Filing opens for transformed St. Louis Board of Aldermen
It was a day of firsts and lasts at the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners on Monday, as candidates looking to be members of a smaller Board of Aldermen began filing for spots on the ballot.
Voters passed a reduction of the board from 28 wards to 14 in 2012. The March 2023 primary will be the first race under those new maps. All 14 wards will be up, as well as the president of the Board of Aldermen. Candidates for president and even-numbered wards will run for a full four-year term, while those running in odd-numbered wards will serve two years.
A number of first-time candidates were among those who submitted their paperwork on Monday, the start of the 40-day filing period.
Daniela Velazquez, a public relations consultant, hopes to be elected in the new 6th Ward, which covers the Shaw, Compton Heights and Tower Grove South neighborhoods and part of Dutchtown. It’s an open seat, previously represented by recently elected Board President Megan Green.
“It’s the biggest change in city government in 120 years, and I think that this is a chance for all of us to work together to put the city in a place where we all can thrive,” Velazquez said.
Velazquez would be the first woman of Hispanic descent to serve on the board if she wins.
Michael Browning, who helps manage grants for Washington University’s ophthalmology department, will face two incumbents in the new 9th Ward, which sits on the northern border of Forest Park and includes the BJC medical complex and the fast-growing Cortex district.
Browning said he wanted to wait until he was established in his professional career before entering politics. And he said he believes he’s in a strong position despite facing two people who are already on the board — 17th Ward Alderwoman Tina Pihl and 28th Ward Alderman Michael Gras.
“The city is a mess right now,” he said.
Browning said the board failed to respond properly to the June indictments of three members, who have now resigned, in a corruption scandal over development incentives. All have pleaded guilty and will be sentenced next week.
“The board did nothing to prevent that kind of corruption from happening again,” he said.
The St. Louis Development Corporation has promised to make changes to the process. Green and Mayor Tishaura Jones have also said they support changes, although the details have not been made public.
Some longtime aldermen also made the trek to the Board of Elections on the first day. For 10th Ward Alderman Joe Vollmer, currently the most senior alderman, the 2023 election for the new 5th Ward will likely be his last.
“I want to get the new ward set up and then maybe bow out gracefully,” he said. “After 20 years, I feel an obligation, especially with a larger ward, to make sure there’s some kind of succession.”
Green will submit her petitions for reelection later this week — her political team wanted to make sure she had gathered enough signatures.
Several current members of the board, including 7th Ward Alderman Jack Coatar, 8th Ward Alderwoman Annie Rice, 9th Ward Alderman Dan Guenther and 14th Ward Alderwoman Carol Howard, do not plan to run for reelection in their new wards.
Though she officially presided over her first meeting last week, Green came to City Hall on Monday for a ceremonial swearing-in.
“I am the 22nd person to serve as president of the Board of Aldermen, and the first woman elected to do so,” she told a crowd of supporters. “Being number 22 is an honor and a privilege, but being the first is a challenge to have the difference mean something.”
Green has outlined an extensive agenda that includes appropriating the rest of the city’s federal COVID relief allocation, as well as the $280 million it could get with a settlement from the Rams over their 2015 move to Los Angeles.