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Fight Over Residency Requirement On Tap As St. Louis Aldermen Return From Break

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen chambers on July 7, 2017.
File photo | Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis aldermen will spend at least part of Friday debating whether to ask voters to repeal the requirement that most city employees live in the city.

The bill narrowly received first-round approval in July. Its sponsor, Alderwoman Carol Howard, D-14th Ward, delayed a final vote until after the break, to give her time to secure more support.

Howard said in July she was “very sure” she would have the votes necessary to send the possible charter change to Mayor Lyda Krewson. She says now she isn’t sure of the result, but “it’s time to let the chips fall where they may.”

“It’s just an archaic, good ol’ boy rule that was set up when the center of the population was in the city,” she said. “We’ve become more of a regional area, and I think that we should be able to hire regionally.”

Under the current charter, almost all city employees have to live in the city. Under Howard’s proposal, only elected officials and department or agency heads appointed by the mayor would have to be city residents.

Howard says she will bring the bill back next session if it fails. She introduced similar legislation in 2018 as well, but aldermen never took a vote.

Krewson has said she will sign the measure if it reaches her desk. Voters would weigh in in 2020 — 60% would have to approve for the residency requirement to be lifted. 

Airport privatization

There is even more uncertainty about the fate of three bills dealing with the potential lease of St. Louis-Lambert International Airport.

Two of Alderwoman Cara Spencer’s bills would force a public vote on whether to privatize the operations at Lambert. The third would require the city to accept a grant to analyze whether leasing the airport is in its best interest.

The bills have all stalled in committee, and it’s unclear whether Spencer, D-20th Ward, has the votes needed for a discharge motion, which would bring them to the floor without a vote. But she hopes the events of the summer motivate her colleagues to act.

“The public has become even more outraged as more and more nuggets of conflicts of interest have come to play over the summer,” she said, referring to relationships among financial backers of the process and people hired to work on the issue. 

In addition, Douglass Petty, a spokesman for the Airport Advisory Working Group,was fired Monday night. The move came after St. Louis Public Radio reported he had likely called into an Aug. 22 St. Louis on the Air show on airport privatization using an assumed name. The working group had originally agreed to appear on the show, but backed out citing scheduling conflicts. 

Aldermen will also eventually be asked to approve parts of a plan for a new soccer stadium. Exact details are still being worked out, but it’s likely to include special taxing districts at the site of the stadium and a break on sales taxes. The board last year passed a non-binding resolution making it clear it would work with the ownership group to get the stadium built.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org

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