Sunset Hills should keep its slower zoning process

By Gloria Lloyd

We applaud the Sunset Hills Board of Aldermen for maintaining the current policy of requiring second readings for all bills unless all seven aldermen agree otherwise.

The system in Sunset Hills is currently set up so that legislation automatically gets a first reading one month and a second reading the next month, giving aldermen time to study legislation and residents time to give their feedback.

Under the current policy, if the board votes to suspend the rules and fast-track legislation to approve it for both readings the first month, just one alderman can object and postpone the final vote to the next month.

But Ward 4 Alderman Thompson Price led the charge to change that so that two aldermen have to object in order to slow down legislation.

When it comes to government decisions, we don’t believe there can ever be enough notice or discussion.

We’ve seen time and time again that residents who were out of town, sick or just not paying attention when an issue came around the first time finally see what is happening through the newspaper or social media and get involved, better late than never.

As long as we’ve been watching Sunset Hills government, there’s been a troubling trend of businesses who are requesting changes in zoning also asking that the board go ahead and approve both readings at once. Often, the board complies.

We disagree with this policy as a general rule. Every business, every time, seems to say it’s an emergency and they need special consideration.

But when you grant special consideration to every business coming before you, it becomes the rule rather than the exception.

For that reason, we applaud Ward 2 Alderman Casey Wong, who has made it a habit to vote against second readings on zoning issues. Although it went unspoken in Price’s discussion of the bill, it was clearly aimed at Wong’s practice of voting against second readings. We also don’t agree with changing how the city does business based on objections to one alderman.

But we’re glad most aldermen didn’t agree with this initiative. As seen in St. Louis County the last few weeks, speeding up decisions for the sake of “efficiency,” as County Executive Steve Stenger said he did, sometimes isn’t efficient at all.

And often, slowing down the process of government rather than ramming decisions through can have its advantages.

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