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Aldermen to start work on budget

CITY HALL – The Board of Aldermen will begin this week perusing a $1.15 billion spending package for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Board President Lewis Reed started the process at Friday’s board meeting when he introduced a budget bill. The board’s budget and finance panel, officially called the Ways and Means Committee, will start a detailed look at the package at a webinar meeting at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Anyone who would like to watch the meeting can do so through the city’s website.

The city’s Board of Estimate and Apportionment comprises the mayor, comptroller and aldermanic president. It initially approved the measure recently, with a potentially controversial revision that drops $4 million reserved for 98 unfilled police positions. 

Although the city has never been able to fill those slots, the city has often wound up using the money to pay for unanticipated overtime. 

That’s one reason why Reed was the only one of the three members of the E&A board who voted against that change. 

“Until he is more comfortable with a way to fund the OT, he is not in support of that elimination,” Mary Goodman, Reed’s legislative director, said in an email. 

Reed said in a statement that he was encouraging everyone to be a part of the process. 

“I want this budget to reflect the wants and needs of the residents,” Reed said. “My goal is to ensure that this budget focuses on reducing crime, building up our neighborhoods, providing resources to our youth, our most vulnerable populations and more.” 

In other action, 23rd Ward Alderman Joseph Vaccaro introduced a bill to establish a Detention Facility Oversight Board to receive and review complaints of misconduct in St. Louis’ detention facilities. Vaccaro chairs the Board of Aldermen’s Public Safety Committee, which will hold a hearing on the bill.

The board could investigate misconduct complaints and specified types of incidents, as well as patterns of misconduct. It could look into systemic problems and practices as well as Division of Corrections policy directives and detention facility operations.

The board would monitor investigations by the Division of Corrections and would have the power to pass along findings and recommendations to the mayor and board of aldermen. It would have subpoena powers and serve as an advisory board to the mayor and board of aldermen.

A panel that investigated disturbances at the City Justice Center recommended the establishment of such a board.  

Also, at Friday’s meeting, Sixth Ward Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia introduced a bill calling for a temporary halt in residential evictions. The bill is meant to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in the city.  

The end of the halt would be Sept. 30. A circuit judge set the current limit at May 31, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Board’s Public Safety Committee will review the bill. 

The board also observed a moment of silence for former 12th Ward Alderman Larry Arnowitz, who died Thursday. Arnowitz was elected in 2011 and resigned last year after allegations arose that he illegally used campaign funds for personal use. 

Arnowitz pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud connected to using campaign funds for his personal use and expenses. In August, U.S. District Court Judge Steven R. Clark sentenced him to spend twelve months in the Bureau of Prisons, and six months of home confinement following release from prison.  He was also ordered to make restitution to the victims in the amount of $21,197.85.

Before the news broke of the charges against him, Arnowitz was known for service to his constituents.

Speaking to the board,  Reed said Arnowitz had lost his daughter Traci Marie Arnowitz in 2019.

“It’s been a very trying time for the family,” Reed said.

Jim Merkel 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

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