Petition Drive Aims To Strip Ward Redistricting Power From St. Louis Board Of Aldermen
An initiative to change the way St. Louis wards are drawn and bring more transparency over conflicts of interest on the Board of Aldermen could go before voters this November.
The proposed charter amendment would put redistricting in the hands of an independent citizen commission, instead of the city’s legislative board. The campaign for the change is being led by Show Me Integrity, one of the groups behind the passage of Proposition D, which instituted nonpartisan open primaries in the city. It also has support from the League of Women Voters of Metro St. Louis.
The campaign needs to gather 30,000 signatures by June 11. That’s the deadline to trigger a special election in November to change the city’s charter.
“Every 10 years, St. Louis aldermen draw and vote on their own ward boundaries, giving them the power to pick voters and pick opponents,” said Benjamin Singer, executive director of Show Me Integrity, a nonpartisan group.
The plan, coined “Reform STL,” calls for two judges and a representative from the city’s urban planning department to oversee the seven-member citizen redistricting commission. Lobbyists and aldermen would not be allowed to serve on it.
In 2012, city residents voted to halve the number of wards from 28 to 14 in time for the 2023 aldermanic election. Mayor Lyda Krewson last month vetoed a bill sponsored by Alderman John Collins-Muhammad, D-21st Ward, that would have put the question of ward reduction back to voters in April.
The measure would also add new ethics rules for the city board. Aldermen would be required to post disclosure statements online and to recuse themselves from voting on legislation on which they have financial conflicts. Currently, they can vote on an issue as long as they disclose the conflict of interest.
“This policy would require them to not only put in public view what those conflicts are, but also to recuse themselves from voting on things that they have their hands in,” said Kathleen Farrell, who leads the League of Women Voters Metro St. Louis chapter.
The proposal uses language from a bill Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia, D-6th Ward, co-sponsored last year. Several aldermen opposed it, including Board President Lewis Reed, who's now running for mayor.
Ingrassia supports the proposal, along with the Black Caucus of the Missouri Democratic Party, Missouri Faith Voices and former Democratic secretary of state candidate Yinka Faleti.
Show Me Integrity says it needs to raise around $45,000 by Saturday to reach its $100,000 goal. If the campaign doesn’t reach that goal or attract more volunteers by the end of February, it plans to call off the effort and return all funds, Singer said.
Correction: An earlier version of this St. Louis Public Radio report misidentified the Black Caucus of the Missouri Democratic Party. The organization is among of those supporting the charter amendment campaign.
Follow Kayla on Twitter: @_kayladrake