Aldermen oppose state action on residency

Aldermen oppose state action on residency

CITY HALL – The Board of Aldermen is now on record as opposing any effort on the state level to change the residency requirement for city employees.

A resolution passed by the board on Friday makes that point, while taking a critical eye at Mayor Lyda Krewson’s support of state legislation to change the city charter residency requirement.

The resolution, passed in a 19-3 vote, directs the Board of Aldermen clerk to send copies to the mayor, police commander, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, the Missouri General Assembly and Gov. Mike Parson asking that they not do anything to invalidate the residency requirement in the City Charter.

First Ward Alderwoman Sharon Tyus, the resolution’s sponsor, said in discussion on the resolution at Friday’s board meeting that it wasn’t a case of whether aldermen were for or against residency. Rather, it’s a resolution opposing the state’s making the decision, she said.

“This is purely a local decision which should be made by us, and once we as a recognized body have made a decision, I think it’s highly inappropriate that the mayor would go to Jefferson City and ask the Republican governor to override our decision,” Tyus said. 

The resolution notes that the Board of Aldermen voted down last fall a bill that would have submitted a measure on the ballot asking whether the city should lift its residency requirement.  It also notes that Krewson, Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards and Police Commissioner John Hayden traveled to Jefferson City in January to support a proposal to lift the residency requirement for the city police department.

The resolution also said that in several votes over the last 30 years, city voters have rejected a change in the residency rule.

Tyus said the mayor could have circulated petitions to get the residency question on the ballot.

In an email, Krewson’s Director of Communications Jacob Long said, “I believe Alderwoman Tyus said on the floor today, ‘If we want to change the charter, that’s for the citizens to decide,’ which is interesting because last year the Aldermen denied the citizens of the city of St. Louis a chance to exercise their right and vote on this issue. The same Aldermen who support this nonbinding resolution are the same ones who refuse to allow this to go to a public vote. Meantime, we’re focused on filling vacancies across city departments and getting more police officers to keep our city safe.”

Fifteenth Ward Alderwoman Megan Green said aldermen frequently complained about being preempted at the state level. She said, for example, that many on the board had worked hard to pass a higher minimum wage law, only to have the state step in and take it away. 

“I think that it is a very dangerous precedent to set for our mayor to go above us and to willingly give away our local control over an issue,” Green said.

Twenty-Eighth Ward Alderwoman Heather Navarro said that she had voted in favor of putting the residency issue on the ballot but that she agreed that the mayor’s actions set a dangerous precedent. 

And 19th Ward Alderwoman Marlene Davis said the city did not have a problem recruiting people to be police officers. The main problem is retaining officers, she said. 

Twenty-Third Ward Alderman Joseph Vaccaro, who voted against the measure, said a resolution was just a resolution. 

“It doesn’t prevent her from doing what she wants to do,” Vaccaro said. “It sends a statement that a lot of the aldermen feel differently. I would have liked to get it done here. However, if it’s going to do away with residency for everyone, then I’m fine.”

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