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Poll: Should the President of the Board of Aldermen be selected from within the BoA or continue as a citywide office?

February 23, 2014 Featured, Politics/Policy, Weekly Poll 4 Comments
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar

A recent article caught my eye because of the suggestion of a major change in governance in St. Louis government:

For decades, the politicians in City Hall’s marble-columned aldermanic chamber have jostled and jockeyed for power.

Now, as they gather this morning to celebrate the city’s 250th birthday, some are contemplating changes that would fundamentally recast the municipal makeup.

One of those would hand the aldermen more power by having them choose the president of the Board of Aldermen, an office that has long been elected by a citywide popular vote.

No bill has been written or introduced, but the possibility is filled with intrigue because St. Louis’ system of government vests considerable power in the board president’s office — and Mayor Francis Slay’s chief electoral opponent from last year, Lewis Reed, holds its gavel. (stltoday)

This isn’t about Slay & Reed though, it’s about the city’s charter — it’ll be 100 years old in June.

Most legislative bodies elect their leader from within their ranks. St. Louis County Council, for example, has 7 members. They elect a chairman from within. District 2 Councilman Kathleen Kelly Burkett is currently Chairman, current Councilmen Hazel Erby (Dist 1) & Greg Quinn (Dist 7) have both served as Chairman of the council. Would any of these three be able to win a countywide election to be chairman?  Probably not.  But being a good leader and being able to win a wide popular vote are two separate issues.

Either citizens 100 years ago got it right, or wrong, by having our legislative leader elected citywide. In 8 years the number of wards in the city will be cut in half — from 28 to 14. I think it’s worth considering having the leader of the Board of Aldermen not be elected citywide, but chosen from within among the 14. So this is the topic of the poll question this week, you can vote in the right sidebar.

— Steve Patterson

  • guest

    Get rid of the position. How many other places have something like this at the local level? These duties should be consolidated in the mayor’s office, with the mayor chairing aldermanic meetings. Eliminate the Comptroller’s office, eliminate the Board of E and A, and hire a city administrator/manager.

    • http://urbanreviewstl.com/ Steve Patterson

      Legislative bodies need a leader, but I like the idea of a Council-Manager form.

      • Greg

        I don’t think the council-manager form of government works well in large cities. For a small town, it’s fine.. but when you have a city with several hundred thousand people, you need someone who is chosen by the city as a whole.

  • JZ71

    Any governmental framework is about balancing power. We’ve already voted to reduce the number of aldermen by half – do we want to wait and see how that plays out (before we make more changes) or do we want to see this happen, as well? I also don’t have a big problem with the current city charter being 100 years old – our national constitution is more than 200 years old and it still seems to be working pretty well. The biggest challenges the city faces have little to do with its charter and much to do with things you can’t codify or legislate, things like racism, white flight, a diminished tax base and rising legacy costs for infrastructure and pensions.

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