Mayoral Profile: Lewis Reed
In the next month, the Forum section will be profiling the upcoming mayoral race in St. Louis, the first election for the position in 16 years not featuring an incumbent. Before the primary, we will be profiling how the leading candidates plan to help repair and grow our city in certain areas: education, crime and economic growth.
After announcing his candidacy in August 2016, Lewis Reed made his platform abundantly clear: economic growth. Since 2007, Reed has served as the president of the Board of Aldermen—the first African-American to be elected to this position—and has worked to expand everything from anticrime policies to bike trails on his path to spur growth in St. Louis.
The 54-year-old Reed was previously alderman of the 6th ward, which includes the Midtown and Lafayette Square neighborhoods, for eight years, and prior to that he worked as upper-level management for large companies, for which he was in charge of balancing budgets worth millions of dollars. In 2007, Reed was named an Aspen-Rodel Fellow, distinguishing him as a promising member of America’s top political leaders.
Based on the lack of definite education-related plans on his website, it pretty much seems like Reed is relying on an economic rejuvenation to have a trickle-down effect into St. Louis’ public schools. However, unlike our new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Reed does in fact support public schools. In fact, one of the only things he has said about education is that he hopes more parents will send their kids to St. Louis Public Schools now that the district was officially reaccredited last month. The district has been fighting an uphill battle for years, by raising average test scores, improving attendance rates and balancing financial stability, and is continuing to improve with each school year.
Compared to the lengthy and detailed plans of Reed’s competitors, like Antonio French, Reed’s ambiguity seems a bit lackluster. The election is less than one month away, with primary polls opening on March 7, leaving Reed little time to spawn some fresh ideas and differentiate himself from the other leading candidates.
In a campaign video titled “Crime in our City,” released in 2013 during Reed’s previous candidacy for the St. Louis mayoral office, he revealed that his own brother was “shot and killed.” This personal connection inspired Reed to fight for crime prevention legislation as an alderman and to fund educational opportunities for at-risk youth in his community—like a $1 million yearly fund that allows teenagers to find stable jobs. Despite his history, Reed has asserted that guns aren’t the only problem and that the issue of crime must be tackled by using preventative measures and improving the socioeconomic conditions of communities.
In reaction to St. Louis’ notoriously rising crime rate, Reed has brought into question the validity of Police Chief Sam Dotson’s methods. In an interview with St. Louis Public Radio, Reed asserted, “If it turns out that the job performance is attached to the crime rate going up…then we would have to find something else for the chief to do.” The possibility of Reed asking Dotson to step down represents his commitment to fighting unpunished crime in our city and his willingness to upset the status quo to enact real change.
Economic Growth and City Finances
During his time as alderman and president of the board, Reed generated an estimated $1.6 billion in revenue for the city through investments and development projects, like his leadership in the founding of Bike St. Louis, which includes 1,380 miles of interconnected bike routes and the rebirth of the Washington Avenue lofts district. His expertise in this area cannot be undervalued: Reed has over 20 years experience serving the St. Louis community, and even more in the private sector.
As president of the Board of Aldermen, Reed serves on the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, the designated financial decision-making section of the legislative branch. Additionally, Reed was co-chair of the Ways and Means Committee while serving as alderman and served on the board of directors of the St. Louis Development Corporation. As alderman, Reed notably rejected a bill proposing to raise the minimum wage from $7.35 to $11, citing loopholes that barred workers with special circumstances from benefiting from it, but he supports a higher wage overall. As mayor, it seems reasonable to assume Reed will continue to push on this issue, but he insists it’s done “in a real way.”
Based on his past experience and most well-formulated policies, it’s clear Reed’s wheelhouse is economic growth, something St. Louis desperately needs right now. While this has the potential to cause permeating growth through the public sector—like into the school system—Reed cannot rely on his affinity for development while in his new role. If he follows through with his seemingly strong commitment to social and political change, Reed has the potential to catalyze major growth for the city, as he has done in his own ward for the last few decades.