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Pro & Con: How Prop R would affect St. Louis’ Board of Aldermen

 From left: Jami Cox, policy director for Reform St. Louis, and Heather Navarro, former 28th ward alderwoman.
Kayla Drake
/
St. Louis Public Radio
From left: Jami Cox, policy director for Reform St. Louis, and Heather Navarro, former 28th Ward alderwoman.

On April 5, St. Louis voters will have the choice to change what ward redistricting looks like.

Proposition R would shift redistricting out of politicians’ hands and leave it to a civilian board. It's also aimed at increasing transparency about aldermen’s possible conflicts of interest.

If passed, Prop R would go into effect after the 2030 census. Opponents say conflicts of interest are already required to be disclosed by law and worry Prop R will trigger more litigation and confusion, rather than streamline the redistricting process. Proponents say it will lead to greater transparency and prevent corruption.

Here are the pros and cons discussed on Friday’s St. Louis on the Air:

Pros: 

Jami Cox, policy chair of Reform St. Louis, the organization behind Prop R, spoke in favor of the measure. She made the following points:

  • A nine-member independent citizens commission will rely on community feedback and be more transparent than previous redistricting processes. 
  • Redistricting in the city will no longer be controlled by the Board of Aldermen, which organizers say will lead to less corruption and fewer conflicts of interest.
  • Changes to the city’s charter would prohibit the Board of Aldermen from overturning previous propositions passed by city voters. It would require a public vote for any changes to the way St. Louisans vote for municipal offices, thus securing the future of Proposition D, in which city voters overhauled the current system and opted for nonpartisan, approval voting. “If it passed by public vote, it needs to be changed by public vote,” Cox said. “That's a simple principle of democracy.”
  • The bill would remove gendered language from titles and refer to elected officials as “alderpersons.”

Cons:

Heather Navarro, former 28th Ward alderwoman, spoke against Prop R. She said this:

  • Language creating a citizens commission does not require an independent demographer to be on the commission. 
  • Anyone who’s run for office, worked with a campaign or had a government contract cannot be part of the commission, which may make it hard to find people with the right technical map-drawing skills.
  • Aldermen can strike people from the commission, and two people are appointed by the mayor and one by the comptroller. The commission would hardly be immune from political influence.
  • Requirements that aldermen disclose financial information and conflicts of interest are already part of state law, but more stringent provisions in Prop R would make it almost impossible for lawyers, accountants or other people with clients to serve.
  • This proposition would permanently change the charter and prevent elected officials from making needed clarifications and updates to the city’s new approval voting system. “Will of the voters, yes, absolutely we need to support that,” Navarro said. “But we cannot tie [legislators’] hands for making it work.”
Pros & cons of St. Louis’ Prop R in April 5 election

Related: St. Louis residents vote Tuesday on redistricting changes, infrastructure borrowing

Other election issues on the April 5 ballot include electing local school board members and whether the St. Louis County executive can have a second job.

Related Event

What: Prop R election

When: April 5

Where: Find your St. Louis polling place here

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 Emily Woodbury, Kayla Drake, Danny Wicentowski and Alex Heuer. Jane Mather-Glass is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Kayla is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

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