Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Here's Part Two of Joe Frank's unofficial Voters' Guide for the City of St. Louis Board of Aldermen March 4th 2003 primaries.


Alderman Ward 8 - incumbent Stephen J. Conway is unopposed.

Alderman Conway is one of the more entrenched members of the board. His father Jim Conway was mayor from 1977 to 1981, a one-termer defeated by Vince Schoemehl. Steve Conway is an accountant - so he ran for comptroller in 1989 against Virvus Jones, and for State Auditor against Claire McCaskill in 1998. He lost both times.

Conway lives on the upscale Flora Place in the Shaw neighborhood. After 2000 redistricting, his ward lost a portion of the troubled McRee Town neighborhood, and gained areas east of Grand in the Tower Grove East neighborhood, especially the burgeoning Grand South Grand business district. Ward 8 also takes in about half of the Southwest Garden neighborhood, and a tiny tiny corner of Tower Grove South.

While Shaw consists of the bulk of Conway's ward, he is not universally popular there. He is supported by the Flora Place set, who dominate the St. Margaret's Housing Corporation funded through block grants. Some other folks active in the Shaw Neighborhood Improvement Association (SNIA) are critical of Conway though, because St. Margaret's is not always cooperative with the neighborhood association. Also, the installation of cobblestones on Thurman Ave. at selected intersections, a traffic calming measure, wasn't popular with everybody.

In general, though, Alderman Conway has done enough to help stabilize Shaw and Southwest Garden (part of which recently instituted a special taxing district for security enhancements), so that there is no viable opposition this time around.

Alderman Ward 10 - The 10th Ward is effectively an open seat. This ward was relocated after 2000 redistricting, from the southeast city area now coverd by the 20th Ward.

For now, Craig Schmid is still Ward 10 alderman. However, he is running for election in the new 20th Ward, where he lives. He is not interested in moving to the 10th ward, which covers effectively all of The Hill, St. Louis's traditional Italian neighborhood, as well as the western half of the Southwest Garden neighborhood, the Kingshighway Hills portion of the Northampton neighborhood, and the Morganford area of Tower Grove South.

The new Ward 10 also includes part of the tiny, tiny Kings Oak neighborhood located next to St. Louis University High School. Kings Oak is the neighborhood from which aldermanic candidate Chris Thomas hails. He is one of a new crop of youthful candidates, brought into politics by their frustration with entrenched politicos who they see as the forces who have kept St. Louis City from thriving. This trend is somewhat analogous to the "young turks" of the early 70s who included Dick Gephardt, John Roach and Milt Svetanics.

Thomas is former president of Metropolis Saint Louis, and has been active in neighborhood organizations. But in this race, his biggest liability is that he is not from The Hill.

Most commentators believe ward 10 was carved out to satisfy the residents of the Hill, who had been in the 24th Ward along with the Dogtown area. Robert Ruggeri was that ward's longtime alderman, but once he was replaced by Tom Bauer (clearly not an Italian-American fellow), Hill-ers were not so pleased. The Hill remains the strongest ethnic enclave in St. Louis; meanwhile Dogtown still has something of an Irish feel, although that's faded somewhat over the years.

On the Hill, Derio Gambaro was assumed to be the logical candidate for the new aldermanic slot. But he is not running, at least not in the Democratic primary. So the two candidates from the Hill are both named Joe - so how can I not like them :-) ?

Joe Vollmer and Joe Ferrario are the two Hill candidates. Both have run for alderman before - Ferrario 15 years ago, Vollmer four years ago. Vollmer owns a tavern, so he could follow in a long line of tavern owner aldermen, like the late great Albert "Red" Villa of the 11th Ward in Carondelet (his nephew Matt Villa is current alderman there), or the current 9th Ward alderman Ken Ortmann, who owns a place called The Cat's Meow in Soulard.

Ferrario is an ex-cop, and has some baggage: in 1984 he was acquitted of manslaughter in the shooting death of a 20 year old woman named Marilyn Banks, hit by a stray bullet on her front porch in the 5000 block of Geraldine in Mark Twain, on a hot summer night in 1983. According to news reports, Ferrario was exchanging fire with a 16-year-old girl who had been involved in a stabbing earlier that night.

