Why We Must Shrink the Board of Aldermen: Our Q&A with Scott Ogilvie

Sep 14, 2012 at 5:00 am
Alderman Scott Ogilvie, age 31, of the 24th Ward: "What do we have to lose? - Image via
Alderman Scott Ogilvie, age 31, of the 24th Ward: "What do we have to lose?
In a few hours, St. Louis' 28 elected aldermen will march back into City Hall after the summer recess to resume the 2012-2013 session of law-making. But one of the biggest reforms this year lies in our hands, fellow voters.

This November, we must decide whether to completely redraw our political map and cut the board down to a much leaner 14 members (which wouldn't take effect until 2021).

Last night, the board's youngest member -- Alderman Scott Ogilvie of the 24th Ward -- told us why citizens should say "yes" to shrinking the very body he's a part of.

Daily RFT: You wrote on your website Wednesday that such a change would "shake up" some "unhelpful traditions" on the board. Like what?

The many wards of St. Louis - Image via
The many wards of St. Louis
Scott Ogilvie: I think the big one is "aldermanic courtesy," the idea that if something is contained in one ward, it has no effect on anybody else and nobody else should pay attention to it.

Like when you're subsidizing a stadium, which is a huge decision involving a lot of money. That's a real-estate decision contained in only one ward.

The St. Louis region already suffers from high degree of fragmentation. From the river to I-270, there are too many municipalities, too many sets of rules and too many competing interests, rather than a single region trying to go in one direction.

Sometimes there's even competition from ward-to-ward. And that's not helpful for the future of the city.

We chuckled about your complaint that aldermen have turned away from big ideas and now feel "compelled to weigh in on things as petty as parking lot curb cuts, dumpster locations, and dead cats."

But if aldermen don't help coordinate basic city services, who will?