Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Response from Antonio French, Candidate for St. Louis Mayor

1. What do you view as the key role, and/or attributes needed for this position? What experience/attributes do you have that qualify you for this position?

The next Mayor of St. Louis must be held accountable for the quality of life improving in every neighborhood. I’ve spent my career cutting through the clutter and getting things done, whether that has been at the Board of Alderman or as the founder of North Campus, the year-round free educational and enrichment program for kids.

St. Louis families, in every neighborhood, deserve a mayor who is more than a bunch of talking points and buzzwords. I’ve never been shy to take on the establishment and to stand up for what’s right as opposed to doing what is easy. For example, I’ve said on day one that I’ll fire the Police Chief and if the violence isn’t reduced during my term in office I won’t run again. That’s standing up and being accountable, something St. Louis has been lacking at City Hall for a long time.

2. Why do you think you are the best person for this position? What differentiates you from your opponent(s)?

I’ve been to many of these joint forums and debates over the course of the last several weeks and it is shocking at how out of touch some of my opponents seem to be in regards to the issues facing St. Louis. I’ve been to the crime scenes, consoled the families; I’ve spoken to the business owner in south city who wants to hire more employees and has so much red tape to cut through that she’s ready to throw her hands up in the air. I’ve visited with the veteran who finds it ridiculous that a ban on guns is going to solve our problem of gun violence. In short, I am about finding real solutions to our problems while my opponents are out of touch and using the talking points from their latest poll.

For example, I keep hearing a few of them talk about how they are going to view the issues of St. Louis through a racial equity lens. Do they plan on pulling it out of their pocket and looking through it before making a decision? No one who has ever visited for more than 5 minutes a family living in Dutchtown or Walnut Park or Bevo Mill wants to hear about how they’ll use a racial equity lens, they expect you to have that built in your DNA and not have to think twice about using it.

3. 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)

      1. Reducing Violence – On day one I’ll fire the current Police Chief and then for the first time in our city’s history I will open up the search nationally to find the best person for the job. You can read more about my plan at

      2. Jobs – St. Louis needs jobs, good paying jobs. We are not going to fix the economic issues with our city by focusing on one or two giant stadium projects; we are going to do it with encouraging businesses to come to our city and putting this amazing city back to work. Under employment is too high as we have men and women working two and three jobs just to make ends meet. We will focus on bringing jobs to both sides of Delmar Avenue, and not just focus on the central corridor.

      3. Improving the quality of life throughout every neighborhood – Our city can do better with making it easier and better to live here by improving things like snow removal and trash pick-up. We can improve the technology the city utilizes and make public transportation easier with real time bus schedules and improved city services. It’s time we bring St. Louis into the digital age.

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

There’s a saying, you catch more flies with honey than you do vinegar. I’ve never been one to say it’s my way or the highway, I have always been one to work with people to achieve our goals. However, I’ve also been the one who has stood up to the “this is how we’ve always done it’ crowd and taken on the establishment when needed. 

I believe in the people of St. Louis; we’ve always come together when needed and I will rely on that spirit of inclusion when I go to work every day at City Hall.

5. Who are your 3 largest campaign contributors? Are there donors from whom you will not accept campaign contributions?

Well, this is an easy one as I am relying on grassroots contributions. Trust me, it’s not that I wouldn’t love to have the hundreds of thousands of dollars the establishment candidates have, but the $20 contribution from a family who wants to see positive change in St. Louis means the world to me.

I won’t take contributions from Paul McKee or anyone associated with him; I won’t take money from Rex Sinquefeld or anyone associated with him nor will I take campaign contributions from anyone who expects a quid-pro-quo relationship. Never have, never will and no one will ever question my ethics as to who is paying for things or who I am focused on helping.

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?

On day one I will instruct the Public Safety Commissioner to fire Sam Dotson and I will use the full weight and bully pulpit of the Mayor’s office to see that is done. His policies have not worked, and anyone who believes we are on the path to a safe and viable city with him at the helm has their head stuck in the sand. The very next thing I will do is open up the search for the next Chief nationwide, something that has never been done in St. Louis. It’s time we have a new perspective and approach to policing and it will be about finding the best person for the job, not just the next person for the job.

In ten years, it’s my hope that with a new Police Chief and a focus on community policing instead of the feeling of an occupying force who has a horrible relationship with the neighborhoods they serve we will look back and see the fork in the road we came to during the mayoral campaign of 2017 and be so thankful that the people of St. Louis chose positive change as opposed to more of the same.

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 hear this and think to myself, “does someone really need to tell you that in order to develop policy?” I literally am the lens that other people use, it’s sad but true.

8. The causes and effects of homelessness are serious issues in St. Louis. What are your plans for addressing each?

Homelessness is a problem that we need to address but more from a point of compassion as opposed to the business development/economic hindrance the current establishment uses in developing the policy. Proverbs 22:0 says that whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.

I believe we as a city can do better with the issue of homelessness. We don’t need to station a police car at a shelter and intimidate volunteers from coming down to help; we don’t need to look down on people who find themselves at a shelter. Trust me, no one grows up with dreams of living in a homeless shelter.

We can do better and as Mayor, I’ll make sure we address this problem because for too long the establishment has been looking to “fix” it, and that’s part of the problem because you can’t fix homelessness but you can address it and make sure people are receiving the assistance they need from job placement to mental and physical health care.

9. In 2016, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions formed the Alliance for a Sustainable Future with the goal of spurring public-private cooperation on climate action and sustainable development in cities. Will your administration participate in the alliance, and what specific local initiatives would you support to advance climate action?

Yes, I would support the alliance and my administration would step up the work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and deal with the consequences of climate impacts.

In 2015 the Post Dispatch published an article stating St. Louis was doing little to prepare for climate change. This is the establishment mentality, if we ignore the problem it doesn’t really exist. I will direct my administration to focus on solutions we know that work such as planting more trees to prepare for heat waves and cut the urban heat island effect and identifying the roads, bridges and other infrastructure that could be vulnerable to new weather patterns.

10. What are your plans, if any, for Metrolink expansion, particularly a North-South line?

St. Louis is the city of 1,000 plans. I’d stop studying the North-South line and I’d implement it but it would be a true expansion of Metrolink. I’d also make sure the expansion fits with my vision of upgrading the city’s technology as we are all connected via an ever expanding online presence, it’s time the city catch up with the times.

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

The state of Iowa has an independent commission for redrawing its electoral boundaries after each census, I believe that system would work in St. Louis for reducing the Board of Alderman to 14 members. The commission would draw the boundaries and then present it to the Board for an up or down vote, no amendments. If rejected, the commission would draw a second map and present it for an up or down vote. If that map is rejected, the commission would draw a third map and that map would be final.

12. What are your criteria for approving tax abatements and TIFs?

TIF and other incentive laws were designed to assist blighted and low income areas. They are very often manipulated to increase the profits of projects in the richest parts of our city. It’s time we used these tools in the areas they were designed to be used. Blighted neighborhoods where vacant schools, warehouses, and other buildings make it impossible to attract the kind of businesses and jobs communities need to grow.

13. 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 all.)

Question for all of the candidates: What does Delmar Blvd mean to you?

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