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St. Louis Charter Commission releases 7 draft amendment proposals

The Common Seal of The City of St. Louis.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
The St. Louis City Charter Commission is recommending seven changes to the city’s charter.

After months of public comment and meeting of working groups, the St. Louis City Charter Commission has released its draft proposal of amendments.

“We care deeply about incorporating changes and making updates that are reflective of St. Louis City as it is right now,” said Briana Bobo, the commission's chair. “Also, providing enough freedom to be malleable to how St. Louis can grow into the future.”

The original charter was created in 1914 to function as the city’s constitution and roadmap for running its government. The proposal to update it lays out seven recommendations, including: changing the name of the Board of Aldermen to the City Council, changing how the aldermanic president is chosen and giving the Board of Aldermen the power to increase budgetary amounts.

St. Louis Alderman Rasheen Aldridge introduced a bill of his own in May proposing a change to the charter that would give the board the ability to increase the city’s budget.

The proposal would also eliminate the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, remove comptroller as an elected office and instead shift the responsibilities to a newly created finance department under the mayor’s office, and give the Board of Aldermen an independent legal department.

Further amendments would establish the Office of the Public Advocate. The office, which would be led by a citywide elected official, would answer complaints about city services. Bobo said this is an effort to keep the government accountable.

“Someone who they can go to with questions,” Bobo said. “Someone who would be looking out for them. Then essentially having guardrails up that would protect against potential conflicts of interest or some of the things that we have seen play out in the last three to five years.”

The nine-member commission was established last April following a vote from residents. Bobo said public comments and working groups zeroed in on a common thread of improving transparency and efficiency.

“[Residents] don’t know what’s really going on,” Bobo said. “They don’t know who to go to for what. There are some limitations in the charter. It’s definitely not a document that’s meant to be expansive. It’s supposed to be pretty direct.”

The commission’s final recommendations will be sent to the Board of Elections by Aug. 15. Residents could then vote on the amendments in November.

Marissanne is the afternoon newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.