For Tuesday's election.
Consensus seems to be around 8%. How low can it go?
The League of Women Voters of St. Louis and the Kennard Classical Junior Academy PTO are co-sponsoring a Candidate Forum for School Board candidates for the the St. Louis Public Schools on Saturday, March 31, 7 - 9p.m. at the Kennard Classical Junior Academy, 5031 Potomac, 63139. The League will moderate the forum.
> is this relevant, given the state take-over?
Very relevant. Depending on who gets elected, the board will vote to have
the district attorneys fight the state takeover.
Accreditation will not be removed before June 15.
City employees have a ballot due on Monday.
In the brightly lit Carpenter's Union Hall just south of Forest Park on Hampton, Shrewsbury supporters nibbled on wings, meatballs and chicken-salad sandwiches as they awaited the results everyone expected to hear.
The earliest results, with only a quarter of the votes or so, had Shrewsbury up by 10%. Election watchers, an alderman or two and others hovered around a staffer who pulled up the returns as they were updated on the Board of Elections' website. Some were attempting to extrapolate the early returns by guessing which wards were being counted and how long it would take others to come in.
With an expectation of a slow night at the Shrewsbury party, others, including some journalists, were already slipping out to swing by some of the other election night parties. The hot tickets of the night were expected to be Kacie Starr Triplett's gathering and that of Shrewsbury's challenger, Lewis Reed. Both ran energetic campaigns staffed by young operatives and, though not picked by many as the favorites to win (even among the campaigns, some bets were hedged), were figured to be as much fun in defeat as in victory.
Shrewsbury's Aldermanic supporters, friends, and campaign staffers mingled and ate as the returns came in. The mellow but confident vibe in the room began to wane not long after the early returns seemed to confirm nearly everyone's expectations.
The buffet stopped being replenished right about the time things became tense. Reed picked up a 5% lead just after nine and, though it slimmed to 2% at one point, he never lost his lead.
The subdued affair resembled the campaign: straightforward, modest, and friendly. It may be unfair to classify a campaign on its final night, but in a race with rival campaign that drew as much upon its energy as its ideas, it left one lacking. It's that intangible substance that turns a campaign into a mission, and a gathering into a party. It may be dismissed as buzz, flash or even unsubstantial, but its effect is real.
Shrewsbury's style is methodical and tenacious. He crisscrossed the city attending public gatherings, large and small. Debates, forums, openings and campaign fundraisers; Shrewsbury was there for them all. His answers to constituents questions were grounded in that detailed concern that defined him. His rejection of a city vehicle might seem like folksy affectation in some but seemed to strike true in Shrewsbury.
As word of the final results came in the concern-tinged smiles fell. Though it was a major upset for the incumbent Shrewsbury and his nearly half million-dollar war-chest, the crowd took it quietly.
The silence was broken, however, by a wave of applause that ushered Shrewsbury into the room and up to the stage just before ten o'clock.
Though he seemed moved by the standing ovation, Shrewsbury managed a bit of self-deprecating humor.
Don't worry, he told his supporters, "I've done this three times," he said.
Shrewsbury thanked his staff, supporters, friends and family for their support over the 24 years in which he has worked in elected politics.
"I'm disappointed but not crushed," said Shrewsbury, who said it may be time for a break, but that he was not getting out of politics.
He wrapped up his concession with a saying that he must have heard when he signed up to work on former-Congressman Dick Gephardt's campaign at the ripened age of 15.
"There is nothing more honorable than getting involved in politics," said Shrewsbury.
Afterwards Shrewsbury, said one of his most important achievements, looking back as President of the Board of Alderman, was helping get the board back on solid financial ground. He also said he still plans on making an appointment to the proposed transitional board that will oversee the St. Louis Public Schools following the state's decision in February to intervene in the district–the Mayor Francis Slay and Governor Matt Blunt will also appoint a member.
Despite his promise to stay in politics, afterward Shrewsbury said he has had a good 24 years and that perhaps there are other options he should examine.
Former State Senator Pat Dougherty has been a long-time supporter and was saddened to see his friend of almost 30 years lose. The two became friends through a service organization they both volunteered for.
"I am disappointed," said Dougherty. "I thought he was doing the right thing for the city."
Ward by ward breakdown in excel here.
Election Results here.
Pictures from Reed's Party here.
BOE says ward-by-ward break downs will be available later today, so check back.
Also, as a result of the 2 special sessions called to finally approve and pass the lease bills for BJC, the Board of Aldermen cleared all remaining issues left on their agenda during their election recess. End result: Majority Floor Leader Fred Wessels (D-13) made the motion at the conclusion of last Friday's special meeting to adjourn "Sine Die", which means there will be no more meetings of the Aldermen prior to the April 17 swearing-in of Lewis Reed as President.
So Shrewsbury won't get to preside over a farewell meeting. Perhaps Reed will honor his years of service at that meeting.
Will the battle for President of the Board of Alderman set a new pattern for city-wide elections?
Antonio French is correct that if 6th Ward Aldermen Lewis Reed were to defeat incumbent Board President James Shrewsbury, he would be the first African-American elected as President and the first to unseat a white incumbent in 25 years (the first was former-Mayor Freeman Bosley, Jr., who was elected as the city's first African-American circuit clerk in 1982. Bosley was also the first African-American Mayor of St. Louis when he was elected in 1993).
A Reed victory would be another step forward in the progress (if belated) the African-American community has made in taking seats in halls they were once banned from.
While a Reed victory would be historic, many of those watching this election are weighing the endorsements, home territories and campaign organizations more than race.
A candidate's race has not been the single defining characteristic in all city-wide races, but journalists have certainly hedged their bets based on it, and voters have cast their ballots because of it.
Both candidates have received diverse public endorsements from African-American and white politicians. 15th ward alderwoman Jennifer Florida and License Collector Mike McMillan have endorsed Reed and former alderman Irving Clay, Jr., State Senator Maida Coleman and former-State Sen. Pat Dougherty, 5th, have endorsed Shrewsbury. There are Reed signs on Skinker and Shrewsbury signs in the 21st Ward.
The candidates campaign machines are as diverse and-wide ranging as the city itself.
It could be that both candidates hail form wards south of Delmar (mostly, the 6th moves just north to MLK from 18th street to Jefferson downtown) which shifts the debate away from a north versus south battle, but there is plenty of north-side and south-side machinery at work behind the scenes, some working on potentially unfamiliar ground.
This is not to say the old divides don't exist, its more that what is being put forth both in rhetoric and in public displays of support spans the city.
There is an important debate to be had about race and representation. African-America representation on the most powerful board in the city something that must be weighed when approaching the election in this majority African-American city. Reed and Shrewsbury are both outstanding candidates whose race is only one part of the whole, and by which could not be simply defined.
This is a city-wide election that is taking on issues that touch every corner, from Fairgrounds Park to Carondelet Park and even Hudlin Park and the Ballpark in the middle.
Antonio French has Alderman Lewis Reed's two new campaign ads on his site, PubDef.
The first is a positive piece pushing Reed's experience: investment, jobs, and his support from the majority of the city's aldermen in his quest to become the President of the Board. It's the strongest of the three ads Reed has released to date.
The second of Reed's two new ads hits once again on his assertion that current BOA President Jim Shrewsbury failed to support increased funding for the circuit attorney's office. Reed has returned to this issue again and again.
Shrewsbury has repeatedly said he fully supports the circuit attorney's office but that he has not always agreed with every budget request. He has tried to deflect the issue by noting that he has forgoes a city automobile which he directed to be used by the circuit attorney's office. He also likes to note he is the only city-wide elected official without a city-supplied vehicle.
In St. Louis, the reality and perception of crime have been major roadblocks, both to growth and politicians popularity.
Reed's has handled the emotion/perception angle deftly. His comment during an interview on St. Louis On The Air last week pointing to the role a vibrant bike community can have on people's perception of safety higlights this (he also plugged his role in founding Bike St. Louis).
Shrewsbury's detail-oriented response focusing on good governance and personal contribution is a detail-oriented, greater-good approach voters appreciate. Shrewsbury quickly grounds issues by focusing on their details and impact. It may not make for the smoothest pitch, but you can trust the mechanics ensure the ball hits its mark.
Combined, the issue provides a window into the two candidates approach to their work.
The endorsements from the Post-Dispatch (Reed) and South Side Journal (Shrewsbury) say a little more about each candidate.
The Reed Media Update:
Please be advised that last night, we were officially advised by the campaign that Alderman Joe Roddy of the 17th Ward has now officially endorsed Lewis Reed's candidacy for Aldermanic President. This now makes 16 Alderpersons. There are several wards yet to make endorsements. We will keep you posted.
Galen Gondolfi, candidate for alderman in the 20th ward, received the endorsment of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO, Local 2730.
From the release sent out Tuesday:
In recognition of the work that Galen Gondolfi has done to better the lives of St. Louis’ working families, the executive board of AFSCME Local 2730, chaired by Pres. Quincy Boyd, has voted to endorse Galen Gondolfi in the March 6th Democratic primary.
The rest after the jump.Continue reading "AFSCME Endorses Gondolfi in 20th Ward Race"
Unscientific it may be, but there are a lot of Bauer signs on McCausland between Clayton and Manchester. Perhaps more than there were before the 2005 special election in which he was ousted following a contentious and litigious recall campaign.
