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Petition to get airport privatization onto November ballot gets 38K signatures, organizers say

There are also two board of aldermen bills about potential privatization that could end up on the ballot in November
Credit: UPI
The uniquely shaped series of buildings that makeup the St. Louis-Lambert International Airport on its 100th birthday in St. Louis on Thursday, June 18, 2020. The oldest municipal airport in the country, was created on June 18, 1920, by Major Albert Bond Lambert and bought by the City of St. Louis eight years later. In 1956, Minoru Yamasaki's iconic arched terminal opened, becoming the forerunner of many modern airline terminals. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

ST. LOUIS — Two local organizations said they turned in a petition Monday with more than 38,000 signatures to get an airport privatization measure on the November ballot.

The St. Louis chapter of the NAACP and the St. Louis - Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council are behind the latest effort to put the long-debated issue to a vote of the people. They said a privatization deal for St. Louis Lambert International Airport would bring in $1 billion for the city to use with no tax increase.

“Our proposal will transform St. Louis neighborhoods and provide opportunities for underserved St. Louis residents,” Adolphus Pruitt, president of the St. Louis City NAACP, said in a news release. “The efforts will be funded by entering into a long-term lease with a private operator at Lambert Airport.”

The NAACP has said the measure would create an amendment to the city charter that would prohibit the sale of the airport and specify how the funds of a lease of the property would be used.

Volunteer group STL Not for Sale opposes the plan in the petition saying it would "strip voters of their voice and our elected leaders of their ability to hold wealthy special interests accountable."

The petition would require signatures totaling 10% of the registered voters in the most recent mayoral election back in 2017, which would be about 20,000 signatures.

The plan in the petition is similar to one proposed in a Board of Aldermen bill by board president Lewis Reed last week.

RELATED: Board of Aldermen bill would put airport privatization on the November ballot

Reed said he filed a bill that would put the privatization question to the voters and would set a minimum price for any deal. If approved by voters, the bill would also create oversight to ensure the money coming from a lease agreement would be distributed equitably.

It is not the only board bill that could have an impact on the potential privatization of the airport. On June 12, Alderwoman Megan Green filed a bill that would require certain agreements or contract to privatize a public service, like trash pickup or water service, or a public asset, like the airport, to be approved by voters. 

The bill says any agreement longer than five years or worth more than $10 million would have to be put to a vote for approval.

Green's bill had its first reading before the board's Ways and Means Committee Monday, and Reed's is scheduled to go before the same committee Wednesday.

Late last year, Mayor Lyda Krewson effectively halted the privatization process when she asked her representative on a city panel examining the issue not to vote to issue a request for proposals to firms interested in leasing Lambert.

RELATED: Mayor Krewson halts Lambert airport privatization