How the RCGA Is Ruining St. Louis and What Businesses Can Do About It

Everyone knows and accepts that government does stupid things. Sometimes it feels like people institute governments and delegate them certain powers just to give us something to complain about. governmentdemotivator

Government stupidity, scandal, and corruption hits different people in different ways. Government hyperactivity keeps poor people poor by limiting opportunity and by building barriers to exiting poverty programs.  “If you take that job, you’ll lose your health insurance.” Compassion my non-qualifying asset.

Government induces moral complacency by telling otherwise decent people not to help their fellow humans.

Perhaps most insidiously, government steals opportunity from future generations for the benefit of generations that can and should take care of themselves.

Traditionally, business people, among others, watched and checked government.  They did this through local chambers of commerce, like the RCGA in St. Louis.

According to this article on Harvard Business Review:

Chambers of commerce are the oldest surviving business organizations. The earliest in the English-speaking world were set up in the 1760s in New York City and the Islands of Jersey and Guernsey. Charleston (SC), Manchester and Liverpool (UK), Quebec, and Jamaica followed in the 1770s, with the chamber model diffusing to all major towns and cities by the 1920s.

Chambers of commerce organized out of anger against government stupidity and growth.

Their earliest business leaders were angry protesters against the Stamp Act, taxation of the colonies, and military coercion on America. They were responding to a period of extreme contention between economic and political interests. A chamber of commerce provided a new model to shape anger and protests into more effective, reasoned, and sustained economic lobbies to the imperial government in London.

Somewhere between Stamp Act protests and Aerotropolis, though, chambers of commerce switched teams. They become lobbyists who curry favor with politicians in order to win unfair advantages for certain members of the chambers. According to economist Stephen Moore:

The Chamber of Commerce, long a supporter of limited government and low taxes, was part of the coalition backing the Reagan revolution in the 1980s. . . . [M]any chambers of commerce on the state and local level have been abandoning these goals. They're becoming, in effect, lobbyists for big government.

That certainly seems to be the case in St. Louis. 

The RCGA, which once helped revitalize areas of town like Laclede’s Landing, Soulard, and Dog Town, now focuses on transferring tax dollars from future generations or from tax payers in distant Missouri counties into the pockets of the RCGA’s favorites players.

In the process, St. Louis has fallen in almost every category.  Population is declining in both St. Louis City and St. Louis County.  City schools are a discredited shambles.  St. Louis County is shedding tax payers to adjacent counties thanks to its insatiable appetite for fees and taxes. The St. Louis region has fallen dramatically in job creation.

Instead of working to get government off the backs of businesses and improving the region, the RCGA is focused on growing government and shifting business risk to the tax payers.  That’s not only bad for business and bad for the region, it’s bad for the soul.

Stephen Moore says St. Louis’s RCGA is not unique:

In as many as half the states, state taxpayer organizations, free-market think tanks, and small business leaders now complain bitterly that, on a wide range of issues, chambers of commerce deploy their financial resources and lobbying clout to expand the taxing, spending, and regulatory authorities of government.

The reason I and many other Tea Partiers oppose the Republican Establishment is because we’ve seen how that Establishment has gutted American cities like St. Louis. The Republican Establishment is almost indiscernible from various chambers of commerce.  Neither advances limited government, free markets, and fiscal responsibility.

Conservatives like me have a knee-jerk tendency to defend all private businesses against all accusations.  But that’s a knee-jerk reaction, not a wise consideration of facts and consequences.

Big businesses are famously myopic.  We’ve all heard the woes of companies that look only to the fiscal quarter or year, not to the long-term value of the business.  Many conservatives have oversold themselves on certain aspects of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations without ever trying to square those ideas with his other work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments

As a result, we on the right have become de facto enablers of big government, defending big business in their efforts to gain advantages through activist governments.

