Thursday, March 7, 2013

St. Louis Beacon: How Slay won (With maps and charts)

By Brent Jones, Presentation editor
St. Louis Beacon: 03.06.13

In Tuesday's Democratic primary, Mayor Francis Slay won 54 percent of the vote to Lewis Reed's 44 percent, with a final vote total of 23,968 for Slay to 19,494 for Reed. Jimmy Matthews got 575 votes, just over 1 percent. Reed's biggest vote margin victory was in the 21st Ward where he won 1,153 more votes than Slay. Slay saw a 2,048-vote margin of victory in the 16th Ward. The closest race by percentage, was in the 6th Ward, Reed's home ward, where Slay won by 3.9 percent, or 81 votes. City turnout was a tick over 22 percent, ranging from a high of over 35 percent in the 16th Ward to 13.4 percent in the 20th.


Slay on the path to make history as he wins St. Louis' Democratic primary for mayor

St. Louis Beacon / 03-05-13

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay appears to be on his way to becoming the city’s longest-serving chief executive, after winning Tuesday’s Democratic primary over his chief rival, Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed.

\With all of the ballots counted, Slay led with 54.4 percent of the vote to Reed's 44.3 percent. But the margin was only about 4,500 votes; Slay collected 23,968 votes to Reed's 19,494 votes. Former Alderman Jimmie Matthews finished a distant third, with only 575 votes.

Slay's path to victory ran through southwest and central areas of St. Louis
St. Louis Post-Dispatch / 03-07-13
by Nicholas J.C. Pistor
ST. LOUIS • Slay this year faced his strongest challenger yet, after cruising to re-election in previous campaigns. In 2009, Slay garnered nearly 62 percent of the vote when his main challenger was former Alderman Irene Smith and turnout was much lower. On Tuesday, Slay earned 54 percent of the vote against Reed.
Voters in the southwest St. Louis wards running from Interstate 44 south to Interstate 55 showed up in the biggest numbers — and they went solidly for Slay. For example, Slay won 85 percent of the vote in the St. Louis Hills neighborhood’s 16th Ward, where more than one-third of registered voters turned out to vote, the city’s highest rate. That alone accounted for 2,400 votes for the mayor.
David Kimball, a political science professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, noted that the “turnout in north city appears to be closer to the turnout in south city, at least as compared to previous city elections.”
But Slay benefited from the monster turnout in a few of his most loyal wards. Reed had no ward in the north that turned out for him in as big of numbers. His best showing was in the 21st Ward, where almost 24 percent of registered voters turned out, totaling about 1,500 votes.
In the end, Kimball said the election “was a referendum on the mayor’s job performance. I suspect that when we look at the exit poll results, we will find that a majority of St. Louis voters have positive evaluations of the mayor and the direction of the city.”

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

My Head is Held High

Post-election blues? Check out this video sent to me today by Dhati M. Kennedy

Empowering Power: Reflections on 2013 Mayoral Race

Mayor Francis Slay, (center) with family and supporters, celebrates his victory in the St. Louis Democratic mayoral primary election on Tuesday, March 5, 2013, at the Dubliner Restaurant in downtown St. Louis. Photo by Christian Gooden,
click on photo for story

Evelena Brown, once gave her son a bit of sage advice that he’s yet to really follow. Mama was fully aware of my rebellious streak and when I was a younger man just starting my hard-hitting publication, Take Five Magazine, I remember her words vividly:
“We don’t run it; we run around in it.”

Her words returned to me last night when I realized that Mayor Francis Slay had won his fourth term in office. The mayor with his more than $3 million in campaign donations-most of it from uber rich, powerful, right-leaning millionaires with a privatization agenda-still run it. The rest of us-the poor, the unconnected, the voiceless, the dreamers-those of us who bucked the status quo and believe that tax-supported development should be about people not the profits of the already rich…well, we’re destined to still run around in it.

