Board of Freeholders | St. Louis Public Radio

Board of Freeholders

Lee Phung has owned Egg Roll Kitchen since 2000. His father started the North Grand business in 1968. He said Alderman Moore's comments were insensitive. November, 26, 2019
Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio

Lee Phung has owned Egg Roll Kitchen in north St. Louis since 2000. But he’s been a part of the community since 1968, when his father opened the restaurant on North Grand Boulevard.

Although Phung, who was born in China, no longer lives in north St. Louis, he went to Soldan High School and considers the area his second home. He has a close relationship with his customers.

When Alderman Sam Moore, who represents the area, recently suggested that north St. Louis members of the Board of Freeholders should not include Asian Americans, Phung and other Asian Americans in St. Louis described the comments as insensitive. It struck them as another example of their community being ignored.

Christine Ingrassia
JASON ROSENBAUM | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

St. Louis Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia joins St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Rachel Lippmann on the latest episode of Politically Speaking.

The Democrat represents the city’s 6th Ward. Her district encompasses nine neighborhoods, including Lafayette Square and Fox Park. 

Members of the Board of Freeholders listen to concerns from St. Louis aldermen during the board's first meeting Tuesday morning.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

It would be easy to chalk up the delay in seating St. Louis’ Board of Freeholders nominees to dysfunction and gridlock — perhaps showcasing the inability of the city and county to work together.

But that would be an overly simplistic takeaway. In reality, the Board of Aldermen impasse showcases long-standing tensions about how some sort of city-county union would affect municipal services and black political power. And it also spotlights how vagaries in the Missouri Constitution make it difficult to figure out what inaction means.

Former Alderman Antonio French converses with Board of Aldermen Clerk Terry Kennedy on Nov. 21, 2019.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 1:45 p.m. Friday with additional delay

The city of St. Louis still does not have members of the Board of Freeholders.

The Intergovernmental Affairs committee failed again Friday to take any action on Mayor Lyda Krewson’s nominees to the board, which could consider changing governance in St. Louis and St. Louis County.

President of the Board of Aldermen Lewis Reed and current members of the Board of Freeholders listen as former Alderman Terry Kennedy welcomes the group.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Alderwoman Shameem Clark Hubbard wants the newly created Board of Freeholders to tackle something that’s vexed policymakers for decades — education.

It’s a topic that’s undoubtedly played a role in how race and class divide St. Louis. And the 26th Ward Democrat contends the board should take up an opportunity that past governmental consolidation plans missed.

Colorful photos hang on the walls at HCI Alternatives in Collinsville. The marijuana dispensary is set up like a typical doctor's office.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest episode of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Julie O’Donoghue, Jason Rosenbaum and Jaclyn Driscoll review some of the week’s biggest stories in state and local politics.

One of the big topics on the show is the first meeting of the Board of Freeholders, which can propose consolidating services in St. Louis and St. Louis County — or even combining city and county governments.

Members of the Board of Freeholders listen to concerns from St. Louis aldermen during the board's first meeting Tuesday morning.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Members of a board that could recommend big changes to St. Louis and St. Louis County government met for the first time Tuesday, expressing optimism that they can present a plan that city and county residents will accept.

With city members of the Board of Freeholders still unseated, the board spent most of Tuesday’s meeting getting to know each other — and hearing from members of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page's nominees to the Board of Freeholders await a committee hearing on Oct. 15, 2019, in Clayton.
File photo I Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Members of a board that could reshape how St. Louis and St. Louis County are governed plan to meet for the first time on Tuesday morning in St. Louis City Hall.

But without representatives from the city, some of the members of the Board of Freeholders aren’t expecting the first gathering to feature a lot of definitive action. That likely won’t occur until an impasse is resolved over St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson’s appointees.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page answers question on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019, from a group of reporters. Page is poised to appoint new members of the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

In the first St. Louis County Council meeting since a jury awarded a police sergeant nearly $20 million in a discrimination lawsuit, County Executive Sam Page on Tuesday promised “serious changes” in the police department.

That came just hours after the county Board of Police Commissioners announced it is hiring an outside consultant to review the department.

Jason Wilson is the owner and chief executive officer of Northwest Coffee Roasting Company.
EMILY WOODBURY | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

Better Together was supposed to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County through a statewide initiative, but backers withdrew their proposal last spring after facing a major backlash.

In its place, the Municipal League of Metro St. Louis developed a plan to put together a Board of Freeholders. The Board of Freeholders will have representation from both city and county, and special powers under the state constitution. Members can draft a plan to merge the city and county or drop the idea altogether. 

