Mark Kern for St. Clair County Board chairman
Progress for St. Clair County: When we are in the midst of campaign season, we sometimes get consumed in the partisan battles over the direction of our county. Local government can get lost in the conversation because, in reality, we have very little to do with the kinds of political issues national candidates debate. Our focus is on the day-to-day delivery of critical services and finding pragmatic approaches to challenges and opportunities our communities face.
In St. Clair County, we have tremendous success in improving how county government works and in tackling tough, intractable problems and finding solutions.
Transparency, efficiency and customer service: We have made great progress in our goals of continuously improving county government. We have become more efficient, reducing the total number of jobs by 113 while still maintaining a high level of service. We have put an emphasis on customer service and professionalism at every level of government. We also have made county government more transparent to the public, putting both the county checkbook and property tax assessments online.
Mississippi riverfront: We are in the midst of a major project to finally take advantage of St. Clair County’s riverfront and attract new businesses and new jobs there.
Metro-east levee system: After the New Orleans levee system failed during Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided that the metro-east’s levee system was no longer adequate. However, they had no plan or funding to fix it. Their solution was to require thousands of residents and businesses to buy expensive flood insurance — a plan that would have driven families and businesses from our area. Leaders from across the region worked together on a bipartisan solution that cut through federal red tape, fixed the levees and saved residents and businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars in insurace costs.
MidAmerica Airport: While MidAmerica was critical to keeping Scott Air Force Base open, the civilian side of the airport struggled after 9/11. When I took over as chairman, my team rolled up its sleeves and attracted Boeing, North Bay Produce and Allegiant Airlines there, with hundreds of good jobs and new air service. More than 120,000 passengers have flown this year so far from MidAmerica, and we get inquiries every week from new companies interested in locating there.
We also just renewed the joint-use agreement with Scott Air Force Base to keep it operating for many years to come. The base is critical to our county with thousands of jobs and a $3 billion per year impact to our local economy.
Stabilizing neighborhoods: My administration introduced the Clean Sweep program to the county, helping to clean up and energize neighborhoods across the county. We also stepped up the demolition of derelict properties, taking down more than 200 houses.
Our plans for next term include more demolition, further abatement of taxes and a continued focus on public safety. We also will continue to work to create jobs based on the infrastructure we have worked so hard to build.