This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 26, 2009 - The St. Louis Beacon, in partnership with KETC/Channel 9, is soliciting knowledge and insight from people who become part of the Public Insight Network. Dozens of people responded recently to our query about the St. Louis mayoral primary election, which will be held on March 3.
Here are some of their responses:
Veronica Woolfolk lives in the Benton Park West neighborhood and plans to vote for former Alderman Irene Smith, a Democrat. Woolfolk has lived in St. Louis for more than 10 years.
"Attempts for inclusion and involvement as a public servant by phone calls and personal face-to-face conversations with my aldermanic leadership, including direct/indirect audience with the mayor have met with resistance. I made it clear our city children and families need direct, targeted 'leverage' in their daily living, not just more businesses or developers expanding a tax base and POTENTIALLY offering employment for a good portion of area residents. I made it known that I was available and ready to be of service.
Let's just say that I have not heard back from ANYONE. I thought we were living in a time where 'all hands on deck' were needed? I feel that Slay's leadership has set the tone and attitude that has filtered down through our leadership here in St. Louis.
Ronald Clingenpeel lives in the Shaw neighborhood and plans to vote for incumbent Mayor Francis Slay. Clingenpeel has lived in St. Louis for seven years.
"The city is safer. Police work has been better."
Regarding the city's challenges, Clingenpeel wrote: "I hold the systems responsible: The corrupt system that allows private companies to have contracts with the city that are rarely reviewed by an independent office or board; the system that does not have a check and balance system.
"The schools are bad because of parents. Simply put -- the better schools have more involved parents. I am not saying that parents have to be involved with going to the school and PTA, etc. They have to be involved with the education of their children -- at home first.
"We have not held people accountable in this system. Private companies believe the city is a cash cow -- schools are not holding parents accountable -- parents are not holding the school board accountable in healthy ways. Yelling and demanding is not the way to hold the school board accountable. Reason, working together, and the school board's adoption of humility would make a difference."
Perez Maxwell lives in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood and plans to vote for Smith. Maxwell has lived in St. Louis for 50 years.
"I don't really have anything negative to say about Mayor Slay. I do wish the ballpark thing could get wrapped up."
Regarding the city's challenges, Maxwell wrote: "The individuals in question were acting on their own and I feel that the mayor is not responsible for their actions." Still, Maxwell said he supports Smith because, "I like her vision."
Robert Anton Franken lives in the Central West End and plans to vote for Slay. Franken has lived in St. Louis for eight years.
"The Police Department is run by a Police Board appointed by the governor, so it is hard to hold the mayor accountable for an entity over which he has only nominal control. The schools have been a problem forever from all I can tell with a dysfunctional board. I give the mayor credit for helping to create the special school district and for appointing Melanie Adams to that board. Smart move.
"Mayor Slay is working hard to instill accountability into the system and to change the system to be more effective and efficient."
Tony Elliott plans to vote for Smith. He has lived in St. Louis for a "lifetime."
"I'm planning to vote for a particular candidate, Mrs. Smith, because she, like myself, holds any political entity to perform their job duties in the best interest of our issues and concerns that our tax dollars pay them for. She's about as grass roots as you're going to get." (She has an) impressive temperament, and from her dark complexion to her gray box cut 'do,' in my eyes she represents the core excellence of what I encourage my girl friend and daughter to strive for. Irene will make a great mayor.
"I see first-hand of how the city builds all of these lofts, hotels, condos and $300,000 to $400,000 homes in my community, not to mention eminent domain and gentrification that pushes the poor out and welcomes the wealthy. (Slay) has done nothing for the homeless, and there is clearly a double standard as to how the resources are used per ward."
Linda Johnson lives in the Soulard neighborhood and plans to vote for Slay. She has lived in St. Louis for 18 years.
"Mayor Slay has brought change to St. Louis. Downtown is booming -- companies are looking at St. Louis as a place to do business. I feel he is very honest and ethical. One thing that has been very obvious is that our property values have increased dramatically.
"The mayor of any city has control over policy, but can't exercise complete control over individuals. Sherman George, Joe Mokwa and the School Board all made choices that resulted in the mayor and state having to take appropriate action. In no way, was Mayor Slay responsible for their individual choices.
Darren O'Brien lives in the Clifton Heights neighborhood and plans to vote for Smith. He has lived in St. Louis for eight years.
"I am very unhappy about tax abatements, TIFs and the focus on massive sporting venue investment.
"If we are ever going to revitalize this city, we have to have quality public schools. Ever since the mayor began to manipulate the situation, the public schools have been going down the tubes. A business model for public education is inappropriate and a very bad idea. Charters are failing yet are held up as the solution. As far as I can tell, the mayor is engaging in class and race warfare, and we are all the worse for it."
Vince Dagasto is planning to vote for Slay. Dagasto has lived in St. Louis for 10 years.
"At a charity event in 2003, a friend I was with casually asked Mayor Slay 'How are you doing?' The mayor immediately launched into a 5 minute tirade about how the federal government is making it almost impossible to run a city well. How the Council of Mayors is fighting with the president over funding. How people are getting hurt every day because of bad government, and he is working to fix problems every day, etc.
"Usually, if you ask a politician 'How are you?' you get a simple 'Fine, thanks.' But not from Mayor Slay, he was obviously working and worrying about the city and its people all the time. I have admired him ever since."
Grady Brown is planning to vote for Smith. Brown lives in the Central West End and has lived in St. Louis for 11 years.
Brown said he supports Smith because she has “solutions for the city that include citizen input” and she does “not lock them out.”
Joseph Civettini, lives in the Shaw neighborhood and plans to vote for Elston K. McCowan in the Green Party primary. Civettini has lived in St. Louis for 22 years.
Civettini said he is backing McCowan because, “he is the choice of the Green Party of St. Louis. I have been working with him and other like-minded folks on drafting platforms, etc.
"My children's schools are severely underfunded. We hold the mayor personally responsible, as it has been his efforts behind the scenes to undermine public education system in this city.