Yes this was 20 years ago, but the media still remembers. According to an article by Bill McClellan at the time, Ferrario had fired his weapon in 11 separate incidents prior to that. Many members of the community were outraged by this incident.

The Marilyn Banks incident became a rallying cry for African-Americans to stand up - at least for a while - against police brutality. Some of the players then in the African-American political community are still around - for example, 3rd Ward Alderman Freeman Bosley Sr.

Although residents of The Hill - still 95 percent white - may not think about this, it would not bode well for race relations to have somebody who was such an symbol of police brutality elected to the Board of Aldermen. Also it is worth noting the new Ward 10 does have some African-American residents - almost 15 percent - but they don't have a significant role in the political life there.

In short, the 10th ward race is one to watch.

Alderman Ward 12 - In this bastion of City Republicanism, no Democrat filed.

Alderman Ward 14 - Here's another hot one. It's a classic struggle - between the entrenched politician and the neighborhood activist, and a tale of two neighborhoods at that.

Stephen Gregali is the incumbent, a business representative for a labor union (UAW I think), and has the backing of the Mayor. He has big signs along Chippewa, Gravois, Kingshighway - clearly he has the money edge in this race.
Gregali is from the Southampton neighborhood.

Kevin Brock is the opponent, president of the Chippewa Park neighborhood association in the Bevo Mill neighborhood. He has something of an organization going, based on loose connections between neighborhood groups.

Ward 14 consists of about half the Southampton neighborhood (the older part, east of Macklind), and the northern half of the Bevo Mill neighborhood, and a tiny sliver of Princeton Heights neighborhood, mostly a park.

But ultimately this race will come down to the fate of a piece of ground, technically located in Tower Grove South, but identified with South Kingshighway - the Southtown Famous-Barr department store site. Of course, the store has been long gone - so the question was what will replace it? Finally, today Mayor Slay and Alderman Gregali announced at a City Hall press conference, that Southtown Centre is coming. It will feature PetsMart, Walgreens, and a number of specialty stores.

This development will help strengthen the tax base of this portion of the City, and help ensure the re-election of Alderman Gregali next month. And it sure won't hurt Mayor Slay's reelection chances in 2005 (when it is slated to open).

Alderman Ward 16 - another interesting race. This is one of the most affluent areas in the City, covering most of the St. Louis Hills neighborhood, plus the western portions of Southampton and Princeton Heights, as well as a corner of the Lindenwood Park neighborhood.

This is a true open seat, as it was Aldermanic President Jim Shrewsbury's seat from 1983 until 2002. Three Democrats are vying for the slot - Donna Baringer, president of the Magdalen Community Improvement Corporation and the winner of Shrewsbury's endorsement; Steve Malle, endorsed by the 16th Ward Democratic Organization; and Jim O'Toole, former state representative. The race is primarily between Baringer and Malle.

St. Louis Hills dominates this race - and Ward 16 is heavily populated by police officers, firefighters, and other professional bureaucrats. The middle-class nature of this ward is fairly unique in the city, so a fiscal conservative is what you'd expect, whether Republican or Democrat.

Alderman Ward 18 - Incumbent Terry Kennedy is unopposed.

Terry Kennedy is a young alderman, but the son of the late Sam Kennedy, who was a longtime fixture on the Board of Aldermen.

Terry Kennedy is a progressive political figure, generally pretty astute, a potential leader within the African-American political community. He is among the leaders in fighting for a civilian review board for the St. Louis Police Department. So he probably would not be a big fan of Joe Ferrario either.

Kennedy's ward covers a fairly large area in the north central part of the City - the historic but somewhat dilapidated Fountain Park, Lewis Place and Academy neighborhoods, slices of Kingsway East, Kingsway West and Vandeventer neighborhoods, and a surprisingly large piece of the Central West End, near the St. Louis Cathedral.

Alderman Ward 20 - This race is not as interesting as it might have been. I've already written extensively about it in the Arch City Chronicle, a local broadsheet. I encourage you to subscribe to it - although I've never made a penny from what I wrote for that publication, it is always worth a read.

