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Aldermen reject legislative effort to force public vote on stadium financing

This artist's rendering shows an aerial view of the massing model of the new football stadium, looking southwest.
HOK | 360 Architecture

The fight to force a vote on funding for a proposed new football stadium in the city will now be fought solely in the courts.

The Convention and Tourism committee on Wednesday rejected a bill that would have put the proposed financing plan on the March ballot. The vote was 5-3 in opposition.

"It wasn't surprising to me, nor other supporters of this bill," said 15th Ward alderman Megan-Ellyia Green, a Democrat and co-sponsor of the measure. "I think democracy was unfortunately pushed aside for some special interests, today. I think that’s very disconcerting, that that’s the way we’re conducting business at City Hall."

Here's how the committee voted:

  • Ayes: Aldermen Sharon Tyus, Scott Ogilvie and Shane Cohn
  • Nayes: Aldermen Tammika Hubbard, Jack Coatar, Joe Vollmer, Marlene Davis and Lyda Krewson

Hubbard and Coatar are co-sponsors of the proposed financing plan, which has not yet been finalized.
"The voters elected us, and we can say whether or not we want to vote for it," Hubbard said. "My constituents who elected me to advocate in their best interest, they're counting on jobs." 

The city can't afford to do anything to jeopardize the Rams staying in St. Louis, said Vollmer, especially with reports that financing plans must be finalized by the end of the month.

"The billionaires are making their own decision. If we kill the deal before that decision is made – we also have a responsibility to the people who elected us to keep ourselves in the game, so to speak," he said.

"I think it is the will of the people to decide if we actually want to play this game," said B.J. Kraiberg, one of a handful of people who signed up to speak, all in support of Green's bill. 

The court fight

Three groups have lawsuits pending that could force a vote on stadium financing. One group seeks permission to join a case filed by the state agency that oversees the Edward Jones Dome against a 2002 ordinance requiring a citywide vote on stadium financing. Judge Thomas Frawley rejected that ordinance and the request to intervene in August. The city did not appeal the ruling.

In the second lawsuit, stadium opponents including Jeanette Mott Oxford of Empower Missouri want to force a judge to comply with that 2002 ordinance and block the city from spending any additional funding without a vote. Finally, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is challenging the authority of Gov. Jay Nixon to spend money on the stadium without an appropriation from the General Assembly. The case was originally filed in Cole County, but moved to St. Louis.

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

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