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Krewson Vetoes Attempt To Reverse Upcoming Ward Reduction

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen on Friday approved a bill to reverse the ward reduction plan.
Andrea Y. Henderson
St. Louis Public Radio
The St. Louis Board of Aldermen on Friday approved a bill to get voters to reverse the ward reduction plan.

Updated at 5:25 p.m. Jan. 26 with mayoral veto

An effort to undo a planned cut in the number of aldermanic wards in St. Louis is over — for now.

In 2012, city residents narrowly voted to halve the number of wards from 28 to 14 in time for the 2023 aldermanic election. Mayor Lyda Krewson on Tuesday vetoed a bill that would have asked residents to vote on the issue again in April.

Because state law set Tuesday as the deadline to put items on the ballot, opponents of the reduction do not have time to attempt an override of the veto. They were also unlikely to be able to garner enough support at the board.

The sponsor of the bill, Alderman John Collins-Muhammad, D-21st Ward, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Those opposed to cutting the number of wards say it will reduce Black political power in the city.

Krewson was a co-sponsor of the original ward reduction measure. She said in a statement that “the Board of Aldermen and the Administration must work together to redraw the new ward boundaries to ensure fair and equitable representation for all our residents.”

The issue may come up again during the session of the board that starts after the April election. By then, there will be a new mayor.

Original story from Jan. 15

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen wants to reverse a plan approved by voters that would reduce the number of wards in the city from 28 to 14.

Aldermen voted 15-13 on Friday to ask voters in April to scrap the reduction plan that is set to go into effect on Dec. 31.

St. Louis residents voted in 2012 to cut the existing wards to 14.

The latest effort would need to pass with 60% of the vote, since it is an amendment to the city’s charter.

Mayor Lyda Krewson’s position on reversing ward reduction remains unchanged. She is opposed to placing the issue back on the ballot, but a spokesperson declined to say if she would veto it.

If Krewson does nothing with the bill, ward reduction reversal would go on the ballot.

Supporters on the board would need 20 votes to override a veto by the mayor.

The effort to overturn the reduction has been ongoing for several years. Backers claim that voters didn’t really understand what they were voting for and that the move will decrease representation. Supporters say it will make the board more efficient.

Close the Workhouse resolution

Aldermen on Friday also overwhelmingly gave first-round approval to a nonbinding referendum to close the north St. Louis jail known as the Workhouse.

Aldermen already passed legislation this past summer to close the Workhouse and develop a plan by Dec. 31, 2020, which hasn’t happened yet.

Activists have long criticized the living conditions at the Workhouse. The jail houses many people who cannot afford bail while they await trial.

Many aldermen said they are in favor of closing the Workhouse, but there must be an alternative plan for inmates and the building.

Alderman Brandon Bosley, D-3rd Ward, said if the board cannot come up with a concrete plan, then the residents need to be involved with the decision.

Alderman Joseph Vaccaro, D-23rd Ward, is not in favor of the bill. He said he has spoken with people inside the Workhouse, and they asked him not to close the jail because they do not want to be sent farther away from home or to a jail with conditions worse than the Workhouse's.

Follow Andrea on Twitter: @drebjournalist

Andrea covers race, identity & culture at St. Louis Public Radio.
Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.