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Aldermen keep gallery open to public

DOWNTOWN – Newly-approved rules would keep lobbyists, along with anyone else interested in pending legislation, off the floor of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. But in a switch from an original version, there will be no restrictions on who can sit in the public gallery overlooking the floor.

The board’s Democratic caucus recently voted to exclude lobbyists from the floor and to require those wanting to sit in the gallery to get a pass from an alderman or the board president.

When the matter came to the full board on April 26, aldermen agreed it was best to keep lobbyists and others with an interest in legislation off the floor. The media could stay in the room.

But aldermen questioned why anybody couldn’t just walk into the gallery and watch the meeting. Under the proposed rules, each alderman would have two passes to give out and the board president 

“If there’s seats, I don’t want them not to be able to come in or to have to check with me or to have to make a decision between two people if it’s a group of people that want to come because we’ve got this pass thing,” First Ward Alderwoman Sharon Tyus said.

“People should be welcome to be here for meetings. The galleries should be open,” said Eighth Ward Alderwoman Annie Rice.

The rules also remove references to gender and create a Committee on Youth and Education.

The board also rejected an amendment proposed by Tyus to allow people who leave the board and later return to retain the seniority they had earlier.

Tyus would be a beneficiary of the switch. She was the 20th Ward until 2003, when her ward was shifted to the South Side during redistricting. She was elected First Ward Alderman in 2013 and has kept that position since then.

Jim Merkel

southsidemerkel@gmail.com Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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