1. What do you view as the key role, and/or attributes needed for this position?
The mayor of a city must take an honest look at the problems that confront its citizens, in spite of how that may be viewed by the media. A mayor must admit what the problems are, develop and communicate real solutions, and work with the entire city to improve the entire city. A mayor must sell the city to prospective residents and businesses, while maintaining a tax base that can provide essential services to the citizens and entities that depend on tax revenue.
This city needs a Mayor with consensus-building skills that can collaborate across the spectrum of various constituencies and leaders in the area, reach across racial lines, and form coalitions to move our city forward. The Mayor has to be forward thinking and able to communicate a real vision to make St. Louis strong again.
2. What education (schools attended, degrees attained), experience, and attributes do you have that qualify you for this position?
Public service prior to holding an elected office, I served as the chairman of the St. Louis City Port Authority, over-seeing riverfront property lease agreements and riverboat gaming tax revenues. Served on the board of directors of the St. Louis Development Corporations, which oversees city business development and minority business certification and compliance. Served as the Chairmen of the 6th Ward Democratic Organization and worked to elect strong federal, state and local democratic leaders to further the interest of the people of St. Louis. Lead independent gang outreach efforts in a number of the cities toughest areas. Helped to find work for former youth gang members who wanted to start a new life outside of gangs.
Held office as the Alderman of the 6th Ward for nearly eight years. During this time, I drafted and passed the first neighborhood based TIF in the history of the city generating millions of dollars towards the revitalization of Lafayette Square; founded the organization Bike St. Louis creating well over 100 miles of interconnected bike routes throughout the region which helped to revitalize and expand the cities cycling and bike commuter community; created standards and passed the ordinance allowing dog parks to be established in neighborhoods throughout the city; passed the ordinance to create the downtown Community Improvement District (CID) to support the expansion and stabilization of downtown businesses and create a cleaner more visitor friendly downtown; added hundreds of new housing units throughout my ward and hundreds of millions of dollars in new development totaling over $1.6 billion in the 6th ward.
As a young man I majored in Mathematics and Computer Science at SIUE, where I worked in the tutoring lab as the lead Mathematics & CS tutor. Tutored SIUE’s juniors and seniors in various forms of Mathematics & Computer Programming including (Pre-Calculus, Calculus I, Calculus II, Calculus III, Probability & Statistics, Business Mathematics, Combinatorics, Differential Equations, Pascal, Fortran, Lisp “Artificial Intelligence” and Machine Language). I later earned my Certified Network Engineering License and specialized in Computer Networking LAN/WAN design and fault tolerance. In 2007 I became an “Aspen Rodel Fellow,” whose mission is to teach outstanding bipartisan leadership at the state and local levels of government.
Other work experience includes Director of Networks & Telecommunications for Edison Brothers, Manager of Data Networks for SSM Health Businesses, owner of two successful small businesses, and Board member and treasurer of the Regional Justice Information System.
Currently I’m in my second term as the President of the Board of Alderman. I’m a member of the Airport Commission Board of Directors, Board member of East West Gateway Council of Governments and the Board of Estimate & Apportionment.
3. Why do you think you are the best person for this position? What differentiates you from your opponents?
I have the ability to work with groups across the entire city for the betterment of the entire city. If you look at the redistricting process we went through a few years ago, it provides a good example. Before the process began, the fact that we lost 30,000 people had many aldermen concerned that this would be a very contentious process like the process spearheaded by my opponent in 2001. I worked to get all the aldermen at the table to discuss what had to be done, and what could be compromised amongst the aldermen whose borders touch each other. The result was that for the first time in history the city of St. Louis redistricting map was passed with a unanimous vote. That was not only good for the process, but also good for the reputation of city government, and the city as a whole.
4. What do you feel are the most pressing issues currently facing this office and what plans do you have to address these issues? (please be specific)
• Public Safety – Whoever is mayor must completely admit that we have a serious problem and then show leadership and pro-actively work to solve the problem on a continuous basis, instead of only in response to media pressure
• Education – Provide sustainability, resources for and confidence in our public school system
• Economic Development – Stop giving away huge tax incentives to healthy firms that don’t need them, and use the incentive money we get to help grow small businesses, which are the real job makers.
• Racial Polarization – Have a truly honest dialogue with the public about it based on my own personal experience in life. Run an honest, open, and inclusive administration that represents the broad diversity of our city.
5. Describe how you work with, or will work with, others to address your priorities.
The redistricting process is an example for this question also. Mainly, by taking the lead on the issue, respecting each person as a person, communicating openly and honestly, persuading others of my position, and letting the passion and conviction I have for making this city stronger convince others to want to work with me.
6. Recently the St. Louis City voters approved reducing the number of Aldermen; how do you feel about this change? Are there other city government changes you would like to see?
