Progressives strengthen grip on St. Louis politics as Board of Aldermen downsizes to 14
A progressive movement that elevated St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and Board of Aldermen President Megan Green to power has bolstered its legislative strength at City Hall.
Three newcomers backed by both women won their aldermanic races Tuesday night — public relations executive Daniela Velázquez in the 6th Ward; Alisha Sonnier, a member of the Board of Education for the St. Louis Public Schools in the 7th Ward; and state Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, D-St. Louis, in the 14th Ward. Aldridge will have to resign from the state House before he is sworn in.
Turnout was 18%.
“I’m excited for this new Board of Aldermen,” Green said after the unofficial final results were posted. “I think we have a great crop of folks that have a similar vision for the direction of our city and will work together to get some things done.”
Green, who was elected president without opposition, pledged to focus attention on tenants rights and housing issues and to take a “bigger-picture view of modernizing city services, instead of continuing this parochial, ward-by-ward hodgepodge system” that she said makes it difficult to provide quality services across the city.
The biggest impediment to Green and her allies may be Sharon Tyus, who beat Tashara Earl in the new 12th Ward by a wide margin. Tyus clashed with progressives, at one point last year calling former Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia a “little spoiled brat.” Tyus will be among the most senior aldermen, giving her a top pick of committees to chair.
Green said her office was committed to collegiality but added that “it takes two people to be able to develop those types of relationships.”
Tuesday night also marked the end of three aldermanic careers.
Joe Vaccaro, who was first elected in 2009, lost to another incumbent, Bret Narayan, 55% to 45% in the new 4th Ward. Vaccaro had been among the most outspoken opponents of public safety reforms. And in 2015, as chair of Ways and Means, he nearly torpedoed legislation to boost the minimum wage in the city after canceling meetings to review the bill.
In the second race featuring two incumbents, in the 13th Ward, Pam Boyd, who took office in April 2017, defeated Norma Walker, who served less than a year. And in the 9th Ward, Tina Pihl, one of the loudest voices for equitable development policies in the city, lost to newcomer Michael Browning, a senior grants specialist at Washington University. Pihl had been part of the “Flip the Board” campaign in 2021 that led to the election of three progressive aldermen.
Meanwhile, two former members, Ken Ortmann and Jennifer Florida, both failed in their attempts to return to the Board of Aldermen. It marked the second time both had sought to regain their seats.
St. Louis voters on Tuesday also authorized a regular review of the city’s charter, which outlines government operations.
Proposition C received 60.08% of the vote, barely above the 60% needed. It was a passion project of outgoing 8th Ward Alderwoman Annie Rice, who said she was “grateful to be going out on a high note.”
“Proposition C will give us a path to move forward both now and every 10 years in the future, and that’s the momentum that the city of St. Louis needs,” she said.
Within the next few days, Jones’ office will have to put together and publicize an application to serve on a nine-member commission. The Board of Aldermen will review those applications, then present recommendations to Jones. Her nominations require approval by the board. Three members must live south of Arsenal Street, three in an area roughly north of Page Boulevard and three in the central corridor.
With the support of technical and legal staff, the commission will meet for a year starting Aug. 15 to review the current charter, which was written in 1914, and make recommendations for any changes. Those proposals would then go to the voters.
Jones said in a statement that the charter was “well overdue for a comprehensive review” and encouraged residents from across the city to apply.
“The passage of Prop C by the voters establishes a transparent, resident-driven process to recommend changes to bring city government into the 21st century,” she said.
Other city ballot issues
By a wide margin, voters authorized a 3% tax on sales of recreational marijuana.
Tracy Hykes, a sheet metal worker and graduate of Sumner High School, and Sadie Weiss, the executive director of the UMSL Bridge Program, were elected to the Board of Education for the St. Louis Public Schools. And Nicole Robinson, vice president of public policy and community solutions for developer McCormack Baron Cos., defeated incumbent Pam Ross for a seat on the Board of Trustees for St. Louis Community College.
Voters in the DeBaliviere Place Special Business District reauthorized a property tax of $.85 per $100 of assessed value until 2034.