Governor Nixon Signs the Peabody-Slay Amendment

Take Back St. Louis Statement on Governor Nixon’s Signing of SB 672

Today, Governor Nixon signed SB 672, a bill that contains Amendment 135.980. Amendment 135.980 bans the City of St. Louis from restricting through ballot initiative public financial incentives for coal mining companies for two years. In response, the Take Back St. Louis campaign put forth the following statement:

Today, as the Slay-Peabody amendment is signed into law, Mayor Francis Slay has picked his side of history -- and it’s the side of Big Coal. In the process, Mayor Slay has attempted to silence the voices of over 22,000 St. Louis residents who signed the Take Back St. Louis initiative, depriving them of a vote on stopping giving incentives to coal companies to create a green economy. Instead, Mayor Slay has made it clear that his allegiances are to Peabody, not to his constituents. Mayor Slay and Peabody lobbyists worked hand in hand, whipping votes to pass this amendment. It is clear who our Mayor works for -- and even more clear the work that we need to do to make St. Louis a city that works for everyone, not just Big Coal.

Despite this amendments, restrictions on incentives to coal mining corporations are just a small piece of the Take Back St. Louis initiative. The Take Back St. Louis initiative is fundamentally about what kind of local economy we want to have -- one that continues to give huge tax breaks to big corporations or one that invests in a local green economy. The conversation about the future of our economy is one that over 22,000 people who signed the Take Back St. Louis initiative want to have. Over the next months, that conversation -- about how to create an economy that works for everyone, that keeps resources local and that doesn’t rely on fossil fuels -- will continue regardless of the Slay-Peabody amendment.

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Take Back St. Louis Appeals Judge's Ruling on Ballot Initiative

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 24, 2014

Contact: Arielle Klagsbrun, [email protected]

Take Back St. Louis Files Appeal On Permanent Injunction Ruling for Ballot Initiative

ST. LOUIS -- The Take Back St. Louis coalition filed a notice of appeal with the Eastern Missouri court of appeals yesterday challenging a judge’s granting of a permanent injunction on a municipal ballot initiative. The Take Back St. Louis initiative was removed from the April 8th ballot by the granting of a temporary restraining order. The judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, represented by a former Peabody lobbyist, finding that the initiative’s directives on the local allocation of tax increment financing (TIFs) conflicted with state law. The Take Back St. Louis coalition is looking to place the issue on the November ballot.

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Judge Rules Again with Peabody

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 27, 2014

Contact: Arielle Klagsbrun, 617 869 8345, [email protected]

Take Back St. Louis Statement Regarding Judge’s Ruling on Permanent Injunction

Today, Judge Dierker ruled with the plaintiffs in passing a permanent injunction on the Take Back St. Louis initiative, saying that the initiative conflicts with state law on the regulation of TIFs (tax increment financing) and Special Business District financing. In response, Take Back St. Louis has issued the following statement.

We are deeply disappointed that the Judge chose to side with the corporate plaintiffs over the people. The Judge’s decision rests on the nuances of state-level TIF (tax increment financing) and Special Business District law. While the Judge asserts that any local direction on these tax breaks conflicts with state law, the Take Back St. Louis campaign strongly contends that the Mayor’s office everyday directs and makes judgments on who gets tax breaks in the City of St. Louis. An average person does not have the same shot at a tax break in this City as a billion-dollar corporation. The Take Back St. Louis initiative was initially conceived of to correct the Mayor’s failings in gouging the St. Louis public schools and other public programs in order to subsidize corporations.

Throughout the Take Back St. Louis campaign, we have seen just how far the Mayor will go to protect corporations, particularly Peabody Coal. In recent documents acquired by the Take Back St. Louis campaign through Sunshine laws, we have found that since 2012, the Mayor’s office was working with Peabody Coal in order to stop the Take Back St. Louis initiative. In fact, in July 2013, Fred Palmer, Peabody’s chief lobbyist, even ordered the Mayor’s office to “prepare a draft action plan related to the petition” and sent a number of talking points to the Mayor regarding Take Back St. Louis, many of which the Mayor has adopted in the last year.