I enthusiastically backed Slay’s opponent, President of the Board of Aldermen, Lewis Reed. I stepped from the shadows of a relatively quiet life in the nonprofit and entrepreneurial sectors and wrote damning but factual, in depth commentaries and articles about the Slay Administration. I hosted a mayoral debate and mocked the mayor who was a no-show and I joined Lizz Brown’s radio program for a special weekly segment titled “11 Years of Slay.”

I allowed myself to dream of a St. Louis where African Americans along with rich, growing populations of Latinos, Asians and Bosnians would finally have a chance to work with a grounded visionary in City Hall. Together, I imagined us rebuilding and revitalizing our city and making it a truly inclusive and economically vibrant metropolis for all-not just the privileged few.

Instead, we have again empowered the powerful. With our votes we have sent an impotent message to the status quo that they can move full steam ahead with no questions or challenge.  We are still the enablers of mayoral mediocrity, money-enriched half-truths about “progress” and we have validated convenient and suspect alliances built on political favors, nepotism and self-interests.

In essence, we’ve said that the horrid high school dropout rate, rampant crime, disproportionate unemployment and a serious health crisis mostly in the city’s lowest-income wards-are all perfectly OK. Future headlines won’t boast of the extraordinary, ordinary people who finally rose up and addressed these issues. No, our immediate legacy will be a sad rerun of tax-subsidized downtown developments, privatized schools and public services, slum neighborhoods and the incarceration of those who slipped through scissor-sliced safety nets.

The “WE” part of my mother’s advice bothers me as much today as it did when she said it some 25 years ago.  Back then, she was talking about black folk. Hugely religious; raised in an era of segregation, Mama had no faith in people-powered revolution. If social and economic justice was to come, it will be God’s work and not the will of man. She was convinced that bucking “the system” would not bode well for her son’s future and, in many ways, she was prophetic.
However, I will never be comfortable with the idea that the powers-that-be will forever “run it” and the rest of us are destined to “run around in it.” For the first time in a long time, a diverse body of St. Louisians said “enough!” Old grudges were forgiven and new racial and economic alliances were forged. For a moment, we dreamed and boldly acted together. For a brief second, the powerless stepped up to power and said “it’s our turn!”

That, my friends, hasn’t changed. A seed has been planted and we cannot back track now.

This morning, I heard Lizz on the radio. She talked about the target on the backs of those who opposed Slay. The administration is known for vindictively vanquishing its enemies. I refuse to spend my days worrying about payback from a moneyed mayor. I am too old, too stuck in my ways and too hard-headed to compromise or speak quietly to power at this point.

Other than the fact that the same ole players and the same old elitist agenda is still in play, I have few regrets. I got involved with the mayoral race because I’m convinced there’s a mighty wave of change rolling through the region. There are blacks, whites, browns and “others” who realize that our concerns aren’t that disconnected and that together, we are stronger. It’s just a slow roll.

Dr. Martin Luther King once preached that “we must never be satisfied” as long as the poor and powerless suffer. No tears, no regrets on my part. We don’t have to sheepishly tolerate power run amok. We must have the righteous, resilient resolve to stay the course and nurture the seed.  
We may not “run it,” but we can still challenge and change the way it's run.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Mayor Slay and the Denial of Crime in St. Louis

by Sylvester Brown, Jr.
Originally published in The Norhsider / March 2013

"The first thing we have to do, is admit that
we have a problem.”
- Lewis Reed, Candidate for Mayor/ Jan.29, 2013

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay prepares his closing comments as challenger Lewis Reed walks past him after addressing the audience at the first debate of the campaign on Jan. 29, 2013, at the Central Library Auditorium in St. Louis. The Mayoral Candidate Forum was presented in partnership with the League of Women Voters, the St. Louis Public Library, and Community Builders Network. Photo by Laurie Skrivan
Photo courtesy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, click here for story

On Tuesday Jan. 29th, during the first mayoral campaign debate at the Central Library; Mayor Francis G. Slay boasted that his administration and police were working smarter, better and harder to combat crime in the city.

His major opponent, Aldermanic board President, Lewis Reed fired back:

“I don’t know about you, but I’m not feeling safer in the city of St. Louis. The first thing we have to do,” Reed added, “is admit that we have a problem.”

It seems the mayor has always had problems not only effectively addressing crime during his 3-term tenure but admitting it’s a serious problem. In 2005, four years after he was elected, Slay and then Police Chief Joseph Mokwa enthusiastically cited falling crime numbers to convince outsiders that the city was a safe place to live. The problem with their stated numbers was the fact that police weren’t counting or filing full reports on hundreds of criminal incidents. The practice, uncovered by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, violated FBI guidelines that dictate police must file full reports of all crimes. It also meant that officers had the power to decide on the spot what was a crime and what wasn’t. This meant, for instance, that hundreds of rape victims never saw justice because police officers determined no crime had been committed and simply wrote “informal memos” which are not counted as crimes.

In 2005, Slay and then Police Chief Joseph Mokwa enthusiastically cited falling crime numbers to convince outsiders that the city was a safe place to live. The problem? Police weren’t counting or filing full reports on hundreds of criminal incidents, including rape.

On his campaign website, Slay claims that crime has fallen by 12.4 percent. Recently, during an hour-long debate carried by KWMU radio, Slay once again made a case for crime reduction in the city:

“Crime has actually dropped by twice the national average in the past six years,” Slay said, touting his crime-fighting success.

Turns out, the mayor is once again playing fast and loose with terms and statistics. In 2011, the national violent crime rate stood at 403 offenses per 100,000 residents. In St. Louis, despite declining numbers, the city was at 1,747 offenses per 100,000 residents -- four times higher than the national average, according to the River Front Times.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently reported real crime figures in St. Louis. Based on FBI statistics, the crime rate is up about 23 percent citywide with seven out of eight crime categories up in January over 2012 — four by double digits. Homicides have seen a 36.4 percent increase in one year, larceny is up 46.3 percent and rape-which Police Chief Sam Dotson expects to double before year’s end- is up 62.5 percent.

In other categories; there has been a 5.7 percent increase in robbery, aggravated assaults are up by 9.0 percent, Burglary 1.7 percent, vehicle theft -1.9 percent and arson is up by 44.4 percent over this time last year.

Based on FBI statistics, the crime rate is up about 23 percent citywide with seven out of eight crime categories up in January over 2012 — four by double digits. Homicides have seen a 36.4 percent increase in one year, larceny is up 46.3 percent and rape-which Police Chief Sam Dotson said he expects to double before year’s end- is up 62.5 percent.

Slay has avoided detailed statistics and has simply stated that the city’s crime rate has consistently dropped over the past 12 years. This is true, but as FBI crime figures attest, violent crime has dropped all over the country during that same time frame. Despite the mayor’s protest, St. Louis has been consistently ranked as “the most” or “one the most” violent cities in America throughout Slay’s three terms in office.

Still, facing a tough reelection and with more than $3 million in campaign donations, Slay has attempted to blunt the negative crime numbers with glitzy advertising and what many call “publicity events” aimed at manufacturing the appearance that crime is being addressed in St. Louis. In one TV spot, a retired policeman drives around the city and, in a voice over, thanks Slay for his crime-fighting efforts. In late February, Slay publicly announced that police and city workers would flood the low-income, mostly black north side College Hill neighborhood to crack down on crime, clean empty lots and board up abandoned buildings.

“13 days before Election Day, Mayor Slay is finally discovered the College Hill neighborhood, said 21st Ward Alderman Antonio French, who represents the area. “Considering the city owns half the land and vacant buildings in College Hill-making Slay the largest slum Lord in that neighborhood-he should accept some responsibility for the conditions there.”

Residents of the neighborhood seemed to echo French’s sentiments in a KPLR news report following Slay’s crime campaign titled; “Residents Think College Hill Cleanup Part of Political Stunt.”

With an almost 35 percent jump in murders, violent crime in St. Louis remains a real problem for residents and the city’s reputation across the globe. This is an inconvenient truth for an incumbent running for re-election. But it’s an even more dangerous reality for family’s trapped in the most dangerous neighborhoods in America’s “most dangerous city.”