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Slay defends decision not to appeal ruling on stadium financing vote

new stadium, St. Louis Rams
Courtesy HOK | 360 Architecture

Mayor Francis Slay is standing by his decision not to appeal a judge's ruling throwing out a required citywide vote on public financing for sports stadiums, despite a pledge to "vigorously defend the law."

Judge Thomas Frawley struck down the voter-initiated ordinance last week, ruling that it was unconstitutionally vague and conflicted with state law. While the mayor immediately pledged to "uphold the spirit of the ordinance to the extent that we can" by holding public hearings, he did not seem willing to appeal. Last week, he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the city would allow the ruling to stand.

"Our lawyers are telling us two things. One, they didn't think we had a real strong argument on appeal," Slay said in an interview with St. Louis Public Radio on Tuesday following an event at City Hall. "And two, appealing it would not have made any difference in terms of how we go forward. We could not have gotten a result in time to go back to the voters on this particular issue. Could not have." 

But the mayor forcefully rejected any notion that the city did not advance its strongest legal arguments.

"It’s disingenuous to somehow suggest that we didn’t put on the good case and that’s why we didn’t win the case. We put on a really good case, a strong case. People who say that don’t know what they’re talking about," Slay said, adding that the claim is also insulting to Judge Frawley's independence and intelligence.

He said he would be announcing "shortly" the financing package he hoped to present to to the Board of Aldermen.

A group of St. Louis citizens who had their request to intervene in the lawsuit denied have appealed that portion of Frawley's ruling. Another group has filed a separate lawsuit seeking to force the city to comply with the ordinance, but it's not clear how Frawley's ruling will affect that case.

Bond issue

Slay said his office is also "revisiting" a failed $180 million bond issue.

Proposition 1 received 61 percent of the vote in last week's election, but needed two-thirds for passage.

"It was generally well-received. Sixty-one percent is not that, that's a pretty good majority." Slay said. "We're in the process of revisiting that to see where we're going to go and when we are going to go back to the voters."

Appointments Project

Slay's comments came after the launch of a new effort designed to boost the number of women serving on city commissions.

"While a majority of my staff members are women, and some of my top talented cabinet members are  women, we  would like to see more women represented on boards and commissions," Slay said.  "Women currently hold 31 percent of the 464 seats on St. Louis boards and commission where I have the appointment authority."

The Appointments Project, an initiative of the Women's Foundation, will help the mayor's office identify and reach out to women who may have the skills needed but don't know there's an opportunity to serve.

"Our research on civic engagement shows that while women have the drive and the desire to serve on a board or commission, many feel they don't have the knowledge or experience to do so," said Wendy Doyle, the president and CEO of the Women's Foundation. "In addition, we find that many women would serve if only they were asked."

That was true for Bridget Halquist, an appointee to the board of the Firefighter's Retirement Plan and the first nominee made through the Appointments Project.

"Quite candidly, if I hadn’t have been asked, it probably wouldn’t have occurred to me to seek this out, said Halquist, who is an attorney at Sher Corwin Winters. "While I have an interest in benefits, being an employment lawyer, it probably wouldn’t have occurred to me, so I was grateful to be asked."

The Foundation said the efforts of the Appointments Project boosted the number of women serving on boards and commission in Kansas City, Mo., from 26 percent to 42 percent in a year.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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