At Monday's forum, the three Democratic candidates made their case for why they should be St. Louis' next mayor. Incumbent mayor Francis Slay is seeking an unprecedented fourth four-year term, while the other two candidates argued it was time for someone else to take the reins.
The forum covered a variety of issues during the hour-long show that was put on by St. Louis Public Radio's St. Louis on the Air. (If you'd like to listen to the entire broadcast, it's here for you).
Challenger and Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed criticized Slay for a costly consulting contract with a controversial water company.
"The new proposal is to pay that same company to do a study that we already have," Reed said. So I'm not really following the logic."
Veolia, the consulting company, is looking for ways to cut costs - but has received environmental and business criticisms in other cities. In Indianapolis, the company was eventually paid a $29 million termination fee in order to have another operator.
During the debate, Slay responded that there's a lot of misinformation on the issue, and that St. Louis can't and won't outsource its water. After the debate, Slay said that a quarter of a million dollars is just a drop in the bucket of the full $52 million dollar budget, considering the importance of the issue.
"We're talking about water, that's something that has to do with safety and health and economics," Slay said. "It's well worth it. Consulting contracts are good."
The candidates all had different takes on how to improve education in St. Louis. Slay said progress has been made in the St. Louis school system.
"What's best for the kids is more quality education opportunities at every level," he said. "That includes early childhood, K-8, high school and post graduate, as well as after- school programs. All of which I've addressed aggressively in my administration."
But both Reed and Matthews said there's been too much focus on charter schools.
"I'm here because of public schools," Matthews, a former St. Louis Public School teacher said. "Many people don't have money to go to private schools and our resources are being drained by charter schools."
Crime has been a recurring issue throughout the St. Louis mayoral race, and it was bound to come up at the forum.
Incumbent mayor Francis Slay said crime is on the decline in the city due to the police department's changes under his watch.
But Reed says the crime rate is not coming down fast enough.
"We're not doing any better," Reed said. "I'm really tired of us coming to the table and them playing with the statistics."
Matthews echoed Reed's sentiments.
"You don't have to look at Forbes (or the statistics), just look around. You walk the street at night and you'll find out."
Slay says he's only heard Reed's objections recently.
“Throughout his career in politics, he’s stood with me on virtually everything," Slay said. "And I’ve heard little from him on the issues he now complains. I’ll say that much.”
"He actually took a lot of liberty in that by saying I had been with him on everything," Reed responded. "The facts are very different from that."
Grades and Time
When asked by the media how he would rate his performance, Slay chuckled that he would have to give himself an A+.
But Reed’s campaign manager, Glenn Burleigh, said he was unhappy with the amount of time his candidate was allowed.
“This was the most poorly moderated event I’ve been to, and none of my candidates are ever coming to another KWMU event unless I have a third party time keeper,” Burleigh said. “I love Don Marsh, I love his show, but this was very poorly moderated.”
Reed wasn’t quite as critical in his comments about the event.
“I have to thank KWMU for the forum, but I would love to have had some of the time my opponent had in answering the questions,” Reed said. “The people holding the forums, they’re doing their best to run it as best they can. There were a lot of things on the table today.”
According to a time analysis following the forum by a St. Louis on the Air producer, Slay spoke for 18 minutes and 50 seconds. Reed, on the other hand, spoke for 14 minutes and 49 seconds but did not use his entire allotted time for his opening statements, electing to cut his short a minute early.
In a statement, St. Louis on the Air producers responded by saying:
The event was a forum, not a debate, and the candidates had received the ground rules in advance. All three candidates were given 2:30 for opening statements, but Mr. Reed used only 1:30 of his allotted time. Had he used the full time, the time comparison would have come closer. Also, the forum included audience questions. While several of them were directed to specific candidates, forum moderator Don Marsh provided the candidates opportunities to respond to these questions.
Follow Chris McDaniel on Twitter: @csmcdaniel