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St. Louis voters put city ward redistricting in residents’ hands, approve $50M bond issue

A sign advocating for the passing of Proposition R on Tuesday, April 5, 2022, in south St. Louis.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
A sign in the Tower Grove South neighborhood in St. Louis advocates for the passage of Proposition R on Tuesday. City residents approved the measure with nearly 70% of the vote.

St. Louis aldermen will no longer draw their own ward maps every 10 years.

Voters in the city on Tuesday approved Proposition R, which turns the redistricting process over to a citizens commission. Final unofficial results show the measure receiving 69% approval, well over the 60% needed for charter changes.

“To see the voice of the people being listened to is amazing,” said LaShana Lewis, the chair of the board for the Show Me Integrity Education Fund, a nonprofit set up to help support good governance initiatives. “People wanted to be listened to. I think more than anything it speaks to transparency. A lot of people are like, ‘I really want to see what’s going on in my government.’”

In addition to creating the citizens redistricting initiative, Proposition R requires aldermen to make their financial disclosure forms public and strengthens conflict of interest provisions.

Though language in the measure would have put the commission in charge of drawing maps for the 2023 election, supporters of Proposition R had already said they would wait until after the 2030 census. Redistricting based on the 2020 census was completed late last year.

The measure drew a flurry of late opposition led by the Aldermanic Black Caucus and the city’s Democratic Central Committee. They and other opponents pointed to language they said would make it hard to find people with the right technical skills to serve and a provision allowing retired judges who do not live in the city to serve on an oversight committee.

The oversight committee would appoint the first four members of the commission, who would then select the other five. Aldermen would have input on the members of the commission and could make suggestions on the maps the commission produces.

Bond issue approved

Also on Tuesday, voters agreed to let the city borrow $50 million to meet capital needs, such as street paving and repairs to city recreation centers and firehouses. The money will also allow the city to use federal transportation dollars that require matching local funds.

Mayor Tishaura Jones thanked residents for their “commitment to the long-term fiscal health of the city.”

“From labor to business, from North City to South, communities across St. Louis came together to support Prop 1; this is what caring for our city looks like,” she said in a statement.

The bonds will not require a tax increase.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

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

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