Politically Speaking: Alderman Coatar talks about the NFL stadium debate, opponents release poll | St. Louis Public Radio

Politically Speaking: Alderman Coatar talks about the NFL stadium debate, opponents release poll

Nov 10, 2015

This week's Politically Speaking podcast with Alderman Jack Coatar includes discussion about a new football stadium on the riverfront. He is sponsoring the bill laying out the financial plan for the proposed stadium, which Mayor Francis Slay and others hope will persuade the Rams to remain in St. Louis – or attract another NFL team.

Earlier today, 15th Ward Democrats President Richard Buthod said there’s widespread public skepticism about publicly financing stadiums. His group released results from a poll showing overwhelming opposition to city taxpayer dollars going to sporting facilities.

And he says city residents should get a say in the matter. He’s endorsed a competing bill from Alderman Megan Green that would put stadium financing up for a public vote.

“The city of St. Louis has a tradition of voting on long-term financial commitments like this – bond issues, tax changes and so on,” he said.

In the podcast, political duo Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies learn more about Coatar, himself, and issues such as crime and the city's budget constraints.

Coatar has been on the Board of Aldermen only a few months, and represents the city’s 7th Ward, which takes in the bulk of downtown St. Louis, along with historic Soulard and most of Lafayette Square.

He won the special election last spring to succeed veteran Alderman Phyllis Young, who had decided to retire after 29 years.

But despite his short stint, Coatar already has become embroiled some of the major issues at City Hall, notably how to address the city’s rising crime and crumbling infrastructure, and whether the city needs to spend money to help build a new professional football stadium.

Coatar is the sponsor of the bill laying out the financial plan for the proposed stadium, which Mayor Francis Slay and others hope will persuade the Rams to remain in St. Louis – or attract another NFL team.

Coatar grew up in suburban Chicago, attending a Catholic high school before moving with his family to Kansas City, where he graduated. He moved across the state to attend Saint Louis University. After getting active in Democratic campaigns in the region – including for Slay and now-President Barack Obama – Coatar returned to SLU for law school.

He had been working as a lawyer in Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce’s office when the siren call of politics lured him back into the political arena.

Among Coatar’s observations on the podcast:

  • Reflecting on his ward, Coatar says, "I basically have two constituencies: your residents and your business community downtown."
  • Crime is the top issue he hears about. And he notes that now City Hall has local control, "there’s nowhere to pass the buck.’’ He praises Police Chief Sam Dotson, but wants to revisit the department's new police districts. The new districts “are too big, and you’re spreading resources too thin.”
  • The city's tight budget is hurting its efforts to repair roads, streets and sidewalks. Coatar says the city can't even come up with the matching money for available federal funds that could help finance such profits.
  • He believes the pro-stadium bill could ignite development in a "blighted area'' at the northern end of downtown. Coatar also is optimist that the measure could get the necessary 15 votes to pass the board. But first, it must get through the Ways and Means Committee -- which Coatar acknowledges could be a challenge

    Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

    Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

    Follow Jack Coatar on Twitter: @jcoatar

    Music: "Still Alive" by GLaDOS