Politically Speaking: North County mayors speak out against municipal court overhaul
On a special edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum welcomes two mayors of small north St. Louis County to the show talk about a sweeping overhaul of the state’s municipal courts system.
Normandy Mayor Patrick Green and Cool Valley Mayor Viola Murphy have been heavily critical of Sen. Eric Schmitt’s legislation, which among other things lowers the percentage of traffic fine revenue that cities can keep. The bill places a 12.5 percent cap on traffic revenue for St. Louis County cities, which will likely have the biggest impact on African-American-led cities like Cool Valley and Normandy.
Green and Murphy say the bill is fundamentally unfair, primarily because it treats St. Louis County cities differently than the rest of the state. Green in particular feels that north St. Louis County cities are being painted with a broad brush. And Murphy says the 24 cities that make up the Normandy school district have made efforts to collaborate with each other long before Michael Brown’s shooting death.
Murphy also took issue with Ferguson James Knowles’ comments last week to St. Louis Public Radio. Knowles said it “sickened him” to see videos of former Attorney General Eric Holder “arm-and-arm” with leaders of cities that he contends have revenue-generating police forces – especially when the Justice Department savaged Ferguson for those types of practices. Knowles did not single any particular person or city out, but Murphy was widely photographed meeting with Holder last year.
Here’s what Murphy and Green had to say during the show:
- Both Green and Murphy say the leaders of small St. Louis County cities weren’t consulted that much when Senate Bill 5 was being formulated. Schmitt, R-Glendale, has said he did meet with some North County mayors, but stressed his bill wasn’t aimed at safeguarding municipal jobs or elected positions. “No one has come to say ‘let’s sit down with the 24 mayors that feed into the Normandy School District,” Murphy said. “They’re making decisions without our input.
- Murphy says her city is "looking at their options" about whether to file a lawsuit against the recently-signed SB5.
- Both Murphy and Green say they’re more reception to the bill’s minimum standards, which they contend emanated from the leaders of small municipalities. The two officials said the standards could prompt cities to improve organically – and provide harsh consequences to cities that don’t bolster policing or accounting standards.
- Green says out of the 25 African-American municipalities, there are only four or five that are doing “inappropriate things.” “Does that taint all 25 or 30? No,” he said.
- Green contends that St. Louis County’s wealth of municipalities ensured a different reaction to police shootings than ones in Baltimore, Cleveland and Cincinnati. “We had  municipalities as a relief valve to that major city,” Green said. “Their urban riots started in an urban environment called Baltimore, Cleveland, Cincinnati. Ours started in the suburbs. I wonder why? Because African-Americans left [the central city].”
- Murphy doesn’t understand what was wrong with her “being very cordial with the attorney general of the United States.” She also says there was some tension between Cool Valley and Ferguson officials over Cool Valley’s decision to contract with Normandy for police service.
Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum
Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies
Music: “Panic Switch” by Silversun Pickups