Paul Puricelli, the attorney representing developer Paul McKee, just filed Northside's final post-trial brief. It's a 32-page defense of the land magnate's plan for North St. Louis, a plan that aims to radically transform the City but for months has been threatened by a lawsuit brought by residents (see our feature, "North Side Rancor").
For those of y'all following this case, Puricelli's concluding argument is an interesting read, for a few reasons:
He tries to contradict Judge Robert H. Dierker's earlier ruling with needlepoint precision (it's quite a task);
He takes the plaintiffs' own evidence and uses it against them; and
He seems to devote just a smidgen of extra energy to discredit Professor Michele Boldrin, with whom he got into a testy exchange during trial.
Whether he succeeds in these endeavors is up to the Court to decide.
Recall how, several months ago, the bow-tied Judge Dierker began his
preliminary ruling in this case with a quote from economist Friedrich
von Hayek about the free market being more effective than top-down
Well, Puricelli kicks off his latest brief with what looks
like a counter-quote from Teddy Roosevelt, who once observed that
while critics are "necessary and useful,"
"it is the
doer of deeds who actually counts in the battle for life, and not the
man who looks on and says how the fight ought to be fought, without
himself sharing the stress and the danger."
You should probably duck now, because there's a gauntlet hurtling AT YOUR FACE.
In his December ruling, Judge Dierker gave everybody
two big hints about where he thought the Board of Aldermen and
Northside Regeneration were vulnerable in this suit.
appeared to his Honor that the City greenlighted (and blighted) a huge
redevelopment area for McKee, but only granted him a public subsidy
(known as "tax increment financing" or a "TIF") for two chunks of it.
The implication being, you can't do that, i.e., the Board shouldn't approve
(and blight) a redevelopment area that exceeds the boundaries of a TIF.
Just like the plaintiffs'
attorneys, Puricelli spends a lot of time on this one, finely
parsing the legal difference between "project" and "plan," or "approved"
and "proposed," which all gets a bit complicated.
But his argument
boils down to this: the statute never says a redevelopment area must be
coterminous with a TIF area. The law, he asserts, implicitly
acknowledges that smaller projects within a big approved area can get
financing in phases, and not necessarily all at once.
financing, Judge Dieker had initially voiced another concern about McKee's plan:
potentially "flimsy" financial backing. And Puricelli uses a full eight
pages to play up both the developer's equity and support from the Bank
of Washington, while also trying to lower the bar for the term
In fact, he even uses testimony by Professor
Boldrin -- the plaintiffs' star witness -- to bolster this very point:
Professor Boldrin, whose colorful testimony included a critique of the
financing commitments, limited himself to just that -- criticism. He did
not suggest any alternative [to piecemeal, ongoing investment], despite
his reputed position as advisor to national and international financial
You can almost hear him mutter, "the jerk."
Oh, and McKee's lawyer wraps up his brief by responding to the plaintiffs' characterization of McKee's tactics as "misleading" and "deceptive." Puricelli says such adjectives are "inflammatory...offensive and border on libelous."