In any event, the latest news is that incumbent Sharon Tyus has been removed from the ballot, because she does not live in the new boundaries of the 20th ward. In case you haven't heard, the 20th ward moved from North City to South City, still to a majority African-American area, but to an area where African-Americans have yet to achieve political clout. Alderman Tyus did not move to this new area, but filed for this year's race there anyway. The Board of Elections removed her name soon afterwards.

So now the only candidate is current ward 10 alderman Craig Schmid. He lives in the Marine Villa neighborhood (and is president of the neighborhood association there; I'm the secretary). The new ward 20 has the most bizarre boundaries of any ward, with boundary streets switching block by block. In general it covers about 1/3rd of Marine Villa, about 2/3rds of Gravois Park, the northeastern portion of Dutchtown, and some blocks in the southern part of Benton Park West. Schmid is assured of a win in this race - and was even before Sharon Tyus was removed from the ballot, since she knows very little about the territory of the new 20th ward.

Alderman Ward 22 - This is a re-match of last August's special election to fill the term of long-time alderman Kenny Jones, who now is director of the City's Civil Rights Enforcement Agency (CREA).

James "Jay" Ozier won that race, and is now the incumbent. He was backed by former alderman Jones. His opponent, again, is Jeff Boyd, an economic development specialist formerly employed by the Union West Community Corporation, until his ouster in a dispute with Alderman Jones. The August 2002 race was a 54-to-46 split, with a gap of only 105 votes. This could be an interesting race again.

The 22nd ward is huge in geography, but small in voting population. It is one of the parts of the City that has lost many residents during the 1990s. It covers most of the Wells/Goodfellow, Hamilton Heights, and Mark Twain/I-70 Industrial neighborhoods, as well as a small part of the West End neighborhood.

That's where I'll stop for tonight. Look for the remaining three Democratic races, plus the Republicans and Greens, in a few days.

Monday, February 03, 2003

And now, it's Part One of Joe Frank's unofficial Voters' Guide for the City of St. Louis Board of Aldermen March 4th 2003 primaries.

There are officially three primaries - Democrat, Republican, and Green - but as usual in the City of St. Louis, it is only in the Democratic races that there's any competition.

But a word about the Green Party: This is the first time there has been a Green Party primary in the City of St. Louis. Since License Collector candidate Jason Murphy won a respectable 15.3% of the vote against the incumbent, Slay-allied Gregory Francis Xavier Daly, the Greens now get to automatically run candidates for City offices.

Very cool.

Now for the rundown of races by party, by ward:


President of the Board of Aldermen. Jim Shrewsbury is unopposed. A fiscally conservative, pro-Life Democrat from Southwest City's St. Louis Hills neighborhood, Jim was named acting President when Francis G. Slay was elected Mayor in April 2001.

In August 2002, he won the special election Democratic primary against 28th Ward Alderwoman Lyda Krewson, who got several progressive organization endorsements. Slay mostly stayed out of this race. Slay attended both election night parties - Krewson's at Humphrey's bar on Laclede near St. Louis University, and Shrewsbury's at the decidedly austere Council Plaza just around the corner on Grand and Highway 40.

Shrewsbury received support from groups both in his South St. Louis power base, and in North St. Louis. Krewson was strongest in the central corridor, but also garnered support from the 14th Ward in the Southampton neighborhood.

A note about my own connections to Jim Shrewsbury: Starting in 1997, I tutored Jim in basic computer skills, and worked on maintaining his campaign contributions database. I even house-sat for him a few times. He's been very good to me, in other words.

So naturally I supported him - not by volunteering, because as a City employee I have to be careful about such activities. But I did give money, and have a yard sign. I don't regret it.

Also the involvement of spouses in the Krewson-Shrewsbury campaign was interesting. Lyda Krewson is married to KSDK-TV Channel 5 reporter Mike Owens, a controversial figure at City Hall. His face was deliberately not shown on Channel 5's coverage of the election night party at Humphrey's.

Jim, in his victory speech, acknowledged the importance of two great women to his campaign -- Pam Ross, his longtime campaign treasurer and now a special assistant in his office; and his wife Dr. Mary Michael Shrewsbury, who has campaigned with him for years during his days as 16th Ward alderman and two attempts at the Comptroller's office.

