ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – St. Louis Circuit Judge Thomas Frawley threw out an ordinance, Monday, requiring voter approval on a new riverfront home for the St. Louis Rams.
There still could be a public vote.
Even though the city legally no longer has a stadium ordinance, it has a Board of Aldermen. Aldermen still have to approve any spending. They can still force a vote of the people with or without the ordinance.
The 34 page ruling declares the entire 2002 ordinance invalid.
That hardly sits well with the people who collected thousands of signatures 13 years ago to get it onto a ballot and passed by voters.
Lindecke/coalition against public funding:
“Certainly it makes me sick,” Fred Lindecke of St. Louis County said of the ruling.
He led the successful stadium petition drives in the city and county.
“It makes me angry to think the people tried to pass a law that they wanted… we were out on the street collecting signatures. I was one of them. We got the signatures collected in the city in 2002. We got the signatures collected in the county in 2004. That’s how we got the law requiring that the people get to vote before they spend any of their tax money on a stadium.”
Proponents of the proposed, close to billion dollar riverfront home of the Rams feared the ordinance could delay and possibly kill the project, adding to the likelihood of the Rams moving back to Los Angeles.
Frawley ruled against the city’s core arguments.
He said the riverfront location is legally “adjacent” (relatively near) to the convention center as required by state law, even though the convention center is blocks from the stadium site.
He also ruled the ordinance was too vague as to the “who, when, and how” in terms of enforcement; saying it provided “no direction or guidance” on who would prepare a ballot measure.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon hailed the ruling saying it “clears the way for the stadium task force to continue making progress…while protecting taxpayers, creating jobs, and bringing hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment…”
Stadium task force chief, Dave Peacock released statement calling Frawley’s opinion “a victory for a bold and promising future for the NFL in St. Louis – a time for the region to rally. We can make it happen.” Supporters of a public vote said the ruling might kill the ordinance but a public vote was still very much a possibility.
“The Board of Aldermen could take it in their own hands and say respect the rights of the voters. We’re going to put it on the ballot as soon as possible,” said John Ammann, a St. Louis University law professor, who sought to intervene in the case on behalf of city residents.
Frawley ruled against that, too.
Ammann said he wanted to appeal that ruling.
Alderman Scott Ogilvie, who represents the 24th Ward, said alderman could still pass a measure requiring a public vote. He said he would push for that once there was a formal proposal to consider.
Even if Frawley’s ruling was legally sound, it went against the spirit of the ordinance and the obvious will of the people, Olgivie said.
“For a decade or more people have been thinking ‘if it ever comes to a building new stadium, voters are going to weigh in’. Now at the 11th hour we’re told, ‘that may not be the case’. I think a number of members of the board of aldermen would like to say, ‘ok we’re going to take a look at it’. We still have the option of putting this on a ballot and letting the voters have their final say’ which we know a lot of voters would like us to do…I think it’s a reasonable thing to do…I think we should probably give that a shot.”
NFL owners want to decide on potential relocation to Los Angeles by the end of the year.
The deadline to get a measure on the ballot in St. Louis is August 26.
Aldermen are out of session until September 11th.
There are no plans for a special session.
The City of St. Louis legal is weighing the option of appealing Frawley’s ruling.