Visibility? Of course. McCausland gets the signs because of the traffic and thus may be a wildly inaccurate evaluation of support.
That said, there were a lot of Waterhouse signs in 2005, there are only a couple now. Could be nothing, but Bauer has been running for alderman for a long time.
Update: Chuck Miller, 24th ward committeeman, responds in the comments. "On the surface, it looks like Mr. Bauer is winning the "sign war." After a little critical thinking, you realize that many of the Bauer signs are in front of rental properties where the owner lives out of town, on vacant lots, or placed at property lines where you aren't sure whose lot the sign is on." Read more.
One Night in December
By Dave Drebes
This is the story of one night on the campaign trail with Lewis Reed, candidate for President of the Board of Aldermen. It occurred during the crush of Christmas parties that define St. Louis political life in December. There were six events on Reed’s schedule. Starting at 5pm and ending at 1am. It’s the political equivalent of working a second eight-hour shift. This is the story of those hours; it’s a story of St. Louis politics.
5:00 p.m. – The Campaign Office
This is campaign life. Lewis Reed’s dinner hour is fifteen minutes long, spent sitting in his drab campaign office with a sorry-looking sandwich. And except for two volunteers, one on the phone, the other sort of loitering, he is alone. While he eats he looks over the voter contact data. Volunteers, paid workers and friendly ward organizations have been phone banking for Reed for weeks, identifying voters. The caller will ask who they plan to support in the race, and then mention some reasons they should support Reed. They then mark the sheet from 1-5, a ranking used to reflect their judgment of the voter’s likelihood to vote for Reed. If you give a politician – a real politician, someone who’s political in their core – a sheet of field data, they lose themselves, entering the world of the sheet. Same thing with polling data. It’s like a drug to politicians. They can’t get enough of it. Reed has that look. He finds himself for a moment, looks up at me, smiles, and declares, “Looks good!”
In my phone calls to people who know St. Louis politics, not one thinks Reed will win. A few have ventured scenarios where he could possibly win, but Jim Shrewsbury is the consensus favorite. Shrewsbury is the incumbent with more money in the bank and higher name recognition. He’s run city-wide four times before. That means that whereas Reed has to do huge phone banking and door knocking to find supporters, Shrewsbury already knows where his people are. It’s like starting on third base.
Compounding this disadvantage is the fact that this campaign is about two months long. Everyone else in the city is thinking about Christmas and New Year’s now. Reed has January and February to find and persuade thousands of people who have never heard of him that he’s their guy. Two months. And then it’s March 6: Election Day.
But Reed’s biggest problem might be the simple fact that Shrewsbury has done a decent job. No scandals, no gaffes. He’s a solid politician.
This is what I see. But Reed is seeing something different. His field-sheets say that Shrewsbury is vulnerable. Also there’s a map. It’s in the corner of the office, one of those standard city maps with the wards boundaries. This map is more interesting though. It’s full of color-coded strips of sticky paper to indicate which aldermen, committeeman or committeewoman have committed to them. There are lots of sticky papers on that map.
I start asking about all those sticky papers… but they shoo me away. It’s time to go.
5:53 p.m. – The Roberts Brothers Party
The Roberts Brothers are two former aldermen turned millionaires by way of sharp business acumen. They develop buildings, invest in companies, operate a TV station. They’ve found lots of way to make money. And the center of the Roberts Brothers empire is a hulking building on Kingshighway that has the interior of a bee hive. It feels like it’s been carved out into cubicles and hallways – a conference room here, a kitchen there. And as they are re-sculpting the building, the Roberts Brothers are doing something else. They’re bringing it up to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards. They’re transforming it into a showcase of environmentally friendly construction. Former comptroller Virvus Jones works for them now. He spots Reed and begins a one-on-one tour of the latest environmentally significant modifications they’ve made – the concrete kitchen counter, the waterless urinals, the wool carpet and bamboo floor. Jones’ enthusiasm for the construction changes is infectious, but watching Reed and his campaign manager Bob Rice, I notice a little restlessness. They need to work the crowd; they need to find money-people and influence-people. They don’t have three hours to work this crowd; they have thirty minutes. And that means they don’t have thirty minutes to learn about wool carpet. Not tonight anyway.
The swirling political Christmas parties are one part paying tribute to the host, one part being seen and sometimes one part appeal – like seeking an audience with Don Corleone on his daughter’s wedding day. Sometimes. Tonight, Reed appears to be on a quest for some part of all three parts. He’s courting the Roberts Brothers’ support. He needs to be seen. His campaign needs visibility. He needs to ramp up his profile or he risks belly-floppying like Irene Smith. Smith was alderwoman from the 1st ward when she decided to run against Mayor Slay. But mention her name and no one knows her. Worse, within political circles there’s a healthy number of people who think that she’s left town. “Does she still live here?.. I heard she was leaving town…” She’s still in town. She appears regularly on Lizz Brown’s caricature show on WGNU weekday mornings.
