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St. Louis activists urge ‘no’ vote on half-cent sales tax increase for police department

St. Louis Alderwoman Sharon Tyus, D-1st Ward, joins a wide-ranging coalition of groups on Oct. 24, 2107 to oppose Proposition P, a half-cent sales tax increase that will primarily fund higher pay for St. Louis police officers.
Chelsea Hoye | St. Louis Public Radio

A wide-ranging coalition is urging St. Louis residents to vote "no" on a proposed half-cent sales tax increase intended primarily for police officer and firefighter salaries.

If the measure passes in November, Proposition P would push the sales tax in some areas of St. Louis to nearly 12 percent. Opponents say it’s not fair to force already-struggling parts of the city to pay for policing that doesn’t benefit them.


“In this city, we have come to define public safety as police, courts and jails,” said Thomas Harvey, the director of ArchCity Defenders. “The experiences of our clients show that those system don’t help. They break up families. They separate mothers from children.”

Harvey’s organization provides legal help to people in marginalized groups, especially those experiencing homelessness.

Proposition P is slated to raise roughly $20 million a year. It would trigger an automatic increase in the use tax, or taxes that businesses pay on out-of-state purchases. That funding — about $3.9 million a year — would be spread equally among job and recreation programs, building demolition, and social service needs like mental health treatment.  

“We’re talking about crumbs to the community,“ said state Rep. Bruce Franks, D-St. Louis, and a leader in the protest movement. “Until we can bring forth accountability, and have a department that truly reflects the community in which they police, it will always be no on Prop P.”

A group calling itself Audit STL has started collecting signatures to have state auditor Nicole Galloway review city spending. Twenty-four city departments were audited between 2008 and 2010 after a similar petition drive.

The election is Nov. 7.

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Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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