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Government, Politics & Issues

St. Louis aldermen give final blessing to map that cuts board in half

Doors leading to the Board of Aldermen chambers on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021, at St. Louis City Hall.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Doors leading to the Board of Aldermen chambers at St. Louis City Hall.

St. Louis aldermen gave final approval Tuesday to a plan that cuts the board in half.

Aldermen voted for a redistricting plan that reduces the number of wards from 28 to 14 in 2023. All of the current members of the board will have to run in two years, with some seeking terms that initially last two years and others full four-year terms.

The proposal passed without a single "no" vote. Alderman Jesse Todd abstained.

“This is a historic day for the city of St. Louis,” said Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed.

The bill now goes to Mayor Tishaura Jones, who has not yet said whether she will sign it although the board has enough votes to override a veto.

In a statement, Jones spokesman Nick Dunne said, "Mayor Jones appreciates the hard work of the members of the Board of Aldermen throughout this process, as well as the City Counselor and Planning Department for providing their expertise."

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Voters approved reducing the size of the board in 2012. And despite efforts to try to have a revote on that charter amendment, those moves were unsuccessful, leading to this year’s reduction proposal.

Reducing the board was expected to be a contentious process, primarily because there was no way to do it without putting sitting aldermen in the same wards with each other. Coming up with the map that was sent to Jones required a number of revisions, including one on Friday. That made adjustments to two newly created downtown wards in order to keep a soccer stadium under construction within one ward, rather than having it broken up among two, and also to place the Enterprise Center in the other ward.

In addition to meeting legal requirements around compactness, equal population and minority rights, aldermen wanted to keep as many of the city’s 79 neighborhoods intact as possible.

Some current members were drawn into the same wards. For example, Bret Narayan of the 24th Ward and Joe Vaccaro of the 23rd were placed into a southwestern ward. Sharon Tyus of the 1st, Dwinderlin Evans of the 4th and Jesse Todd of the 18th are now in a north St. Louis ward.

Reed said the fact that aldermen passed a map is notable, considering that other jurisdictions, such as St. Louis County, have failed to accomplish such an achievement.

“A lot of people across the state are dealing with much less complex redistricting,” Reed said. “And they’re not making it through it. But you all made it through it.”

This is the second redistricting cycle in a row where Reed presided over the redrawing of ward maps without major opposition. The 2011 ward map was also approved without a "no" vote.

The city counselor released a memo recently saying the proposed ward map would pass legal muster. The new map has to be approved by Dec. 31.

Voters in April are expected to consider a ballot initiative that would take redistricting power away from aldermen and place it into the hands of a commission. That proposal is known as Proposition R.

Mask mandate extended

Meanwhile, the Board of Aldermen extended the city’s indoor mask requirement on Tuesday for another 30 days without opposition.

Because of a recently enacted state law, the board has to periodically vote to keep COVID-19 restrictions like mask mandates in place.

St. Louis County rescinded its mask mandate last week. St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said Monday he wants the county council to pass an ordinance reinstating it, though that would take several weeks to complete.

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

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