Reed eases his way out of Jones’ tutorial. He starts mingling, shaking hands. Shrewsbury passes him in the hall. Shrewsbury and Harold Brown.
Reed greets Mike Roberts, Don Suggs, other VIPs, but they are running behind. Too much time there, not enough contacts. They leave the party at 6:45pm. Once in the car, Reed starts in about Harold Brown. “Scam artist,” “Hustler.”
Harold Brown is the consummate urban political operative: he takes no prisoners, he knows where the bodies are buried, and he asks for cash up front. Besides his Democratic affiliation, Brown doesn't seem captive to the typical constraints faced by St. Louis campaign operatives. He's worked for pro-choice and pro-life candidates, for liberals and for conservatives, for blacks and for whites. But what really sets him apart is his penchant for working for multiple candidates – in the same race.
After serving as former 4th District Senator Pat Dougherty's loyal district assistant for over 5 years, Brown decided that 2006 would be an opportune time to capitalize on his extensive knowledge of the district and its neighborhoods. So he let it be known to three of the candidates in the race that his services as a campaign consultant were available. He also let it be known that these services would not come cheap. After negotiating early in the race with ultimate victor Jeff Smith but failing to come to terms, Brown hooked up with the team of former state representative Yaphett El-Amin.
He was paid during one pay period by the El-Amin campaign, but soon thereafter was overheard telling people that Team El-Amin was disorganized and more than a little shady, and severed his ties to the campaign. A few months later, he was introducing Smith around at north side senior centers, helping establish contacts for Smith in unexpected places. One Smith staffer recalls Brown's salary negotiations with amusement. "He'd asked for an outrageous sum at first, but with just a few weeks left, he didn't have much leverage, and we came to terms. Don't get me wrong, he still got three times more than any of us kids got. Hell, Jeff even paid for his daily supply of fruit."
In the end, the Smith staffer wasn't sure if Brown was worth the money, but noted that once campaign manager Sam Simon paired Brown with a young and attractive female partner, his productivity increased dramatically.
Given that history, few insiders were surprised when Brown switched allegiances at halftime of the Reed-Shrewsbury match-up. Having accepted either $500 or $1,000 (depending on which side you believe) to consult briefly for Reed, Brown moved over to Shrewsbury's campaign. But squiring Shrewsbury around the north side, it probably didn’t take long for Brown to see the difficulty in his task: if selling the young Smith felt tough at times, the famously mechanical Shrewsbury was an entirely different ball of wax.
The North Side Parties
The next three stops are north side wards holding their annual Christmas parties. For those who don’t understand the racial divide in St. Louis, ward organizations’ Christmas parties are a great place to start. It’s as if they’re not in the same city. The white ward Christmas parties are held at bars or restaurants; there’s lots of drinking; it’s a rowdy, backslapping review of the year, an alcohol-induced seasonal group-hug. Children? No way. Just adults, members of ward organizations, neighborhood presidents, resident VIPS and the usual treadmill of politicos.
The black ward Christmas parties, on the other hand, are in churches. They’re family events with bike giveaways for the kids; there’s no alcohol; there’s no finger food. Instead, there’s an honest-to-God meal. A real meal. Maybe plastic plates and spoons for easy clean-up, but a real sit-down meal nevertheless. And the room isn’t filled with politicos and developers on the make, it’s just folks who live in the ward.
These three wards are meaningful – 2, 26, 27 – because tonight, it will be clear that Lewis Reed has the endorsement of all three wards. At one time, Shrewsbury thought he had them or thought he had a shot at them. And he didn’t get a one.
His friends describe him as a reformer; they recall the story when he got beat up, sent to the hospital, going door-to-door in an area a rival campaign told him not to go. His detractors call him vindictive, tell stories of his morning-after calls to pols who were against him.
But he’s been working the political scene for decades. For all his work, he doesn’t have a single endorsement on the north side that he can rely on. He’s getting creamed on the north side. According to smart politicos he doesn’t really need it assuming he gets a big boost from his base. But there’s a scenario where Reed wins, and it’s based on Reed sewing up the north side and getting strong turn-out there. Does Shrewsbury have a map in his office like Reed has? Does he wonder where his sticky papers are north of Delmar? North of 44?
Meanwhile, if that wasn’t making Shrewsbury worry, the trifecta of his base – wards 12, 23, and 16 which together will deliver 25% of all the votes in this election – have cracks. No holes, but cracks.
