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City reins in plan to ban carriage rides

Greyson and Darth Vator roam in the St. Louis Carriage Company stables paddock. There are seven horses currently at the stable, said office manager and driver Jenny Holzum, while 11 others are at a farm taking what she described as a vacation.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Greyson and Darth Vator roam in the St. Louis Carriage Company stables paddock. Aldermen have halted efforts to ban carriage rides on city streets.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen has suspended, for now, an effort to ban carriage rides on city streets.

Aldermen on Friday were expected to give first-round approval to a measure sponsored by Joe Vaccaro, D-23rd Ward, that kept horses from city streets unless they were part of a parade or a police detail.

But lawmakers in Jefferson City are advancing legislation that allows cities to regulate carriage horses, but not ban them outright.

“We can come up with reasonable regulations, whether it’s going to be heat, or how many horses that are allowed out,” Vaccaro said “Their only ask from me was to hold off or slow down on the bill that I’m doing that would ban them.”

Vaccaro had touted his bill as a public safety necessity, citing instances when unattended horses had been spooked and run off. He said he had already started conversations with the Board of Public Service about the type of regulations that would be needed.

The question of who has the authority to regulate horse-drawn carriages has long been in dispute. In 2014, then-health director Pamela Walker instituted guidelines that banned carriage rides when the temperatures got too hot — she had previously called for a complete ban on them. In 2016, a St. Louis County judge stripped the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission of its authority to regulate the companies, and they’ve been operating without much regulation since.

Airport privatization oversight

Also on Friday, aldermen took steps to make sure they know more about the possible privatization of St. Louis-Lambert International Airport.

The resolution introduced by Alderwoman Marlene Davis, D-19th Ward, requires Mayor Lyda Krewson and any consultants hired as part of the process to give the Transportation and Commerce committee progress reports at least every 60 days.

“People have a misunderstanding that we are going to sell the airport,” said Davis, who chairs the transportation committee. “That is not true. This process has never been about selling the airport.”

She said the lack of transparency around the process is scaring city residents.

There’s no reason to send fear and anxiety out to our community. It’s unfair to our constituency, and so we need to clear that up as well,” Davis said.

Mayor Francis Slay started the privatization process just before he left office in April 2017 — the Federal Aviation Administration accepted the initial application less than a week after Krewson, his successor was sworn in.

A non-profit affiliated with libertarian billionaire Rex Sinquefield covered the costs of that initial application. That same non-profit, Grow Missouri, is among the firms that will evaluate potential lessees, which bothers a number of aldermen.

“The privatization of the airport may not be all bad, but we don't know anything about it,” said Alderman Frank Williamson, D-26th Ward. “And I hate to say it, sometimes when Mr. Rex Sinquefield gets involved with something, it bears watching.”

Williamson was one of 18 aldermen who signed a letter calling Grow Missouri’s involvement in the process a clear conflict of interest.

It’s not clear when the transportation committee will gets its first progress report.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

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