This collusion between Peabody and the Mayor could be seen in the recent legal proceedings when the city counselor, technically a defendant in the case, was actively working with Peabody’s attorneys in the court room. In the past month, the Mayor went even further in his attempts to protect Peabody Coal. He worked with Peabody lobbyists to draft and pass Senate Bill 672 last week, which included an amendment to stop the regulation of public financial incentives to coal companies passed by ballot initiative in the City of St. Louis. It is interesting to note that the definition of public financial incentive in the amendment includes both TIFs and Special Business Districts. The Mayor’s office would not have spent time and effort actively lobbying state legislators if they did not think there was an opening on appeal around the Judge’s interpretation of TIF law.

The judge also opined that the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution - which was passed after the Civil War to protect the rights of newly-freed slaves - prevents the people of St. Louis from voting on the initiative. The opinion cites the infamous Citizens United decision to suggest that coal companies have the same rights as people, which effectively means that corporate tax breaks are off-limits for voters. Before the people even had an opportunity to vote, the judge decided that fossil fuel energy companies and their major business partners are entitled to judicial protection from the democratic process. It is unusual in itself that this ruling would occur before residents even had a chance to vote on the initiative. Usually, initiatives go before voters and legal proceedings happen if the initiative passes.

In the meantime, the organizations active in Take Back St. Louis will continue to support those who organize against unsustainable energy producers like Peabody Coal, while simultaneously holding the St. Louis Development Corporation accountable for creating living wage, sustainable jobs. The legal challenge will continue and head to the appeals court. For the 22,000 registered voters who signed their petition, about the same number as who voted in the last City General Election, they will be denied a voice at the polls for a few more months. We are confident that the Court of Appeals will uphold democracy, and that Take Back St. Louis will be on the ballot in August or November.

Copies of communications between the Mayor’s Office and Peabody are available upon request. The Judge’s ruling is available here.

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This Week in Corporate Greed

                  With the legislative session coming to an end this month, Missouri lawmakers have officially passed the ‘Peabody bill’, an amendment designed specifically to obstruct the Take Back St. Louis ballot initiative and eliminate citizens’ rights to control the allocation of their tax dollars through the ballot initiative process. By using Missouri law as a means to further a corporate agenda and subvert the democratic process in St. Louis, Mayor Slay has proven yet again that he’ll do anything to keep the power out of the hands of citizens and in the hands of the big corporations he’s so deeply involved with. 

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Mayor Slay Loves Peabody Coal

We always knew that Mayor Slay was not a huge fan of the Take Back St. Louis initiative. This wasn't surprising given how much of his campaign contributions come from big corporations. Again and again, the Mayor has gone out of his way to protect tax breaks to big corporations without any thought to how those tax breaks impact the public schools or city neighborhoods.

Now, Mayor Slay has gone to the greatest lengths possible to protect Peabody Coal, the world's largest coal company. With Peabody's lobbyists, he has drafted and is lobbying for a state-wide amendment to ban citizen-driven ballot initiatives from regulating tax breaks to coal corporations in the City of St. Louis. 22,000 people signed the Take Back St. Louis initiative because they wanted a vote on how the Mayor's office consistently gives away tax breaks to big corporations like Peabody, Ameren and Laclede. Yet, the Mayor's office would rather side with Peabody Coal than his own constituents. There are less than 72 hours left in the legislative session for Mayor Slay and Peabody to get this bill passed. We know that Mayor Slay has personally been calling legislators, so we want to make some calls of our own. 

Can you take 5 minutes to call Senators Joe Keaveny (573-751-3599) and Jamilah Nasheed (573-751-4415) and tell them to support local democracy by stopping amendment 135.980 in Senate Bill 672? We don't have the money of Mayor Slay and Peabody, but given that it's a busy time at the end of the legislative session, the calls generated just might indicate to them that it's not worth legislators time to gut local democracy

It is slightly ironic (and terrifying) to me that Mayor Slay's decision to stand by and work for Peabody Coal comes right after more news on how climate change will impact the Midwest. Mayor Slay's behavior puts him on the wrong side of history time and time again -- from his giving more and more tax breaks to the rich, his attempts to privatize our public schools and public services and now, his fervor in supporting a company whose daily business it is to cause climate change. 

