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Government, Politics & Issues

St. Louis Aldermen back money for police cameras, north side businesses

City Hall on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021, in St. Louis, Missouri.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis City Hall

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen has voted to give additional funding to the city’s Real Time Crime Center.

Members voted nearly unanimously on Thursday to direct $2.5 million in federal coronavirus relief money previously earmarked for police overtime toward new and upgraded cameras, or the infrastructure needed to use them. It still leaves $2.5 million for overtime, although the pot of money has not been touched yet.

Alderwoman Anne Schweitzer of the 13th Ward voted against the reallocation when it came up for initial approval in March. But she said a visit to the Real Time Crime Center changed her mind.

She said she witnessed officers use cameras to track and research a car that had been reported stolen and make an arrest, all without putting officers or the community in more danger than necessary.

“They weren’t chasing the person,” she said. “It was definitely different than I thought it would be.”

Mayor Tishaura Jones had no comment on the reallocation. It will take effect unless she vetoes it.

North side business corridor development

Aldermen on Thursday also gave first-round approval to long-delayed legislation directing federal coronavirus relief funds to businesses in north St. Louis.

Businesses along 10 corridors on the city’s north side would be eligible for $37 million in grants. The money had been a part of the initial distribution of American Rescue Plan Act dollars, but Jones vetoed the funds over concern that it violated the terms of the plan. The Treasury Department has since clarified that funds can be used this way.

The bill includes language that requires aldermanic approval for a project to go forward, which caught the attention of some aldermen, though none voted against it. In defending the “veto” power, Alderman Brandon Bosley of the 3rd Ward used a slur to refer to individuals with intellectual disabilities. It is the second time he has used that phrase during an aldermanic meeting.

The Community Development Association would distribute the funds.

ARPA infrastructure

Through a series of procedural maneuvers, aldermen added projects on several north city streets to a bill directing ARPA funds to capital needs.

“We have spent an inordinate amount of money in one part of town at the expense of the other,” said Alderwoman Sharon Tyus of the 1st Ward. “At some point, we have to make this somewhat fair. This doesn’t make it fair at all. This just starts at making it fair.”

The funds came at the expense of some bridge projects, including the one that carries Compton Avenue over the railroad tracks near St. Louis University. Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia of the 6th Ward called it a dangerous move.

“We are set to lose $16 million in matching funds that have been approved from the federal government,” she said.

Tyus, who had mentioned repeatedly she would have the projects filled with other funding sources, called Ingrassia a “little spoiled brat” in response. Tyus later apologized multiple times.

Detention Facilities Oversight Board

Aldermen on Thursday confirmed seven of the nine nominees to the new Detention Facilities Oversight Board, which will investigate living and working conditions at the jail, and make recommendations to the city.

Aldermen pulled the nomination of the Rev. Darryl Gray before a vote. And they rejected Mike Milton of the Freedom Community Center over concerns about his previous work with the Close the Workhouse campaign.

Milton was nominated by Jones. A spokesman said in a statement that while the mayor was disappointed, she would continue to work with the aldermen to ensure civilian oversight of the city’s correctional facilities.

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