New MSD board behaves the same as the last one
Remember when County Executive Buzz Westfall and Mayor Francis Slay held a press conference and announced they were chucking the old Board of Directors at the Metropolitan St. Sewer District over the side?
I covered the press conference and was struck by the similarities between this spring's move and the palace coup that took place shortly after Westfall was elected in the early 1990s — all window dressing.
You see while our elected officials complain and wring their hands, they fail to understand what changes are needed most.
The MSD did not exist until the public voted to form it in the 1950s. But after the public voted to form the sewer district, it lost its voice. When the public voted to create the MSD, it was told a board would set policy at the district and residents assumed the board would be accountable to the public.
We've been paying for that decision ever since. The MSD board is not accountable to the public. If you don't believe me, check out Missouri's Open Meetings And Records Law or Sunshine Law. Then go to your local school, or fire district and ask for the names and addresses of their board members. It's public record everywhere but the MSD. Why? Because they don't care about accountability. It gets in the way of serving the special interests that got them a seat at the MSD board table.
Those special interests are the ones receiving the contracts for legal services, consulting fees and public works contracts. Even though the sewer district has its own staff of attorneys and engineers, they always seem to need more lawyers. Every project MSD attempts seems destined to be late and over budget.
Construction of a new sewer treatment plant in Oakville now will cost more than three times what was originally projected and it's still not finished.
And don't forget they raised sewer treatment rates in 1994 without a vote of the people. What followed was a decade of legal wrangling where MSD used ratepayer money to fight ratepayers who knew the rate increase was illegal. Eventually, the courts ordered MSD to refund our money.
If the St. Louis area economy has a weak link, it is the Board of Trustees at the MSD. What Westfall and Slay don't seem to understand is that as long as those Bozos are not elected by the people who pay MSD treatment bills, they have no incentive to change.