Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Harmon Coasts to Victory Mayor-Elect Vows to Examine City Earnings Tax

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Harmon Coasts to Victory Mayor-Elect Vows to Examine City Earnings Tax

Article excerpt

On the night he became St. Louis' 48th mayor-elect, Clarence Harmon promised to launch "a thorough review of what taxes the city levies. Are they fair or are they onerous?"

Harmon, who rarely talked about taxes during his campaign, said in an interview Tuesday that the matter would be among his top legislative priorities, once he is sworn in April 15.

He singled out the city's 1 percent earnings tax, levied on all city residents and anyone who works in the city. The issue for that tax, and all others, he said, is whether they are "equitable." If not, Harmon said he wants to find fair and realistic alternatives. Harmon denied that his decision to focus on the issue is tied to rumors that taxes are a sore spot for executives at Ralston Purina Co., which is considering whether to leave the city after 103 years. Harmon outlined his key priorities before attending the party celebrating his easy victory Tuesday. He captured more than 70 percent of the vote in a quiet election marked by a low turnout. Harmon defeated Republican Jay Dearing and Alderman Marit Clark, a Democrat running as an independent. The Election Board estimated about 37 percent of the city's registered voters went to the polls, rivaling similar turnouts in 1985 and 1989. Harmon told several thousand revelers at Carpenters Hall, 1401 Hampton Avenue, that he was "ready to hit the ground running to make St. Louis a world-class city again." In the interview, he outlined a plan to examine all city operations and how the city pays for them. Harmon said he hopes to name his chief of staff within days and his 20-member Cabinet within two weeks. Those people, along with several transition teams focusing on certain issues, will be charged with putting his plan into place, he said. Other top issues that Harmon promised will get prompt attention: The city departments under the mayor's control. Harmon says he plans to examine all city operations to determine if "they do what they ought to do." In some cases, he said, the question may be "whether they should continue to exist." Harmon emphasized his aim was to improve city services, not to suggest layoffs or cutbacks involving the 3,831 city employees under the mayor's control. "I don't want to frighten everybody, but we ought to be able to tell the public how effective the departments are operating," he said. The proposed closing of St. Louis Regional Medical Center. "We're in a crisis even as we speak," Harmon said. Regional's board has announced it is shutting down the hospital, which primarily serves the poor, in the next four to six weeks. Harmon said it might be too late for him to delay the hospital's closing. He had proposed to give the hospital $7 million to keep it open while alternatives are considered. He said his chief concern is the city's uninsured residents and the hospital's 1,000 employees. …

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