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'Take Back St. Louis' Initiative Heads Back To The Courtroom

(Chris McDaniel, St. Louis Public Radio)

When St. Louis Judge Robert Dierkerissued a preliminary injunction against the Take Back St. Louis initiative, it knocked the measure off of the city of St. Louis’ April municipal elections ballot.

But that doesn’t mean the fight is over. Both sides are heading back to court on Monday to potentially decide the future of the ballot initiative.

The charter amendment bars the city of St. Louis from offering incentives to companies, such as Peabody Energy, that extract non-renewable resources. It would also prevent companies that did at least $1 million in business with "unsustainable energy providers" from receiving tax breaks.

Supporters of the initiative hoped it would spawn creation of “green” energy jobs in St. Louis. But opponents – including St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay’s administration – contended it would strike a blow to job creation within the city.

The initiative was hit with a lawsuit soon after being certified for the April ballot. In February, Dierker issued a preliminary injunction that said state law doesn’t give cities authority to restrict eligibility for economic development incentives. He also said the initiative violated the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Monday’s hearing will start the process toward a permanent ruling. Arielle Klagsbrun of Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE) said in a conference call that if either Dierker or another judge reverses course, then they hope the charter is placed on the August or November ballot.

Both Klangsburn and MORE’s Reginald Rounds emphasized that supporters managed to collect around 36,000 signatures to bring the initiative up for a vote. And both said that voters deserve a say on the matter.

“I think we believe the sooner, the better,” Klangsburn said. “Because this is already a conversation that was supposed to happen in April.”

Jane Dueker, an attorney who filed the lawsuit, said she’s hoping that Dierker ultimately rules to permanently keep the measure off the ballot. She said if supporters want to still pursue the charter amendment, “they need to come up with a way to do that doesn’t conflict with state law.”

“They’re trying to change state law through a charter amendment. And they can’t. It exceeds charter power,” Dueker said. “There are a lot of programs that this initiative is trying to modify. And they’re not allowed to modify a state law that’s generally applicable.”

Klangsburn said supporters of the initiative are planning a “festive” rally with “some music” on Sunday at Peabody Energy’s Downtown headquarters. 

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.