Since we last visited our friends in Missouri, they've made quite a mess of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency's new western headquarters. We hate to say "we told you so," but...
• St. Louis is locked in a legal battle with developer Paul McKee over who promised whom what. The city severed ties with McKee, who put together the land for the NGA and promised a renaissance for the surrounding acreage. He's also being sued by the Missouri attorney general for fraud, and there are questions about $43 million in state tax credits he used to help assemble the 1,200 parcels in North St. Louis. They are fighting over land purchase prices, in one case a price more than seven times what McKee paid. Expect the hearings to go on for years.
• Neighbors were miffed about being ousted from their homes, feeling the politicians and money people took advantage of an impoverished, crime-ridden section of the city.
• Now even more neighbors are miffed because the city allowed hundreds of tons of potentially contaminated demolition rubble to be dumped in their midst on one of McKee's vacant lots. Neighbors, churches and a school are covered with rubble dust. The mess is being blamed for giving little kids breathing problems, and it's enough of a concern that NGA Director Robert Cardillo had a chat with St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson to tell her to fix it. The rubble's to be moved, not that anyone should worry about more dust being stirred up.
Friends, there is a simple solution to all of this. Just put the $1.75 billion NGA-West and its 3,100 jobs where they should have gone all along — next to Scott Air Force Base.
Clean land. No demolition needed. Hundreds of acres available for future growth. Interstate access. Mass transit. An airport. Security from a neighboring military base. Convenience of being a few hundred yards from NGA's largest customer.
Oh, and did we mention it is all free?
President Obama betrayed his home state and co-opted the performance of a spy mapping agency to create his urban renewal vision in St. Louis. The dream is now a nightmare.
Wouldn't it be perfect for the current commander-in-chief, a man dedicated to undoing everything Obama, to undo this little social experiment as well as get the costs and entanglements under control?
And did we mention that the Scott location fulfills what military planners saw as a mission-centered no-brainer for at least a decade before Obama decreed he knew better?
NGA in Illinois. It's not too late.