Though they had no legislation to officially consider, members of the Public Employees Committee of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen spent almost three hours today discussing proposed changes to the pension system for the city's firefighters.
The committee - led by Ald. Craig Schmid - had originally been set to consider a proposal from Ald. Joe Vaccaro that would implement some of the changes requested by Mayor Francis Slay. But Ald. Vaccaro asked to have his bill held.
And because board president Lewis Reed last Friday refused to assign the mayor's bills to a committee, that left Ald. Schmid with a meeting on the calendar and nothing to officially consider.
So the session was billed as "information only."
"We've got to start to start discussing this in other venues other than people just being upset about it in the rotunda," Schmid said. "But every time we delay, what happens is, we have fewer and fewer options that are available to us, because we're not dealing with the $7 million extra cost or more that we're going to have next year, or more following." Officials with Mayor Slay's office say major cuts to city services would be required if pension costs are not brought under control.
Schmid says his committee is the natural place for the pension legislation, but says he does not presume its members will ultimately consider them.
There is also some dispute over when Reed, under the rules of the Board, must assign the measure. The rule in question says Reed has to receive bills by Wednesday (the Board meets on Fridays) so he can make the assignments. The mayor's office says it got the bills to Reed on time.
The dispute is over the next clause, which says the clerk must announce the committee assignments by the second subsequent meeting. The questions is, subsequent to what? The mayor's office argues that the "clock" starts on Wednesday - which means Reed must make the assignment by this Friday, the 18th. But the rule could also be interpreted so that the clock starts when the bills are officially introduced, which means Reed has until Feb. 25.
And there are only six Board of Aldermen meetings scheduled for the rest of the session, though more could be added.