CITY HALL – An attempt to take a proposed change in rules out of committee quickly deteriorated into a battle royale at Friday’s Board of Aldermen meeting.
At issue was a resolution introduced by 23rd Ward Alderman Joseph Vaccaro removing all references to parties in Board of Aldermen rules. Vaccaro introduced the resolution after the passage of Proposition D, which called for elections for city offices to be nonpartisan.At Friday’s meeting, Vaccaro asked that the resolution be pulled out of the Engrossment, Rules, Resolutions and Credentials Committee, which is led by First Ward Alderwoman Sharon Tyus.
Vaccaro said Tyus delayed hearing the measure in a six-hour meeting of her committee on Thursday until the very end, when there weren’t enough aldermen to consider it.
“I was called a racist, which I’m not, because as far as I know, she’s the only one calling me a racist, and I do take offense to that,” Vaccaro said.Tyus reacted with anger. “I have never heard such a bunch of lies before in my life,” she said. “He is rude. He is out of order. He does not listen. He does not want to be recognized. He speaks out of turn. And he doesn’t know the rules,” Tyus added.
“There was no filibuster. There was doing work.”
Vaccaro asked for a hearing only recently, and the earliest the committee could hear it was Thursday, Tyus said. She said there already was a long agenda for Thursday, and her committee couldn’t hear the resolution until the end. She offered to hold a meeting on Friday morning, but Vaccaro couldn’t come.
“He was the most rude. He kept making all these rude, all these rude, all these sexist remarks,” Tyus said. “He was making racist remarks and sexist remarks.”
After extensive and sharp discussion, several aldermen urged Vaccaro to drop his request and allow Tyus’s committee to consider it at a meeting on Wednesday. They still could discuss it at Friday’s meeting.
“Although I have a lot of disagreements with the alderwoman from the First Ward, I agree with with her today,” Alderman Jeffrey Boyd said. “I’m going to ask us to trust the process.”
Vaccaro said he could do that but also said Tyus would probably change the rules so she would have the greatest amount of seniority on the Board of Aldermen. That would happen if the rules were changed to include all the years she’s served and not the most recent continuous set of years.
Her seniority now is counted from 2013, when she was first elected First Ward alderwoman, to the present. It doesn’t include when she served as 20th Ward alderwoman from 1991 to 2003; her time on the board ended when the 20th Ward was moved to south St. Louis during ward redistricting.
Tyus has often said that her seniority was unfairly taken from her when the 20th Ward was moved.
“I actually have more seniority than anyone,” Tyus said. “I’m not trying to be the president. I want my seniority.”
Tyus also said the elimination of the language about parties would change the seniority ranking of six aldermen. In the past, aldermen were ranked by how long they were on the board as Democrats. That put aldermen who were elected as independents and later become Democrats, behind colleagues who served equal amounts of time but all of it as Democrats.
With the switch, some elected as independents move up in seniority, Tyus said. Fifteenth Ward Alderwoman Megan Green would jump over Seventh Ward Alderman Jack Coatar and 20th Ward Alderwoman Cara Spencer, and would move up to 12th from 14th in seniority. Eighth Ward Alderwoman Annie Rice would jump over 24th Ward Alderman Bret Narayan and 26th Ward Alderwoman Shameem Clark-Hubbard, and move to 23rd from 25th.
Vaccaro said he had enough rules committee members on his side to get the resolution voted out at Wednesday’s committee meeting.