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2013-03-02
Ellisville, MO. Wal-Mart Gets Huge Tax Subsidy, Anti-Wal-Mart Mayor Threatened With Recall

In early May of 2012, the Mayor of Ellisville, Missouri chastized his fellow City Council members when they voted to give a Wal-Mart developer a multi-million tax break.

After all, Mayor Adam Paul had been elected the month before on an anti-Wal-Mart platform. So when the Ellisville Council voted 5-2 to give a tax subsidy for a Wal-Mart, Paul surprised no one when he spoke against the vote. "For you all not to listen to the people who put you in office is wrong," Paul said. "Shame on you."

The City Council vote meant that a rich developer and the billionaire Walton family was going to receive a handout from city taxpayers. Under the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) deal, the Wal-Mart project will get 50% of the new sales taxes put into a fund controlled by the developer for infrastructure improvements on the developer's sites.

What normally would be paid for by the private developer, will now be subsidized by city taxpayers, and millions of dollars that would have gone to police, fire or schools -- will now go to the Wal-Mart project instead.

Even worse, the City Council voted to give residents of the Clarkchester Apartments, which sits on the Wal-Mart site, $1,000 per household for relocation expenses. As part of this development, Clarkchester Apartments will be demolished. Residents living in the units strongly opposed Wal-Mart, and formed a group called the Ellisville Article 9 Alliance.

According to the Ballwin-Ellisville Patch, one member of the Article 9 Alliance told Council members, "the majority of you have voted to approve this project -- (to) put 250 people out of their housing that's perfectly fine, decent and well cared for with $1,000 in their pockets for them to hit the street, and you call that a relocation plan? I'm sorry. I don't believe you've been elected to do what you're doing."

Within weeks after the Ellisville City Council's vote to approve the Wal-Mart Superstore, a recall effort aimed at removing the council members was started. The Article 9 Alliance pushed to remove the five city council members who supported the project from office. In accordance with the city's charter, the group targeted two council members whose seats were the next to come up for election. In addition, a lawsuit was filed by a city resident to block the project.

The Wal-Mart vote,and the displacment of more than a couple of hundred residents from their apartments, rubbed many city residents the wrong way. It has remained a hot button issue in the city for the past 9 months. In January of 2013, a lawyer for Wal-Mart opponents argued that the city had made several legal mistakes in its decision, including not conducting adequate traffic studies, and allowing the developer to pay for the town's legal counsel. Opponents said the project would tower five stories above neighboring homes. "Some people are six feet from the property line and because of the elevation of the site, one of the tallest grades in Missouri, they'll come out of their houses and look up 56 feet to the top of Walmart," the opponents lawyer stated. o

In recent weeks, the Wal-Mart war in Ellisville turned ugly and personal. In late February, the city council voted unanimously to suspend Mayor Paul for 45 days, to conduct hearings regarding allegations that the Mayor violated the city charter and should be removed from office. At the city council hearing, more than a dozen residents spoke -- all of them in support of Mayor Paul.

The complaint filed against the Mayor charged that he violated sunshine laws by disclosing confidential details and that he drank on the job. A hearing on the charges will be held later in March.

According to the Patch, Mayor Paul "strenuously denied the accusation that he had drank vodka on several occasions while at City Hall." The Mayor said he had been targeted "from day one" because of his outspoken opposition to the Wal-Mart project. "Ultimately, I will have my fair shot in the circuit courts," Paul said, "but not with the kangaroo court that the council got me," he said.

"You better have some damn evidence if you are going to call me a belligerent alcoholic," the Mayor told the city's lawyer, who drew up the resolution. "You make me look like a monster, sir." The Mayor's lawyer said the effort is politically driven and based on the Mayor's opposition to public financing for the construction of a Wal-Mart.

What you can do: At the meeting in which the resolution to investigate the removal of the Mayor was heard, one city resident was quoted by the Patch as saying: "Council members have already proven that they don't listen to the voice of the people, but I'll say it again. We want Adam Paul as a our mayor and we don't want Wal-Mart in our city."

Another resident added: "(The Mayor) has never been given the respect that has been given to any of the other elected officials, either by the staff or by the council, simply because he has differing view regarding TIF funding for Wal-Mart."

Readers are urged to email Mayor Adam Paul at apaul@ellisville.mo.us with the following message:

"Dear Mayor Paul,

Thank you for standing up to the Wal-Mart goons who want to make your life difficult for daring to oppose their welfare tax subsidy. Not only is the TIF district a waste of millons in sales tax revenues, but the displacement of more than 250 residents for a Wal-Mart superstore is just beyond belief. This is a case of profits before people.

Ellisville already has 5 Wal-Mart stores within a 10 mile drive, including 4 Wal-Mart superstores. So you don't need to throw money at Wal-Mart. If this project can't stand on its own financially, with the Walton family behind it -- then let it fall from its own weight.

What your opponents have done in betraying their constituents, and offering people $1,000 to relocate out of Wal-Mart's way, is shameless. What they are doing to you is just malicious. Keep on the High Road -- you will never run into Wal-Mart on that road."










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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