean-ups, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) informed the City that it was performing so poorly that it was in danger of losing $3 million in federal grant money.

Rather than developing a strategy for neighborhoods with the highest proportion of lead poisoned children, on March 15 the City submitted a "Workout Strategy" which would focus on the largest multiple-family housing units it could find. The City indicated that playing "catch-up" with the target quota of grants was more important than children's health.

Lead is devastating. Just a few of its effects include:

* Brain damage;

* Kidney damage;

* Lower math and reading scores for children; and,

* Increased behavioral disorders and violence.

An audit of the City of St. Louis is the best way to promote general fiscal responsibility and good use of funds designed to protect children's health.

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An inglorious peace is better than a dishonorable war.
-- Mark Twain
Source: "Glances at History" (suppressed)

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