In 12, there’s a Republican primary. Those Republicans are Shrewsbury voters. And if they’re taking a GOP ballot, they can’t vote for Shrewsbury. How many votes will that cost him? The optimists say 50, the pessimists say 1,000. Shrewsbury himself shrugs it off. If it’s that close, I will have much bigger problems than a Republican primary, he tells an ally. Of course he’s right. He’s going to win, everyone tells me.
But then there’s 23, Alderwoman Kathy Hanrahan has a Reed yard sign in front of her house. And there were rumors that neighborhood leader Dan Hagerty was working on bringing committeepeople to Reed’s side as well. How many votes would that be? Same answer: Between 100 – 1000. The rumors dissipate and committeepeople stay with Shrewsbury. No hole in 23, but cracks.
6:53 p.m. - The 26th Ward
Alderman Frank Williamson is presiding over this party in the basement of a church. I count 78 people in attendance. Reed enters the basement and immediately starts going table to table shaking hands. Williamson sees him and introduces Reed as a “young man,” “up and coming,” “intelligent,” finishing with the clear statement, “We are endorsing Lewis Reed.”
Reed takes the podium. “Why is this race important?” he asks the audience that looks more interested in the drawing for the bikes and the food baskets by the door.
“It’s about Resources,” he says. “They impact the quality of life.”
Then he starts an attack: “Should we be paying Jim Shrewsbury $82,500 a year to come to work 1 ½ days a week? That’s what we’re doing.” Reed promises to be a full time President, and quickly wraps up, speaking for only six minutes.
Charles Bryson, the mayor’s liaison for neighborhoods, starts speaking. The people are weary. And after Bryson, Jennifer Joyce, the circuit attorney arrives and is introduced as Jennifer Joyce Hayes (blurring her into her predecessor Dee Joyce-Hayes). She gives a wave to the crowd.
It’s 7:22, Rice and Reed are back in the car. Rice scolds Reed for not “bringing it home” in his speech. Reed agrees, says that he was cold out of the box, the next meeting will be better, stronger, he promises.
7:48 p.m. – The 2nd Ward
It’s another church, this time in the 2nd ward. Alderwoman Dionne Flowers is warm and effusive with her introduction of Reed. Shrewsbury’s camp had suggested to me that they thought they’d have Flowers, but that she was nervous of a challenge. Did Shrewsbury’s people really think Flowers was with them? She sounds incredibly genuine and affectionate toward Reed. There are about 40 people in the room.
Jennifer Joyce arrives right behind Reed. This is the last stop on her schedule. She started at the Pyramid party, then went to 26, and then to 2. Later in the car I’ll ask Reed and Rice if she isn’t working a bit hard? Maybe she’s a mayoral candidate in a couple years? No. They’re certain. I never ascertain how they’re certain, but they are. Joyce turns to Rice, asks about his mother. Word is that she is resigning from Vigilant.
Nancy Rice, Lou Hamilton, Vince Schoemehl
Nancy Rice and Lou Hamilton worked together under Vigilant Communications. Nancy, Bob’s mother, served in Vince Schoemehl’s administration and probably knows city campaigns better than anyone else. The thing about Nancy is that she has experience and she is current. There are a lot of old hands who figured St. Louis out a long time ago, but as St. Louis has changed they haven’t noticed or continued to notice the changes. They missed that blacks are moving into south city, that gays aren’t holed up in 28 anymore or that the young couples moving into the Hill might have Italian last names, but are voting pro-choice. Nancy sees those things. She knows the nuts and bolts of campaigns and she sees the big picture.
Lou Hamilton also worked for Schoemehl. They met as neighbors when Vince was alderman. Hamilton volunteered on his mayoral campaign and his political instinct and savvy blossomed. He met and befriended most of the political actors on the scene. In a city that travels in insular circles, Hamilton’s network defies the conventional boundaries. His sole criteria, it seems, for measuring a person is whether he can work with them. He likes pragmatists; people who are willing to compromise to advance an agenda, people who accept progress in steps. That’s his business, getting things done. Maybe not everything exactly as you dream, but gets it done.
Hamilton and Shrewsbury are natural rivals. Not only because, as New York Times columnist David Brooks’ asserts, high school cliques war across the ages of their lifetime, that the jocks (Hamilton) and nerds (Shrewsbury) can never live in peace. They are natural rivals because it is Hamilton’s job as a lobbyist to corral fifteen votes. And Shrewsbury’s position as president requires him to hunt for fifteen votes as well. When they’re on different sides, there just aren’t enough votes to go around. (Hamilton usually gets the better of the exchange because, except in the movies, there’s little justice for nerds in this world.)