Mary Michael formerly worked in the desegregation monitoring office of St. Louis Public Schools, and is now instructional coordinator (a sort of assistant principal - type position) at Sumner "Mega Magnet" High School in the Ville neighborhood of North St. Louis.

In any event, Krewson and any other Democratic challengers have been put off effectively by Jim Shrewsbury's solid 55% to 45% win in August, and he breezed through the November general election unopposed. This March, he is again unopposed, although there will be a Green party candidate in the April general election (more on him in a while).

Alderman Ward 2 - First-term incumbent Dionne Flowers is opposed by neighborhood activist Mattie Moore, in a re-match of the very close 1999 election (I can't find the results, but it was close I know). Alderwoman Flowers is the daughter of Eddie Flowers, 2nd Ward Democratic committeeman, and sometimes described as one of the last remnants of the Milt Svetanics organization.

Milton Svetanics, who passed away a couple years ago, was the last white alderman from the 27th Ward, which is adjacent to the 2nd Ward. Nancy Weber was the last white alderman of the 2nd Ward, until she decided to retire in 1999, even though after the 1991 redistricting it was a solidly African-American ward.

These farthest reaches of North City, centered on Baden but also including part of North Pointe and the narrow Riverview strip extending up to I-270, were still heavily white well into the 1970s. Certainly by 1990, that had changed.

This doesn't necessarily mean the area declined - indeed the North Pointe neighborhood, now mostly in Greg Carter's 27th Ward, is one of the most desirable among African-American City employees like firefighters and police officers. Baden, being much older, has more difficulties, but also has many committed residents. These neighborhoods share much of their fate with nearby communities in St. Louis County like Jennings and Bellefontaine Neighbors.

The 2nd Ward also includes a large portion of the North Riverfront business corridor area, which the City has targeted for redevelopment of many vacant properties and support for expansion of existing businesses. Many trucking companies and salvage yards are located there, as well as some manufacturing businesses and the City's Medium Security Institution (MSI), better known as the Workhouse. And although easy to forget, Ward 2 includes a portion of the College Hill neighborhood as well.

That north riverfront area includes one particularly controversial business - the Stericycle medical waste incinerator. This incinerator serves several major hospitals in St. Louis, and many nearby residents are concerned about potential health effects. Mattie Moore was a leader in the effort to bring these issues to public scrutiny; Dionne Flowers eventually came on board, taking much of the credit as well. No doubt this is a prominent issue in the race.

Alderman Ward 4 - The surprise of this race is that Sharon Tyus is not in it. Instead, one-term incumbent Peggy Ryan faces two opponents in this ward that covers basically the Ville and Greater Ville neighborhoods, an area with massive need for development and many vacant lots. I don't know much about the opponents - Cynthia L. Banks, and Edward Mc Fowland - but I think Ms. Banks may be related to former State Senator JB "Jet" Banks. If that's the case, she certainly has the edge in this race.

Alderman Ward 6 - Incumbent Lewis Reed, first elected in 1999, is unopposed. Until redistricting he was the only central corridor African-American alderman, and indeed his ward now reaches deep into near South St. Louis, taking in more than half the Tower Grove East neighborhood. Now Michael McMillan's Ward 19 stretches almost as far south, just dipping into the Shaw neighborhood.

McMillan's power base is decidedly the northern Midtown and JeffVanderLou areas - although he has connections citywide, and will likely be elected to a higher office before much longer. He is young, ambitious, well-funded, and well-connected, and has lots of development happening in his ward, whether it's new houses north of Delmar, redevelopment of the Blumeyer public housing, the new Cardinal Ritter High School, Pulitzer Center for the Arts, and Contemporary Art Museum in Grand Center, or the latest construction project at St. Louis University, Mike McMillan is a frequent guest at groundbreaking ceremonies.

But he's not up for re-election until 2005.

Now back to Reed - since he is the only African-American alderman residing south of Chouteau (he lives in Lafayette Square), he doesn't really fit into the African-American political establishment. Like former mayor Clarence Harmon, his wife is white. Indeed, Lewis Reed was one of Harmon's last allies, when everyone else by the 2001 election had lined up racially with either Slay or Bosley Jr.

Reed apparently is pretty popular in his sprawling, central city ward, at least among those who come out to vote. So he is unopposed.

To be continued....