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Post-Trash Ruling, Stenger “Strongly Considering” Co. Exec. Run

Michael Calhoun (@michaelcalhoun, mrcalhoun@cbs.com)
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St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley and councilmen Steve Stenger and Mike O'Mara during a council meeting on Tuesday, December 6th, 2011. (KMOX/Michael Calhoun)

St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley and councilmen Steve Stenger and Mike O’Mara during a council meeting on Tuesday, December 6th, 2011. (KMOX/Michael Calhoun)

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CLAYTON (KMOX) – This week’s Missouri Supreme Court ruling on the establishment of St. Louis County’s trash districts includes both financial and political fallout.

Justices decided that the county did not give the required two years’ notice to private trash haulers before taking control of their routes. The consequence is that county taxpayers will likely be responsible for at least $1 million in damages.

County Executive Charlie Dooley, however, notes that the program is saving residents money– to the tune of $16 million a year. With that perspective, he believes it to be good policy even if the procedures leading to the establishment of the districts were ruled problematic.

County councilman Steve Stenger doesn’t like that assessment.

“There is some lack of judgement and it keeps leading the county into issue after issue,” he said.

On Dooley’s reaction to the ruling, Stenger continued: “There’s no acknowledgement. No responsibility taken. No buck stopping anywhere. Frankly, I think that’s just atrocious.”

But a spokesman for Dooley noted that the county could easily absorb the trash judgement because of reserves that have been built up — reserves which the spokesman alleged Stenger would spend in lieu of cuts. He also said those reserves and Dooley’s managing of them contribute to the count’s triple-A bond rating.

Dooley has already said he’s running for re-election.

With such strong language and such sustained criticism of his fellow Democrat, KMOX asked Stenger to say whether he’s positioning himself for a primary challenge.

“There’s certainly a lot of things that could happen between now and 2014, but I’m strongly considering it.”

First, however, Stenger said he would focus on being re-elected to the county council this fall. Regardless, he said of the Executive:

“It’s not leadership that I’m going to follow,” he said.

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