ST. LOUIS—The St. Louis Board of Aldermen met Friday for the first time since federal indictments led to the resignations of the body’s President and Vice President over the past week, with the acting Board President again calling for efforts to restore the public’s faith.
“The events that have thrust me into this position are deeply, deeply saddening. This board has been mortally wounded. We are in a perilous time. Who we are, what we do, and how we do it— these things have all been cast into doubt in the minds of our citizens,” Acting Board President Joe Vollmer said during Friday’s meeting, which was conducted remotely due to COVID-19 concerns. “In the short term that I will have the honor and the privilege to lead this body, I hope to try and restore public trust in our actions and I hope and pray you all feel the same. If ever there was a time to look past ourselves and to see the bigger picture, this is it. The integrity of this board is paramount. This is a time for healing. So I ask us all to move forward in a manner that is beneficial for our city and its citizens.”
Vollmer assumed the role as Acting President when Lewis Reed, who had been in the role since 2007 resigned earlier this week, following his indictment last week along with Jeffrey Boyd, the now-former alderman who had been the board’s Vice-President, and former alderman John Collins-Muhammad, on bribery charges tied to steering tax abatement requests. Boyd, who resigned following last Friday’s board meeting, also faces charges of insurance fraud.
Vollmer told Spectrum News earlier this week that he did not publicly call for Reed’s resignation like nearly a dozen other board members did, suggesting it would have looked self-serving, given that Vollmer was next in line.
“I tried to guide him, if he asked me a question I said this is what I believe you should do....Being next in line I did not believe it best for me to say hey I want this job I didn’t think it looked right and its not how I felt,” he said.
He told Spectrum News earlier this week that he expects an “overhaul” of city protocols when it comes to the role aldermen play in getting approval for economic development projects, broadly described as “aldermanic courtesy”. Mayor Tishaura Jones said this week her office was looking at ethics legislation but did not describe specifics of any potential proposals.
On Friday, Alderman Bill Stephens asked to send a resolution asking for a moratorium on tax increment financing and tax abatement bills for the rest of the legislative session to committee. Members disagreed about where it should go, with Stephens saying the issues should go to the Intergovernmental Affairs Committee. He relented and agreed to ask for it to be sent to the Housing, Urban Development and Zoning (HUDZ)committee.
After the meeting, Stephens tweeted that he wants to work on new legislation that would reform the process without a moratorium.
Also Friday, the board agreed to move a tax abatement proposal introduced by Boyd last week but moved to the informal calendar following the indictments, back to the HUDZ panel. Boyd said last week that sending it to the committee would be an “unjust move, because this company has done nothing wrong.”
Alderman Jack Coatar, who assumed leadership of the panel following Boyd’s resignation, said Friday “We want to send it back to committee so we can explain what, how the negotiations went, what happened and why this is so important.”