Officials dispute validy of committee on ward reduction

Officials dispute validy of committee on ward reduction

A complicated and confusing spat over a resolution is calling into question the validity of an effort to develop recommendations on the best way to reduce the size of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.

Members of the media recently received an official-looking news release asking for volunteers for a committee formed to advise the Board of Aldermen on ways to implement the planned reduction from 28 aldermen to 14, scheduled to occur after the next redistricting, following the next U.S. Census.

The release gave the names of Alderwomen Heather Navarro (28th Ward) and Pamela Boyd (27th Ward). It also gave the address of a website for more information.

Boyd said she never authorized the use of her name or a quotation attributed to her in the release. But Navarro said Boyd approved the news release.

Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed said that even though a resolution passed in May 2018 to create an advisory committee, it died after Legislation Committee Chairman Joe Vaccaro disbanded the subcommittee meant to look into what the effort would entail. Without a subcommittee, the Legislation Committee couldn’t act on the measure and aldermen couldn’t give it the final approval it needed.

“The chairman appointed a subcommittee, and the chairman gave the subcommittee a charge. The subcommittee went beyond the chairman’s charge,” Reed said. “The best thing for them to do to move forward is when they get back in session… introduce another resolution and get it going again, because the current chairman has disbanded that. It’s null and void.”

Officially the resolution would be null and void when the old session ended on April 15, Reed said.

Vaccaro said he named Navarro to lead the subcommittee. But Navarro said the Legislation Committee declined to officially create it. So a letter from from Vaccaro to Navarro saying he was disbanding the subcommittee didn’t apply, she said. Navarro attests she acted properly. 

“This resolution passed the full board last year,” Navarro said. “I don’t know why they’re trying to shut down this committee.”

Navarro said that besides her and Boyd, the 11-member committee would consist of one representative each from the mayor’s office, the city counselor’s office, and a nonprofit neighborhood group; an academic; one resident each from the south side, the central corridor; and the north side; and two at-large representatives. 

In 2012, city residents approved a charter amendment calling for the reduction in the number of wards. After the April 2023 election, the board will consist of 14 aldermen and the President of the Board.

The resolution called for the creation of an advisory committee to study the effect of the reduction and make recommendations for an “equitable and efficient” transition. The committee was to make a tentative report within six months and a final report by May 31. But Navarro said it wouldn’t meet that deadline.

Ward 23 Alderman Joe Vaccaro said Navarro didn’t bring the issue back to his committee. He said that Navarro and 18th Ward Alderman Terry Kennedy were named to the subcommittee, and that Navarro acted without authority to name Boyd to the committee when Kennedy dropped out.

Boyd said Navarro should have returned the matter to the Legislation Committee. But Navarro said the Legislation Committee held a hearing last July. 

As for a request for a new hearing, she said, “I’ve asked the Legislation Committee for a hearing date. I was denied a hearing date.”