Alderman to Sinquefield: Stop Terrorizing Us!

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Conway brings Aldermania smack-down to City Hall
Conway brings Aldermania smack-down to City Hall
In a great show of emotion, a red-faced, revved-up alderman stood before his colleagues in City Hall this morning and challenged gazillionaire Rex Sinquefield to "come and kick our asses" if he's up for a fight.

Alderman Stephen Conway of the city's 8th ward made the challenge in the middle of a heated five-minute speech imploring the board to perfect a bill that would allow St. Louis voters to preserve the city's earnings tax during next year's municipal elections. That vote is a legal requirement to keep the tax, thanks to a Sinquefield-funded proposition approved by Missouri voters last month.

"I ask you, Mr. Sinquefield, don't continue to terrorize us and threaten us with your money," shouted Conway, punctuating his diatribe with physical jabs in the otherwise quiet confines of City Hall.

After opening his speech by tarring Sinquefield as "the Grinch who stole Christmas," Conway railed: "We're being held hostage with his money. You're trying to destroy the city of St. Louis. Come out here and tell us you're for us!"

In last month's elections, Missouri voters approved Proposition A, which will force the longstanding earnings taxes in both St. Louis and Kansas City to citywide votes beginning in 2012.

Sinquefield, a retired financier known for both his philanthropy and his deep-pocketed support for conservative causes, spent $11.2 million to sell the proposition to voters. (Interestingly, earlier this year, the RFT reported that Sinquefield does not vote in St. Louis, even though he owns a $1.7 million mansion here, which allows him to save on personal property taxes.)

In order to save the earnings tax, which takes one percent of the earnings of anyone who resides or works in St. Louis, city residents will have to vote for it during next April's municipal elections.

But even if St. Louis says yes to the tax in April, that's not the end of the story: Prop A's passage means that the earnings tax must be reauthorized by city voters at least once every five years.

Conway said that eliminating the tax would cost the city a third of its revenue, almost certainly leading to cuts in police and fire department personnel, as well as decimate a litany of other public services that the alderman reeled off during his screed.

In November, 68 percent of St. Louis voters voted against Proposition A. Conway is hoping that a similar percentage will support the tax in April, but he fears that Sinquefield will sway that vote with his financial clout.

Conway called the statewide passing of Proposition A "a ruse" ginned up by Sinquefield, claiming that the financier gained support from rural residents eager to "stick it" to St. Louis.

For the record, the proposition also contained a clause that barred other Missouri cities from imposing their own earnings tax, which undoubtedly appealed to many voters. (The majority of Kansas City voters, unlike St. Louis voters, supported the repeal.)

Sinquefield's publicist did not return a call seeking comment. Conway said the multimillionaire power-broker has refused to meet with him.

After Conway's speech, the aldermen voted unanimously for the bill's perfection.

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