“Today the Board of Estimate & Apportionment approved the consulting agreement to explore leasing St. Louis Lambert International Airport. There were several items that needed to be addressed before moving forward with the agreement. These items were needed to build assurance that we were embarking on a process that was transparent, inclusive and protects the best interest of the City of St. Louis.
In order for me to move forward with any proposed lease agreement, it would need to include protections that prevent the City of St. Louis from losing ownership of the airport, a governance structure that gives the City a continuous voice in the direction of the airport development, protection for our current airport employees, an aggressive inclusion plan, as well as enough capital to immediately and completely cover all of the debt of the airport and also provide enough additional funding to the City to make a dramatic impact on blight and vacancy within our neighborhoods; promote growth and opportunities for small business development; fund a comprehensive, data-driven public safety plan; fund life changing opportunities for our youth and create more good-paying jobs.
As I stated on January 16, our citizens, corporations and other civic stakeholders who utilize the airport will need to know that the best interests of the City of St. Louis are being met. It would have to provide opportunities for our citizens that they would not have otherwise. If it is not a real game changer, it is not worth doing.
Over the past several months, I have been working to facilitate an exploration process that would provide a consulting agreement that has greater transparency, community confidence, a team that is more representative of the community, numerous controls throughout the process, principles of inclusion to be used to judge proposals received, and a third party transactional, legal and financial advice that is not incentivized to produce a particular outcome.
Because of these discussions, the consulting team has added three minority firms as service providers with backgrounds and experience in airport development, law, community engagement, legislation, and minority inclusion. The consulting team has also agreed to fund the services of Stifel as an independent financial advisor to the City, and they have agreed to fund Greenberg Traurig as a independent legal consultant. These two firms will report to the City and have no incentives to promote closing a deal.
With knowledgeable and experienced independent transactional, legal and financial advisors, the process is now something we can move forward with in better confidence than before. For me, the agreement is not just about improving the airport. It is about finding an enhanced revenue stream for the people of the City, providing jobs and opportunities, investing in long disenfranchised neighborhoods, public safety and dramatically improve our City.
In order to determine if the lease is a positive opportunity for the City, it will take a long and involved process. Communication has to be a key part of this process. The airport is an important public asset, and we all have a stake in making sure it remains a valued asset of our City. In order to best evaluate this option, input from our citizens, elected officials, business community and other key stakeholders must be included. Above all, we have to ensure that transparency and public trust is maintained throughout.”
Board of Aldermen