Please take 5 minutes to call Senators Joe Keaveny (573-751-3599) and Jamilah Nasheed (573-751-4415) and tell them to stop amendment 135.980 in Senate Bill 672. Let us know when you've called by emailing me at [email protected].

Thank you for consistently standing up to politicians who would rather protect big corporations and hear the voice of their own citizens. We have a lot of work to do if we have to fight our own Mayor to protect our right to vote.

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Free Speech for People

         The last time we went to court with Peabody, St. Louis Judge Dierker granted the corporation a temporary restraining order, thereby keeping the Take Back St. Louis ballot initiative off of the April 8th ballot and keeping St. Louis’ tax dollars in the hands of the environmentally destructive and socially toxic coal giant. On March 31st we will face Peabody in court again. 

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Take Back St. Louis Calls on Mayor Slay to Be the People’s Valentine, Not Peabody’s

Take Back St. Louis Calls on Mayor Slay to Be the People’s Valentine, Not Peabody’s

Mayor’s Office Worked with Peabody to Block Citizen-Driven Ballot Initiative from April Vote


 

In honor of Valentine’s Day, about 40 St. Louis residents visited city hall and delivered Valentine’s Day cards to Mayor Slay, asking him to “break up” with Peabody Energy and other downtown businesses like Laclede Gas and Bank of America. The residents represent the Take Back St. Louis coalition and were calling out Mayor Slay for siding with Peabody Energy lawyer’s instead of city residents at last week’s hearing.

Last Tuesday, St. Louis Judge Dierker ruled to uphold a temporary restraining order to stop the Take Back St. Louis initiative from going on the April 8th ballot. During the hearing, Rodney Crimm and Mary Ellen Ponder, both representatives from the Mayor’s office, testified for Peabody’s lawyers. The final injunction hearing is scheduled for March 31.

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Judge Dierker Sides with Peabody

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 12, 2014

Contact: Arielle Klagsbrun, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE), 617 869 8345, [email protected] 

St. Louis Judge Sides with Peabody Coal to Block Citizens’ Ballot Initiative to End Corporate Welfare to Fossil Fuels

Among Judge’s Claims is Citizens United Gives Fossil Fuels Equal Protection Under Constitution

ST. LOUIS -- Yesterday, Judge Robert Dierker sided with Peabody Coal’s lawyers to grant a temporary restraining order to keep a citizen-driven ballot initiative to end tax breaks to fossil fuel companies off the April 8, 2014 ballot. He set a hearing date on the permanent injunction for March 31, 2014.

The judge declared that the initiative was “facially unconstitutional” because there were some conflicts with state law and because banning tax breaks to unsustainable energy producers is a “patent denial of equal protection to those entities.” He went on to say, “business entities (which, after all, are a species of associations of citizens coming together in the exercise of economic freedom) are entitled to constitutional protection as citizens and may not arbitrarily be denied basic legal rights. See Citizens United v. Federal Election Comm., 558 U.S. 310 (2010).”

Just two weeks ago, Jane Dueker, a former Peabody lobbyist, from Stinson Leonard Street, a law firm that currently lobbies for Peabody, filed the motion for the restraining order. Last summer, citizens with the Take Back St. Louis coalition turned in over 22,000 signatures to get the initiative on the ballot. The proposed charter amendment would end public financial incentives, such as tax abatements, to fossil fuel mining companies and those doing $1 million of business with them per year, and requires the city to create a sustainable energy plan for renewable energy and sustainability initiatives on city-owned vacant land. Peabody Coal, the world’s largest coal company, is headquartered in the City of St. Louis and received tax breaks on $61 million of purchases and office renovations from the City in 2010.

“We fundamentally disagree with this temporary ruling, and quoting Citizens United is an insult to home rule powers and our local democracy. Saying that Peabody Energy has equal rights with St. Louis public school students who lack supplies due to corporate tax breaks is what is a violation of rights in our city,” said Reginald Rounds with the Take Back St. Louis campaign. “We, and the 22,000 registered voters in the City of St. Louis who signed to put this on the ballot, will continue to fight for our right to have a sustainable local economy, not one run by coal corporations and other polluters.”

