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Retiring alderman boosted 17th Ward with tax breaks

CENTRAL WEST END – Being a numbers guy, 17th Ward Alderman Joseph D. Roddy uses numbers to show what he sees is the success of using tax breaks in his ward.

Roddy says real estate tax collections in his ward skyrocketed nearly 29 percent from 2010 to 2016. More than 70 buildings costing more than $10 million have gone up since he was elected, and a third of the city construction value has happened in the last 10 years.

Some other members of the Board of Aldermen don’t think that’s a good idea. 

“You’re killing the schools in north St. Louis,” said First Ward Alderwoman Sharon Tyus, who regularly votes against tax breaks.

Joseph Roddy
But as Roddy prepares to step down after 33 years on the board, he’s happy with the result.

“The ward is pretty much developed. It’s well on its way,” said Roddy, who isn’t running for another term in the March primary election. “Without the 17th Ward, the city would be in very serious shape.”

Four candidates are vying in the primary to represent the ward, which generally extends east from Forest Park to Grand Boulevard and south of Forest Park from Hampton Avenue to Kingshighway Boulevard. His ward includes Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Ikea, the Grove, the Cortex Innovation Community and the new SSM Health St. Louis University Hospital. 

Roddy, the owner of the West End Advisory Group, a financial firm based near the Chase Park Plaza on Lindell Boulevard in St. Louis, said he had grown weary of the job of alderman in more than one way.

“Doing two jobs for 30 some years is just a lot,” said Roddy, who is 62. 

Ten years ago, he would have jumped at the chance to run for mayor, an office that became open after Mayor Lyda Krewson decided she didn’t want to run for re-election this spring. But with age, he’s tired.

“The other part of it is the political environment,” said Roddy, who heads the aldermanic Housing, Urban Development and Zoning Committee. That committee’s duties include considering many tax breaks.

As a moderate, it’s hard to get things done, he said.

“It’s not as much fun as it used to be.”

Roddy learned early about politics.  His father, Joseph P. Roddy, was elected to represent the 17th Ward in 1953. He kept the job until 1968, when then-Gov. Warren Hearnes appointed him circuit clerk. 

The younger Roddy grew up in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood, attended Chaminade College Preparatory High School, the University of Missouri-Columbia  and Washington University. He and his wife, Lisa, have two children, Joseph Patrick and Brenda.

As an alderman, Roddy is known for being especially effective in using tax breaks such as tax increment financing and tax abatement.

In tax abatement, a certain amount of new taxes from a project are “abated,” or eliminated, from a project for so many years. In tax increment financing, a portion of new taxes goes for certain project expenses. 

One project Roddy mentioned was the 100 Above the Park development at 100 N. Kingshighway.  

The city is abating 95 percent of property taxes for 10 years and then 50 percent of taxes for the next five years. But St. Louis will make almost $1 million in earnings and payroll taxes during construction and $2 million in real estate taxes after the abatement period. 

But Tyus said tax breaks were supposed to be for places that couldn’t get development otherwise. 

“His whole ward is TIFs and tax abatement,” Tyus said. She said she had been able to get development in her ward, in north St. Louis.

Jim Merkel

southsidemerkel@gmail.com Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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