Board of Aldermen
3:57 pm
Tue January 29, 2013

Committee Approves Boost For Minority Participation, Ethics Legislation

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen has taken a small step toward expanding then number of minorities and women working construction in the city.

The city already has laws regulating minority participation on city-funded projects of more than $1 million. The measure that cleared an aldermanic committee today without opposition expands those participation levels to projects of more than $1 million where the developer is seeking tax increment financing, or local infrastructure projects worth more than $1 million.

It's similar to an executive order issued in December by Mayor Francis Slay.

Yaphett El-Amin with the activist group MOKAN said the legislation will eventually help reduce the number of workers from Jefferson or St. Francois counties working on St. Louis city projects.

"The sad thing about that is when they leave, they take 60 cents on every dollar back to the community that they live in, and they spend those dollars there," she said. "So we’re looking at this as an opportunity to boost our tax infrastructure here."

The bill also establishes for the first time a source of funding to help the city monitor the projects - something Michael Holmes, the head of the city's job training agency, called crucial.

"We just have a part-time person that the Board of Public Service gives us to work on monitoring those projects as much as possible," he said.

Ethics legislation also gets okay

That same committee voted narrowly today to expand the city's conflict of interest provisions.

Right now, an alderman can let the clerk of the Board know if a spouse or dependent child would benefit financially from a bill in front of the board. Scott Ogilvie's measure expands that list to include domestic partners, siblings and in-laws, and makes those disclosures public.

"I think the public just wants to know that your vote is being made because it's also good for the public, rather than just good for that family member," Ogilvie said when asked by a colleague why he had introduced the measure.

The bill does not include any language that would require aldermen to disclose if they are working on the campaigns of colleagues, which has become a bone of contention in the mayoral race. Such information is available, however, in campaign finance records.

The measure hit opposition from some aldermen who worried that it simply provided another ethics minefield for aldermen to negotiate.

"There's enough on the books that already cover what [Ogilvie] was trying to do," said Ald. Terry Kennedy, one of two "no" votes. "It's really better to have this all in one place, in one particular ordinance and one bill so you can have a place to refer to it very quickly."