Stephen Moore found a small business owner in Maryland who’s had enough with his local chamber and the big businesses using it to destroy everyone else:

"I used to think that public employee unions like the NEA were the main enemy in the struggle for limited government, competition, and private sector solutions," says Mr. Caldara of the Independence Institute. "I was wrong. Our biggest adversary is the special-interest business cartel that labels itself 'the business community' and its political machine run by chambers and other industry associations. [emphasis mine]"

Luckily, that Harvard Business School piece offers some solutions.  I’d like to responsible and serious St. Louis businesses start a rival chamber to advance these 7 principles of business-friendly government:

  1. Set an ambitious new vision for engagement with the deepest irritations among chamber members; involve non-members to aid recruitment.
  2. Build capacity among staff and volunteers to manage protest.
  3. Recognize that government "bads" and threats are usually a far more influential force on businesses than government "goods": avoid the US "pork barrel" and do not be trapped by the UK or EU incentives to "chase the funding". This just gets non-profits to follow politicians' agendas.
  4. Focus on where threats, risks, and anger are highest; most businesses are not interested in the minor or trivial.
  5. Use new technology to expose contention and open new avenues to welcome protest. Take on the tough problems and avoid easy solutions. Use business networks, social media, and crowdsourcing to re-engage business communities at low cost.
  6. Prepare for long term and sustained campaigns; policy victories are rarely won quickly.
  7. Expose policy incompetence, look for public programs that do not work and press for termination; but celebrate policy successes, especially where businesses and chambers have contributed. Use blogs and networks to keep up to date and monitor feelings. [emphasis mine]

If you’re interested in starting such a chamber, please enter comments below.

Update:  Perhaps Joe Reagan will changes things.  I forgot that the RCGA recently replaced long-time CEO, Dick Fleming.

Give Me 5 Minutes, And I’ll Give You a New Friend

I have to tell you about a man I know. He’s a good man whom I respect deeply. When I’m done, I hope you’ll have a new friend. But first, I have tell you about microwave towers and optical illusions.

Microwaves and Curves

Has this ever happened to you?

When I was a kid, my dad worked for a company that owned a small resort for employees about 90 miles south of St. Louis, down Highway 21.

In those days, 21 was a twisty, hilly mess of a road. Those curves and hills created a cool optical illusions, though. At least if you were a kid in a car on a hot, two-hour drive. It was something like this. 

A microwave tower, visible forever, appeared, for miles to be on the east side of the highway.  Right up a few dozen yards before you passed the tower, you’d swear it was on the left as you passed heading south. 

Then, when you were just about on top of it, the road curved, the trees cleared, and the tower seemed to leap to the west side of Highway 21.

My sisters (older than me) made up a guessing game about landmarks along that road. First time players got the microwave tower wrong every time.  Until you were right there at the tower, you couldn’t tell where it stood.

A Long Way From New Jersey

When I read Dan Riehl’s hit piece on Ed Martin Jr. in Big Government, I thought about that microwave tower on Highway 21 in Jefferson County, Missouri.  I remembered that Dan Riehl lives in New Jersey, far from Missouri’s 2nd District. Clearly, Dan doesn’t know Ed. 

So let me introduce the Ed Martin I know in just a moment.

As I read on, I realized that Dan’s opinions come mostly from reading two anti-Martin blogs:  Bungalow Bill and “Fired-Up Missouri,” the Carnahan family blog.  Living in New Jersey, Dan probably didn’t realize he’s getting a distorted view of Ed Martin—a view intentionally tainted to make Ed Martin look bad, truth be damned. 

I’ll blame the leftist blogs, for example, for Dan’s confusion on the Eckersley affair.  Dan should have read the 4-part series on that case in 24thstate.com (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4).  There, The Editor refuted all of the major charges leveled against Ed and Matt Blunt in a detailed, documented series of reports, concluding correctly with Memogate Explained in 30 Words or Less:

Jay Nixon's lawyer friends sued a Republican and his staff to help Nixon's election bid.  The case was settled when Nixon was elected and the lawyers needed to get paid.

A View From Missouri

Ed Martin for CongressOn this side of the Mississippi, you get a much better view of Ed Martin. You’ll see the real Ed Martin that I know—unless you’re a liberal Democrat or an establishment Republican

If Dan spent some time in St. Louis with Ed, maybe he’d come to know the wonderful man I met about February 22, 2009. That’s when Ed saw my Facebook event for a Tea Party in St. Louis and asked if he could help. 

As I said before, Ed took a big political risk coming to that event, and he helped make that first Tea Party the success it was.  He helped steer the St. Louis Tea Party Coalition in its infancy, right up to the day he announced his candidacy for the U. S. House of Representatives in Missouri’s 3rd District.

Dan could learn even more by coming to St. Louis or reading some of our more conservative bloggers.  Dan seems surprised, for instance, that Ed Martin’s establishment opponent out-raised Ed in the last quarter.  Well, Ed doesn’t have a lot of DC Establishment friends to turn to for cash.  For Ed’s support, he relies on Tea Partiers and 9-12 Project patriots, Right-to-Lifers, and even some Reagan Democrats.

Had Dan been in St. Louis a few Saturdays ago, he might have seen about 600 typical Ed Martin people at a Trivia Night in Two Heart’s banquet hall, complete with mostachioli.  The place was packed on a night that was really too beautiful weather-wise to be inside. I was there, along with all my sisters  and old neighbors from Epiphany.  It was a classic St. Louis event.

That’s the way the Ed Martin I know raises money—by having fun with the people who vote, not sipping champaign with business executives and their lobbyists.

Ed Off the Record

Then there’s the Ed Martin that you’ll never see all the way from New Jersey—microwave links or not.  I’m talking about the unofficial Ed Martin. 

Here’s one story that tells a lot about the Ed Martin I know, the one who’s running for Missouri’s 2nd US House District in 2012.

Ed asked me to speak at his New Year’s Eve Party on December 31, 2009.  The event was in far South St. Louis County, at Orlando’s banquet center.  About 100 or so people enjoyed drinks, dinner, and a midnight toast.

Late in the evening, as I was getting ready to leave, I met a family from Illinois. The man was a pharmacist.  He wasn’t a political type; he seemed uncomfortable.  In fact, I believe he and Ed might be of different parties.

“I’d do anything for Ed,” the man told me.

“Why?”

“A few years ago, the state of Illinois tried to shut me down because I refused to dispense the Morning After pill,” he said.  “I’m Catholic.”

“No one would take my case because it was too risky and too sure to lose. That man,” he said, pointed toward Ed who was a few tables away, “was the only lawyer who stepped up and offered to represent me. He came to me.  I didn’t even know who he was.”

“Ed fought like a dog for me.  He was the only one with the courage and conviction to take on the entire state of Illinois and Governor Blagojevich.” 

Ed never told me that story. I never heard him tout it on the stump in 2009 and 2010.  Maybe he did and I missed it. 

Nor did Ed tell me about volunteering to represent a man who was wrongfully accused of threatening Russ Carnahan.  Again, when most lawyers were afraid to take on the (then) powerful Carnahan machine, Ed Martin stepped up and fought for what was right.

I could tell you about the Tea Partiers I know who love Ed because he’s “not like all the other politicians.” 

One man told me, “I know a lot of Republican politicians around St. Louis. I’ve asked them what I can do, and I told them I want to get involved.  But I’m just a regular guy. They brushed me off.  I wasn’t important enough for them. So I said, ‘the hell with you.’”

“Ed, though, treats me like he treats everybody else.  I feel like I know him.  He knows me. He’s right there in the neighborhood all the time, not in Washington or Europe.”

Straightening the Curves for Dan

So, I’m sorry Dan Riehl—normally a careful researcher—missed so much on this particular story.  (We all have bad days.)  Or maybe Anthony Weiner hacked into Dan’s Big Government account.

I was warned in May (and I passed along the warning) that the Missouri Republican establish was out to destroy Ed Martin and his Tea Party supporters. Had Dan read my piece, maybe he’d have checked his sources a little more carefully before posting the shabby, undocumented hit piece.

Here in St. Louis, we know where Ed stands.  He stands with us, people who can’t really help him. He fights the battles that others won’t.  

To this ordinary guy, Ed Martin is street, and his current battle is our battle: to fix the establishment, not romance it.

P.S.  If you’re a fan of Ed’s, send a donation to Ed Martin for Congress.

BREAKING: Zimmerman’s Sob Story Phony as a Football Bat

PO’ed Patriot has the story. Jake Zimmerman’s campaign rotates two themes:

1.  The St. Louis County Assessor should be a career political hack, not a seasoned real estate professional

2. His little old friend, Margaret, is in danger of losing her home.

But mostly St. Louis County government needs more Democrat political hacks.

Turns out that, just like Jake’s dad, his friend Margaret, a rather unsuccessful real estate investor, got a break on her property taxes.  Well, on her investment property, anyway.

I can’t believe anyone would vote for this guy.

Favoritism for Jake Zimmerman’s Dad?

The Post-Dispatch says the County Assessor should be a political operative, not an expert in real estate values like L. K. “Chip” Wood. I disagree, and this story explains why Charlie Dooley’s regime needs fewer political hacks and more competent professionals. Troubling Questions for Zimmerman’s Assessor Campaign:

  • Why did the Zimmerman campaign take screen shots of Zimmerman’s dad’s real estate values on January 13, 2011, the day he was selected?
  • Why did the Zimmerman campaign try to deny Stu Zimmerman’s property tax cut by forwarding those old shots?
  • Why did someone update property tax records on March 25, the day after questions about favoritism first appeared?

On March 24,  24th State blog broke the story:  Stu Zimmerman received a significant reduction in his home’s assessed value in 2011.

I’ve learned since that the Zimmerman campaign produced documents from January 13—the day Jake Zimmerman was selected by the county Democrat Central Committee as their nominee for assessor.  These document show that the 2011 assessment wasn’t out yet.

That might have been true on January 13.  The question is, did Stu Zimmerman receive a significantly larger property tax break than his neighbors? Well, Zimmerman’s response didn’t answer that question, but seems to have been an attempt discredit 24th State’s story.

In reality, Stu got 16.6 percent off his assessment while his neighbors in comparable homes ranged from 2-4 percent reductions to 2 to 4 percent increases in assessed values.

Here’s the screen shots provided by the Zimmerman campaign on Friday, March 25:

Jake and Stuart Zimmerman Appraised Value-1.doc - Powered by Google Docs

Here’s a screen shot taken March 25 about 7:30 p.m.

Real Estate Information

And here’s a screenshot taken on March 24:

Clearly, the Zimmerman campaign is trying to hide the dropped assessment for candidate Jake’s dad. The question is “why?”

A Tale of Two Taxes

On Monday, we learned that US Senator Claire McCaskill failed to pay property taxes on her personal luxury jet for three years.  Previously, she had charged taxpayers some of the cost of operating her private plane. Before that, it seems, she registered the plane in property tax-free Delaware

On Monday, Claire wrote a $287,000 check without batting an eye. Now, St. Louis County says she owes them another $33,000 in interest and penalties, for a total bill of $320,000. 

L.K. Wood for County Assessor - Saint Louis CountyThen on Wednesday, we learned that small business owner, Chip Wood, the Republican candidate for County Assessor, owes $12k in property taxes on his business in the city.  Wood told KMOX that, with the collapse of the real estate market, his company had to choose among the mounting bills to pay.  Apparently, Wood’s company chose to pay health insurance, rent, and wages to his employees, hoping to catch up on taxes when things turned around.

By keeping his business open, he will pay the city every penny it’s owed. And the depopulating city of St. Louis is spared yet another empty storefront.

