Most people today don’t realize that St. Louis is it’s own independent city. Unlike other major cities in the U.S., St. Louis veered off the beaten path to establish itself as its own body with its own governing body. The result of that decision was the Board of Aldermen of the City of St. Louis, which is the official legislative body of the independent city. The Board of Aldermen is charged with passing legislation, known as board bills, which after passage of the Board are sent to the Mayor to be signed into law.
The Board functions as a check against the mayor in a mayor-council government model. The Board monitors performance of city agencies and makes land use decisions, as well as legislating on a variety of issues. The Board also has sole responsibility for approving the city budget. Right now, the presiding officer over the Board is the President, who is elected separately as a citywide official. The President of the Board is then the second most important official in the city, directly behind the mayor.
Presently, the Board is made up of 28 aldermen, whom represent the 28 different districts in the city of St. Louis. The Board reconvenes in the wing of St. Louis City Hall in what are called the Aldermanic Chambers. It’s a process that has been in place for hundreds of years.
Who’s In The Board?
The Board of Aldermen consists of one representative from each of the 28 St. Louis wards. A citywide ballot elects the president separately. Like the mayor, Aldermen represent odd-numbered wards, and are also elected in odd numbered years following the United States Presidential Election. The president of the board the aldermen from the even numbered wards are elected in the off years, and are subject to four-year terms.
On November 6, 2012, with a 61 percent of voters voting yes, the people elected to reduce the number of city of St. Louis aldermen from 28 to 14, which will be effective January 1, 2022.
An alderman has a great deal of influence over decisions being made that impact the ward and everyday life for people living inside. Aldermen can handle everything from zoning changes, to street resurfacing, to tax abatement and business licensing. By the city charter, the aldermen are considered independent legislators. These aldermen introduce laws and legislation known as board bills that can become city ordinances, which can impact the quality of lives of city residents.
The Board of Aldermen, like all governing bodies, relies on committees of a variety of purposes. They use committees to review board bills or proposed laws, as well as overview the city’s executive and administrative branch. The president of the board appoints committee members, while committee chairmanship is determined by seniority of the body. The committee chairman presides over the committee. There is a Committee on Ways & Means, Public Safety, Housing, Streets & Traffic, Transpiration, Neighborhood Development, Public Utilities, Parks & Environment, Health, and Intergovernmental Affairs.
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