At the hearing before Judge Dierker last Friday, two officials from the office of Mayor Francis Slay testified against the citizen-driven petition, highlighting the collaboration between the elected mayor’s office and the plaintiffs. Judge Robert Dierker is the author of “The Tyranny of Tolerance: A Sitting Judge Breaks the Code of Silence to Expose the Liberal Judicial Assault.”

The Take Back St. Louis coalition will continue to fight the temporary injunction and move forward on the necessary citywide conversation on what kind of city we want St. Louis to be -- one dependent on large coal corporations or one with a local green economy.

For more information on Take Back St. Louis, check out: www.TakeBackStLouis.com. Judge Dierker’s ruling available at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/206544694/Sustainable-Energy-Order-Feb-11-2014


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Response to Patriot's Coal Slurry Spill

Take Back St. Louis Statement on the Peabody/Patriot Coal Slurry Spill

This afternoon, 100,000 gallons of coal slurry spilled from the Kanawha Eagle mining facility in streams in southern West Virginia. Kanawha Eagle was owned by St. Louis-based Peabody Energy, and was sold off to St. Louis-based Patriot Coal in 2007. The Take Back St. Louis initiative, which will be before city voters on April 8th, would end tax breaks to coal extraction companies and those financing them. Molly Gott with the Take Back St. Louis campaign had this statement:

This coal slurry spill is just the latest coal-related disaster to hit Appalachia; many are still suffering from the coal-washing chemical spill just a month ago. Companies like Patriot and Peabody headquartered St. Louis everyday cause harm in the communities where they mine. We have put forth the Take Back St. Louis initiative because companies like Patriot and Peabody should not be subsidized by the City of St. Louis to pollute people’s drinking water, bankrupt retired mineworkers and cause climate change. On April 8th, St. Louis city voters will get to choose -- will we invest in a local green economy or will we continue to support businesses who cause so much harm to others and to our climate?

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Our First Day in Court

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 7, 2014

Take Back St. Louis Statement on Today’s Hearing on Initiative

Today, attorneys from Stinson Leonard Street, a law firm that does significant lobbying for Peabody Coal, asked Judge Dierker to issue an injunction on the Board of Elections and City of St. Louis regarding the Take Back St. Louis initiative that will be on the ballot for city voters April 8, 2014. Reginald Rounds with the Take Back St. Louis campaign issued the following response:

Today we saw Peabody’s attorneys attempt to politic in the courts instead of making their case to city voters. We collected over 21,000 valid signatures of registered St. Louis voters who want a chance to vote on the Take Back St. Louis proposition. The ability of citizens to petition our local  government is integral to the democratic process. We will not let Peabody Coal’s lawyers stop our local democratic process. It was alarming and upsetting to see Rodney Crim and Mary Ellen Ponder, officials from the elected Mayor’s Office, side with corporations that are attempting to rob citizens of their right to petition their government, as well as attempt to invalidate the hard work of hundreds of city residents who have been part of the Take Back St. Louis campaign.

Today, we saw Peabody’s lawyers continue to attempt to confuse people on what the Take Back St. Louis initiative will do. Let us be clear: the initiative will end public financial incentives, like TIFs and tax breaks, to two categories of companies. The first category are corporations that are involved in the mining and extraction of coal, oil and natural gas, like Peabody Coal or ExxonMobil. The second category are corporations exchange over $1 million per year directly with these mining companies, such as law firms, lobbyists and big utilities like Laclede Gas and Ameren. The Take Back St. Louis initiative will not end tax breaks to companies purchasing over $1 million of electricity or fuel.

We believe that companies that are doing business with fossil fuel mining corporations do not deserve our public money, since fossil fuel mining companies everyday pollute the water and the air and cause climate change. We also fundamentally do not think that companies able to exchange over $1 million of business need any sorts of tax breaks from our city. These big corporations should pay their fair share like the rest of us to support schools, firefighters and other important public services.

The hundreds of volunteers who have been involved in the Take Back St. Louis campaign have done so because we think we need to change the way that development works in this city. We want city agencies like the St. Louis Development Corporation to reorient their priorities towards creating green jobs on vacant lots in city neighborhoods, not towards using tax dollars to pay for new fitness centers for Peabody Coal.

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