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Politically Speaking: Councilwoman Erby on the political reversal of fortune in St. Louis County

Councilwoman Hazel Erby, D-University City
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
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Councilwoman Hazel Erby, D-University City

On the latest edition of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome back Councilwoman Hazel Erby to the program.

The University City Democrat represents the council’s 1st District, which takes in a number of municipalities in central and north St. Louis County. Erby represents most of Ferguson, and she was a key figure in the aftermath of the shooting death Michael Brown in that city in 2014.

Erby has seen a dramatic reversal of fortune in her political prospects in the last four years. After 2014, Erby was politically isolated — and was the only council member for a time to not be an ally of St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger. But after Rochelle Walton Gray and Ernie Trakas won election to the council, Erby has been a part of a four-person coalition, including Sam Page, that has bedeviled Stenger for months.

Recently, Erby may have experienced her greatest policy triumph: Passage of minority participation requirements for county-based projects. Her attempts to pass such legislation in 2014 faltered, primarily due to pressure from councilmen aligned with organized labor. This time around, her bill passed without opposition.

Erby also supports a number of amendments to the county Charter, including instituting campaign donation limits. That became necessary after voters approved a constitutional amendment installing limits on state-based office, but not county or municipal ones.

Here’s what Erby had to say during the show:

  • A change in members of the County Council helped gain the passage of minority participation legislation. Erby said this will be a big boost for minority-owned businesses throughout the region.
  • Erby said it’s best for the voters to decide whether to raise the county’s sales tax to help the St. Louis Zoo. Some of the proceeds from the proposed 1/8th of one cent sales tax increase would go toward a breeding facility and possible adventure park in north St. Louis County.
  • She will not endorse Stenger’s bid for a second term. While she spoke highly of Democrat Mark Mantovani, Erby added she wasn’t ready to officially endorse his candidacy against Stenger in the August primary election.
  • Erby is unopposed for re-election this year. She said that she wouldn’t say that her next four-year term would be her last, because she wants to keep her options open. Erby will still be in a prime position to influence county policy regardless of how the Mantovani-Stenger election shakes out.

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Hazel Erby on Twitter: @No1Councilwoman

Music: “Good” by Better than Ezra

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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