Vince Schoemehl, meanwhile, is a Shrewsbury man. Maybe because he’s so different from Shrewsbury. (Schoemehl, by the way, is that rare breed – smart enough to hang out with the nerds, but cool enough to roll with the jocks.) Schoemehl is big picture and big vision. Shrewsbury is dotting i’s and crossing t’s and correcting subjective verb tenses.
But Reed’s camp has confidence that Schoemehl is sitting this cycle out. And what that means is that the 28th ward, one Shrewsbury thought he had a shot at, will probably endorse Reed. That’s one more piece of sticky paper on that map.
I’ll learn later in the night that months ago Bob did an exercise he must have learned from his mother, going ward by ward, estimating votes, percentages. He counted on winning the 28th. He looked at history, read percentages and turnouts. He sat down and did his calculations for this race hypothetically, for fun. He did them with his friend, Tim, who it happens is the son of Vince. And the picture comes into focus - two children raised in uber-political surroundings huddling over vote totals the way most kids collect baseball cards.
8:20 p.m. - The 27th Ward
It’s just a jump down the road, to the church where the 27th ward is having their Christmas party. Alderman Greg Carter was famously willowy in this race. First, he wanted to run himself, then he was mad when Reed ran, so he was going to endorse Shrewsbury, then he was behind Reed, then he wasn’t. But now he is. Reed has a letter from him to prove it, and that’s one more person Shrewsbury thought he’d have on the north side, but slipped away.
Again, there is a buffet line and a good solid meal: chicken, green beans and mashed potatoes. Connie Johnson, the committeewoman and state representative, and Curtis Royston, committeeman and state rep wannabe (Johnson is termed in 2008) are on hand. They give Reed their big public endorsement, take pictures with him. Carter is absent.
Shrewsbury, they say came by earlier, but only dropped in for a few minutes. Sat in back, they didn’t even have time to recognize him before he was gone.
Charles Bryson, once more, follows Reed’s talk to the crowd. They leave at 8:57 p.m., and Rice tells Reed that he’s on his own, but gives him specific instructions: go by the City Democratic Christmas Party before finishing the night at the Pyramid party.
Reed grumbles a little, as much as someone of his disposition is capable. Reed has a natural affinity for developers – people who have vision, who take risks. Those folks will be at the Pyramid Party. But Rice’s feeling is that he needs to be visible to the committeepeople, especially the south side committeepeople. That might land him wards like 25 where he is closer to alderwoman Dorothy Kirner than Shrewsbury is. 25, that could be one more of those sticky papers on the map in the corner of his office.
9:35 – 9:47 p.m. – City Democratic Party
The shortest visit of the night. The place is empty by the time Reed arrives. He shakes the few hands that are there and does a u-turn to head downtown. That’s where his people are.
10 p.m. – The Pyramid Party
The Pyramid Party is unlike anything else this evening. It is a statement. It is young. The music is not the classy jazz of the Roberts Bros, or the neighborhood recital of the 27th. It is loud dance music. Young professionals, sweating, happy, drunk and gleeful. An oasis of exuberance encased in the grand old ballroom of the historic Missouri Athletic Club. And outside, the quiet conservative streets of St. Louis don’t even know. A revolution is celebrating itself. The stodgy old bankers and builders who happily slept as St. Louis sank to the ocean floor have been replaced by a new breed of movers and shakers.
His story has been well told by now: a grade-school dropout who ran away from home, ended on the west coast as a monk living in poverty. The call of family brought him back St. Louis. He started rehabbing houses – one at a time – with Craig Heller. The two started a humble business, built it into a respectable player and then a thriving juggernaut – Pyramid Construction. Heller went on to do Loftworks. Steffen and he have transformed downtown.
They brought property when it was incredibly cheap. Incredibly cheap, except that no one in their right mind would buy a worthless piece of a dying downtown with terrible barriers to redevelopment built into the fabrics of the buildings themselves. But magic struck in downtown St. Louis. It wasn’t magic so much as the right five or six persons doing their thing, and the world played pet, as if on God’s own leash, behaving just as commanded. A lawyer named Jerry Schlitcher wrote state tax credit legislation that uncorked a development genie with no wish limit. An investment banker named Bob Rubin convinced a Democratic president to be a deficit hawk and brought interest rates to historic lows. A twenty-five year-old named Chad Cooper founded a group to make the city cool again that grew to be a thousand members strong in two years. A retired senator named Jack Danforth turned his monstrously wealthy family foundation’s eye inward and dedicated its resources to improving St. Louis. A haplessly incapable mayor proved the perfect foil for a hard-working, energetic mayor to take and tighten the reins of city government.
