The following e-mail has been sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, the address listed on the web site of the Collector of Revenue:
To the Honorable Gregory F. X. Daly, Collector of Revenue, City of St. Louis:
Today your web site on the St. Louis Community Information Network indicates that owners of property under two bar/restaurants in Soulard are in arrears in paying real estate taxes. The bills include special business district tax, lateral sewer fee, commercial surtax, total original tax, penalty and recording fee, where applicable.
This issue has been addressed in several articles on a blog titled Gumbo, which may be found at http://gumbotheforumforsoulard.blogspot.com/.
The property owners include: Clementine Inc., owner of property described as 2001-2003 Menard, site of Clementine’s Bar, which is in arrears in the amount of $10,212.29 for 2009 and 2008. I note that the payment of their 2007 taxes was posted on 1/5/2010.
The other is Great Grizzly Blues LLC, owner of property described as 1027 Geyer, site of The Great Grizzly Bear. The property owner is in arrears in the amount of $21,865.38, the accumulated tax bill for 2007, 2008 and 2009. (A City of St. Louis Real Estate Tax System "Open Special Tax Bills Report" dated 10/02/09 notes that the same property owners were in arrears on their 2005 taxes, and before the year turned over, they were also on arrears in the 2007 taxes. Your web site only covers three years. Thus, I am unable to confirm whether these taxes have been paid.)
I note that the "St. Louis City Revised Code Chapter 8.02.010 Statement of Clearance - Required" ( http://www.slpl.lib.mo.us/cco/code/data/t0802.htm ) states:
"The License Collection shall not issue any merchants, manufacturers, franchise, business or occupational license or renewal thereof, to any person, partnership or corporation, or anyone who contracts for personal service to be performed by individuals within the City, which under the law the License Collector is empowered to issue, unless and until the applicant for such license produces a written statement of clearance issued jointly by the Collector of Revenue and the License Collector certifies that the current or past personal property, real estate tax, payroll tax, business license taxes and/or earnings taxes are due and payable to the City and a statement from the Director of Revenue of the State of Missouri certifying that the applicant is in possession of a retail sales license, if such a license is required."
It seems to me that Chapter 8.02.010 suggests that businesses need to be good citizens, i.e., that they pay their real estate taxes in order to do business. There is a failure to display good citizenship by these two businesses. It seems that this failure is being aided and abetted by the Office of the Collector of Revenue.
I make this statement because the License Collector, The Honorable Michael McMillan, states that the businesses at the above addresses are in full compliance as far as payment of taxes, etc., in order for them to receive business licenses from his office. "Neither company you named, Great Grizzly and Clementine’s Inc., requires compliance action," Mr. McMillan states.
You may think that this matter is really none of my business. In fact, I feel the issue is entirely my business, since I am among a number of people in the Soulard neighborhood who feel that bars and their customers contribute to undermining the quality of life here. Trash, noise, crime, accidents and other problems are created and aggravated by these two businesses. Their failure to pay their real estate taxes mirrors their contempt for the neighborhood and for the general community.
Further, the inability of City of St. Louis officials and elected leaders to collect taxes reflects badly on their abilities, undermining confidence in government and implying corruption and favoritism. Large numbers of lots in the City of St. Louis are fallow, yielding no tax revenue because they are owned by the City. That this is widespread signals a failure of elected officials to nurture an environment conducive to prosperity. Slapping the face of tax payers is that tax abatement favors have been given to numbers of developers, further gnawing at the tax base and consuming confidence in governmental priorities.
At the same time, elected officials talk of budgetary problems and cuts in services. The conclusion is obvious: if a city cannot manage its tax base, then it is out of business. The question arises: why are businesses which negatively impact the community and which reflect badly on leadership allowed to game the system so effectively?
On these topics I seek edification and correction. Thus, I turn to you. I look forward to hearing your response to these issues, as will the readers of the blog.