Audit the City

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway and St. Louis Comptroller Darlene Green applaud St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson at Krewson’s inauguration in City Hall.

“I am a CPA,” candidate Krewson proclaimed. “I know how to do this.”

“This” was in reference to Krewson’s ability to find the money for her $34 million per year “Neighborhood Safety Plan.” It was the cornerstone (and, arguably, the only stone) of her campaign for mayor. It got Krewson 32% of the vote on March 7th and the Democratic nomination for mayor of St. Louis.

“First,” candidate Krewson continued, “I will initiate a review/audit of all city spending. I will identify savings. This audit will clarify the cost of all city operations so that city leadership can make informed choices.”

Mayor Krewson is a CPA. I don’t doubt that she knows how to conduct a proper audit. But Mayor Krewson hasn’t done what she promised that she would do first, which is “initiate a review/audit of all city spending.” Instead, Mayor Krewson has skipped the promised audit and backed a plan to raise St. Louis City’s base sales tax rate to 9.7%.

But let’s not put this all on Krewson. This past Friday, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen gave initial approval to Krewson’s sales tax hike by a vote of 20–4. During debate, there was nary a mention of the mayor’s campaign promise to initiate an audit of city spending before seeking a tax increase. Recent revelations of financial mismanagement of SLMPD received just a brief comment on the floor of the Board of Aldermen.

One gets the strong impression that the City’s elected officials, from Mayor Krewson on down to the aldermen, lack the political will to initiate the audit of city spending that candidate Krewson promised would happen first. Perhaps it’s the collective opinion of City Hall that such an audit would reveal too many skeletons in too many closets. Perhaps City Hall political careers and reputations are better served by putting yet another half-cent sales tax increase on the ballot. But with every sales tax increase, low-income and middle-income households bear more of the burden of keeping the City running. This is not how things should be in a Democratic city.

Democratic State Auditor Nicole Galloway has it in her power to initiate and then have her office conduct an audit of the City of St. Louis. Galloway is a CPA. She knows how to do this. Galloway likely will require a petition. If I’m reading the statute correctly, that’s 6670 valid signatures of City residents who voted in the November general election. We can do this.