Editorials

Seeking plain speaking from St. Clair County chairman on sales tax for safety

What has MidAmerica Airport done to law enforcement in St. Clair County? County Chairman Mark Kern hasn’t talked about that ahead of the April 4 vote for another penny in sales taxes for public safety. A separate vote seeks a penny for school construction.
What has MidAmerica Airport done to law enforcement in St. Clair County? County Chairman Mark Kern hasn’t talked about that ahead of the April 4 vote for another penny in sales taxes for public safety. A separate vote seeks a penny for school construction. Photo illustration

We and readers have been concerned about the starvation diet St. Clair County’s law enforcement efforts have been forced to endure. We all have questioned the impact of MidAmerica St. Louis Airport on the county’s finances when $81 million since 2002 was used to subsidize it at a time when the jail deteriorated and few deputies were available for patrol.

On March 4 our editorial publicly asked for a plain-language guarantee that the 1 cent sales tax increase for public safety would go to its intended uses: “Kern & Co. offer no assurances — much less anything in writing — that they will not pull some slick accounting moves or shell game to slip, slide, supplant or otherwise dodge their obligation to pass along money we already pay for law enforcement’s protections.”

Hearing nothing, we reached out to St. Clair County Chairman Mark Kern, offering him a personal invitation to address the concerns in a guest viewpoint ahead of the April 4 ballot initiative: “As we form our editorial recommendation to our readers, as many of the county employees and elected leaders have asked of us, we would be especially interested in hearing whether you are willing to guarantee taxpayers that the integrity of these public safety funds would be respected. We would also like to hear your thoughts on the role of MidAmerica Airport on county finances and your view on its impact on the ability of the county to address jail and patrol deputy needs.”

Kern’s response was a joint opinion piece with the county’s sheriff and prosecutor, published Sunday. Here is how the piece addressed the question: “The public safety penny tax — by law — can only be used for public safety purposes and will not be used to subsidize non-public safety expenditures. In fact, the St. Clair County Board has passed a resolution committing every dime to police and fire needs in our County.”

No assurances. One of the three authors could be asked to both sue and defend the county were it to misuse the funds. Nothing from Kern on the airport’s role in bringing law enforcement to this sad state.

Here’s what George Orwell had to say about the language of politics: “A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity.”

Six days left to speak plainly, Chairman Kern.

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