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Vote Yes On Proposition R To Reduce The Board Of Aldermen From Twenty-Eight To Fourteen

October 30, 2012 Featured, Politics/Policy 20 Comments

A week from today voters in the City of St. Louis will go to the polls in large numbers to make their choice for president, US senate, etc. The last item on the ballot is Proposition R, the measure to reduce the size of the board of aldermen from 28 to 14.

Click image for to see ReduceandReformSTL.com

The change wouldn’t take place for a decade though, after the 2020 Census figures are released in 2021 only 14 wards would be drawn. Change doesn’t happen overnight.

Many of you may not think it’d make a difference or the reduction would be negative, reducing your access. The problem with that way of thinking is we’re paying 28 people to legislate but we go to them for tasks better solved by an empowered city staff.

Our aldermen can’t look at the big picture needs of the city because they are fielding calls about pot holes, stop signs and replacement dumpsters. This is partly their fault, it worked great for making voters feel like they help. But this is no way to run a city. See video here.

So how did your current alderman vote?  The following voted “Yes” to place this on the ballot, ward number after the name.

  1. Flowers/2
  2. Triplett /6
  3. Young/7
  4. Conway/8
  5. Ortmann/9
  6. Arnowitz/12
  7. Wessels/13
  8. Howard/14
  9. Florida/15
  10. Baringer/16
  11. Roddy/17
  12. Davis/19
  13. Schmid/20
  14. French/21
  15. Boyd/22
  16. Vaccaro/23
  17. Ogilvie/24
  18. Cohn/25
  19. Carter/27
  20. Krewson/28
  21. Reed/President

The following voted “No” to place this on the ballot, ward number after the name.

  1. Troupe/1
  2. Bosley/3
  3. Moore/4
  4. Hubbard/5
  5. Villa/11
  6. Kennedy/18
  7. Williamson/26

Ald Vollmer (10th ward) didn’t vote as he was out due to injury.



(Board of Aldermen Amendment)

Shall the Charter of the City of St. Louis be amended in accordance with the Board of Aldermen Amendment Ordinance?

This Amendment restructures the Board of Aldermen of the City of St. Louis as a body of fourteen Aldermen representing fourteen wards, provides for a transition schedule to implement the restructuring, and other related matters, all as set forth in the “Board of Aldermen Amendment Ordinance,” a copy of which is available at all polling places. [Board Bill 31 Committee Substitute]

Please vote yes.

— Steve Patterson



Currently there are "20 comments" on this Article:

  1. guest says:

    Why is there so much more attention on reducing the size of the Board of Aldermen than returning local control of the police department to St. Louis where it belongs?

    • Local control of the St. Louis police requires a majority of voters statewide, reducing the board of aldermen requires 60% of city voters.

      • guest says:

        That’s why there’s more focus on the size of the Board than local control? If anything, it should be the opposite. The idea that voters in rural Missouri have equal say as city residents when it comes to local control is preposterous. Local control is by far THE number one local issue on this year’s ballot. Until local control is restored in St. Louis, city voters are second class citizens. The same can not be said about right sizing the Board of Aldermen. And ironically, now the ACLU opposes local control, along with the Organization for Black Struggle. I guess those groups like keeping city residents second class to the rest of the population in this country? So much for black struggle and civil liberty. St. Louis must have the strangest politics anywhere.

        • samizdat says:

          Ya’…It’s kind of funny that the out-state Confederate States of America have a say in how we run our City. If the shoe were on the other foot (IOKIYR), they’d be screaming to the ionosphere about how dem LIEbruls in St. Louis and Kansas City try to come down and tell them how to live their lives, and run their “country”. Oh, rural Miss-ery, you are truly a source of constant amusement…oh, and frustration. Lots and lots of frustration.

  2. JZ71 says:

    Agree completely on your position and observations about service delivery, but not quite sure why you identified how current members voted on placing the issue on the ballot?

    • Why not, no other source is going to give you the list. I find it interesting that some didn’t even want voters to get a chance to decide.

      • Moe says:

        Agreed Steve. I find it interesting that the progressives see the writing on the wall of changing times for city goverments (not just the City of St Louis, but others too) especially in terms of funding sources like the feds and expenses like pensions. Whereas the nays seem to be the ‘politics as usual’ or come from familes of politicos. I hate to say it becase I’m against term limits for a loss of institutional knowledge, but maybe it is time to have this discussion as well.

