ST. LOUIS • The Rev. Larry Rice, operator of a downtown homeless shelter, has joined the race to be the city’s next mayor — and the general election ballot may continue to grow.
Rice, who needed 487 signatures to get on the April 4 ballot as an independent candidate, said he turned in 1,200. The St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners has certified 589 of those signatures as valid.
For years, Rice has battled city officials and downtown property owners who say he is operating his New Life Evangelistic Center illegally and is in violation of several city ordinances.
The city on May 12, 2015, revoked Rice’s permit to operate. He has been operating New Life on a hotel permit, giving him permission to house 35 people per night. Rice has said that as many as 200 people stay in his shelter per night.
Dozens of his guests typically hang around the shelter and nearby properties throughout the day, prompting complaints from nearby restaurants and property owners.
In November, the city ordered Rice to stop operating the facility. A city appeals board agreed last month, giving New Life until April 1 to cease operations.
Rice said Thursday that his mayoral campaign was not about getting revenge on the city, but rather creating a new path to help the city’s homeless.
“I’m running because I want to help the homeless and I want to help this city,” he said. His campaign slogan is: “The People Have Suffered Enough.”
If elected mayor, Rice said he would find a way to cap city government salaries at $75,000 per year and use the savings toward hiring more police officers.
He added that he would also stop giving tax breaks to rich developers and, instead, focus city resources in north St. Louis.
Among his plans are a “homesteading program” though which people would be allowed to live in city-owned vacant properties with an agreement that they would repair the houses within three years.
Rice said he would also explore turning vacant lots into community gardens.
Meanwhile, Kacey Cordes, vice president and assistant project manager at US Bancorp Community Development Corp., is fighting to appear on the ballot, also as an independent.
Cordes paid the $1,300 fee and filed the necessary paperwork this week to get on the ballot, but she did not turn in the required signatures.
City election rules require nonpartisan candidates turn in the number of signatures equivalent to 2 percent of the votes cast in the most recent mayoral election.
Cordes is attempting to bypass that rule, setting up a potential legal battle. She is arguing there is a distinction between an independent and a nonpartisan candidate, therefore voiding the signature requirement for independent candidates.