Alderwoman Young Announces Resignation; Aldermen Declare 'Black Lives Matter'
Long-time St. Louis Alderwoman Phyllis Young announced Friday that she will be stepping down next week.
Young, a Democrat, has been the alderwoman for the 7th Ward for nearly 30 years, making her the longest serving alderman. Her ward encompasses parts of downtown and Soulard.
"After much soul searching and discussions with family and friends, I have decided that 29-plus years is enough," Young wrote to her colleagues.
When asked in an interview why she chose to resign now, Young said she had been thinking about retiring for several years but decided to stick around until now to wrap up a few things.
“Well, the reason I’m resigning now is my husband is retired for 15 years," she said in an interview after the Board of Aldermen adjourned. "And by doing so now, there will be an election instead of a special election, so the people can determine who their alderman is going to be.”
The election will be held in the spring during a regularly scheduled municipal election. But Young has already endorsed her potential replacement, Jack Coatar, a former assistant circuit attorney in St. Louis.
Coatar cited public safety as an issue he will focus on in the campaign.
“As a prosecutor, I have seen first hand the devastating effect that crime has on people and neighborhoods. A visible police presence and an engaged, aware community are both crucial to making our communities more safe and secure,” Coatar said in a statement.
Young is the chair of the Public Safety Committee as well as an ally of Mayor Francis Slay. That may be one reason her resignation was welcomed by some.
Today's resignation of the chairwoman is an opportunity for the Public Safety Cmte to finally provide true oversight over the police dept.— Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) December 5, 2014
Her resignation came on the same day that a bill to allow civilian review of the city police force was introduced, and the same day that several members of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen voiced displeasure over recent grand juries that have decided to not indict police officers who killed unarmed black men.
About eight aldermen stood up and held signs that said “Black lives matter.” Then several of them took to the mic to discuss the city’s history with race.
Alderwoman Sharon Tyus, D-1st Ward, said police chiefs should be forced out when their officers kill unarmed black men. She also criticized how the districts are drawn in the city, which she argued limits the power of black voters.
The board passed a bill to establish a civilian review board in 2006, but Mayor Francis Slay vetoed it because he questioned whether it was legal and fair.
“When we first entertained this notion, I mentioned in the testimony then that St. Louis is a powderkeg and that St. Louis is on the verge of being ignited," Alderman Terry Kennedy, D-18th Ward, said on Friday. "I said that back then. I don’t stand here to say I told you so. But I said it back then.”
The bill will now go before the Public Safety Committee.
Follow Chris McDaniel on Twitter: @csmcdaniel