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Airport Privatization Critics Hope To Force Public Vote, Make Their Case

November 11, 2019 Josie Grillas and Chris Ottolino
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Critics of airport privatization believe they are close to having enough signatures to force a public vote on any potential lease.

Since June 2018, a group calling itself STL Not for Sale has been circulating petitions for a ballot initiative requiring any airport lease to be subject to a public vote — that’s even though Mayor Lyda Krewson would prefer to leave the matter to the Board of Aldermen.

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, Josie Grillas and Chris Ottolino of STL Not for Sale said they are now working with the union-rights organization Jobs with Justice. The groups are working together to analyze the petitions they’ve gathered and see how close they are to ensuring they have enough signatures to get the issue on the ballot. 

“We know how many [signatures] we have overall,” Grillas said. The real question, she added, is this: “How many of them are valid?” In order to get on the ballot, they would need 9,500 valid signatures. But to force a special election — likely to draw fewer low-information voters — they’d need approximately 13,500. Grillas said the group “definitely” feels close to hitting the smaller number; the ongoing analysis could determine whether they can hit the bigger number. 

STL Not for Sale also plans to host a town hall on Nov. 14. The event is open to the public and will feature a panel discussion among St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Tony Messenger, St. Louis Alderwoman Cara Spencer, Tyson Pruitt of the city comptroller’s office and Ray Mundy, executive director of the Airport Ground Transportation Association.

Grillas said that STL Not for Sale had invited the consultants working on the privatization deal to the public forum. The consultants declined, she said.

Related Event

What: You Deserve a Vote! Town Hall on Airport Privatization

When: Nov. 14, 2019, 6:30 p.m.

Where: St. Louis Public Library's Central Library, 1301 Olive St., St. Louis, MO 63103

Have a question or comment for privatization critics? Tweet us (@STLonAir), send an email to talk@stlpublicradio.org or share your thoughts via our St. Louis on the Air Facebook group, and help inform our coverage.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Tonina Saputo. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.

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Sarah Fenske served as host of St. Louis on the Air from July 2019 until June 2022. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.