Tuesday’s election is the first in 16 years in which St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay is not on the ballot and a Republican is running for the office.
Democrat Lyda Krewson and Republican Andrew Jones have been knocking on doors and meeting with voters for months now. Here’s a brief recap of who they are and where they stand on the big issues facing St. Louis.
Path to the general election
Krewson, the chief financial officer at local architecture firm Peckham, Guyton, Albers and Viets, has served as the 28th Ward alderman since 1997. She was the first of seven Democrats to enter the primary after Slay announced he would not seek a fifth term.
“I thought about it for six, eight weeks, and then I finally just said, ‘I know I want to run for mayor, I think I have a skill set that will be good in the mayor’s office, and so I’m just going to jump out there and begin running,” Krewson said.
Jones, who is the director of business development and marketing at Southwestern Electric Cooperative in Greenville, Illinois, had served on several economic development boards in the Metro East. But he had never thought about running for office until he entered the GOP primary on Jan. 5.
“My wife told me one day, ‘You’re doing a lot of armchair quarterbacking on the political front, why don’t you apply yourself?’” he said.
St. Louis’ biggest issue: crime
“The very most fundamental thing that the city needs at this point in time is a reduction in violent crime.” — Jones
“Most St. Louis voters agree that neighborhood safety is Job 1 for the next mayor.” — Krewson
The two candidates talk about how to address crime in very different ways.
Jones is focused on restoring order. He’d first push the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to focus on illegal drugs, saying that market drives 80 percent of the city’s violent crime. That could not be independently verified, though heroin has been blamed for a spike in crime in St. Louis.
“I humbly submit that nothing gets done in economic development without there being some level of order. A business won’t locate here if their personnel, their most valuable commodity, feels unsafe,” he said during the primary campaign.
Jones also supports so-called “stop and frisk,” a policy that allows police to search someone they believe has been involved in a crime. Police departments are often criticized for targeting young black men (New York City’s police department faced a federal lawsuit over its policy), but Jones said there are ways to make sure stop and frisk doesn’t violate anyone’s rights.
Krewson rejects “stop and frisk” as a strategy, saying it would make already-frayed relationships with police worse.
“Part of the solution to that is better training for our police department,” she said, adding that hiring more officers gives them time to be trained, reduces overtime and improves the way police respond to crime.
But, she said, hiring more officers is not the only way the city will get in front of its crime problem.
“We can’t really arrest ourselves out of our issues,” Krewson said. “You have to do the prevention along with the law enforcement. Prevention means money for after-school jobs, and summer jobs for youth, and recreation programs, and alternative dispute resolution programs, and alternative sentencing programs.”
Both Krewson and Jones agreed about the importance of someone having a job. But they disagree on the best way to use incentives, such as tax increment financing, to bring new companies to the city and spur job creation.
“I believe that cities who are novices, or don’t fare well in economic development, they lead with incentive packages. When you look at it regionally, what they do is they try to focus on selling the core baselines of the city, and from there, if we’re close, and if they’re close, they will look at implementing and offering some level of incentives.” — Jones
“The city of Clayton just approved $75 million of [tax increment financing] for the new Centene project. I don’t know if they needed $75 million of TIF in Clayton or not — I haven’t seen any of the numbers, haven’t been able to make any evaluation of that, but that is the backdrop that every project in the city of St. Louis is getting evaluated against.” — Krewson
The city’s budget deficit
“While $20 million does sound like a lot of money, and it is a lot of money, it is 2 percent of the city’s overall budget. Two percent is a manageable number. I think we do have to align our budget with our priorities, and we need to audit some of these departments, we need to figure out what we can do without, and then really, the solution to this is to grow our revenue. It’s very hard to cut your way to profitability.” — Krewson.
“Certainly, we’re looking at driving efficiencies, and the effectiveness of the various departments. But we also have to look at spending and accountability on that end, that we’re not wasting taxpayer dollars with frivolous initiatives.” — Jones
On Proposition 1, a half-cent sales tax increase for economic development, including MetroLink
“No, poor people can’t afford it.” — Jones
“Yes, but don’t be mistaken. The amount of money that is allocated to MetroLink is not going to be enough to do the match for MetroLink and build [the north-south expansion], which we need to do.” — Krewson
On Proposition 2, a measure providing public taxpayer money to a proposed Major League Soccer stadium
“MLS soccer has not turned a profit in 21 years of its existence. It should have never gone past the first person’s desk. No.” — Jones
“I think it would be great to have MLS soccer, but I don’t think the city ought to own the soccer stadium.” — Krewson
Being a “change” candidate, in their own words
“I appreciate having Mayor Francis Slay’s endorsement. I also would ask the voters to choose a mayor who’s capable, to choose the person you think will be the most effective, and to look at what my track record is. I have a history of taking on the tough issues facing our community.” — Krewson
“We’re talking 66 years of continuation of policy by a very specific party that has put our city in this position, and if people are calling for change, they can’t deliver change, but Andrew Jones can.” — Jones
Krewson and Jones aren’t the only ones on the ballot. There are also two independent candidates, Tyrone Austin and the Rev. Larry Rice, Green Party candidate Johnathan McFarland and Libertarian candidate Robb Cunningham.
Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann