Thursday, January 26, 2017

Response from Jennifer Florida, Candidate for 15th Ward Alderman

1. What do you view as the key role(s) and/or attributes needed for this position?

Key roles of an alderman are legislator (policy maker), advocate, representative and chief problem solver, allocator of resources, fair and equitable employer. An alderman's primary responsibility is the overall welfare of the residents they serve and then to the residents of City. An Alderman has a responsibility to improve safety, housing, foster thriving business districts, education, advocate for residents, allocate capital for infrastructure and work with the Board of Aldermen to improve the quality of life for all residents. An effective alderman is knowledgeable of the legislative process, has keen understanding of City services and how our government works and understands our budget process. Working well with others is hugely important! Working closely with neighborhood leaders, business districts, block captains in the Ward and the Aldermen, Mayor, President of BOA and the Directors and Commissioners of the Depts at City Hall is critical to success.

2. What education (schools attended, degrees attained), experience, and attributes do you have that qualify you for this position?

Bachelor of Science, Illinois State University, Criminal Justice Sciences 1983

Gamaliel Leadership Training, Advanced Training, Community Organizing Internship with Churches United for Community Action, now MCU for St. Louis, 1998, 1999.

15th Ward Alderman 2001-2014.

3. Why do you think you are the best choice for 15th Ward Alderman? What differentiates you from your opponent(s)?

Experience, proven track record, knowledge of government, services, tools and vast wealth of relationships differentiate me from my opponent. I served as the alderman for fourteen years, elected to four terms. I understand how important it is to work together. I worked closely with all neighborhood organizations, neighborhood leaders and the business districts and the surrounding communities as well as closely with the Board of Aldermen, City Departments and especially the St. Louis Police Department. Alderman Conway and I were forced to lead our not-for-profits - Grand Oak Hill, Shaw and Southwest Garden - to consolidate into Tower Grove Neighborhood Community Development Corp. The funding mechanism changed which required capacity and a broader service area. This huge change that we gave birth to facilitated the Tower Grove South Neighborhood Association, completed two new construction homes in vacant lots (last two housing projects I supported), acquired a drug house at Bamberger and Gravois, now affordable housing and a SLMPD Police Substation and conducted Visioning for all three neighborhoods around Tower Grove Park! It is amazing what we can do when we work together! I see the results of our 14 years of accomplishments every day!

4. Please describe your previous involvement in the ward / neighborhood.

I have lived in the neighborhood for 24 years. I became a block captain and worked to strengthen our neighborhood by attending neighborhood meetings and working with other block captains at that time in Tower Grove Heights, Grand Oak Hill, Park side Neighborhood and Fanning. I became a leader in C-4, Churches Committed to Community Concerns, now MCU for St. Louis, spearheading the Re-Development of Gravois Plaza, saving South Side National Bank from demolition, and was leader in the South Town Coalition.

I am a founding member of the 15th Ward Democrats. I served as 15th Ward Alderman from 2001-2014.

5. 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)

Most pressing issues are: Increased Violent Crime. I plan to work with our neighborhood leaders and the Block Captains and Business Districts to initiate and implement community based safety initiatives, support putting more police on the street and tools such as the real time crime lab and mobile cameras in hot spots.

Reverse the trend of disinvestment as identified in the 2013/14 Market Value Analysis Study with a focus on Grand and Gravois, Gravois and Bamberger Wedge and MorganFord in the way of housing and economic development. Work with the Tower Grove Neighborhood Community Development Corp, Business Districts to address vacants, develop affordable housing or promote development opportunities and strengthen the business districts. Tower Grove CDC secured a grand to do "Visioning." Let's move from visioning to a Community Based Strategic Plan.

Promote and support our educational institutions. Working together we saved Mann School from closing. It is accredited. I would like to see our educational institutions become center to community.

6. Public safety is a concern for our neighborhood and the entire city. What can you do on day one and what can you hope to achieve on day one plus ten years?

Support budgeting more police, more pay for police, and more training.

Support budgeting additional money for recreational and educational programs for youth.

Support budgeting money for Anti violence, conflict-resolution initiatives

Support alternatives to prosecution and incarceration for youthful, non violent offenders. Expand the use of Drug Courts.

7. The Ferguson Commission Report asks government to look through a "racial equity lens" in developing policies. Specifically, what does that mean to you?

I would work as I did before, with the African American Caucus at the Board of Aldermen, President of the BOA and Mayor to eliminate racial disparities in opportunities, education, resources, housing, life expectancy.

8. How would you approach representing a ward as diverse as the 15th Ward?

I represented our diverse ward from 2001-2014. I met people where they were. I was responsive and worked as an advocate. I supported the International Institute. We translated City information into whatever language required. I celebrated Pride, the Vietnamese New Year, Festival of Nations. I attended block parties, organized block units and attended town hall meetings. I hosted town hall meetings. I attended church meetings, safety meetings and neighborhood meetings, wedge meetings, community garden meetings, Save Mann School meetings, School Board meetings. I participated in the life of our neighborhood. I will be wherever needed.

9. Describe how you work with, or will work with, others to address your priorities.

I will work with the neighborhood organizations, block captains and business districts, St. Louis Police Department to initiate community based safety initiatives.

I will work with the Board of Aldermen, President of the BOA and Mayor to increase funding for more police, more recreational and educational youth programs.

As I have in the past, I will work with the Tower Grove Neighborhood Community Development Corp to develop affordable housing, promote development opportunities. Engage our community and move from visioning to a Community Based Strategic Plan.

As I have in the past, I will work with the business districts, St. Louis Development Corp, Economic Development Partnership and SLATE to strengthen our business districts by attracting business and growing jobs.

10. What role should the Alderman have in working with the neighborhood business districts? What role should the Alderman have in working with resident organizations? How do/would you balance the needs of the residential and business districts of the ward so both are strong and vibrant?

I have worked closely with the business districts as an advisor and resource. I worked closely with our 15th Ward Commercial Business District Manager. The neighborhood and business districts have a symbiotic relationship. My primary role is that of representative and advocate to the people I serve. There is a balance. Together we thrive. South Grand Great Streets is an excellent example of a community based project. More than 900 residents participated in the public engagement, and as a results we have increased safety, growth, greening and placemaking. Grand and Gravois, MorganFord deserve the same attention.

11. How do/will you use the Alderman position to affect delivery of city services for the Ward?

Constituent advocacy and service is a priority. I will be your advocate. I am very familiar with all of the City Departments and will work to make sure that you get the services you deserve.

12. What process do you believe should be used to reduce the Board of Aldermen to 14 members following the 2020 census?

The census will be done in 2020. Redistricting will occur in 2021. The bill provides a transition and staggers the terms of even odd. A map of 14 wards will be drawn in 2021. In the last redistricting we tried to redistrict keeping neighborhoods intact. Each ward has to be roughly the same population and African-American Minority Opportunity Wards factors in as well.

13. If you could ask your opponent one question, what would it be?

Why did you not think that the Aldi's expansion was important?

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