Labor helps pass St. Louis County’s courthouse bond issue

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St. Louis County's Family Court Center

Clayton– With labor’s support, St. Louis County voters on April 3 approved spending $100 million to build a new Family Court Center and renovate the county’s main courthouse.

The no tax increase bond issue was endorsed by both the St. Louis Labor Council and the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council.

“There’s no question in my mind that without labor we wouldn’t have been able to get this done,” said Tom Lang, a Clayton lawyer and chairman of Citizens for Safe Courts and Kids, the group that backed and promoted the bond issue. It passed with a 59 percent majority.

Voters defeated a similar measure in 2008.

Labor’s support of this year’s measure went well beyond a simple endorsement to include email blasts and mailers to union members as well as poll workers to hand out fliers to voters on Election Day.

“I don’t think we could have done it without them,” Circuit Judge Douglas Beach said of labor’s support. “It was very well appreciated.”

Bob Soutier, president of the St. Louis Labor Council said the proposition was an important issue for the judicial system as well as the labor community in that it will allow the county to have safer more efficient buildings while creating hundreds of union jobs.

“It was an important partnership,” Soutier said. “We supported the issue not only because we needed the improvements but because it’s going to make a ton of good quality jobs for labor. We’re certainly looking for all the work we can get.”

Officials plan to replace the outdated Family court Center on South Brentwood Boulevard and renovate the county’s main courthouse, commonly known as the civil court building, on Carondelet Avenue to address fire safety, security and space concerns, outdated and overloaded electrical systems, unreliable heating and cooling systems, employee exposures to asbestos, parking problems and variety of other issue that officials say need to be addressed. 

NEEDED JOBS

Jeff Aboussie, executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council, said the bond issue was a textbook example of why labor should get behind certain initiatives, particularly those that will create jobs, and particularly in traditionally low turnout elections.

“It’s important that we get behind initiatives that are job creation measures and this one definitely was,” Aboussie said. “If we don’t inform our memberships of reasons to go to the polls, sometimes they’re reluctant to go, particularly on bond issues because they think it’s a tax. In this particular case, there was no tax and it has the potential to yield jobs to our members.”

In fact, passage, will improve the economic lives of union tradesmen in St. Louis County and beyond, creating hundreds of union jobs directly related to the construction and potentially thousands through the ripple effect a project of this size creates.

NO TAX INCREASE 

Voters were able to approve the measure without raising their taxes because the county is preparing to retire its bond indebtedness on the Buzz Westfall Justice Center, which was completed in 1998, giving the county the capacity to issue new bonds without raising taxes.

WORK TO BEGIN NEXT SPRING

Garry Earls, St. Louis County’s chief operating officer, said work on the new Family Court Center could begin as early as next spring, once the financing is in place and site selection and design work are completed.

 

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