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5 aldermen press for end to City Hall freeholders deadlock

5 aldermen press for end to City Hall freeholders deadlock

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Board of Freeholders holds first meeting,

Aldermanic President Lewis Reed, center top, welcomes the new Board of Freeholders to the aldermanic chambers at St. Louis City Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. The group met with only its St. Louis County- and state-appointed members; the city appointees have yet to be approved. Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

ST. LOUIS — Five city aldermen on Tuesday turned up the political heat to draw renewed attention to the nearly four-month-long impasse at City Hall on approving the city’s delegation to the regional Board of Freeholders.

The five sent a letter to Aldermanic President Lewis Reed and the chair and vice-chair of the aldermanic committee that has failed to clear Mayor Lyda Krewson’s freeholders nominees for a vote by the full Board of Aldermen.

“Our constituents are justifiably concerned and asking how the City can function when its elected leadership cannot muster the political will to take on the most basic of tasks,” said the five.

They are Heather Navarro, D-28th Ward; Christine Ingrassia, D-6th Ward; Megan Green, D-15th Ward; Annie Rice, D-8th Ward; and Cara Spencer, D-20th Ward. Spencer recently said she is a candidate for mayor in 2021.

They said they supported the aldermanic Intergovernmental Affairs Committee “in advocating for a diverse and representative panel of appointees.”

But they said the committee should take the next step in holding a vote on the appointments. “Every day that the City fails to appoint its designees is another day that the City is left out of the process,” they said.

The aldermanic committee on Oct. 16 voted to table nine Krewson appointees to the freeholders board.

About a month later, Krewson made four changes in her slate as recommended by committee chairman Sam Moore, D-4th Ward, and Reed, who has tried to mediate.

The committee then split on whether and how many more changes should be sought. The panel last met before Thanksgiving.

Complicating matters, Reed has said, are what he called Moore’s health issues and trying to work around Moore’s schedule. Reed has not elaborated. 

Moore has missed the last five weekly meetings of the full Board of Aldermen. The last one he attended was Dec. 13 before aldermen began a holiday break.

The freeholders board, triggered by petition drives in the city and St. Louis County, is supposed to consider potential changes in the two jurisdictions’ governmental structure.

The county’s nine members and one named by Gov. Mike Parson held an initial meeting Nov. 12 but substantive talks were delayed until city appointees were confirmed.

The five aldermen in their letter said they believe the entire Board of Aldermen is responsible for “fulfilling our duty” under the Missouri Constitution to see that the city’s nine members are approved.

The Constitution required that the appointment process be completed within 30 days after the petitions were certified as valid, which happened Sept. 23.

The five aldermen asked Reed, Moore and committee vice-chairwoman Sharon Tyus, D-1st Ward, to let the full board know “what the plan is to fulfill our constitutional requirements.”

The five in the letter referred to the freeholders board as the Board of Electors, the informal name used by the last such regional panel when it met in 1990-91.

That board chose not to use the freeholders name after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled invalid the state requirement that only property owners could serve on freeholder boards.

The Missouri Supreme Court later said such boards should be made up of electors, a term that generally means registered voters.

In response, Reed in a text message said he agreed that the process needs to move forward and that he has continued to encourage the aldermanic committee members to work with the latest Krewson list and get a meeting scheduled.

He also repeated his criticism of Krewson, saying she should have had conversations with aldermen before submitting her first list of names. The mayor has said she did seek input from aldermen and the public in general.

Updated at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday with comment from Aldermanic President Lewis Reed.

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