On New NFL Stadium, St. Louis Doesn't Care for the Public's Approval

by | December 4, 2015

By Nicholas J.C. Pistor

The city will not ask voters to approve a plan to finance the construction of a new professional football stadium on downtown's north riverfront.

The aldermanic Convention and Tourism committee voted down on Wednesday a bill that would have required a public vote before any taxpayer dollars could be spent on stadium construction. The vote was 3 in favor and 5 against. Aldermen Shane Cohn, Sharon Tyus and Scott Ogilvie voted yes. Aldermen Jack Coatar, Marlene Davis, Tammika Hubbard, Lyda Krewson and Joe Vollmer voted no.

The committee's rejection means the bill is dead and will not go before the full Board of Aldermen.

The vote came as NFL owners met in Texas about team efforts to move to Los Angeles.

The bill was separate from another measure before the aldermanic Ways and Means committee that would enable the city to finance $145 million of the $1 billion effort to keep St. Louis a so-called "NFL city."

A vote on that bill could happen as early as next week. NFL officials have said the St. Louis stadium task force, charged with building the new stadium, must soon get firm commitments together on financing. NFL team owners could vote on relocation in January.

Wednesday's committee vote was a boost to the task force, which has been working to remove any potential obstacles to the proposed construction plan. A public vote would have meant a delay because the earliest it could make the ballot was March 15.

Alderman Megan Green, the lead sponsor of the public vote bill who has been critical of the financing proposal, said Wednesday that "the fight is not over."

"I think democracy was unfortunately pushed aside for some special interests today," Green said.

Earlier this year, a St. Louis judge invalidated an ordinance that required a public vote before the city could allocate money for new stadium construction. Green said groups were continuing a legal challenge to appeal that ruling.

Green's bill already faced an uphill battle. Two of the lead sponsors of the financing bill, Hubbard and Coatar, sit on the tourism committee. They have said the city could lose the St. Louis Rams if they wait for a public vote.

On Wednesday, Hubbard said she was elected to make tough decisions.

"I believe that when they elected all 28 of us, they entrusted us to make decisions on their behalf," Hubbard said.

Mayor Francis Slay, a vocal proponent of building a new stadium, had said he would consider vetoing any bill requiring such a public vote.

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