Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Messenger: Scottrade Lawsuit an Opportunity for St. Louis to Hit Reset Button

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Messenger: Scottrade Lawsuit an Opportunity for St. Louis to Hit Reset Button

Article excerpt

Not long after the St. Louis Blues were knocked out of the playoffs in May, St. Louis Alderman Cara Spencer made a legal threat about the city's plans to remodel the downtown home of the professional hockey club.

The Missouri Constitution doesn't allow the city to simply hand millions of dollars over to a private, for-profit entity, Spencer wrote in a letter to Comptroller Darlene Green. At the time, Green still hadn't issued the bonds to finance the $138 million renovation project of the Scottrade Center that had been approved by the Board of Aldermen.

The work has begun, but the bonds still haven't been sold.

And on Friday, Spencer made good on her threat.

The 20th Ward alderman is one of three plaintiffs on a lawsuit filed in St. Louis Circuit Court seeking to declare the ordinance that approves the money for the Scottrade renovation as unenforceable. The lawsuit was filed by attorneys Erich Vieth and John Ammann. Vieth represents Spencer and James Wilson, who is a former city attorney. Ammann, a St. Louis University law professor, represents former state representative Jeannette Oxford.

At issue is whether the city of St. Louis is investing in a public building it owns, as the city and the Blues contend, or whether it is giving taxpayers' money to the owners of the Blues, who completely control operations at Scottrade.

"What the Ordinance requires," the lawsuit contends, "is not an investment or even a loan. The Ordinance requires the City to give an immense gift of money to Hockey Ownership. The Ordinance requires the City to hand over $105.9 million dollars to Hockey Ownership over a period of 30 years."

The lawsuit brings to a boil a couple of simmering debates that have been roiling in St. Louis for months, if not years.

How can a city that struggles to pay its bills and provide basic services such as public safety continue to invest in professional sports stadiums and arenas, particularly when the wealthy owners of such teams appear to be the primary beneficiaries? …

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