Great update today on the St. Louis Lambert Field China Hub boondoggle.
Air Cargo News:
In early April 2012, the St. Clair (Illinois) County Public Building Commission demanded that former Wall Street executive John Hewitt return a $250,000 taxpayer-funded incentive originally intended to facilitate development of what was to be a $6 million, 62,500 square-foot warehouse at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport (located in Mascoutah, Illinois). How the deal came to the point of collapse is a story of consistently failed accountability at the airport, county, and federal levels…
Updating a story reported extensively in FlyingTypers last year, the chairman of the Midwest China Hub Commission told St. Louis radio station KMOX that St. Louis had likely already missed its opportunity, blaming Missouri lawmakers for not passing a $360 million incentive package. The Commission’s vice chairman Dan Mehan (president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry) quickly countered that the group would continue its effort. In a St. Louis Business Journal article , Mehan stated “I think there’s no doubt flights would be landing weekly at Lambert at this point if not for what happened in Jefferson City this past fall.”
To the astonishment of the Missouri Chamber and their cronies in and around St. Louis, enough of the Missouri legislature took advantage of a second chance to perform due diligence and having recognized the project’s obvious faults, rejected the Aerotropolis Trade Incentive and Tax Credit Act. Hub commission chairman Mike Jones suggested the cost to date had been $4 million dollars—much of it public. Jones commented to St. Louis’ CBS affiliate KMOX radio “How can Illinois do that when they’re broke? They may be broke, but in Missouri, we’re cheap. When you’re broke sometimes that makes you able to come up with a plan. But when you’re cheap, when you’re trying to get something for nothing, then you usually come out a loser.”
Labeling as “cheap” the waste of $4 million dollars of public money spent on first-class travel and consulting fees for the likes of ex-Senator Kit Bond’s former staffers is illuminating both in characterizing the entitlement mentality of politicians and cronies living large on public money and in explaining why such efforts never properly die. Some of the same legislation language is being reintroduced in the form of the $60 million freight forwarder incentives package intended to narrow the gap between shipping costs at Chicago O’Hare and Lambert. In early April 2012, the St. Louis County Council approved acceptance of a $3 million state grant that replaces local casino tax money intended for a flood control project, allowing those funds to be redirected to subsidize international shipping costs. The Council Chair sought assurance that the money would not go to administrative costs or consultants—a seeming acknowledgment of the excesses of this same effort in the recent past. To past critics, it is illuminating that Mehan and others who once declared $360 million inadequate are now trawling for $3 million. Read more…
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