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Freeholders hold first meeting, with no city members

CITY HALL – Members of the new Board of Freeholders for St. Louis and St. Louis County held its first meeting on Tuesday and spent much of their time hearing gripes about Mayor Lyda Krewson’s nominees for the board.

African-American members of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen spoke up at the meeting to complain that Krewson nominated just one member who lives north of Delmar Boulevard. However, four of Krewson’s nine nominees are African-Americans. The northsiders say they want more people from their area, as a way to guarantee balanced representation.

Because of this, the board’s Intergovernmental Affairs Committee has declined to take action on Krewson’s nine nominees, making it impossible for the Board of Aldermen to act on them.

But the St. Louis County Council has already approved County Executive Sam Page’s nine nominees, and Gov. Mike Parson has appointed one. With a quorum available, the freeholders met in the Board of Aldermen’s chambers but pledged not to do anything until the city’s members joined them.

The freeholders are to express their views on the governmental structure under which they choose to live, up to a city-county merger. After meeting for a year, they could submit a proposal to voters.

Pressing the point of the north side aldermen was First Ward Alderwoman Sharon Tyus. 

“We resent the indication that we shouldn’t be represented,” Tyus said. “As soon as we can get a fair representation on the board, we’re all in.”

Twenty-Sixth Ward Alderwoman Shameem Clark Hubbard said she wanted to make sure the representation was equitable. “I advocate for my community and the city as a whole,” Clark Hubbard said. 

Fifth Ward Alderwoman Tamika Hubbard said it was important that the body was inclusive. 

And Eighth Ward Alderwoman Annie Rice, whose area includes the Shaw neighborhood, encouraged freeholders to go to the public.

“Sometimes, you need to have loud and rowdy meetings where people are yelling,” Rice said. 

Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed said he hoped there would be representation from the city by this Friday.

The mayor, meanwhile, told the freeholders that their first meeting represented a historic day. 

“The Board of Aldermen has not approved these members,” Krewson said. “I would hope that that would happen very soon.”

Krewson also told reporters, “It doesn’t reflect well on this city that we can’t get the Board of Aldermen to take a vote on these nominees.” 

Krewson said that all of the nominees were good people and that she nominated them on Sept. 23, almost two months ago. And she said it had never been “take it or leave it.”

Although they took no action at the meeting, members of the board appointed by Page and Parson all spoke of the possibilities.

“We here all are neighbors and friends and not enemies,” county freeholder Mark Mantovani said. “I come here with that in my heart,” 

County freeholder John Nations, a former mayor of Chesterfield and president and CEO of Bi-State Development Agency, said this was a historic opportunity. The St. Louis area is on the brink of a great future, he said. 

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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