Lambert privatization plan yanked from Nov. 3 St. Louis ballot

St. Louis Post Dispatch

ST. LOUIS — City residents won’t vote after all on airport privatization at the Nov. 3 election, as leaders of the petition drive that got the issue on the ballot withdrew it Wednesday.

A leading opponent, Alderman Cara Spencer, D-20th Ward, said she hopes that Wednesday’s announcement means that “we can finally put this issue of privatizing the airport to death,” she said.

She added that she and other opponents had been “ready to fight in the courts” to try to keep the measure off the November ballot.

She didn’t elaborate but City Counselor Julian Bush in July had said the petition proposal was legally flawed. That was disputed by attorneys for a pro-privatization lobby group.

Pelopidas, a company with longstanding ties to Sinquefield, paid for much of the petition drive, donating more than $713,000 to the effort.

STL Not for Sale, a group opposing privatization, said in a statement Wednesday that “voters are sick of this scheme” that it said would help “wealthy special interests.”

Opponents say that the city would be gambling its single most valuable asset and that companies chosen to lease Lambert would prioritize profits over the public interest.

Meanwhile, Aldermanic President Lewis Reed said Wednesday he would put on the back burner his alternate Lambert privatization bill — also a charter amendment requiring voter approval.

He said he wouldn’t pursue his proposal again unless a new petition plan emerges aimed at a future election.

While Reed’s plan differs on various points with the petition proposal, the aldermanic measure also would channel at least $1 billion to city projects, including many in poorer Black-majority areas.

Spencer repeated her contention that the petition plan “was orchestrated leverage to get the Board of Aldermen” to put its own proposal on the ballot.

“It’s no surprise they pulled the petition (measure) off” the ballot following the board’s failure so far to pass its own bill, she said.

Reed again said he viewed his proposal as a better alternative and that he envisioned both proposals going on the ballot at the same time.

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