General Obligation Bond
7:57 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

St. Louis City Bond Clears Committee, But Heads To Aldermen Under Shroud Of Controversy

A $200 million dollar city bond issue that would include some money for residents to repair their homes is on its way to the Board of Aldermen. But those funds likely won't be there for long.  

Members of the city budget committee question board president Lewis Reed (in gray) and deputy comptroller Ivy Pinkston about a $200 million bond issue.
Members of the city budget committee question board president Lewis Reed (in gray) and deputy comptroller Ivy Pinkston about a $200 million bond issue.
Credit (Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

The whole debate started last week, when board president Lewis Reed unveiled a version of the bond issue that included a specific list of projects, such as $10 million in home repair funds.

"It would give us some opportunity to do some good for people living throughout the community that, aside from a sidewalk, may not be able to take part in this $200 million," Reed said. The measure also allowed for a separate vote on a real-time intelligence center for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police.

Mayor Francis Slay wasn't a fan of the level of detail outlined in the bill, saying the city needed flexibility to address changing capital needs. And comptroller Darlene Green didn't like the home repair money because it would cost the city more to sell those bonds.

Eventually, Reed reached a compromise with Slay and Green that kept the real-time intelligence center separate, but eliminated home repair funds and the specific list of projects. By the end of more than seven hours of back-and-forth Wednesday over the city's credit rating, and how much, if any, of the bond money is going to Paul McKee's controversial redevelopment project in north St. Louis, the deal had broken down. Reed would be one of six aldermen to vote to restore $5 million in home repair, plus make other changes.

  • Ayes: Kennedy, Carter, French, Moore, Vaccaro, Reed
  • Nays: Baringer, Florida, Krewson
  • Present: Williamson

"As this bill stands, this is not a good deal for the city and is not a good deal for the taxpayers," said Mary Ellen Ponder, the director of operations for Mayor Slay. "As a $5 million line item in a bond issue that is supposed to be for capital improvements, that’s where we don’t support it. But as a stand-alone priority for the city, we are very supportive of a home repair program."

Ponder said the mayor's office would be working with its allies on the Board of Aldermen to remove the home repair dollars. The bond issue must get to the Board of Elections by Aug. 26 to be on the November ballot. While aldermen are scheduled to go on summer break July 11, they can be called back into session if needed.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann