Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Reducers & Reformers and Black Political Power (Part 2 of 2)

(Part 1 of 2 is here.)

Mayor Control of the St. Louis Police Department: Whither "Citizen Review?"

This Sunday, September 1st, MAYOR takes control of SLPD. The state legislation and City referendum which put SLPD in the hands of MAYOR lacks any provision for a civilian review board of SLPD. This caused many of "local control's" earliest and most passionate advocates (predominantly North Side African-American political and community leaders) to oppose the new "Mayor Control" arrangement:
Protestors picketing outside the petition signing warned the plan would not make city police accountable to enough “civilian review” and “transparency.”

“The trust of the police department is at an all time low,” said Jamala Rogers with the Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression, “And they continue to coverup and continue to justify the wrongdoings of the police department.”

Rogers says her group has long sought the establishment of a civilian review board that would give appointed citizens a seat at the table when police conduct internal investigations of officer-involved shootings and allegations of police wrongdoing. She opposes the local control plan outlined in the petition drive, because it fails to set up a civilian review board.   
As MAYOR Francis Slay takes control of SLPD, here's what the St. Louis American's "Political Eye" sees [bolding by me]:
No civilian review yet

The community activists who pushed for local control for many decades, however, feel left off the crime-fighting team. Activists in the Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression (CAPCR) always saw civilian review as integral to local control. When Slay suddenly got behind local control in recent years, activists were leery; after all, this same mayor had vetoed civilian review when it was passed by the Board of Aldermen. Now, local control is here – and civilian review isn’t.

“It’s coming,” Dotson said. “The problem is getting it right so that the process is fair to the community and to police officers.” The activists, Dotson said, want “something like the Spanish Inquisition,” while the officers, he said, want a civilian review process that is “meaningless.” Dotson offered no solutions for how to bridge that yawning gap. He did note that a transitional board is collecting ideas for how to revamp the police department and that civilian review is on the table, but at a recent meeting John Chasnoff of CAPCR and Adolphus Pruitt of the NAACP were in the audience but did not offer their suggestions.

In fact, CAPCR and the NAACP were not withholding of their suggestions back when they actually had at least a semblance of a seat at the table. Now, it’s Mayor Slay and Jeff Rainford’s deal table – and the activists are faces in the crowd.
When Slay vetoed the Board of Aldermen's "civilian review" legislation back in 2006, he had a decent-enough reason:
"Under state law, the city of St. Louis and the Board of Aldermen cannot impose anything upon the police board, nor can it cause the police board, or even ask the police board to abdicate its responsibilities and its duties under state law over disciplinary matters, which is what their bill would have done," Slay said.
Why SLPOA is a stakeholder in the Reducers & Reformers

As of Sunday, September 1st, Francis Slay can no longer veto a "civilian review" bill and seek refuge in state law. As of Sunday, September 1st, the "City of St. Louis and the Board of Aldermen" now can "impose" all kinds of things on SLPD.

There are legitimate reasons for the St. Louis Police Officer's Association to be concerned about the shape and scope of any "civilian review board." It's just good politics for SLPOA to stake-out an opening position of, as Dotson characterizes it, a "meaningless" civilian review board. At the same time, NAACP and CAPCR have legitimate reasons to work for as powerful of a civilian review board as possible. It's just good politics for these groups to stake-out an opening "Spanish Inquisition" position.

It's just good politics on the part of SLPOA to do what it can to weaken the bargaining power of its legislator-adversaries on the Board of Aldermen. It will be through the Board of Aldermen that "civilian review" legislation, among other legislation that will effect SLPOA (now and in the future), will be hammered-out. So, it's just good politics on the part of SLPOA to position itself as a stakeholder in the Reducers & Reformers. Why? Because 11/28 = 39%, while 4/14 = 29%.

Why rousing "The Sleeping Dragon" in '15 is critical to the future of black municipal power

If demographic trends continue as they have through 2020, then Downtown and Midtown will be both more populated and more white (check out the dark reds Downtown and Midtown in the racial map), which means that Alderman French's prediction of 4 Central Corridor wards will be a reality. If demographic trends continue through 2020, then North Side will have both lost population and remained just as predominantly black. The prediction of just 4 North Side wards would be a reality. If demographic trends continue through 2020, then Southeast City will both remain roughly the same in population and be racially mixed. From my own personal albeit anecdotal observations, this looks as if it will be the case: 6 Wards on South Side, and the population just as black (if not more black) in the Southeast.

I've written before about Lewis Reed's setting-up shop on CHEROKEE as an effort to rouse "The Sleeping Dragon" of black voters in Southeast City. Not only is Reed's PotBoA shop on CHEROKEE, it's also in WARD 20. I've written about WARD 20, too. It's a majority-black ward surrounded by wards with significant black populations.

If a black political newcomer campaigns for and wins WARD 20 in '15 and then wins re-elect in '19 to indicate that she/he is a legitimate player, then 1 of the 6 South Side wards will be drawn in 2021 in order to be a black ward, expanded out of the "old" WARD 20. This would (albeit, not entirely) roll-back what the Reducers & Reformers have wrought: moving from a projected 4/14 black caucus to a 5/14 black caucus.

Perhaps just as importantly, it would signal that black power isn't just North Side. The Reducers & Reformers have trained their sights on eliminating black-held Citywide offices. If the Reducers & Reformers are successful, then there is the real possibility that the only black municipal politicians left will be four aldermen representing North Side and a long-time incumbent Comptroller who seems quietly satisfied with where she is. The four aldermen will probably need to redouble their energy on parochial neighborhood concerns, with little time for the kind of Citywide relationship-building necessary for higher office. A black alderman on South Side means that a larger black political organization toward truly Citywide coalitions can develop.

None of this can happen without rousing that "Sleeping Dragon." Lewis Reed for PotBoA '15 is on CHEROKEE now, but '15 can be about a whole lot more than just Lewis Reed ...

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Reducers & Reformers and Black Political Power (Part 1 of 2)

"Never question another man's motive. Question his judgment but never his motive."

The Reducers & Reformers

In September '12, the formation of a new campaign committee, Reduce & Reform StL, was duly filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission. Reduce & Reform StL's purpose was to campaign in support of Proposition R which, if passed on November 6, '12 with at least 60% of voters in favor, would reduce the number of City of St. Louis aldermen from 28 to 14 effective in 2022 (after the 2020 census). 28th Ward Alderwoman Lyda Krewson was treasurer of Reduce & Reform StL, and 8th Ward Alderman Steve Conway was the committee's deputy treasurer.

Over the life of the Reduce & Reform StL campaign committee, from September '12 until its termination in December '12, the committee brought in a total of $15,450. $10,750 of the total receipts, 70% of the money, came from standing incumbent aldermanic campaign committees:
Joe Keaveny for Senate (in addition to serving as a state senator, Keaveny serves as 28th Ward Democratic Committeeman) kicked-in $500 to Reduce & Reform StL.

Three other entities made notable transfers to Reduce & Reform StL of $1500, $1000 and $1000, respectively:
  • Chameleon Integrated Services, a Midtown-headquartered company that "provides IT services to federal government agencies, state agencies, and private industry"
  • EMB Development, a Downtown-headquartered "real estate development firm focused on innovative adaptive reuse of historic structures, and on Leed-certified, high-quality new construction"
  • St. Louis Police Officers' Association PAC Account (their hall is in Southwest City and many consider SLPOA to be the "white" police officers' organization, for whatever that's worth)
The transfers made to Reduce & Reform StL from these 11 standing incumbent campaign committees and from these 3 corporate/PAC entities total $14,750. This was 95% of the money brought in by Reduce & Reform StL during its life as a political campaign committee.

Corporate/PAC entity donations aside, if you map the 10 donating standing incumbent aldermanic campaign committees' wards, you get a rather Central-Corridor-Southwest tilt:
(Click on the pic to embiggen it.)

The "Good First Step": 4 North + 4 Central + 6 South = 4/14

One week before the November 6, '12 election in which Prop R was to be decided, Jo Mannies wrote a pretty decent article on the subject in the Beacon. Mannies put North Side's 21st Ward Alderman Antonio French on the "con" side, and Central Corridor's 7th Ward Alderwoman Phyllis Young on the "pro" side. The "policy" discussion was actually quite thorough (on the "policy," I personally agree with Alderman French), but the "politics" discussion was, for me anyway, the more salient issue:
[S]ome also were concerned about [Prop R's] effect on African-American representation.

French said that the likely division of a smaller 14-member board would mean only four aldermen from the predominantly African-American north side. Six of the new wards would likely be in south St. Louis, while four would be along the central corridor, he predicted.

As it stands, the 28-member board now has 12 aldermen in its Black Caucus.

Young said that reducing the size of the Board of Aldermen could be the first step in a longer process to revamp various city operations.  About a decade ago, city voters rejected proposals to do away with the city’s independent, so-called “county offices,’’ such as recorder of deeds and collector of revenue.


Young said the fact that the aldermen – pro and con – voted to put [Prop R] before voters is a good first step, win or lose on Nov. 6.
On November 6, 2012, Prop R passed with one percentage point of yeses to spare: 61%.

On December 4, 2012 the Reduce & Reform StL campaign committee was terminated and its surplus funds ($929.16) were transferred into the newly-formed and still-active Reduce & Reform StL PAC. Alderwoman Krewson and Alderman Conway, respectively, are treasurer and deputy treasurer of the Reduce & Reform StL PAC.

On March 5, 2013, Christine Ingrassia won the Democratic Primary for Central Corridor's 6th Ward Alderwoman (a de facto winning of the seat). Alderwoman Ingrassia replaced out-going 6th Ward Alderwoman Kacie Starr Triplett, thus decreasing the Aldermanic Black Caucus from 12 to 11.

According to the 2010 Census, 49.2% of the citizens of the City of St. Louis are African-American. Currently, 39% (11/28) of the City's aldermen are African-American. If Alderman French's prediction of just 4 black aldermen among a reduced 14 aldermen is accurate, then the percentage of black aldermen will drop to 29%. (I think it highly unlikely that, by the next census in 2020, African-Americans will comprise just 29% of the citizenry of the City of St. Louis.)

"Independent" Offices as Avenues to Black Municipal Political Power

In her Beacon Prop R article, Mannies describes the City's "so-called 'county offices'" as "independent." By independent, I suppose that Mannies means that such political offices are independent of (e.g. separate from) the City's municipal government. Though while such offices are independent, it has historically been the case that, by or through offices independent of City municipal government, black politicians have achieved the highest executive offices in City municipal government.

Two and one-half examples:

The first example involves a white incumbent mayor yet again seeking re-election and the white incumbent mayor's courting the endorsement of a black North Side U.S. congressman by the name of Clay ... but I'm talking about 1989 here, not 2013! I'm talking about the Great "Job Swap":
Racial arithmetic is always part of the equation in the race for citywide office. But local politicians believe that [Mayor] Schoemehl defused the race issue last November by deftly engineering an unusual job swap among top city officials.

Virvus Jones, who is black, became city comptroller, a job that automatically brings a slot on the powerful Board of Estimate, a three-member panel [Mayor and PotBoA are the other two members] that approves all city budgets and contracts. And Paul Berra, an aging white politician, agreed to switch to Jones' former job of assessor.

The move won Schoemehl the powerful endorsement of Rep. William Clay (D., Mo.), the city's most authoritative black leader.
By the power of a black-held office independent of City municipal government, the office of U.S. Congressman, the powerful City municipal office of COMPTROLLER became black-held in 1988. The Comptroller's Office has been black-held ever since (even if, on one occasion, it meant facing federal fraud charges in order to ensure that it remained that way).

The second example involves the first (and, some in quiet quarters on both sides of town would argue, only) black MAYOR of the City of St. Louis: Freeman Bosley, Jr.. From 1982 (with an initial assist from the mysterious Clara Jo Roddy) to 1991, Bosley, Jr. held the independent Office of Circuit Clerk for the 22nd Judicial District. At the same time, Bosley Jr. worked the City Democratic Party, first as (his father's) 3rd Ward Committeeman all the way up to Chairman of the City Central Committee and then to Chairman of the St. Louis Democratic Party (Bosley, Jr. was the first black chairperson of each). Interestingly, Bosley Jr.'s ascent to Chairman of the St. Louis Democratic Party involved collaborating with another "county officeholder's" committeewoman who had South Side party clout:
I decided to run for chairman of the St. Louis Democratic Party. This undertaking was more than a notion. I was the vice chairman. Only when the chairman moves on does the vice chairman move up. Not to my surprise, white committeepeople didn't want me to have it and black committeepeople wondered why I wanted it.

I made an alliance with Marie Lammert, Sherriff Jim Murphy's committeewoman. They controlled, and still do, a lot of the politics in South St. Louis. Marie wanted to be vice chair and brought eight South Side wards to the table. With my 11 North Side wards we ran over the obstructionists like a hot knife through butter.
Bosley Jr. then parlayed his St. Louis Democratic Party Chairmanship into organizing black politicians:
It was at this time that I began to think about running for mayor. I began to raise money and convince other black elected officials to support other people running for office in the city and county. Several of us began to bring the black elected officials together. We formed an united front called the Council of Black Elected Officials, and they made me chairman.
On March 2nd,1993 (with a very special and at least half-collaborative assist from Tony Ribaudo), Freeman Bosley, Jr. marshaled the black political organizational power accrued through ten years of holding multiple offices that were, functionally, independent from municipal City government into the first (and, some would maintain, only) successful black bid for MAYOR.

The one-half example is recently-former License Collector and recently-appointed President of the Urban League Mike McMillan. McMillan's first political job was Administrative Assistant to then-Mayor Freeman Bosley, Jr.. In 1997, McMillan was elected North Side/Central Corridor 19th Ward Alderman (historians of the Board say that, at the time, he was the youngest alderman in the City's history). In 2006, McMillan successfully ran for License Collector (one of those independent offices) and handily won re-election in 2010.

McMillan long has been heralded by many as "The Great Black Hope" for MAYOR. He's almost prodigiously young (41 years old) for a City pol of his stature. As alderman and then furthermore as Citywide License Collector, McMillan has developed strong relationships and rapport with interests both north and south of the "Delmar Divide" (many casual political observers don't know that McMillan is African-American ...). Perhaps most importantly, McMillan has a penchant for deliberate and collaborative political organization not unlike his old boss in Room 200. McMillan's new position as President of the Urban League is somewhat like Bosley Jr.'s Council of Black Elected Officials, but on the proverbial steroids:
The Urban League has been around for 95 years. It provides social services and advocates civil rights and self-reliance for African-Americans and others in the city and St. Louis and St. Clair counties.
As the longtime leader of the organization, [out-going president] Buford helped expand the budget from $2.5 million to $23 million.
The office has been a highly sought-after position because of its size and connection to the business community.
McMillan is a one-half example, because he's half-way there ...

"This Good Governance Goal": Closing the Avenues

Not soon after Mike McMillan left the office by which he accrued a good deal of his black political organizational power, Reducer & Reformer Alderwoman Donna Baringer (16th Ward) announced her intentions for the now-vacated office:
A St. Louis alderman says she would like control of the city's license collector office so she can eliminate it.


"The only way to make this good governance goal come to life is to have a license collector who agrees that blending license collector duties into another office makes the most sense for St. Louis taxpayers," Baringer told the Post-Dispatch.

Such a task would require approval from the state legislature and changes to the city charter.
It's up to Governor Jay Nixon as to who serves the remainder of McMillan's License Collector term. Given Nixon's, at times, strained relationship with North Side's black community and his dependence on strong African-American St. Louis turnout should he seek, perhaps, a U.S. Senate bid in the future, I bet that Nixon will appoint someone other than Alderwoman Baringer.

While eliminating the elected office of License Collector would require both state legislative action and City Charter reform, eliminating Circuit Court Clerk as an elected position requires just state legislative action. Last year, the Missouri Legislature took such action. It's now the judges who will appoint the clerk:
The judges have wanted to curb the power of the circuit clerk’s office for at least 20 years, saying that it was unseemly that a job set up to serve the courts had become an elective post in which the officeholder often wielded far more clout than those on the bench.
The next Democratic Primary for License Collector will occur roughly 11 months from now on August 5th, 2014. Time will tell whether the office remains a target of the Reducers & Reformers. Time will tell whether Charter Reform is the "good second step" toward "this good governance goal." Is November 4th, 2014 too early to take the shot for Charter Reform? The last time Charter Reform was on the ballot was 2004, which, being a Presidential year, was a high-turnout affair. Perhaps the Reducers & Reformers see a better shot in a November '14 mid-term. This, too, is a matter of judgment, not motive.

(Part 2 of 2 is here.)  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Snowball's Chance

With the requisite amount of signatures certified (and with 900 signatures to spare), the Take Back St. Louis initiative is one step away from appearing on a March or April '14 Citywide ballot. Opposition to the initiative has coalesced around a legal and political gravamen: that the signers of the petition were duped into signing it.

Should the Take Back St. Louis initiative survive the legal challenge(s) and make it to a Citywide vote, it most likely will fail at the polls. The initiative's well-healed opposition has and will present a parade of horribles that, should the initiative be passed, includes everything from the de-funding of everyone's dearly-beloved Zoo to the shutting-down of every "urbanist-progressive's" dearly-beloved Metro. Add to the parade of horribles claims about investment and, especially, JOBS leaving due to the "anti-business environment," and the chance of passage is the proverbial snowball's chance. (Personally, I would vote "no" on the proposition should we get the opportunity to vote on it.)

But the snowball's chance of the initiative's approval by Citywide voters has never been what should spook the initiative's opposition. What should spook the initiative's opposition is the Citywide election organization that the initiative would foster and develop if the initiative makes it on the ballot. The Citywide electoral calculation has been very stable since (it feels like) time immemorial: win your North/South Side of town + Central Corridor. If they're given some oxygen with a ballot initiative, the folks involved with Take Back St. Louis would develop specifically Citywide municipal electoral organizing skills. With lessons learned in '14, by '15 and/or '17 the Take Back St. Louis folks could, among other destabilizing things, help rouse that "Sleeping Dragon."

But if the initiative doesn't actually get on the ballot, then the folks with Take Back St. Louis don't get the electoral-political oxygen to grow and develop into a potentially destabilizing influence on the Citywide electoral calculus. So, "expect litigation" in an effort to kill the initiative before it gets that far. Material misrepresentations that induced petition signatures is the perfect gravamen because it's procedural rather than substantive; a court need not weigh-in on policy, constitutionality, et cetera and still kill the initiative. It's also a perfect political gravamen for basically the same reason; a politician can maintain her/his vaguely-professed sympathy for the substance of the cause while coming out against the cause on specifically-professed procedural grounds.    

PS - A lot of the folks involved with MORE, the group spearheading Take Back St. Louis, used to be involved with the local ACORN chapter. Fairly or not, ACORN is now pretty much a radioactive word in the political discourse. If the Take Back St. Louis initiative finds itself on the ballot, then I bet there'll be a whole lot more of this kind of ad hominem rhetoric from the initiative's opposition and concurrent targeted tribal appeals made to Southwest City.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

As Krewson gears up, Reed moves southeast in effort to wake "Sleeping Dragon"

5 months ago, I wrote this in my previous post three days after the March Mayoral primary:
Okay ... now to PotBoA '15: Reed should be fine on North Side, but he took some real damage in Central Corridor that the challenger will exploit. Reed will have to look to WARD 20 and WARD 25 to make up for losses in Central Corridor. WARD 20 is still, I think, a majority-black ward (I think that it's something like 60/40 black). WARD 25 is majority-white, but it's close.  Both wards are South Side, so there isn't the black electoral political organization and municipal election voting habits that there are on North Side. The persistently anemic voter turnout in these two wards are indicative of such. Team Reed really should start spending more time on CHEROKEE, CHIPPEWA and MERAMEC. The Anglers should start doing the same.
I think that two things of note have happened since: one thing somewhat under the radar and one thing somewhat over the radar.

