Profiling the upcoming mayoral election

| Senior Forum Editor

In the next month, Forum will be profiling the upcoming mayoral race in St. Louis, the first election for the position in 16 years to not feature an incumbent. The new mayor will encounter an unprecedented amount of issues in our economically, racially and socially divided city, and we believe it is important to cover this election in these politically turbulent times. Before the primary, we will examine how each of the leading candidates plans to help repair and grow our city. In this first installment we will discuss the election itself to give context on what should be expected in this lesser-known election.

What election are we talking about?

On March 7, St. Louis residents will vote in the election primaries to effectively determine who their next mayor will be. The mayor of St. Louis has been a Democrat since 1949, so the Democratic primary seems to be the more interesting one to focus in on.

Who are the candidates to look out for?

The leading person for the job is Lyda Krewson, who currently holds 27 percent of the registered vote. She currently serves the Central West End as one of its aldermen, and her first focus will be on reducing crime in the city by providing better funding for the police staff, holding criminals accountable and evaluating all of the city’s current legal infrastructure within her first months in office.

Lewis Reed, another alderman, is sitting at 18 percent and has served the city in multiple capacities over the past 20 years. In addition, he has a strong history of generating economic growth for St. Louis and has received national acclaim as an emerging political leader. He represents the strongest challenge to Krewson and, as an African-American male, has the potential to galvanize the city’s minority population in the upcoming primary.

Another alderman, Antonio French, is a dark horse candidate, polling with 13 percent of the vote, who has focused on improving the quality of life in North St. Louis through incentives aimed at protecting young children and their futures.

The other candidates, listed in order of their polling numbers are as follows: City Treasurer Tishaura Jones (9 percent), who believes economic growth will be the key to solving the city’s crime problem and wants to implement legislation to improve racial equality within the city; Alderman Jeffery Boyd (less than 5 percent), who is focused on improving the public education system and better policing of local neighborhoods; attorney Bill Haas ( less than 5 percent), who prioritizes education over current proposed infrastructure improvement projects; and former Alderman Jimmie Matthews (less than 5 percent).

Why is this election important?

Above all, the city is at an economic, political and social crisis point that can only be resolved by someone who has the ability to create more unity between St. Louis County and the city.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch puts the problem incredibly well: “St. Louis simply cannot make it on its own.” The city itself is broke and was rated by the Fiscal Times as having the eighth weakest financial position of 116 major cities studied. There is a crippling amount of debt and banks are increasingly hesitant to loan St. Louis money. The city is struggling to find steady sources of tax revenue because of high unemployment and the city’s desperate plan to give property to local and regional developers without an effective property tax plan in place.

Crime in St. Louis also continues to be a major problem: it has been a year since current mayor Francis Slay released a crime plan targeted at 15 neighborhoods in St. Louis, but city officials believe there has been little progress in decreasing crime rates and protecting at-risk youths in those areas.

Education in the city is still a nightmare for the majority of the population: though the Saint Louis Public School (SLPS) District was recently reaccredited (meaning it meets the minimum state standards for academic performance), there is simply not enough money to invest in improving the quality of education in SLPS. Though there are a growing number of charter and magnet schools opening throughout the city, hundreds of thousands of low-income, minority students continue to suffer in the city’s public schools.

Underlying all of these major concerns is the evident poverty that has devastated the city over the past few decades. The abandoned neighborhoods, burned out buildings and high unemployment—coupled with the pockets of prosperity and development—are evidence of a broken, divided and ruthlessly segregated St. Louis.

Any final words?

The picture is undoubtedly bleak for St. Louis and there is no doubt that this election will be politically charged, especially because the story of St. Louis’ future is inexplicably intertwined with healing the racial tensions in the city. We can only hope that the next mayor of St. Louis will have the vision and ambition necessary to heal this city.

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