        • JZ71 says:

          Is it “coming from a family of politicos” or is it protecting a perceived power base / voting block? With the exception Ald. Villa in Ward 11, the other half dozen nays are all in north city. Do they perceive a potential loss of “power” in the African-American community?

          • Moe says:

            It could be percieved as a potential of power loss, sure. But for all the clamouring about how behind the City is, about how we are stalled in the 19th century, then isn’t this information is important? Why should those that are against change be allowed to seek cover from those that have put their political careers on the line in bucking ‘the system’? This to me is just the tip….there are many changes that the City faces in the next year or two now that the economic mess is finally showing up in goverment. If they are against something as simple as this, how will they act when the big issues come to play? (all the pensions, benefits, services, etc).

          • JZ71 says:

            I’m not really sure that “they’ve put their political lives on the line”. Even if it passes, NOTHING is going to happen (or change) for a decade, until after the 2020 census and the subsequent redistricting. I do agree that this is “just the tip” and the city will be facing some significant budgetary challenges, especially related to funding pensions, that our current Board will have to figure out, even with the brain trust that 28 seats apparently offers. But my point remains, we gotta get this passed IF we want to see other, positive changes (and I’ve seen very little, pro or con, on the issue).

          • moe says:

            @JZ…I know it won’t take affect for 8 years, but in some wards, they did put their lives on the line. They could be seen as ‘traitor’s’ to the ward and could be ejected over someone that will vow to repeal it. You know how our state leaders love to overturn the voter’s issues. But for the record I am FOR the consolidation. I am AGAINST the fact that they weaseled out and kind of passed the buck way down the road.

          • Fozzie says:

            African-American alderman most certainly perceive a loss of power and disenfranchisement of their constituents, The usual suspects are holding up city progress once again for their own personal benefit.

      • JZ71 says:

        Since it passed by a 3-1 margin, what’s the point of outing the nay’s? Democracy worked, we get to vote. The real question is will it pass, will the voters support the concept? Knowing how “my” or any other alderman voted will have absolutely no impact on how I choose to vote. But, if you want to use the votes for political “ammunition”, wouldn’t it be more useful when they’re running for reelection, instead of now? (And the reality remains, the real battles will be when/if it passes and two [or potentially three] incumbents are battling for the same seat!)

        • In the interest of providing complete information I supplied the yea and nay votes and the one that wasn’t able to vote. Some residents may be unhappy their alderman voted yes, others may feel the opposite.

          Those representing odd numbered wards will be up for reelection in 2013.

          • stlcity7thward says:

            You have not provided complete information. Some Yes votes oppose passage of Prop R. These aldermen favored the Board placing the issue on the high turnout presidential ballot, enabling the greatest number of city voters to decide the question, instead of waiting for Rex to buy a spot on a low turnout local election via initiative petition or worse.

  3. JZ71 says:

    In case you missed it, the Post-Dispatch had an interesting article over the weekend about the number of aldermen and attempts to merge the city and county in the 1920’s. Back then, the plan would have increased the board from 28 to 34 members, consistent with the city’s population of 773,000 and the county’s population of 101,000 (a total of 874,000). Assuming that that would have happened, that the number of aldermen remained unchanged and that redistricting would’ve followed the growth patterns over the last 85 years, with the city’s population dropping to 318,000 and the county’s growing to 999,000 (a total of 1,317,000), we would now have only have eight (8!) aldermen representing what we now call “the city”; the rest of the board would be representing the rest of the merged county! Hmmmm . . . .

    The new, 1920’s ward boundaries are shown on the third image here: http://www.stltoday.com/gallery/news/multimedia/look-back-city-county-reunification/collection_ef688b38-6fa1-5825-a872-24a8300dab0f.html#2

    Original article: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/a-look-back-st-louis-leaders-had-second-thoughts-about/article_ce761942-f7d5-56b0-b2a0-d8b5653a67f5.html

  4. GMichaud says:

    I guess I’m in the minority but I don’t believe reducing the number of Aldermen is going to change anything. It may save some money, but it is a centralization of power that feeds the big money machine and makes it more difficult for mavericks like Scott Oglivie or Antonio French to participate in the power structure.

    Think about it, the implementation of urban policy in St. Louis has nothing to do with the number of aldermen (women). We can go beyond urban policy to other subjects, but the results are the same. Policy is already controlled by insiders, and everyone wants to vote for less representation to make the situation worse.

    Money isn’t everything, what is the impact on democracy? Is there a way to take better advantage of the current decentralization of the Board of Aldermen?

