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Talk about approach/avoidance.  Our Republican legislature is actually trying to give state money to help get North St. Louis redeveloped.  Since when?  And do we dare look this gift horse in the mouth?  Governor Blunt has called a special two-week session of the legislature to pass his economic development package, and it’s already been trimmed drastically from last spring.

The fuss is over how the money he’s still offering is being allocated.  Fifty-one million dollars in tax credits are available, but they go only to developers who buy at least fifty acres in low-income areas.  Make that “developer”, singular, since only Paul McKee qualifies.  He has angered North St. Louis residents because he has bought 500 properties and left them to deteriorate, thus lowering property values for everyone.

Certainly McKee would do the community a service if he developed all that land, and there’s plenty of risk involved, even with tax credits.  But why should only the big guy get a place at the tax credit table?  Lots of people with fewer resources but with a personal interest in bettering North St. Louis would like to sit down too.

PubDef reports that Michael Allen, the watchdog who first reported that McKee was behind dummy corporations buying properties there, would like to see the threshhold lowered.

“At 20 to 25 acres, other developers and even established neighborhood organizations could apply and receive these tax credits.”

Jim Trout, writing on the West County Dems discussion group puts it eloquently:

“There are a long list of rehabbers, developers, builders, and community organizations who have the passion and experience to turn their neighborhoods around, and they are just missing the equity component to accomplish it on a massive scale – and this tax credit satisfies that requirement. We do not need a great white father to re-invent urban redevelopment. We simply need to level the playing field.”

PubDef promises to post a video on Monday about McKee’s “northside activities.”  That should be worth a look.