Saint Louis, Mo. — As state lawmakers scramble to file bills to push initiatives directed at systemic issues highlighted by the unfolding events in Ferguson, Dave Spence and his initiative, 1000 Ferguson Jobs, quietly released a list of priorities for making improvements in troubled metropolitan regions around the state.
Spence, who made an unsuccessful bid for the governor’s mansion in 2012, unveiled 1000 Ferguson Jobs and the corresponding website several months ago. The former Republican gubernatorial candidate said that after 60 days of sustained communication with leaders in north county St. Louis, the organization was able to assemble the list.
“There’s not a thing on that list we can’t do,” Spence said. “We can all sit on our hands, or we can start communicating and putting the guns and babies aside and start moving the state forward.”
Spence said that “jobs and education” were at the root of much of the trouble plaguing areas like Ferguson. Spence’s wish list includes some items at the heart of discussion among lawmakers, like requiring body cameras for all police officers and more minority recruitment for law enforcement. Other wishes, like an increase in the cigarette tax to 70 cents per pack from 17 and a ban on all red light cameras, are likely to spark more heated debate.
“There are systemic issues causing unrest and it could have happened anywhere,” Spence said. “So we need to talk about skills training, we need to work with the urban league and Civic Progress and the Regional Business Council. The lava flowed in Ferguson, but it could have happened anywhere.”
The full list of 15 “Wishes” can be found below.
1) Passage and Gubernatorial signing of a school transfer bill. Give the families in failing districts a lifeline.
2) Create Show Me Scholars Program for Missouri High school graduates. Increase cigarette tax from .17/pack to .70/pack. It should also include taxation of generic cigarettes which is not taxed at the same rate presently. This will generate approximately $350mm of new revenue. Offer scholarship opportunities to every child that wishes to further their education in two year, four year or trade schools in the state of Missouri. There are 68,000 graduating seniors in Missouri. Give everyone the opportunity to graduate to something.
3) Raise the accreditation level of municipalities and their police departments. There should be minimum thresholds and performance standards. This will force some sorely needed consolidations.
4) Consolidate municipal courts into regions and set ceilings on court costs and fines.
5) Allow for a change in venue when it comes to police shootings.
6) Trade unions need to step up and do the right thing for our community in regards to minority hiring. Presently there is less than 2% minority membership in the construction trades. Quit punishing the minorities and hire them. With present retirement rates there will be plenty of opportunities.
7) Ban all red light and speed cameras in the state. They are a money grab plain and simple.
8) Improve the efficiency of tax credits. At present, there is over $700mm allocated per year. The average flow through effectiveness is around .35 cents per $1.00 of tax credit. Cut down 10% per year for the next five years and challenge the system to be more efficient.
9) Encourage Missouri businesses to buy from each other. Create a sales tax relief program if we buy from each other.
10) Encourage start up capital to stay involved by waiving capital gains taxes on proceeds if it is used to fund another start up.
11) Recruit minorities for law enforcement.
12) Require body cameras for police officers
13) Facilitate all legitimate job-training efforts for the chronically unemployed and the unskilled.
14) Review the statute of limitations on felony convictions. Give the people that are really trying to turn their lives around a second chance.
15) Create a plan to rehab and rebuild housing through ownership as a means to revitalizing neighborhoods. Incorporating 1st Time Home Buyers incentives and education will help stabilize neighborhoods. This initiative should have minority contractors and developers as the lead.
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.