Board of Aldermen
4:55 pm
Fri February 8, 2013

The Ins And Outs Of A Hectic Day At City Hall

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen met today for the last time ahead of the mayoral and aldermanic elections in March and April. Here's what came out (and didn't) of a hectic day at City Hall:

Foreclosure mediation

Aldermen sent Mayor Francis Slay a measure that would require lenders to offer homeowners foreclosure mediation. The homeowners do not have to accept, and there's no requirement to reach an agreement.

"It might be too late for some people, unfortunately, but even if we can save one or two people, if you're one of those two people, you would like to have this last, best chance," said Ald. Craig Schmid, one of several co-sponsors.

The measure is basically identical to one the courts have halted in St. Louis County. And the Missouri Bankers Association will sue to stop enforcement of the city's ordinance once it's signed by the mayor.

"We had conveyed to the city, let's just sit and see what happened with the courts," said Association president Max Cook. "In the mean time, we'll save the taxpayers of St. Louis city and the bankers of the state the expense of litigation." A state appeals courts will hear arguments on St. Louis County's law on April 8.

Politics may have been behind today's decision to move forward. Board president Lewis Reed, the measure's lead sponsor, is running for mayor.

Conflict of interest expansion

In a surprise procedural move, the Board of Aldermen scuttled a measure that would have expanded the city's conflict of interest provisions.

Ald. Scott Ogilvie wanted his colleagues to disclose if their in-laws, siblings or domestic partners could benefit financially from legislation. Current law requires disclosure only for spouses and dependent children.

But Ald. Joe Roddy saw major unintended consequences.

"We vote on all kinds of stuff down here and I have trouble figuring out my personal conflicts of interest," he said. "It’s going to set us all up to be criminals and we won’t even know about it."

That led just enough aldermen to vote to send the bill back to committee for more study. (The tally was 15-9 with one voting present).  With no meetings until the last day of session in April, there’s no time to bring the bill through the legislative process again.

Ogilvie, who attempted in December to use a procedural move to bring the bill to the floor without a committee hearing, was left scratching his head.

"I think it’s a little surprising that so many people are willing to vote against a rule that only applies to the Board of Aldermen itself, and only requires disclosure of conflicts of interest. So, bemused, but maybe not shocked at the result," Ogilvie said. He plans to try again next session.

Reduced penalties for marijuana

Getting initial approval at the Board today was Shane Cohn's legislation that allows police to issue tickets for possession of small amounts of marijuana, rather than bring state charges. Because he made changes to the measure today, it cannot pass until April 15.

Cohn emphasized several times that drug possession would still be a crime.

"At the end of the day, it's still a city ordinance violation, it'll still be prosecuted,  it'll still be adjudicated, and folks will still have their day in court," he said. "But it allows the police to use their resources more efficiently."

Not everyone was convinced.

"I think this is a slick, sleazy way of sliding under the radar to relax the marijuana laws and eventually legalizing marijuana," said Ald. Sam Moore. "What are we going to do about the drug dealer, the guy who sells it?"

And Ald. Tom Villa felt the board needed to be worrying about more important things.

Also passing today - 

  • Legislation that sets minority workforce requirements for large projects seeking tax increment financing.
  • A measure that gives the city access to data to perform its own disparity study to better understand what those minority workforce requirements should look like. 
  • Bills setting up the redevelopment districts and sales tax sharing agreements for the rehabilitation of Union Station.
  • The redevelopment district for the long-delayed Carondelet Coke project.

Not clearing the board today? The legislation by which the city accepts responsibility for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, the last piece of the local control puzzle. That has to happen by July 1.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann