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With Spring Break Looming, Aldermen Tie Up Some Loose Ends

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen are off for a month-long spring break starting today. Like many a legislative body (or college students) before them, they left a lot of business until the last minute. Here's a look at some of the business they took care of today.

  • Summer Rocks music festival

The Board of Aldermen gave the preliminary  thumbs-up on Friday to the measure codifying an agreement between Los Angeles-based ICM Partners and St. Louis for at least ten years of downtown music festivals on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. It'll likely get final approval on April 14, which is the next time the aldermen meet.
Tenth Ward alderman Joe Vollmer chairs the committee that heard more than six hours of testimony on the bill over two days. He said the atmosphere around the measure at times felt like the movie Footloose in reverse.

"The City Council wants dancing, they want music, they want fun and frivolity, they want money, and the citizenry says 'no,'" Vollmer said. "So I urge you all to support this so we can move forward and maybe have some fun."

Many of those who opposed the agreement said they did so because they felt they had not had time to properly review the measure. It was introduced two weeks ago, and originally scheduled for a final vote today. Vollmer held the bill in committee the first week to allow more time fore review.

"I think this would be an uneducated vote," said 11th Ward alderman Tom Villa.

  • Demolition by neglect

The Board of Aldermen sent the mayor a measure that adds an additional layer of protection for so-called "high merit properties" that are falling victim to demolition by neglect.
The proposal is one of several that came out of a series of meetings hosted by Mayor Francis Slay's administration over the fate of Cupples 7. It gives the city an additional tool in dealing with the owners of these buildings who might be letting them deteriorate. The bill allows the city building commissioner,  after a series of public hearings, to make repairs to a historic building and bill the owner. Mayor Slay will sign it.

The demolition by neglect measure does not provide a source of funding for the repairs. Another proposal that came out of the Cupples 7 confab  was a building stabilization fund. It will not pass this aldermanic session. A spokeswoman for Mayor Francis Slay says discussions are ongoing.

  • Recording of government meetings

Also sent to the mayor today, a measure that mandates the audio recording, video recording or transcribing of all Board of Aldermen and committee meetings, as well as the boards of Public Safety, Estimate and Apportionment, and preservation. Those recordings would have to be available three days after the meeting and archived on the city's website for at least 10 years.
Ways and Means chairman Terry Kennedy arranged to have this year's budget hearings recorded, which he said proved useful.

"The recording gave us the opportunity to review some of the testimony when we had questions about some of the issues that did arise, even after the budget process," he said.

The bill's sponsor, Ald. Antonio French, has sometimes provided his own live stream of important meetings.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Slay said the mayor had not yet seen the measure. There was no opposition form the aldermen.

Also sent to Mayor Francis Slay today:

  • Bills activating the tax increment financing for the new IKEA planned for the Cortex district.
  • The measure authorizing new development at the site of the old American Heart Association building at 4643 Lindell Blvd. Developers have added an additional level of parking below ground to accommodate the retail space.
  • Legislation that would require the owner of a property that's been declared a public nuisance to provide to the city's Department of Public Safety a list of tenants living at that address.

The board also went on record today in support of expanding Medicaid in Missouri to comply with the Affordable Care Act. They also went on record as opposing the transfer by the Veterans Administration of 800 jobs to St. Louis County.
The Board of Aldermen will be back  April 14 to finish up the session. A new one begins the next day.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter@rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.