And it happened. Downtown happened. And when it did, people like John Steffen who had bet everything he owned and could borrow on downtown were on their surf board ready to ride the wave. He still is. With one difference. When he and Heller started rehabbing houses, they didn’t have any idea who the alderman was, or that there were aldermen.
And Steffen is still an outsider in the cozy downtown world created by the circles of old money. In 2001, when he put up $400,000 in earnest money to close on the Syndicate Trust Building, he scrambled to find financing. No fingers lifted. No municipal help. And when Steffen was unable to come up with the loan and he lost his money. Poof. $400,000 cash, gone. Pyramid reeled. Lay-offs and downsizing followed. But like a St. Louis Trump who flirts with implosion only to come out stronger (and more leveraged), Steffen returned.
And the Steffen of a decade ago – politically ignorant – has evolved into someone extremely political. He holds fundraisers for local, state and national politicians. He’s friends with Harry Reid, and has become a required stop in St. Louis for Democratic 08 presidential hopefuls. But he also keeps some Republicans in his orbit. Locally, he’s a prodigious campaign contributor. He’s close to McMillan. But gives to lots of city electeds.
So it was not just high drama when Steffen came to the city a month ago to receive a TIF on his newest and boldest project, that decaying vestige of yet another Schoemehl vision gone south – St. Louis Center. The ask and the answer were layered with meaning about his place in St. Louis. Is he in? Or is he out? Does this mean he’s finally valued? Or finally indebted?
Outside the ballroom, Aldermen Stephen Gregali, Jennifer Florida and Mike McMillan huddle. I look at them talking and nodding, and I see that map once more. I’m understanding a little more why Reed sees this race differently. Suppose he has eleven of the twelve African American aldermen. Add to that Jennifer Florida who endorsed him on Day One; and 28’s Lyda Krewson and 23’s Kathy Hanrahan. If he gets a Gregali or a Kirner or a Roddy, he’ll have a majority of the aldermen supporting him. Put another way, most of the aldermen want to get rid of Shrewsbury. That could help a fellow win a city-wide election.
11:26 p.m. - MAC Parking Lot
It’s like a bad spy movie. A dark, cold parking lot, I’m watching Reed and McMillan talk campaign details at the end of a long day.
This is McMillan’s move. The License Collector jump? No, that was a diversion. Reed’s race is his move. Win or lose, McMillan will possess two things he didn’t six months ago. A title and a target. He has been the prime mover to unify the African American political class. Reed’s north side appeal wasn’t a sure thing. Some were less than enthusiastic about Reed. He had voted for Slay’s redistricting plan. His wife is white. And the north side eternal internal feuds make it easy to divide. But McMillan, who has been collecting favors and working the scene for a decade, put his credibility on the line. He finessed, cajoled, flattered and intimidated to make it happen. As blacks regain some of the political clout they have gradually ceded over the last decade, it will be because McMillan stepped up at this time and put his whole effort into it. That’s his title.
He will also have an enemy in Jim Shrewsbury for the rest of his life. And for a young man who’s displayed such prudence (or caution), it’s a ballsy move to go after one of the most powerful politicians in the city. He willingly made himself a target. And so a new entry is made in his resume – steel. That will come in handy in the future, no doubt.
After the Party
Reed is hungry. He doesn’t drink and maybe that helps his stamina. He’s more animated at midnight than he was at 5pm. The place is called DBs. Reed insists that their chicken wings are amazing. I must get the chicken wings, he says. But then he orders a sandwich for himself.
He’s feeling good. It’s been a good night. He starts riffing a new stump speech. “Shrewsbury has his law office outside the city limits.” He’s working up new lines. “When I become president of the board, we’ll make the city so attractive to businesses that even Jim Shrewsbury will move his business into the city!”
It’s close to 1 a.m. Reed’s about to take a phone call. I thank him for the opportunity to shadow him, and say, half-confessing my view that he’s a long-shot – “You might win this thing.”
He laughs out loud. And shouts, “I’m gonna win this.”
In an effort to avoid the possibility of a divisive caucus split during an election year, the GOP's State House Caucus will elect a Speaker-elect this September who will then be Jetton's successor when he is termed in 2008.
Leading candidates for the job are Allen Icet from Wildwood, and Ron Richard from Joplin.
My apologies to Kacie Triplett who's bio lost a couple of sentences in the print edition (bad jump). Here is the entire article by Brian Werner:
As Lewis Reed makes a bid for President of the Board of Alderman, three candidates now vie for the 6th Ward seat.
The 6th Ward is one of the City’s most diverse wards. It includes the western part of downtown and stretches from Arsenal to Martin Luther King Drive, taking in neighborhoods as different as Compton Heights and JeffVanderLou. The population of the ward is a majority African-American, but registered voters are of almost equal numbers African-American and Caucasian.
