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For Lewis Reed, Mayor’s Job Would Allow ‘Implementation’ Of Priorities At Long Last

Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed at the dais in April 2019. He sponsored legislation that steered some of the city's budget surplus toward Cure Violence
File photo / Carolina Hildago / St. Louis Public Radio
Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed, shown at City Hall in April 2019.

Lewis Reed has been president of the city’s Board of Aldermen for 14 years, and before that, represented the city’s 6th Ward for two terms. But while his track record in St. Louis government is long, he acknowledged on Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air that he’s been hamstrung by the limitations of the legislative branch.

It’s why he’s running for mayor.

“As a president of the board, I can pass laws and things of that nature, but implementation of all those things resides in the executive branch,” he said. “And that's one of the reasons I'm running to become mayor of the city of St. Louis, because I understand how to operate that branch, and what the powers are that are vested in it, and how we can actually move the city forward. And how you do that in a way where you do it in a cooperative and collaborative fashion.”

Reed has twice previously run for mayor. He challenged Mayor Francis Slay in 2013 and finished a distant third in the Democratic primary in 2017.

Now the winner of the 2017 race, Mayor Lyda Krewson, is retiring after one term. Reed is running against Treasurer Tishaura Jones (who nearly beat Krewson in 2017), Alderwoman Cara Spencer and utility executive Andrew Jones in the city’s new nonpartisan primary on March 2. The top two vote getters advance to a general election April 6.

A native of Joliet, Illinois, Reed has said that public safety is his top priority as mayor. He discussed his efforts to bring the Cure Violence program to St. Louis, as well as equip police with body cameras, a six-year effort that finally began to roll out in earnest in recent months.

“One of the things I’m really pleased about is the fact that we're using the same vendor that St. Louis County is using,” he said. “So that allows us to integrate our mapping systems across the region. And ultimately, if we can unify some contractual arrangements with some vendors, [we can] have a common maintenance plan and upgrade improvement plan across the region as it relates to body cameras. That can be a big savings to the city of St. Louis and allow us to operate more collaboratively and economically across the region.”

He also discussed his efforts to close the city’s Medium Security Institution, better known as the Workhouse. Last summer, the Board of Aldermen voted to close the Workhouse by year’s end. Krewson’s administration has said that is not possible during the pandemic, so the jail remains open, which Reed said he supported.

“The reality is, if you're going to be a responsible adult, and if you're going to be a responsible legislator and a responsible leader, you have to make decisions based on fact, not just emotion,” he said. “This is a popular subject for people to talk about. And then it's also popular to say that the detainees would be better served in an overcrowded situation in the Justice Center.” During the pandemic, he said, “that's just not reality.”

The Board of Aldermen recently voted to send a nonbinding resolution to city voters, asking them to weigh in on whether the Workhouse should be closed.

Reed stressed that the vote was nonbinding. “It does no harm to essentially take a broad-based poll of the voters to say, ‘Where do you stand?’” he said.

He pushed back on the idea that the city was delegating a complicated issue to voters. “It's not delegating anything to them, because it's not giving them control over the decision,” he said. “It’s, ‘We would like to understand where you stand on this issue,’ right? And why not? Why not?”

During the interview, Reed also discussed his views on airport privatization.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Sarah Fenske joined St. Louis Public Radio as host of St. Louis on the Air in July 2019. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.

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