Supreme Court of Missouri, Beyond Housing announce partnership to reform municipal divisions
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Supreme Court of Missouri, community development organization Beyond Housing and several St. Louis County municipalities will partner in a pilot project that will consolidate and streamline municipal divisions within the county.
Last week, Missouri Chief Justice Patricia Breckenridge announced that the Supreme Court of Missouri had adopted minimum standards for all Missouri municipal divisions, including requirements to have a judge on duty at all times, a clerk on duty for at least 30 hours per week, a space large enough to accommodate the public, and alternative payment plans for defendants without the ability to pay when assessing fees or fines. These standards took effect immediately.
“These minimum standards make clear how municipal divisions must operate,” Breckenridge said. “The standards are extensive and will guide the constitutionally required supervision by the presiding judge of each circuit and the Supreme Court.”
As to the consolidation efforts, Breckenridge said, “By reducing costs, sharing operations, as well as clerical and judicial personnel, we hope to reduce the incentive to use municipal divisions as revenue generators rather than to ensure public safety. The progress we have made proves we can change. We can affect meaningful improvement. We can lead. The kind of leadership people have shown has been remarkable. For this I am truly thankful.”
Two consolidations are underway, in which nine municipalities have consolidated or are in the process of consolidating their operations into the municipal divisions of two other cities:
- Municipal operations from Charlack, Northwoods and Vinita Park have consolidated into the St. Ann municipal division (now called the St. Ann Consolidated Municipal Courts, or CMC).
- Municipal operations from Bellerive Acres, Cool Valley, Glen Echo Park, Greendale, Pasadena Park and Uplands Park are expected to be consolidated into the Normandy municipal division with support from a State Justice Institute grant.
“The city of St. Ann has had ongoing relationships with 17 municipalities over several years, providing various police services such as dispatching and holding facilities and, as of April 2016, consolidated municipal court divisions,” St. Ann Mayor Michael Corcoran said. “St. Ann’s municipal court was excited to assist the forward thinking of Mayor James McGhee of Vinita Park, Mayor Everett Thomas of Northwoods and Mayor Frank Mattingly of Charlack to assist them with being innovative in consolidating their municipal courts. Mayor McGhee of Vinita Park has managed to save his city approximately $80,000 a year, and the other mayors also have produced savings for their cities. The city of St. Ann will continue to support these efforts.”
The Normandy consolidation has been spearheaded by the work of Beyond Housing, a nationally recognized community development organization, with the 24:1 Community – the 24 municipalities that make up the Normandy School Collaborative (district) in North St. Louis County. The goal of this pilot program is to bring equity and efficiency to courts in the 24:1 Community.
“This partnership with the state of Missouri, Beyond Housing, and municipal partners, gives us another opportunity for the 24:1 communities to lead the region,” Normandy Mayor Patrick Green said. “The Normandy court has already been collaborating with our neighbors and we even recently hired a judge who is not a prosecutor or attorney in any other city. We’re here to dispel the myth that all North St. Louis municipalities want the status quo. We have been leading the change long before now, but this gives us an opportunity to act in new ways to foster trust between people, courts and government.”
Beyond Housing began working with the 24:1 Community elected leaders on effectiveness and efficiencies in 2010. Since early 2014, 24:1 municipalities have been working on court reform and consolidation. Since then, 12 of the 24:1 communities have expressed interest in consolidating courts. Two are considering merging all their municipal functions – Vinita Park and Vinita Terrace will vote on this potential merger in November, which is poised to be the first municipal merger in St. Louis County Boundary Commission history.
“Court reform doesn’t happen overnight, but it is necessary for some municipalities in the 24:1 area. These new minimum standards bring equity and efficiency to all of Missouri’s courts,” Beyond Housing Chief Executive Officer Chris Krehmeyer said. “They also will help pave the way for court consolidation in the 24:1 area, if that is what residents of these municipalities decide is best for their community.
“At Beyond Housing, our mission is to Ask-Align-Act,” Krehmeyer continued. “We ask residents what they would like to see and experience in their community, we align the resources and partners, and we work together to make it happen. This pilot project is the product of several years of asking and aligning, and we are now ready to act.”
For more information about Beyond Housing, visit www.BeyondHousing.org or contact its media contact, Julia Bishop-Cross, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (314) 681-2094.
For more information about the St. Ann Consolidated Municipal Courts, contact Angela Chatman-Slay, court administrator, at (314) 428-6811, extension 5.
For more information about the Normandy municipal division consolidation, contact Patrick Green, mayor, at (314) 757-1835.