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St. Louis Board Of Aldermen Reject Vote On Residency Requirement

St. Louis City Hall
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis aldermen have voted against asking residents to lift a requirement that city employees live in the city.

Friday’s vote was the latest setback for Alderwoman Carol Howard, D-14th Ward. She has tried since last year to change the city charter and allow most employees to live where they would like. Elected officials and appointed department heads would still have a residency requirement.

“It’s about the carpenters, it’s about the workmen, it’s about the building inspectors, it’s about people working in the city,” Howard said. “When they have to make a commitment to move into the city within 90 days, many people back off and say, 'Never mind, I don’t want the job.'”

Howard and other supporters painted the change as a way to ease the city’s hiring crunch not only in the police department but other departments as well. But opponents like Alderman Brandon Bosley, D-3rd Ward, placed the blame for unfilled jobs on the city’s hiring practices.

“I have folks that I have worked with try to get jobs within the city of St. Louis, and they’re continually waiting, interview after interview. And it’s not that they’re not qualified. We don’t want to hire people in this city,” he said.

The proposal had narrowly received first-round approval in July, but several aldermen, including Shane Cohn, D-25th Ward, flipped their votes. Cohn wanted a few changes, including lifting the requirement for new hires only, and an annual report from the personnel department on its hiring practices.

Cohn also questioned the urgency of acting in October, when Howard’s bill set the election more than a year later, in November of next year. She has pledged to bring the issue up again.

Other bills of note

Board President Lewis Reed on Friday introduced legislation he says will improve public safety in the city.

By law, the city must put half of any leftover money into its capital fund. Budget officials say they like to put any remaining amount into reserves. But Reed has proposed spending $3.5 million on body cameras and the remaining $8 million on a violence-prevention program called Cure Violence.

Reed is also pushing for legislation that would require licensed gun dealers located in the city to let the police know if someone who attempted to purchase a firearm failed a background check. The legislation does not apply to dealers elsewhere in Missouri. It would also do nothing to keep an individual from acquiring a gun via other means, and does not impact guns that are stolen from vehicles, gun dealers or other locations.

And it appears that developer Paul McKee is attempting to restart an urgent care center that he failed to build by the city's deadlines. The land is within his Northside Regeneration footprint, which covers 1,200 acres, mostly in the city’s 5th Ward. The ward’s alderwoman, Tammika Hubbard, has a bill setting new deadlines for the project. It lost its building permits earlier this year, although they were later re-instated. The facility was supposed to be built by March of this year.

City officials said they had not seen the new agreement. They had previously moved to cut all ties with McKee, saying he had not lived up to the terms of a $389 million incentive package. 

Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify that Northside Regeneration failed to meet the city’s March deadline for project completion. The city renewed permits for the project after the developer lost them earlier this year.

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