For the first time in 18 years, St. Louis’ 2nd Ward is getting a new alderman.
The seat opened up in August when Dionne Flowers resigned to become the register, the city’s top record-keeper. The ward encompasses six north St. Louis neighborhoods, stretching from north of downtown to the border with St. Louis County. Three candidates are running to take her spot.
Middlebrook, who works for a home health care agency, is the nominee of the city’s Democratic Central Committee to fill Flowers’ seat. Middlebrook is the Democratic committeewoman for the ward, a position she would have to give up if she is elected.
Middlebrook said she is running to bring positive change to the ward.
“We’ve have a wonderful alderwoman who’s been here for 20 years,” she said, referring to Flowers. “Sometimes when you bring change, you bring a fresh set of eyes.”
Middlebrook said the ward is most in need of viable small businesses. But she also wants the Board of Aldermen to help ensure a greater police presence in the area, and push the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to practice more community policing.
“I think the police should know the citizens in the area they are policing,” she said. “We have a lot of seniors who live in this area, and they want to continue to live here, but they want to feel safe.”
Middlebrook supports Proposition P, a half-cent sales tax increase meant to boost the pay of police officers and firefighters.
McCowan, the nominee of the Green Party, works for the St. Louis Public Schools as a family and community specialist. In that role, he helps families access resources like clothing, housing or health care to ensure that students can attend class.
McCowan has worked for a number of labor unions, including the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. He said that makes him the best choice to get more economic development into the ward.
“When you’ve been a a business agent, you’ve negotiated contracts,” he said. “I’m a unique negotiator, for one thing, and I bring to the table the ability to bring people together.”
When it comes to Proposition P, McCowan said he hears the demands of residents who want more police in their neighborhoods. But he isn’t convinced the city will spend the money as promised.
“The way Proposition P is written up, it’s like giving the city a blank check,” McCowan said. “And we need to do a better job with the police we have right now. The aggression that we’re seeing now by the St. Louis police is just not warranted.”
Turnage, an independent candidate, works for the St. Louis Collector of Revenue’s office. She said that gives her the best understanding of the economic development tools that are available to the ward, like special taxing districts.
“We encompass a huge industrial area, so there are extra additional resources to be captured that can be used within our ward to benefit us,” she said.
Turnage has lived in the North Point neighborhood her entire life. She said she wants to improve communication between the ward and City Hall, and among residents.
“There’s no unity within the ward. Organization is absolutely necessary for the 2nd Ward,” she said.
Turnage says she supports giving emergency responders a raise, but she opposes Proposition P.
“We’ve had a tax increase within the past year, and I’m more concerned with what’s being done with the funds the city already has as opposed to continuing to tax the city,” she said. “I just don’t think that it benefits us.”
Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann