As the 2019-2020 St. Louis Board of Aldermen session commenced on Tuesday, members strolled in with smiles on their faces as they greeted guests and fellow aldermen with hugs and gifts for the newest members.
Family members and guests on the floor and in the chamber gallery cheered as three newly elected and 12 re-elected members, including Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed, were sworn into office. The newest members are Alderwoman Shameem Hubbard, D-26th Ward, Alderman Jesse Todd, D-18th Ward and Alderman Bret Narayan, D-24th Ward.
Proposed changes to chamber rules would make scenes like this a thing of the past.
The proposal before the board would mean that guests of the aldermen, community members and lobbyists would have to obtain passes to sit in the chamber’s galleries and would not be allowed on the floor.
Reed supports the changes to the rules, which he feels will help keep the board’s meetings in order.
“We have an opportunity to assure that each person here has an equal opportunity to have some of their constituents represented in the galleries,” Reed said. “I think that each ward and all residents in this city should have an equal opportunity to attend meetings.”
In case of an influx of attendees, Reed said there would be two overflow rooms to accommodate everyone.
Alderwoman Heather Navarro, D-28th Ward, said the aldermen will debate the proposed gallery ticketing system.
“We’re already having discussions about how that’s going to play out,” Navarro said. “We have limited gallery space, so that’s what we’re trying to figure out. But I think that the ticketing issue is not necessarily in the spirit of open, free access.”
“I think that is definitely something you’ll see some conversations and hopefully some change on,” she added.
Navarro supports the rule change to bar registered lobbyists from the Board of Aldermen floor. She said it’s a way of keeping aldermen separate from special interest groups trying to influence their decisions.
“The public ultimately has to have trust in this body as well,” Navarro said. “And if they’re sitting up in the gallery watching us have side conversations with lobbyists, regardless of the fact that lobbyist could technically be texting or whatnot, it erodes the public trust. So I do think it’s more than optics. Those optics have a big impact on what happens.”
Reed said the proposed rule changes will likely be debated by the Board of Aldermen at its April 26 meeting.
In other business, Alderwoman Sharon Tyus, D-1st Ward, brought to the board’s attention that this year is the first session for which the board is equally diversified by gender.
Tyus asked each alderwoman to stand to showcase their numbers and stated they plan to form a women’s caucus to bring their issues to the floor.
“I’m proud. I’m excited, and it makes me look forward to the future,” Tyus said. “I’m looking for when we have a woman governor and a woman president.”
Reed predicted a challenging session.
“We have some very difficult days ahead when you take a look at some of the many things we are challenged with,” he said. “City-county unification: We are going to have to figure out what to do with that. We’re going to have to figure out the airport thing and on and on and on.”
Reed also pledged “we’re going to work to erase and eliminate the Delmar Divide in the city of St. Louis.”
Jason Rosenbaum contributed to this report.
Follow Andrea Henderson on Twitter @drebjournalist.
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