Wednesday marked the first anniversary of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson’s time in office. The first woman elected to lead the Gateway City, she joined St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh for a conversation both reflecting on her first 12 months in the role and looking ahead.
In addition to saying she will sign current aldermanic legislation that would, respectively, give subpoena power to the Civilian Oversight Board and increase workforce inclusion goals, Krewson touched on the effort to create a buffer zone around St. Louis’ Planned Parenthood facility in the Central West End.
She also responded to a wide variety of other questions from Marsh and from listeners. Ten of them are included below – along with the full conversation here:
Marsh: When you look back over the past year, is there a best moment? A worst moment that you reflect upon from time to time?
Krewson: It’s not a moment, perhaps, but the ability to bring together such a great team to work with me in the mayor’s office and with the city, I mean, that’s a good moment. We’ve got a great team of people who really are working hard every day to move our city forward … The worst moment? You know, the Stockley decision, of course – that Friday morning at 8:30 – that was a challenging moment, I think, for everyone in our city. And the resulting unrest from that was very challenging. It was challenging for the people in the streets, it was challenging for the people at home, it was challenging for people who worked in businesses and owned and ran businesses. It was challenging for police, it was challenging for fire. It was a challenging decision, which of course we had nothing to do with, but nevertheless, that was the result.
Marsh: Are you confident that that kind of thing, in terms of [how the response to the Stockley verdict] was handled by police, won’t happen again?
Krewson: When you think about our police reaction to it, it was a very challenging situation for them. And there’s been a lot of thought and a lot of training, and I think our police do a good job, and so it’s a challenging situation.
Marsh [and listener]: There has been a bipartisan call for Gov. Eric Greitens’ resignation and for impeachment. Would you support either of those goals?
Krewson: I’m not in Jeff City. I’m going to leave that up to the state legislature. I would just say this: I think that it makes it very difficult to govern. These events make it tough. And, you know, politics and almost everything else in this world is all about personal relationships, all about trying to work with people. And that looks like it’s pretty strained at this point in time.
Marsh: The violence in the city continues. The last numbers I saw show that the shootings and killings were pretty much where they were last year at this time of year.
Krewson: We didn’t get here in 100 days, and I don’t think it’s going to turn around in 100 days. And this is also not something that we can look simply to the police to solve. They’re not causative; they’re after the fact, and we’ve got to look to our education system, we’ve got to look to workforce development, we have to look to a lot of other things other than our police department.
Marsh: Where does the potential privatization of the airport stand? Is that something that you are in favor of, or have you changed your mind on that at all?
Krewson: I’m in favor of exploring it. And quite honestly, it’s been dragging its feet, if you will. And we need the selection committee to select this team, and then we would need the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, two of the three members of that, to say, “Yes, we’re going to think about doing business in a different way even though change is hard.” There’s only one reason to think about this, and that is to get a better airport.
Marsh: One of the things State Auditor Nicole Galloway is looking into as part of the audit of the city is the TIF, or tax abatement, situation. What is your feeling about that?
Krewson: Any sort of incentive that you give to businesses to locate here has to be used sparingly, and it’s about half art and about half science. I mean, here we are sitting in a really nice new building, and there’s a really nice new building next door. But these are not-for-profits, so they don’t pay any taxes. Saint Louis University, they don’t pay any taxes. Wash U, our medical centers don’t. So yes, we need a tax base here, and we need to use TIFs and tax abatement as sparingly as possible without killing the development. And that is the art part of this. And when we live in a region that is so fragmented as we are, when you’ve got St. Louis City, St. Louis County, 80-something municipalities, if a developer needs an incentive, he can just go across the line … I wish we would do this regionally.
Listener: Is there anything new on the horizon to address the issue of blown debris and trash, especially on vacant lots?
Krewson: One of the things we’re undertaking here – maybe you’ve heard about this – is called a “city-block blitz,” and we are taking an approach of what I call the “worst first,” meaning the blocks that are most challenged, and the alleys and the vacant lots – so three blocks a week are being cleaned up … it’s not just about cleanup. We’re also sending firefighters there to put smoke detectors in people’s homes, we’re changing out the streetlights to be LEDs, the police are in the area as well. We’re towing cars, we’re trimming limbs … we’re also frankly asking neighborhood associations and neighbors to come together and do lot-by-lot or block-by-block cleanups, because it takes all of us working together in order to have a cleaner St. Louis. And I for one certainly think that what our city looks like, how clean it is, is really important to the way we all feel and the pride that we have in our city.
Marsh: What kind of discussions are taking place in connection with regionalism and city/county cooperation?
Krewson: County Executive [Steve] Stenger and I named a taskforce to really take a look at what city/county combination could look like, and we’re expecting that report to come out by the end of the year, maybe fall of this year. And we’re hoping that that report will give us some specifics, because while we’ve been talking about this for a while, and frankly I think an awful lot of people in our region understand that we have to take a regional approach a lot … what does that look like? What does that actually mean? How would it work? And that’s what I’m expecting out of the report.
Listener: What are the city’s plans to improve the number of places for homeless people to live?
Krewson: The city last year, a little over a year ago, opened Biddle House, and that is an emergency shelter for about 100 people. And this winter as you know was very cold … we think that there are probably 1,200 to 1,300 homeless people. But then there are truly the unhoused … [that] we really have to focus on, and government can’t do it all.
Marsh: Should the city run a municipal bank as proposed by Aldermanic President [Lewis] Reed?
Krewson: I don’t think so. I may just not be fully informed on that topic, but the city’s got a lot on its plate. I don’t see us running a municipal bank … [But] should we certainly encourage the banks that we have to be “greenlining”? We need to push banks, and they all are under the Community Reinvestment Act. We need to push those banks to provide money for folks to renovate homes in areas that they may be formerly redlined. And we certainly need to do that and we need to make those funds available to people to do that. But we need to do it through [existing banks].
St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.