Dr. Will Ross of Washington University in St. Louis.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest episode of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Julie O’Donoghue, Jason Rosenbaum, Rachel Lippmann and others talk about Missouri and St. Louis politics. 

Here are the topics covered:
 

Members of the Board of Estimate and Apportionment meet Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, at St. Louis City Hall.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis aldermen have failed to act on Mayor Lyda Krewson's nominations to the Board of Freeholders, casting doubt on the city's ability to have a say in a process to revamp the way the region is governed.

A special meeting of the Board of Aldermen scheduled for Wednesday was canceled after Krewson and members of the Black Caucus failed to come to an agreement on the nominees. That means the city has missed a deadline set by the state constitution to approve its freeholders members.

But blowing past that deadline may not actually mean much, thanks to a court ruling from the 1950s.

St. Louis County Councilman Ernie Trakas, R-south St. Louis County, voted against a few nominees to the Board of Freeholders that were proposed by County Executive Sam Page.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Council signed off on eight of nine nominees to the regional Board of Freeholders on Tuesday night.

It is waiting to vote on the ninth nominee, independent Dee Joyner, until next week, said the council’s presiding officer, Ernie Trakas. The county council members haven’t had a chance to interview Joyner yet because she has been out of the country.
 

Joe Hodes, 16th Ward Republican committeeman, introduces himself to a committee of the Board of Aldermen on Monday. Hodes is one of nine people Mayor Lyda Krewson has nominated to serve on the Board of Freeholders. Oct. 7, 2019
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Oct. 22 with further delay

St. Louis aldermen have once again delayed a vote on Mayor Lyda Krewson’s nominees to serve on a board that could rethink governance in the city and St. Louis County.

Members of the Intergovernmental Affairs Committee remain at odds with Krewson over the number of Board of Freeholders nominees from north St. Louis. Krewson says four of her nine choices are from historically north side wards; committee members disagree. They took no action on Tuesday, opting to wait instead for another day in an effort to persuade the mayor to name new people.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page's nominees to the Board of Freeholders await a committee hearing on Oct. 15, 2019, in Clayton.
File photo I Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Council on Tuesday grilled most of County Executive Sam Page’s nominees to the Board of Freeholders, a 19-person body that could rearrange the governance of St. Louis and St. Louis County.

One particular point of contention was that only one of Page’s selections lives in unincorporated St. Louis County. Other council members wanted to know the potential board members’ views on whether St. Louis should become a municipality within St. Louis County.

Joe Hodes, 16th Ward Republican committeeman, introduces himself to a committee of the Board of Aldermen on Monday. Hodes is one of nine people Mayor Lyda Krewson has nominated to serve on the Board of Freeholders. Oct. 7, 2019
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The nine people nominated by Mayor Lyda Krewson to serve on a committee looking into consolidating government in St. Louis and St. Louis County will have to wait a bit longer to know if they cleared the first hurdle.

A committee of the Board of Aldermen on Monday spent five hours hearing testimony from the nominees to the Board of Freeholders, but did not take a vote. An exact reason for the delay wasn’t given. 

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson
File photos I Carolina Hidalgo and Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

We’re trying something new on the latest episode of Politically Speaking. Instead of interviewing a single guest or zeroing in on a single topic, St. Louis Public Radio’s political team is introducing a show that rounds up the week’s news.

This week, St. Louis Public Radio’s Julie O’Donoghue, Jason Rosenbaum and Jaclyn Driscoll talk about the latest developments with the Board of Freeholders — a 19-person body that could place a plan before voters shaking up St. Louis and St. Louis County government. 

St. Louis County Council Chairman Sam Page declines to answer questions following a special meeting Thursday night.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page on Tuesday nominated nine people to serve on the Board of Freeholders, which will soon examine the future of St. Louis and St. Louis County governance.

The nominees include Mark Mantovani, who lost the 2018 Democratic nomination for county executive to Steve Stenger, and former Bi-State Development Agency CEO John Nations.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, Gov. Mike Parson and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson will appoint the Board of Freeholders.
File photos I Carolina Hidalgo and Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 4:30 p.m. with names of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson's appointees. 

The clock is officially ticking to appoint the Board of Freeholders, a 19-member body that could determine the future of St. Louis and St. Louis County governance. 

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page must appoint most of the members to the board in the next 10 days. But the two Democratic officials have different interpretations on how much time they have to act — and how quickly the city and county’s legislative branches must approve the picks. 

