Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.

Messenger: If Krewson learns from Ferguson Commission, veto of ward-reduction bill will follow

  • 0
Krewson, Stenger move closer to city-county merger plans

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, (right), speaks at a joint news conference with St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger on Monday, June 12, 2017, at the Cheshire Inn hotel. The two voiced their positions following a released report of a city-county merger study by the Better Together organization. Photo by Christian Gooden,

Two months into her term as mayor of the city of St. Louis, Lyda Krewson started a courtship.

She stood in an upstairs room at the Cheshire Inn next to County Executive Steve Stenger and endorsed some sort of future “marriage” between the city and the county. The nonprofit Better Together group funded in part by Rex Sinquefield was releasing its latest report outlining the millions of tax dollars wasted on duplication in a county with 89 municipalities, separated from the biggest municipality of all, the one Krewson runs. Better Together was moving to its next step, appointing a task force whose job it is to figure out what that “marriage” Krewson talks about might look like.

Will the city re-enter the county? Will the two entities become one? Will the other municipalities cease to exist?

That task force is still studying and contemplating and working toward making recommendations.

Meanwhile, the Board of Aldermen in Krewson’s city are preparing to take a step backward.

Last week, the board gave initial approval to a bill that would ask the city for a do-over.

In 2012, city voters approved a measure that in 2020 would reduce the number of aldermen to 14 from 28. Now, most of the city’s black aldermen want to redo that vote.

Like nearly all things St. Louis, this dispute is wrapped up in racial politics.

Supporters of keeping the board at its current size — one of the largest per-capita governing bodies in any American city — say that reducing the number of wards would reduce black representation.

Not so fast, says the editorial board of the St. Louis American, one of the nation’s oldest newspapers dedicated to covering African-American issues.

The American, owned by Donald Suggs, calls the argument made by the bill’s sponsor, Alderman John Collins-Muhammad, that ward reduction is intended to reduce black political power “specious and wrongheaded.”

“The whiff of conspiracy clearly is intended to inflame black citizens, but this argument is nonsense,” the American writes. “Reducing the number of wards in the city will reduce both white-majority and black-majority wards, provided the redistricting is done equitably. … We advise black aldermen to stop protesting and start fighting inside for equitable redistricting. We gladly will fight right alongside them.”

On Friday, aldermen will take a final vote on the bill before Krewson is faced with the challenge of deciding whether to veto it.

As she’s mulling her path, perhaps the words from that April day in 2017 when she talked about a future in the St. Louis region with more efficient and regional governance should guide her.

“I recognize that the city is going to have to change in order to thrive,” she said.

Traditionally, elected officials don’t like change.

Take a look at what’s happened in the county since Better Together started rattling its regional saber. In Chesterfield and Manchester, Ellisville and Sunset Hills, and countless other municipalities in St. Louis County, elected officials have passed resolutions opposing the as-yet-undefined marriage, or merger, or combination, or whatever you want to call it.

It is the county version — led by mostly white elected officials — of the city’s ward reduction discussion.

The common denominator is elected officials are doing what elected officials do best: protecting their own interests.

Viewed in that context, the ward-reduction debate offers Krewson an opportunity. She should tell the city’s other elected officials that they’re squabbling over the wrong issue.

After she was elected, among the mayor’s pledges was to follow one of the key recommendations in the Forward Through Ferguson report to view policy decisions through a “racial equity” lens. In fact, she hired the former director of that organization, Nicole Hudson, to serve as her top adviser. Following the protests in Ferguson in 2014 and 2015, and the massive media coverage of the inequity rampant in a county that has way too many municipalities, police departments and courts, the leaders of the Ferguson Commission preached consolidation, not status quo:

“Many things unite the St. Louis region. But when it comes to municipal courts and law enforcement agencies, St. Louis is fragmented,” the report says. “And these numbers reveal just one of the ways the current state of municipal fragmentation is both a result of and a propagator of racial disparity.”

It’s hard to see how Krewson can support some form of consolidation between the city and the county, while simultaneously endorsing a Board of Aldermen that seems headed toward an embrace of the same, old, political divisions that have held St. Louis back for decades.

A veto of the ward-reduction bill, in the spirit of racial equity, could earn Krewson some enemies on the Board of Aldermen. But at least she would not be a runaway bride.

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


Breaking News


National News