Mayor Stephens Defends Marijuana Settlement, Touts City Achievements in Yearly Address
Springfield Mayor Bob Stephens is defending the city’s recent marijuana lawsuit settlement. As KSMU’s Scott Harvey reports, the remarks were part of the Mayor’s annual State of the City Address which highlighted various initiatives.
Speaking to roughly 300 people Thursday morning, Stephens said the certified petition brought before the City Council in 2012 was flawed, saying he and most council members had a “real problem with passing an ordinance that we knew was in violation of state law.”
“So on the advice of our city attorney,” Stephens said, “we passed the ordinance and then immediately got to work to repeal that same ordinance, according to the language in the charter. And we were promptly sued.”
This spring, the city reached a settlement with plaintiffs for $225,000, $50,000 of which came from the general fund, the remainder covered by insurance.
Stephens said law enforcement estimated that it would cost $425,000 in legal fees to defend the city’s position and to win at the appellate and Missouri State Supreme Court level.
“We could have spent a half million dollars of taxpayer money to prove that we were correct, or we could pay $50,000 to ensure that a flawed proposal did not become the law in our city.”
Stephens also touched on crime figures in Springfield, while spending a majority of his speech touting recent accomplishments in the city, and thanking citizens for their stance on a number of policy decisions and community engagement.
In the first quarter of 2014, crime in Springfield was down 19 percent, including a 23 percent decrease in crimes against property, says Stephens. But he adds there’s been a 28 percent increase in crimes against persons over that span, a large portion of which are instances of domestic violence.
“And unless you place a police officer in every house, it’s pretty difficult to deal with domestic violence from a preventative mode. However, we have and we will continue working on the education piece and the awareness piece of domestic violence.”
But citizens can more easily prevent crimes of opportunity, Stephens says, noting an occurrence last summer over a month’s span where 30 out of 30 vehicles stolen had the keys left inside.
The Mayor recalled the February kidnapping and murder of 10-year-old Hailey Owens, what he called the most emotional week for the city since he took office. But Stephens was appreciative of a “civil, respectful and uplifting candlelight vigil” attended by some 10,000 citizens days later.
Stephens thanked voters for recently renewing the Police-Fire Pension sales tax, as well as the quarter-cent capital expenditures sales tax.
“The fact that Springfield approved two tax renewals, one by 74 percent and the other by a 76 percent margin, clearly demonstrates that the goal that council established in 2009 of restoring faith in local government and building social capital within our community is continuing to be successfully met.”
He touted the city’s 5.1 percent unemployment rate; noting over 3,300 jobs created in the five-county Metropolitan Statistical Area within the past two years. The Mayor was also welcoming of new downtown construction, including the renovation of the historic Heers building, which will become commercial and luxury rental units.
Applauding the council’s pro-economic development stance, Stephens called on citizens interested in continued development to run for council seats that will become vacant next spring, and for voters “to elect the appropriate pro-development candidates.”
Watch Mayor Stephens’ complete State of the City speech from Thursday here.