St. Louis Mayor Jones Signs Pandemic Relief Bill, But Vetoes $33M For North City Developments
Updated at 5:00 p.m., Aug. 16, with comments from Aldermanic President Lewis Reed
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones signed a smaller $135 million pandemic aid plan on Monday, vetoing provisions that she worries don’t fall within the U.S. Treasury guidelines for spending the money.
The city counselor, comptroller and compliance auditors have warned that $33 million earmarked for economic development along four major corridors in north St. Louis puts the city at risk for a clawback. A federal lobbyist for the city also had argued federal guidelines don’t allow for money to be used for general economic development purposes.
The money has been a sticking point in a monthlong feud between the mayor and Aldermanic President Lewis Reed, who dug in his heels on passing the bill as is. The Board of Aldermen gave final approval of the $168 million bill last week.
Jones said that a St. Louis mayor has not used line-item veto authority since 2002 but that the circumstances justify it in this case. The Board of Aldermen could override the veto with a two-thirds majority vote, according to a spokesman from her office.
“We tried to reach a compromise, but St. Louis families can’t wait any longer,” Jones said at a press conference Monday outside Ranken Technical College. “We can’t afford to fix this on the back end. These are federal dollars, and we have to get this right.”
In a statement, Reed said he’s disappointed by the veto. “Mayor Jones’ position is one rooted in politics with little regard for the people who will undoubtedly be negatively impacted along the way,” he said.
Reed also said the Board of Aldermen will explore what options it has to make sure the money goes to north St. Louis. The board is on a summer recess until Sept. 17.
Jones said her administration plans to secure even more federal funding to dedicate to implementing an economic justice plan already in the works by the St. Louis Development Corporation.
“We need to work to lift every disinvested neighborhood, not just a few streets,” she said. “My administration is planning on reversing decades of disinvestment in all of north city and pockets of south city by investing not just in places but in the people of our city.”
Jones said additional resources could come from the American Rescue Plan Act, the federal infrastructure bill and Build Back Better grants, which offer cities up to $75 million for economic development and infrastructure building.
Neal Richardson, executive director of the St. Louis Development Corporation, said that money would allow his office to execute an economic justice action plan, which he plans to reveal later this year.
He said the plan will include building “economic empowerment centers” in north St. Louis along Martin Luther King Drive, Page and Delmar boulevards, as well as in the Walnut Park and Hyde Park neighborhoods. He said those hubs will bring existing city resources closer to residents.
Richardson said resources will include help for small-business owners and job seekers, as well as services related to building home ownership, keeping residents in their homes and providing money for home repairs.
“As we have federal funding coming in, the action plan will help us target, like ‘these dollars should go to this initiative or these focus areas to create the greatest economic impact in our most underserved communities,’” he said.
Richardson said SLDC is issuing a request for proposals Monday for a consultant to help outline how much money is needed to fully enact the plan. He said his department has earmarked up to $150,000 for the consultant’s work.
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