The draft environmental impact statement is out on the four potential sites for the 800,000-square-foot replacement facility for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. With the report comes even more concern about the Ferguson effect helping make this decision.
The City of St. Louis and other Missouri leaders are pushing the North St. Louis site where the old Pruitt-Igoe public housing complex was formerly located, apparently dropping support for the two other Missouri sites. The federal spy mapping agency by 2022 plans to move 3,100 workers from its cramped location near the Anheuser-Busch brewery in South St. Louis.
Possible foreshadowing: The environmental statement repeatedly mentions that St. Louis stands to lose $2.19 million a year in payroll taxes were the NGA to leave the city. That fact is attached as a negative to the assessment of the St. Clair County site next to Scott Air Force Base.
St. Louis leaders are coupling the $1.6 billion NGA development with a new $1 billion football stadium as the redevelopment tools needed to revive the crime-soaked, poverty-riddled, blighted neighborhoods of North St. Louis. Add to that the sentiment within the current federal administration to use government spending as a social justice tool, and the St. Louis location gains huge emotional and political advantages as a way to fix the woes that led to the Ferguson riots.
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St. Louis leaders should be made to explain how the NGA will change the poverty equation. Will moving those 3,100 NGA employees create new jobs when they shop and eat lunch in North St. Louis, or will poor people and their homes be bulldozed out of their communities?
Balance that against the logic of free land and the synergies of putting the NGA next to multiple major military commands in St. Clair County, and we face some very long months from now until the NGA makes its final site decision in March.
As previously noted, common sense may not rule this issue: winners and losers may well be decided in the political arena. Better hope we have enough firepower.