The thing of note that happened somewhat under the radar is that, per her committee's campaign finance filings, CWE alderman Lyda Krewson this past quarter has retained the services of KC-based Swing State Media for "web development." Swing State Media, incidentally (or not), is the firm behind MAYORSLAY.COM. reads very much like a Citywide candidate's website. Check out especially the "Why Lyda?" section. Of course, the front page still reads "Lyda Krewson for Alderman," but the committee's stated "refund policy" is interesting [bolding by me]:
All financial contributions to our campaign are considered final. We reserve the right to modify, suspend or terminate our campaign at any time without notice or refund.
Meanwhile, the thing of note that happened somewhat over the radar is Lewis Reed's opening of a "campaign office and community space" on CHEROKEE. The press release talks a lot about Reed's wanting to link up with young entrepreneurs and the creative class and whatnot. I don't doubt that's sincere. But I believe that the overriding reason for Reed's situating himself on CHEROKEE has to do with what one of Reed's campaign managers, Glenn Burleigh, laid-out to the St. Louis American last November:
On the eastern half of South City, there are many areas where African-American residents make up large percentages or (in a smaller number of neighborhoods) outright majorities. In both August and November, these oft-neglected voters showed up in numbers stronger than seen in recent elections in middle income neighborhoods (Shaw, Gate District) and lower-income, renter-heavy neighborhoods (Gravois Park, Benton Park West).
For years, African-American turnout rates in many of these neighborhoods have been dwarfed by their counterparts to the north. Big Democratic GOTV operations have traditionally skipped much of this part of town, because they’ve believed that organizing in these neighborhoods is a waste of time and money.
On the other hand, among St. Louis’ political circles, this vote is often seen as a “sleeping dragon,” one that when awoken could shake the balance of power in city politics. In the chronically low-turnout municipal primary elections that decide on our city’s leaders, every vote has an outsized influence, and disorganization among African-American voters in South St. Louis has limited black political power. This is often exacerbated by white-dominated Democratic ward organizations that don’t really try to get African-American voters involved or actively work against this organizing, which they see as a potential future challenge to their power.
So, Krewson looks to be gearing up for a challenge to Reed, in which she most likely will dominate Central Corridor, and so Reed moves southeast in an effort to wake the "Sleeping Dragon."

Friday, March 8, 2013

Taking WARD 20 in '15

WARD 20's shape looks kind of a bit like Cyprus' shape to me.

Anyway, yeah ... so, when you're a Citywide office holder and you run for MAYOR and lose by 10 points, then your position Citywide will appear vulnerable.  When Reed beat Shrewsbury in '07 to take PotBoA, Reed carried Central Corridor.  Versus Slay for MAYOR in '13, Reed lost Central Corridor, including narrowly losing his "home" WARD 6 (and, yes, I know that there's been redistricting of WARD 6 and whatnot, but it looks really bad when you lose your home turf).  Now Reed appears vulnerable at PotBoA.  He's up for re-elect two years from now.  I have to think that somebody with a shot at winning will take the opportunity to challenge Reed for PotBoA in '15.  He or she most very likely will be white.  Look around a bit and you can probably spot the Anglers, but only one will get the shot at PotBoA vs. Reed.