Not only is this a difference in degree, it’s a difference in kind.  The difference here is not so obvious, but it is profound:

  • Chip Wood made a difficult economic choice to try to save his business and pay his people with every intention of making the city whole
  • Claire McCaskill hired a team of accountants and lawyers to shield her from every possible tax, and amidst their dodging, dipping, diving, ducking, and dodging they dropped a $287,000 property tax bill.  Oops!

Not all tax stories are equal. I trust that reasonable people realize that a businessman fighting to keep his doors open and his employees employed  is different from a millionaire fighting to fly her luxury jet for free.

P.S.  On April 5, I will L. K. Wood, as everyone should, for County Assessor. He’s the only qualified person in the race.

L.K. Wood Makes His Case

You can help get these TV ads on the air.   I will tell you how shortly.

Don’t in live in St. Louis County? You still have a horse in this race.  I’ll tell you why after you watch this commercial.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtcLdxad-3k&hl=en&hd=1]
Vote L. K. Wood, as everyone should, on April 5

Why should you care about this race if you don’t live in St. Louis County? 

Because Chip’s opponent is a Harvard lawyer who’s being groomed for much bigger things. When a conservative emerges as a fast charger, the left does everything in its power—right or wrong—to destroy that person.

We don’t have to resort to the left’s unsavory tactics.  We can simply win this race.

As you’ve seen, L.K. “Chip” Wood is an experienced real estate man, dedicated to running the assessor’s office right.  His opponent is a career politician determined to protect County Boss Charlie Dooley, before moving on to damage America in higher offices. 

Please donate now to Chip Wood for Assessor.  Here’s the link: PUT THIS COMMERCIAL ON THE AIR

3 Top Ways to Clean Up St. Louis County Government

Meet Chip Tuesday, March 22 from 5:30 to 7:00. Details below.

L.K. Wood for County Assessor - Saint Louis CountyYou can help clean up St. Louis County government. And you can have a good time doing it.  Here’s how.

1.  Like L. K. “Chip” Wood’s Facebook page. It’ll take only a second, and you’ll feel more connected and productive just by doing it.

2.  Visit Chip Wood for Assessor and enter your email address in the email sign-up box on the right.  While you’re there, take a look around and get to know Chip Wood a little better.

3.  Attend a Meet and Greet with L. K. “Chip” Wood this Tuesday, March 22 from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m.  at the Log Cabin, 3751 S. Lindbergh Blvd.  It’s just $25 per couple.  Please call 314-909-0109 to make reservations. [click for map]

Tuesday’s event is sponsored by Bonhomme Republican Women. 

Crooked as a Dog’s Hind Leg

That’s St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley.

It’s bad enough that corruption, nepotism, and Machiavellian favoritism runs rampant in St. Louis County.  What’s worse is that Dooley doesn’t seem to care what anyone thinks.

St. Louis County in the third year of a hiring and pay freeze, Mike Temporiti landed a $70,000 county job.

. . .

The job was never posted, and Temporiti did not have to interview for it.

He is a lawyer and the son of John Temporiti, who is County Executive Charlie A. Dooley's longtime campaign treasurer and manager and former chief of staff.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Enough? There’s more. With Dooley, there’s always more.

John Temporiti’s daughter is also a County employee, and Temporiti has a history of confronting people who don’t do as he says. 

There’s probably not much we can do right now about Dooley’s corruption and the Temporiti’s rather unique employment agency at 41 South Central in Clayton. But we can slow down Dooley’s corruption machine on April 5.

That’s date Dooley hopes to coronate yet another political hack, Jake Zimmerman, as County Assessor. 

You have the chance to upend the Dooley Regime by electing L. K. “Chip” Wood  as County Assessor. 

Chip Wood is an outstanding candidate whose entire life has revolved around real estate and property.  While Zimmerman has promised to make you talk to a computer if you don’t like your assessment, Wood will let you deal with a human being who is personally responsible for your case.

In fact, everything about Dooley screams “machine.”  The alternative is human, and the very personable Chip Wood. 

You can trust Chip to keep assessments fair.