ST. LOUIS • Circuit Court Judge Thomas Frawley on Friday delayed arguments in the Edward Jones Dome authority’s suit seeking to sidestep a public vote on new stadium funding.
Frawley gave St. Louis city counselors a week to file arguments defending the city ordinance requiring a vote; Dome attorneys will get a week after that to counter.
Frawley set the next hearing for 1 p.m. June 25, in division 22. Attorneys said they believed the judge would hear oral arguments that day.
Frawley didn’t say when he would rule.
The public board that runs the Edward Jones Dome filed suit in April against the city of St. Louis. The suit argues that a 2002 city ordinance requiring a public vote prior to spending tax money on a new stadium is “overly broad, vague and ambiguous.” It asks the judge to rule that the city ordinance doesn’t apply, conflicts with state statute or is unconstitutional.
On Friday, St. Louis University law professor and legal clinic supervisor John Ammann asked Frawley to allow three city residents to intervene. Ammann has expressed concerns that city counselors would not adequately defend the ordinance. Mayor Francis Slay is a supporter of the proposed $985 million stadium.
Frawley said in court on Friday that he wouldn’t yet let the residents intervene; he wanted to hear the other attorneys first.
One of the three residents, former state Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford, said she still hoped she’d be able to testify. The city has many needs, she said, for homeless services, public safety, affordable childcare and housing, “and yet millionaires and billionaires ask us to subsidize their professional sports projects,” she said.
“A case might be made to win my vote,” she said. “But I need to hear about it!”
City Counselor Winston Calvert opposed the intervention but said he welcomed help in the case. He said he sent Ammann a letter asking for it. “We wanted to make sure we left no stone unturned,” Calvert said.
The Dome authority, under the direction of Gov. Jay Nixon’s two-man stadium task force, is hiring consultants to plan the new football stadium. A successful effort could keep the St. Louis Rams from leaving for Los Angeles.
The task force is counting on at least $250 million from the state and city, not including tax incentives and seat license fees. A public vote could delay the use of city dollars and, the task force worries, send an uncertain message to National Football League owners.
Frawley’s small courtroom was packed on Friday. Several city residents came to listen.
Bob Winters, an architect, said he keeps hearing people say a public vote would be bad for the stadium effort. But he’s not so sure.