A group known as Better Together is proposing a plan to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County. They're planning to get the measure on the 2020 ballot.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

The latest edition of Politically Speaking takes a closer look at what’s historically known as the Board of Freeholders, a 19-person body that could present a plan merging St. Louis and St. Louis County to local voters.

Earlier this week, the Municipal League of Metro St. Louis submitted its last batches of signatures in St. Louis and St. Louis County to jumpstart the freeholders process. St. Louis County Board of Elections Democratic Director Eric Fey said the county’s signatures will likely be certified on Monday.

For many out-of-state visitors driving to St. Louis, the Gateway Arch is their first glimpse of Missouri.
File photo I David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Ben DeClue wants to be invited to a very exclusive club.

The Benton Park resident joined more than 100 people who live in St. Louis in trying to join what’s known as the Board of Freeholders. If he makes the cut, DeClue will be part of a 19-person body that could present voters with a plan to end the so-called “Great Divorce” between St. Louis and St. Louis County — or offer nothing at all.

Pat Kelly is the executive director of the Municipal League of Metro St. Louis, and Jason Rosenbaum is St. Louis Public Radio's political correspondent.
EVIE HEMPHILL | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

Better Together, the plan to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County through a statewide initiative, withdrew its proposal this past spring. In its place developed a plan to put together a Board of Freeholders, which would have the ability to either draft a plan that could merge the city and county, or drop the idea altogether. 

The Municipal League of Metro St. Louis is in the process of submitting petitions to the election boards of the city and county that would begin the Board of Freeholders process. 

St. Louis County Councilman Mark Harder is sworn in on Tuesday afternoon. Jan. 1, 2019
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Councilman Mark Harder is the latest guest on Politically Speaking, where he talked with St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Julie O’Donoghue about the titanic changes in county government.

Harder represents the council’s 7th District, which includes Ballwin, Chesterfield, Ellisville and Wildwood. With recent departures of council members, the Ballwin Republican is now the most senior member of the council.

Washington University outgoing Chancellor Mark Wrighton (right) will lead an effort to implement Better Together's recommendations for a St. Louis city-county merger. He spoke at a press conference Jan. 28, 2019 at the Cheshire hotel.
File photo I Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio

When proponents of a city-county merger rolled out their long-awaited proposal in January, they thought they had everything in place for success.

They had more than five years of research, key political support and potential money from key donors like Rex Sinquefield to promote the plan to a statewide audience.

But things changed dramatically on Monday when the effort’s leader, Washington University Chancellor Mark Wrighton, acknowledged there would be no statewide bid to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County. It was a culmination of a frenetic period that saw the arrival of a multiracial, bipartisan opposition coalition to the merger — and immense criticism of some of the plan’s components.

Gail Woods (left) and others attend the Better Together Town Hall at Greater St. Mark Family Church. The event is one of several town halls that will be hosted by the organization.
Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio

Attendees at a town hall meeting on Better Together’s plan for a St. Louis city-county merger peppered the group’s representatives with questions Wednesday night, including why the plan didn’t include schools, and concern about a statewide vote deciding the issue.

Greater St. Mark Family Church in north St. Louis County hosted the first of a series of area town hall meetings on the merger. Better Together capped registration at 150 people.

Chesterfield City Hall
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Some St. Louis municipal leaders are continuing to look into potential alternatives to the Better Together proposal that would merge St. Louis and St. Louis County.

Chesterfield City Council members voted to direct city staff to look into possible steps for Chesterfield that could lead to an independent Chesterfield County or a Chesterfield merger with St. Charles County.

A group known as Better Together is proposing a plan to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County. They're planning to get the measure on the 2020 ballot.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 7 a.m. on Feb. 11 with answers to 11 more questions about the proposed metro government structure — Better Together has released its report recommending a St. Louis-St. Louis County merger. The proposal would create St. Louis Metro — a unified government that would merge city and county offices — and restrict the taxing authority of St. Louis County municipalities.

The proposal would also combine municipal courts and police departments.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger take questions after announcing their support for a task force to examine government spending in June 2017.
File photo I Wayne Pratt I St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 10:25 p.m. with muncipal league comment.

The region’s municipal officials are working to counter a proposal that would merge St. Louis and St. Louis County through a statewide vote.

It’s the latest pushback against a forthcoming plan from Better Together, which has been studying the possibility of a city-county union for the past few years.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 21, 2012 - St. Louis political institutions have rarely changed since the adoption of the city’s 1914 charter. That charter itself reflected very little of the Progressive reform spirit of the time. A chasm separating the city’s elite — the Big Cinch — from the city’s working population made a significant move away from machine-style politics impossible.