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St. Louis aldermen headed for heated showdown on Friday over spy agency, minimum wage
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St. Louis aldermen headed for heated showdown on Friday over spy agency, minimum wage

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St. Louis Board of Aldermen approve civilian oversight board

St. Louis Board of Aldermen on Monday, April 20, 2015. Photo by Cristina Fletes-Boutte, cfletes-boutte@post-dispatch.com

ST. LOUIS • The city’s aldermen will have a final showdown Friday before they leave City Hall for a two-month summer break.

The 28-person board is expected to address two hot issues: instituting a minimum wage and approving a financing package to keep the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in the city. The meeting could be a long one on a day when temperatures are expected to soar above 90 degrees. (The aldermanic chamber doesn’t have air conditioning.)

The question of whether they will return during the break is unclear.

The proposal to institute a $15-an-hour minimum wage has languished ever since Alderman Joe Vaccaro, the acting chairman of the city’s Ways and Means committee, abruptly canceled all future hearings on the bill.

Under procedural rules, the cancellation means that aldermen can’t pass the bill unless a special session is called before they return from break in September. They must act before Aug. 28, when a new state law could kick in forbidding the city from taking such an action. Gov. Jay Nixon could veto that bill, which would give the city more time, but he hasn’t indicated what he will do.

Before a special meeting can be scheduled, it must be approved by two of the body’s three leaders (President Lewis Reed, Majority Floor Leader Freeman Bosley Sr. and Vice President Joseph Roddy). So far, they haven’t indicated they will take action.

Reed is expected to hold meetings on the minimum wage bill with community leaders before taking any action, but he hasn’t indicated that he will push for a special meeting.

The goal, he said in a written statement, is to reach “consensus on a plan that provides some relief to working families without at the same time negatively impacting small and low-profit margin businesses, or the city’s economy on a whole.

“In lieu of a study or financial analysis, we need everyone seated at the table together to begin to effectively evaluate it.”

Alderman Shane Cohn, the sponsor of the bill, said he is hopeful something can be worked out.

“There is a lot going on right now,” Cohn said. “We’re working on various options and trying to work with the president’s office.”

The bill has been subject to much debate after it was proposed last month. Some say it will give a boost to workers struggling to survive on the state’s $7.65-an-hour minimum wage. Others argue it will send jobs in a fragile St. Louis economy across the city’s borders, where the wage would be significantly lower.

Mayor Francis Slay has led the push. But Slay must also focus on maintaining support for a bill to mortgage two city buildings as collateral to buy 100 acres of property in an effort to keep the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency within the city.

A preliminary vote last week gave the bill a narrow margin of 13-11-1. It will need a full 15 votes for final passage.

The bill has received a lukewarm response from the aldermen, largely because the loan would be used to buy back land the city once sold to developer Paul McKee.

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Nicholas J.C. Pistor is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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