Okay ... back to '07 and back to WARD 20: Gondolfi (with some assistance from none other than Glenn Burleigh) looked like he was going to grab WARD 20, but an 11th-hour mailer accusing Gondolfi of secretly being a Communist (sound familiar?) and profaning Christ with performance art seemed to have had its intended effect (depressing the Gondolfi vote and rallying the Schmid vote).  Schmid pulled it out to keep a hold on the chronically low-voting WARD 20 by a score of 376 - 301.  Shrewsbury more narrowly defeated Reed for PotBoA votes in WARD 20 by a score of 365 - 324.

McGinn took a shot at WARD 20 in '11 versus Schmid, but it seemed that her campaign never quite took hold like Gondolfi's did in '07.  Perhaps McGinn didn't have the constituent services credibility that Gondolfi did through Gondolfi's affordable-home-finding work.  For whatever reason, Schmid won an even lower-turnout affair to hold on to WARD 20 by a score of 281 - 196.  In the '11 General, WARD 20 votes in opposition to Schmid were 249.  Gaither received 197 of those 249 votes as an independent.  The only thing I know about Gaither is that his campaign signs had a photo-portrait of him on them.  If I am remembering the photo-portrait correctly, Gaither is African-American.    

In June '11, the City's wards were redrawn per the census.  During '01's very controversial redraw, which took WARD 20 from North Side, Schmid had been a good South Side soldier.  (Schmid had WARD 10 at the time, and now WARD 10 stayed South Side but now on the Hill.)  So ... for '11's redraw, Schmid was provided a better WARD 20 for holding-onto.  WARD 20's new northern boundary ended at the south curb of CHEROKEE.  On the other side of CHEROKEE were the instigators of opposition to Schmid, and roughly half of the vote that in '07 and '11 was against Schmid.  The '11 redraw cut out the instigators and severed half of the opposition vote.

Okay ... now to PotBoA '15: Reed should be fine on North Side, but he took some real damage in Central Corridor that the challenger will exploit.  Reed will have to look to WARD 20 and WARD 25 to make up for losses in Central Corridor.  WARD 20 is still, I think, a majority-black ward (I think that it's something like 60/40 black).  WARD 25 is majority-white, but it's close.  Both wards are South Side, so there isn't the black electoral political organization and municipal election voting habits that there are on North Side.  The persistently anemic voter turnout in these two wards are indicative of such.  Team Reed really should start spending more time on CHEROKEE, CHIPPEWA and MERAMEC.  The Anglers should start doing the same.  Some Anglers already are spending their time there.

The Candidate to take WARD 20 from Schmid in '15 will need to take it in March when Reed defends PotBoA and the votes are there.  The Candidate to take WARD 20 from Schmid in '15 will need to convince WARD 20's African-Americans that the Candidate will do a better job for African-Americans than will Schmid.  The Candidate to take WARD 20 from Schmid will need to run a change campaign that includes WARD 20's African-Americans in its vision of change.  The crime problem and the problem of lack of economic and social opportunity likely will remain salient.  WARD 20 has an African-American youth gang problem, and it's been a persistent problem for at least the last eight years.  These problems are holding back WARD 20's residents, and these problems are holding back WARD 20's businesses.  These problems should be addressed.  If WARD 20 is organized, then these problems will be addressed.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Not "Our" Mayor Anymore

Growing up on the south side of the City of St. Louis in the '80s and '90s, most of my friends' dads didn't work in offices.  Most of my friends' dads were firefighters, police officers, electricians, carpenters, pipefitters, or laborers.  Many of my friends' dads worked for the City, or for Laclede Gas, or for (at the time) Union Electric, or for the Water or Sewer District.  The office workers most often were my friends' moms: administrative assistants, bank tellers, clerks, and the like.  A not insignificant portion of the moms (those with more formal education) were nurses or teachers.  Culturally, I grew up in a working-class, "blue collar" neighborhood, but economically, my neighborhood was for the most part middle class.  Hard work and post-secondary-school training meant a good wage and a secure retirement.  That was the deal: the people who built, maintained and protected the City - the people who worked hard to make the City "work" - were compensated with a well-earned middle-class wage.

