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Aldermen eliminate partisan words in their rules

CITY HALL – The longstanding practice of identifying members of the Board of Aldermen by party is gone.

The board has approved a resolution changing rules to eliminate all references to parties. Because all elected officials have long been Democrats, it changes them from Democrats to not partisan.

The board passed the resolution 24-3 on Feb. 5 to stay in line with Proposition D, which voters approved in the Nov. 3 election. That eliminates partisan races for mayor, president of the Board of Aldermen, comptroller, aldermen and in the March primary and April general election.

With “approval voting” in the first of two rounds, residents may vote for as many candidates as they want. The top two vote-getters advance to a runoff.

The system wouldn’t apply to “county” offices such as recorder of deeds and collector of revenue. State law requires that they be chosen in partisan elections.

“It’s a simple resolution. It gives us all a seat at the table during the caucus. It puts in line what the voters passed,” 23rd Ward Alderman Joseph Vaccaro, the resolution’s sponsor, told the Board of Aldermen. “We have plenty of people who feel like I do. We need to fix this.”

The change will lead to a small change in ranking in seniority for aldermen who were elected as independents but later switched to being Democrats. Under that system, aldermen got credit for only the time served as Democrats. Under the new system, they get credit for all time continuously served since they were elected.

With the switch, 15th Ward Alderwoman Megan Green would jump over 7th Ward Alderman Jack Coatar and 20th Ward Alderwoman Cara Spencer, and would go from 14th to 12th in seniority. Eighth Ward Alderwoman Annie Rice would jump over 24th Ward Alderman Bret Narayan and 26th Ward Alderwoman Shameem Clark-Hubbard and move from 25th to 23rd. 

Party-specific language removed includes “majority party,” “minority party,” “majority floor leader,” “assistant majority floor leader” and “minority floor leader.” 

A similar resolution sponsored by Vaccaro was defeated in a hearing before the Engrossment, Rules, Resolutions and Credentials Committee headed by First Ward Alderwoman Sharon Tyus. It received three yes votes, two no votes and one present vote, but needed a simple majority to pass. Tyus told Vaccaro at that time that he could bring it out with 20 votes out of 28 members of the Board of Aldermen.

Vaccaro and Tyus have clashed sharply over the resolution. Lashing out at Vaccaro, Tyus said, “I have continued to tell the alderman that the things coming out of his mouth are offensive and racist.”

Tyus told the board that Vaccaro could have brought the defeated resolution back for a final vote but didn’t. 

“But I do acknowledge that the majority of, more than a majority of the board, has a right to make a decision about their rules,” Tyus said. “And I’m comfortable with that. I think there’s a lot of misinformation and a lot of outright lies that have happened.”

Tyus also said that she still didn’t want to be an independent and would work to be a Democrat both on the board and other places. “But if that is your will, and if the people who are going to be affected don’t care, I don’t either.”  

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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