A few decades ago, cable TV looked like a monopoly that was here to stay. Missouri passed cable franchise laws, which require cable companies to go through a time-consuming process to obtain permission to operate from local governments. One rationale was that franchise laws would protect consumers, but now that new technologies have sprung up that offer alternatives to cable, those outdated laws actually keep potential competitors out of the market. Missouri should pass cable franchise reform so consumers can enjoy lower prices and better service.
This November, Missouri voters will vote on Proposition B, which would raise the state’s minimum wage to $6.50 per hour. Proponents of the ballot initiative claim that the wage hike is necessary to ensure that poor Missourians can make ends meet. What they don’t mention is that most minimum wage workers are not poor, and that most poor workers don’t make the minimum wage. Missouri consumers would pay for the wage hike through higher prices, and many of the benefits would go to middle-class teenagers. It would be far better to focus on targeted policies like expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, which puts more money in the pockets of low-income workers at a far lower cost to Missouri consumers.
Missouri’s urban public schools don’t do a good job of preparing minority students for life and work. And unfortunately, many minority families in St. Louis and Kansas City can’t afford homes in suburban school districts, nor can they afford to send their kids to private prep schools or tutoring as many wealthier families do. Minority teens who aren’t doing well in the public schools may feel that the only alternative is to drop out. But some Kansas City schools are beating the odds.
Imagine you sign a two-year lease with your landlord. After the first year, you decide you're tired of paying rent and would like to buy the property instead. You make him an offer, which he rejects as too low. In response, you go to the board of aldermen and ask them to declare the apartment blighted, condemn it, and turn it over to you for redevelopment. It might sound absurd, but something very similar is happening right now in Saint Louis. The story demonstrates just how ripe for abuse Missouri's eminent domain laws have become. And there's little reason to think the eminent domain bill the state legislature passed in May will prevent such abuses in the future, because the "blight" loophole being used by the city was not closed by the legislation.
Last November, Clayton business owner Dan Sheehan learned from the newspaper that his property suffered from "age, deteriorated condition, and outmoded design." That was a surprise to him because the property is located in one of the most prosperous neighborhoods in St. Louis and is home to four thriving small businesses, including his own. If the buildings were "deteriorated" and "outmoded," their customers didn't seem to notice. Yet the city of Clayton has begun making plans to seize Sheehan's property — and four others on the 7700 block of Forsyth — using eminent domain.
One year ago today, in the case of Kelo v. New London, the Supreme Court ruled that local governments have wide latitude to transfer property from one private party to another for purposes of "economic development." The public was outraged. In response, politicians across the nation pledged to enact state legislation to strengthen property rights. Last month, the legislature passed House Bill 1944 into law, which Governor Blunt touted as "protecting the rights of responsible property owners."
In January of 2004, the city of Arnold unveiled a plan to re-develop a large chunk of Arnold commonly referred to as the Arnold Triangle. The plan envisioned 250,000 square feet of retail space, a Dierbergs Market and a Lowe’s store. Unfortunately, there were 52 homes and businesses already occupying the area. They don’t pay as much in taxes as the city expects to get from the big box retailers, and the city has decided to remove them in favor of wealthier businesses. One of the property owners the city wants to displace is dentist Homer Tourkakis.
Missouri schools suffer from a shortage of math and science teachers. Rigid salary requirements prevent school districts from attracting new teachers in these shortage areas. Missouri should allow districts to use hiring incentives to address the math and science teacher shortage.
Last summer, Missouri’s elected officials promised to crack down on eminent domain abuse. Last week’s legislation falls far short of that promise. It makes some changes to the process of eminent domain takings, but it fails to curb “blight” takings, which are the primary justification for the abuse of eminent domain.