At the time, my neighborhood was nearly 100% "white ethnic" and probably something like 80% Roman Catholic.  The parish church and its K-8 grade school was the social hub of the neighborhood.  Nobody I knew identified with the "official" names of their neighborhoods: Southampton, Princeton Heights, Tower Grove South, and the like.  Instead, we identified our neighborhoods in terms of the parish boundaries: Mary Magdalen, Holy Family, St. John the Baptist, Our Lady of Sorrows, St. Stephen's and the like.  When people asked where you lived, that's what you'd tell them.

That's not to say that this was some kind of long-lost ideal of close-knit community.  There were plenty of negative aspects to it.  Literally and figuratively, it was parochial.  Moreover, it was understood quite explicitly to be racial.  "They" had moved into neighborhoods on the near-South Side and on Cherokee and had trashed them.  Riding in the backseat of the car up Gravois to Busch Stadium (ironically enough, to cheer on African-American heroes such as Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee), "we" would pass by the bombed-out Darst-Webbe housing projects.  The message often was explicit: "they" will trash wherever "they" live.  "We" can't let "them" move in and trash our neighborhood.  We are the people who make this City work.  "We," as Bill Clinton would later put it during his '92 Presidential campaign, are the people "who work hard and play by the rules."  That was the message, and the message very much was part of the deal, too.

When in 1993 Freeman Bosley Jr. was elected mayor of St. Louis due to a split in the white vote, there was genuine fear south of Manchester.  Bosley was a black guy from a big North St. Louis political family who talked "like a black guy."  On Democratic Primary night (the election night that really matters), the first words out of Mayor-elect Bosley's mouth during his victory speech were "Wassup, St. Louis!"  Oh my.  There goes the neighborhood.  "We" who "worked hard and played by the rules" didn't have a mayor anymore.  "They" now had a mayor.

For the 1997 March Democratic primary, the South Side politicians got their act together and backed Clarence Harmon.  No split white vote this time.  Harmon was black, but was the recently-departed St. Louis Chief of Police who had publicly dueled with Bosley.  It didn't even matter what the duel was over (I can't remember what it was over, and I doubt that most people remember either - the substance of the dispute didn't really matter).  Harmon won handily.  "They" didn't have a mayor anymore.  But "we" didn't really have a mayor either.

Francis Slay was from Epiphany.  In 2001, he handily defeated Bosley's comeback bid.  The putative incumbent Harmon received some tiny percentage of the vote.  "We" had a mayor again, and "they" did not.

A lot has changed in 12 years.  In my neighborhood now, there are a lot more people living here who work in offices somewhere.  That old "white ethnic" Roman Catholic population isn't what it used to be.  Our Lady of Sorrows and Mary Magdalen each now are better known as "SOHA."

"We" are still around, but not in the numbers that "we" used to be.  Francis Slay is still counting on what's left of "us" to vote for him for mayor on the first Tuesday in March.  Slay still makes the Fish Fry circuit during Lent.

The problem for Francis Slay and for "us," though, is that Francis Slay is not "our" mayor anymore.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


In a backwater of my mind there is a rickety bridge.  Underneath the bridge there lives a miserable troll.  The troll despises most everything, including himself.  Sometimes the troll has some valid points to make about the world, but even a miserable troll, like a broken clock, is right twice a day.  The troll probably would be less miserable if he lived somewhere other than underneath a rickety backwater bridge.  He's a troll, though.  That's where trolls live.

Monday, January 14, 2013


I think that whether a record gets made hinges on the dealing with the truth that neither you nor your colleagues will ever achieve a perfected state of preparedness to make a record.  More time and more resources expended (usually of the financial kind) correlate with a higher-quality result.  Nevertheless, such inputs yield diminishing returns, and time and money become more comparably valuable if expended elsewhere.  The determination to be made must therefore be, first, how much resources expended will be sufficient to yield a good result and, then, whether the resources expended sufficient for a good result are most valuable by virtue of their being expended particularly toward this good result.

Very poor people on our planet engage in this kind of figuring at least once a day, and most likely never with regard to the question of whether to make a "10 record of music.

Recording commences Thursday.