St. Louis Comptroller Darlene Green is charging that Mayor Lyda Krewson and Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed are so deeply intertwined with mega-donor and libertarian billionaire Rex Sinquefield that they were willing to torpedo a plan to save the city millions of dollars because it might conflict with Sinquefield’s drive to privatize Lambert International Airport.
Appearing on The Jaco Report, Green said Krewson and Reed at first refused to go along with a plan to re-finance bonds issued by the airport at a lower interest rate because it would have shown that Sibnquefield’s claim that Lambert is in bad financial shape is untrue.
The re-financing plan, which would save the airport $20 million in interest payments on $93 million worth of bonds, was first brought up at the Board of Estimate and Apportionment in late March. The Board of E & A, made up of Green, Krewson, and Reed, has to sign off on all major city expenditures before they go before the Board of Aldermen. At the Board of E & A meeting on April 20, Green presented the re-finance plan, but Krewson and Reed refused to vote on it, claiming they needed more time to study the documents. The plan was re-submitted April 30, and was approved.
When asked if she believes the Mayor and Board of Alderman President tried to torpedo the re-financing to help the case for privatizing the airport, Green said “It seems that way to me. That’s why I was so stunned.”
Krewson and Reed deny the charges, claiming they had not had time to review the re-financing documents. Green disputes that. “These documents were sent to their offices weeks, even months ago. They had ample opportunity to review everything.”
Green said she believes Krewson and Reed only signed off on the re-financing savings after bad publicity, and that the Sinquefield efforts to portray Lambert falsely as a money-loser were behind the delay and their original refusal to approve the plan.
“They have obviously been tied to whatever promises they made to deliver, whatever they promised,” Green said. “I think that that’s sad that instead of good, honest government, you’ve chosen to deliver to special interests.”
Lambert Airport served over 3,500,000 passengers the first three months of 2019, marking 43 consecutive months of increased passenger numbers. In 2018, Lambert served 15.6 million passengers, it’s best year since 2003 when the airport was struggling to recover over the sale of TWA to American Airlines, and American’s subsequent abandonment of St. Louis as a hub. Total airport revenue for 2018 was $165 million, and both the Fitch and Standard and Poor’s rating services list Lambert’s bonds as A- investment grade.
Green also had tart words for the police department, and complaints by Chief John Hayden and Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards that the department is short around 140 officers. Sorry, Green said, but the punlic safety already eats up 60 percent of the city’s budget, and there’s just not enough cash to go around.
“They already get the lion’s share of the budget for public safety, police, and fire,” Green said. “So I think the question is how do we police better with the staff that we have.”