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Government, Politics & Issues

St. Louis Aldermen Ban Cat Declawing, Conversion Therapy For Minors In Busy Last Session Of 2019

The Board of Aldermen chambers on Dec. 13, 2019.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio
Aldermen debate legislation amid Christmas decorations on Friday, the last day of session in 2019.

St. Louis is a step closer to banning so-called “conversion therapy” for LGBTQ minors. 

The Board of Aldermen voted overwhelmingly Friday to outlaw licensed medical providers from offering programs that claim to be able to change an individual’s sexual orientation. Mayor Lyda Krewson is expected to sign the ban.

“There is absolutely no recognized psychological or psychiatric association that believes that this is a practice that has any value at all,” said Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia, D-6th Ward, the bill’s lead sponsor. “In fact it creates serious problems with issues of depression, suicidal ideations and suicide itself within the population of folks who have to undergo this traumatic procedure.”

The bill gives the health department the authority to investigate complaints. Violations result in a $500 fine. Alderman Brandon Bosley, D-3rd Ward, who spoke extensively against the measure last week, was the lone no vote.

Aldermen also gave a nod to another piece of legislation from Ingrassia, which banned the declawing of cats, and limited when pets can be left outside. It also allows for the creation and permitting of private dog parks, in response to the arrival of the Doghaus Soulard.

Development incentives approved

Aldermen on Friday authorized nearly $130 million in development incentives for three big projects, including $11.85 million for digital payment company Square’s new headquarters at 900 N. Tucker, the former home of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The project is expected to cost about $69 million and bring more than 1,200 jobs to St. Louis.

“I think Square’s presence here is overall a good thing for our community,” said Alderwoman Megan Green, D-15th Ward, one of two no votes on the incentives for the company. “The qualms I have and the questions I have are really about the level of tax subsidy that is necessary. This is a lot of tax subsidy.” 

Green’s vote infuriated Alderwoman Tammika Hubbard, whose 5th Ward includes the Square site.

“It’s very telling when you vote no on everything in a certain particular ward, but you just blessed something somewhere else,” Hubbard said, referring to the fact that Green supported $100 million in incentives for a project at Anheuser-Busch.

Police districts

In an effort to call attention to what they see as slow police response time and a lack of patrol presence in certain areas of the city, aldermen on Friday gave initial approval to a bill that would reverse a 2014 reduction from nine police districts to six.

A committee heard more than an hour of testimony on the legislation in October. John Collins-Muhammad, D-21st Ward, then held it to give the department time to address the issue on its own.

“Chief John Hayden asked for time to develop data,” Muhammad said. “The public safety director [Jimmie Edwards] asked me as well. There has been no data. There has been no improvement. “Police response time is still terrible, police presence is still terrible, and they do not have a real plan to strategically revamp the police department.”

“This isn’t meant to be a fight,” said Alderman Jeffrey Boyd, D-22nd Ward. “I would hope that this is taken as a nudge for the police chief to listen to the aldermen, listen to our concerns, and really try hard to make it better.”

Hayden said in a statement that “any decision on manpower distribution should be made based on an extensive review of data which would take a considerable amount of time.”

The debate marked a rare instance in which aldermen openly admitted that their colleagues had changed their minds on a piece of legislation.

“If it would have been asked of me when we started this, this morning where I was at on this bill, I probably would have been opposed,” said Alderman Bret Narayn, D-24th Ward. “I hadn’t gotten much feedback on either side, and so I would have stuck with the status quo. After hearing from all of you, I will be supporting this.” 

But Narayan was unwilling to take a vote to send it to Krewson on Friday, saying he was worried about jamming a bill through when the board had said it was open to conversation and input. Muhammad delayed a final vote until after aldermen return from holiday break on Jan. 10.

Krewson said in a statement she was concerned about language in the bill that requires each district to have a separate headquarters. 

“That would be a very expensive undertaking for the city, at a time when the city ought to be spending its limited financial resources on police officers instead of building,” she said. “The problem remains that the city does not have enough police officers, and the officers we do have deserve more pay.”

The St. Louis Police Officers Association is opposed to the change.

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