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St. Louis Charter Commission wants to boost aldermanic budgeting power and move elections

The City of St. Louis City Hall on Monday, Oct. 18, 2021, in St. Louis, Missouri.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis City Hall in October 2021

The St. Louis Charter Commission is sending city aldermen a raft of proposals, including a measure bolstering the board’s budgetary power and another moving the date of city elections.

The proposals, which will need city voter approval to go into effect, are significantly scaled down from what the commission was initially considering.

Voters approved the creation of the nine-person commission in 2023 to recommend changes to how the city government functions. The proposals they’re sending to aldermen include:

  • Creating the office of the public advocate, which among other things could look into accusations of corruption and act on public complaints regarding city services.
  • Giving the Board of Aldermen an opportunity to increase, decrease or add budgetary items without requiring a recommendation of the St. Louis Board of Estimate and Apportionment. That board consisting of the mayor, comptroller and aldermanic president wields major influence over the city budget since aldermen can currently only decrease budgetary items.
  • Converting the Streets Department into the Department of Transportation, which would have authority over matters like pedestrian- and bike-related issues.
  • Moving some city elections from March and April of odd-numbered years to either August and November of even-numbered years or August and November of odd-numbered years. Backers say it could boost turnout for offices like mayor or aldermen.
  • Altering wording within the city charter, including renaming the St. Louis Board of Aldermen the City Council of St. Louis.

A spokesman for Board of Aldermen President Megan Green said the proposals will now go to the board, which can decide whether to send the measures to voters in the November general election.

Some of the ideas that the Charter Commission decided to scrap included eliminating the Board of Estimate and Apportionment and the office of the comptroller, which is responsible for handling the city’s various fiscal matters.

That idea was opposed by Mayor Tishaura Jones and Comptroller Darlene Green. Green said in a statement last month that such a proposal “will forever completely dismantle the strong financial structure of the city, weaken checks and balances, and eliminate transparency.”

“Together the Board of E&A, and an independent elected comptroller, provides for a layer of structural protection and accountability for local government finances,” Green said.

The Charter Commission also declined to advance a proposal allowing the mayor to directly appoint fire and police chiefs and the director of personnel.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.