The majority of calls received by the aldermen are complaints regarding executive level of government functions, and not legislative functions. Although we have lost population, the types of calls many aldermen receive have become more about the executive level of government dysfunction. If the office of the Mayor does not begin to more effectively address those concerns, you will receive the same amount of complaints with fewer aldermen to respond. As mayor I will work to address these problems so that there are fewer complaints.
I think we should take a holistic approach to addressing changes in government, and not approach it piecemeal. Reform is great, but we need data to make the best decisions, and not just proceed with popular notions.
7. What is your opinion of Paul McKee's Northside Regeneration Project? If he builds all that Class A office space, where will the tenants come from? Do you believe this large scale project will be more effective than smaller, grass roots development of the area; why or why not?
There was a time when I believed the city was in a great position to get some great benefits from the project, and I still hold some faith. You have to operate from a position of confidence and believe that you can get Class A office space rented in your city.
But after the mayor sold a huge chunk of LRA property to McKee with no strings attached, I became very concerned that the mayor gave up most of the city’s ability to influence the schedule of development. While I think it could be a good project, I would not depend on it to happen anytime soon due to the fact that the developer has already received a majority of the tax credit incentives, and there is nothing the city can do at this point to influence the development schedule.
Grass roots development and the accumulation of small projects is what has worked in most of the revitalized areas of the city.
8. What are your specific plans for phasing in local control of the police department? How would you address concerns about effective civilian review?
I will conduct a department-wide assessment to determine if our current staffing levels, supervisory ratios, and etc. are optimal I will meet with the various different units to see what their needs are.
I will hold community meetings to get public input on what citizens want to see in regards to civilian review. I will merge departments such as purchasing, human resources and I.T. in order to create more room in the budget for officers on the street
9. What impact can the Mayor’s Office have on the education situation in St. Louis City and what have / would your initiatives in this area include?
I think the mayor of any city can have a positive impact on any aspect of that city if he or she so chooses. Currently there is a position in the mayor’s office commonly referred to as the education liaison or education czar that pays over $100,000, I would like for taxpayers to receive some impact from that salary. A mayor that takes responsibility and approaches the education system from a position considerate to all of the children that live in our city will have a positive impact on the St. Louis Public Schools. If a mayor throws his hands up and gives up on the public schools, then that mayor will not have a positive impact.
10. What have we learned from the failure of the Imagine Schools and what can we do to prevent such situations in the future? How can we ensure charter school accountability?
Some people already knew, and some people learned, that we can not place the education of our children in the hands of unproven for-profit companies. Our children’s education is too important to put in the hands of an entity that doesn’t have the necessary oversight. Almost all of the children in the Imagine Schools were performing below grade school. At some point people were sold on this being a great place and a great idea, but our children were denied a proper education from this entity, and those are years that they will never get back.
A national database of charter school test performance is necessary so that when a national charter school operator comes to St. Louis, the sponsor and/or the school district can research this operator’s record. If there schools do not perform, we should not let them operate a charter school in our city. We need a very rigorous accountability structure and framework for charter school operators that have schools
in other cities and states, so that we have a measure of the quality of the school operator.
11. What are your thoughts on St. Louis City’s response to the recent Occupy Movement? Are there things we could have done better in that situation?
Freedom of expression is an essential element of being American. A government that goes out of it’s way to limit that is making a bad move. You have to view these instances on a long-range basis, and although it may disruptive momentarily, such movements in the past led to civil rights that everyone in this city benefits from and we must not receive demonstrations in an unnecessarily antagonistic manner. I would have handled the situation much differently.
12. What steps would you recommend taking to balance the City’s pension obligations and overall budget?
Basically, what I attempted to do in my seat as President of the Board of Aldermen. Sat down with members from the firefighter’s union, and met until we hatched out an agreement that saved taxpayers money immediately and would not end up in a costly legal battle. The current mayor chose to fight that plan in Jefferson City with taxpayer-funded lobbyists. Currently, city taxpayers have paid over a million in legal fees in a court gamble. Four years ago the city had to come up with $150 million from a lost legal gamble. The citizens had to cover that gamble with a ½ cents sales tax increase. Right now, we are sitting with 80 fewer police officers on the streets because the current mayor would not compromise and take immediate savings that would have also resulted in a sustainable system for the future.
13. What have / would you do to raise the prominence of St. Louis nationally?
I will work actively with the CVC to bring in more conventions, work to bring the Democratic National Convention to St. Louis, and build partnerships with other cities across the nation.
14. If you could ask each of your opponents one question, what would it be? (You may specify a different question for each opponent or the same question for both.)
When you came in office the city was ranked nationally the third most dangerous city, and we currently still sit at number three. What has prevented you from making this city safer?