    Better yet where exactly are the urban policy shortcomings? What is causing them? I’m not sure that analysis has been done. The sustainable planning grant the St. Louis received makes an attempt at a global analysis, but it falls short in taking a unified stand on say Paul McKee’s lack of a Northside plan or the failure of St. Louis University to development sustainable transit planning around the Grand Ave rail station. In other words what will St. Louis look like with the application of sustainable urban planning principles? Who is controlling that conversation? We already have a society where policy is dictated to it’s citizens.

    In effect St. Louis is already controlled by a connected group of insiders, a la Bob Archibald of the History Museum. Voting to help the process of centralization of the Board of Aldermen will only enhance the position of the insiders and their inside deals instead of utilizing a broader voice of the Board to develop a system of urban planning that serves the city and its people.

    • JZ71 says:

      Interesting points. Quality versus quantity. Leadership, or a lack thereof. Public, inclusive processes versus deals done in back rooms. I’d posit that any government structure can work well or fail miserably. It’s not the rules, as written, it’s how effectively they’re applied, as well as the unwritten rules, the local way of doing things, things like aldermanic “courtesy”. It’s the people being true leaders, and not just caretakers, political (or ethnic) partisans and ward bosses. The biggest challenges I see around here is a lack of financial resources and too much of a focus on protecting one’s turf (instead of looking at the the city and the region as a whole). More money usually means more results (not necessarily better, but at least something is happening, instead of “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic”). While the actual number of legislators isn’t all that important, what it really boils down to is how closely does “my” alderman represent my views on every issue?

      With more to pick from, yes, the potential for mavericks goes up. But “mavericks” are only as effective as their ability to convince non-mavericks that their ideas have merit. I have a lot of respect for French, and Olgilvie has raised some interesting issues, yet the larger Board of Aldermen seems stuck in “business as usual”, bickering over equality among wards and trying figure out how to fund huge pension liabilities while maintaining, if not reducing, basic city services. Great urban design takes both leadership and resources. In most of the city, little or nothing is really happening, what you see is what you get. In cities where better urban design is happening – London, Portland, New York, Denver and Boulder – to name a few, people and companies are clamoring to be there and are willing to pay the price for density and to cede a certain level of design “control”/”oversight” to government and their staff. And in every great city, transit plays a critical role in making density work. Until we get to the point that more people want to be on and pay for Metro here, and to be in the city, period, we’re going to continue to see little creativity, in either government or design. It’ll be more about “playing it safe”, because it seems like it’s always worked, when it really hasn’t. The fear of change creates paralysis, which ain’t always a good thing . . . .

      • GMichaud says:

        A larger Board of Alderman increases the chance for mavericks. Until the advent of Urban Review (8yrs, congrats) and other blogs the only voices heard were government/media approved.

        As far as a lack of money, you answered your own question, better urban design-London, Portland, New York, Denver and Boulder attracts money as cities become desirable. Money will follow good design.

        The failure of St Louis City to mandate transit friendly designs in the neighborhood of the Grand Ave train station is a good example of poor design. Actually with the properties climbing down the hill to the station as well as the properties on Grand and Chouteau the area could become an attractive “district” of some type.

        Investors would be more likely to invest if they thought the city had its act together about what to do in areas such as around Grand Ave Station. What does the failure to act at the Grand Ave station say for the status of less significant transit locations and especially about the development of a comprehensive transit system that will make St. Louis attractive to investors and to people who live here?

        In short I vote for keeping the potential for maverick aldermen and women with the larger Board of Aldermen over the burden of even more insider management. (ie people such as Paul McKee, Father Biondi, Bob Archibald etc).

        I think people are ready for a change. I don’t think it is about playing it safe. In fact what could be more logical, more fiscally responsible than for the City to designate the land around the Grand Ave Station in a manner that supports the considerable investment in light rail at Grand Avenue.

        Why would anyone fear that? Now getting an alderman or alderwoman to recognize the problem is no doubt another issue, even a maverick. Urban Review is a perfect public forum for airing those differences.

        • stlcity7thward says:

          One of my concerns about Prop R is the increase in cost of running for alderman in an area double the size of current wards, from representing 11,000 to 22,000. State Reps run in districts of 31,000. In the recent 78th district primary, three candidates spent $145,000, with the winning candidate spending $73,000. That kind of money doesn’t get raised from $15 a person beer & pretzel events.


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