So St. Louis residents are threatening to sue to enforce the city’s requirement for a public vote on any stadium spending, eh? Well, the state-run Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority will see your threat and raise it, filing an actual suit on Friday against the city of St. Louis to exempt itself from any requirements to let voters decide on spending public money on a new Rams stadium:
The suit, filed in state court, says a 2002 city ordinance requiring a public vote is “overly broad, vague and ambiguous,” and asks the judge to rule that it either doesn’t apply in this case, conflicts with state statute or is unconstitutional.
Definitely one of those. Definitely.
To help understand what’s going on here, let’s travel back in time to 2002, when the Cardinals were in the midst of arranging public funding for a new stadium of their own, and local activists were trying to head off the city and county governments from approving it without letting actual residents have a say. The city referendum requirement passed 55-45% in 2002, and a similar county requirement by an even larger margin two years later, but courts subsequently ruled that since the money had already been allocated, it couldn’t be rescinded by the public vote requirement. All future stadium projects, though, would have to go before the voters.
That’s the clause that the Jones Dome authority is now objecting to, and it’s making a rather strange stand, arguing that because the referendums’ backers drew them up so stringently — they require a public vote on any “financial assistance” including tax breaks, tax-increment financing, free land, loans, or city or county bonds — that this is unacceptably broad. If they’d only been reasonable enough to leave some loopholes that the Rams could drive a stadium-sized truck through, then this lawsuit wouldn’t be necessary. Silly voters, expecting to get the right to actually vote on something meaningful.