The three candidates, Patrick Cacchione, Christian Saller, and Kacie Starr Triplett present themselves to voters in varied fashion:
Patrick Cacchione is the President of Advocacy Strategies, a political consulting firm. A longtime participant in the Democrat Ward Organization, Cacchione is currently the Democratic Committeeman. He ran for Alderman in 1999, losing to Lewis Reed. In this race Cacchione has chosen to highlight his political experience, “the choice, I think is very clear. Do you want someone with over 20 years of public policy experience or not?”
Christian Saller worked for the St. Louis Development Corporation until resigning to run for alderman. Saller focuses on very specific ways that he would deal with development and other issues based on his experience with SLDC. He also asserts that, “the fact that I’m willing to dedicate myself full time to the job is something the other candidates can’t offer.”
Kacie Starr Triplett takes a much different approach. Triplett, who most recently worked for Congressman Russ Carnahan, speaks in broader, ideological terms. She talks about vision, energy, and new ideas.
“A lot of people don’t feel that their voice is being heard,” said Triplett. “It’s time for new direction.”
Ward Member Controversy
The 6th Ward Democratic Organization is an “open ward” which means that the organization’s endorsement is decided by a vote of its members. The endorsement in a “closed ward” is determined by the ward’s committeeman and committeewoman. Both Cacchione and Triplett have sought to gain the endorsement by bringing new members into the Organization, and a conflict ensued.
Triplett submitted a list of names for new members along with payment of their membership dues. However, Cacchione took issue with Triplett’s methods. Cacchione said that a precedent existed in the Organization of residents joining on an individual basis, either in person or by mail.
Whether Triplett broke any rules is unclear because the Executive Committee has not been able locate the Organization’s bylaws, which presumably would address the question. The Committee was aware that the bylaws were missing before this situation arose and, according to Cacchione, had already created a Committee to create new bylaws based upon an earlier draft.
“We were unable to locate our bylaws…absent those bylaws, I chose to operate on precedence…someone else decided to forego precedent and make up their own laws.”
In an attempt to settle the dispute, the Executive Committee, which Cacchione and Triplett are both members of, met on December 18th. The day before the meeting, Triplett said on her website:
It appears there is an attempt underway to remove over 100 members from our organization. Unfortunately, it is no coincidence that a vast majority of these members are African-American. This is an attempt by the current committeeman, Mr. Cacchione, to change the rules at the last minute and guarantee the endorsement for himself.
At the Executive Committee meeting, Ward President Mary Entrup and committeewoman Bev Bucheit took issue with this characterization, arguing that as new members were submitted as a list of names, they had no way of knowing the race of new members.
The Executive Committee was not able to reach a decision on the 18th, but Triplett and Cacchione reached a compromise days later, agreeing that all recent additions to the Organization would be accepted and the deadline to join the Organization would be extended another week.
Triplett believes that some of the opposition she has faced is from people who think she shouldn’t be running for the seat.
“Here in St. Louis we have a process…there’s a whole belief where you wait your turn,” said Triplet. “There are some people who are upset that I’ve skipped the line.” Saller, who has not been as involved in the 6th Ward Organization, said he has not felt any of the same opposition as Triplett. Saller stayed out of the new member controversy focusing instead on reaching voters in other ways.
All three candidates did speak at the ward endorsement meeting, and Cacchione won the endorsement handily with a reported vote count of over a hundred to Tripletts’ fifty-some votes and Saller’s single digit tally.
Though all the parties would have probably preferred to avoid the controversy, the big winner was clearly the 6th Ward Organization which is now probably the biggest in the city.
The Downtown St. Louis Residents Association and the League of Women Voters will be sponsoring a debate and election information session for the Sixth Aldermanic Ward on February 5 from 6:00 to 9:00 PM at the Downtown St. Louis Public Library at 1301 Olive.
The debate will start at 7:00 PM and will feature the candidates: Patrick J. Cacchione, Kacie Starr-Triplett, and Christian Saller. In addition, The Board of Elections will be conducting voter registration before and after the debate for anyone interested. Example polling machines, precinct maps, and other voter education services will also be on display. This event will be an excellent chance for all voters, including citizens of the Sixth Ward, to educate themselves before the aldermanic primary elections on March 6th. For any questions, please call Pam DeVoe at 314-691-6869.
Hit mailboxes last weekend?
Lindsay Marsh is the campaign manager. Past credits include Wesley Clark and Dick Gephardt.
Jonathan Levine, formerly of Jake Zimmerman's campaign, is doing field.
Rounding out the team is April Harris, Larry Lushri, and Harold Brown.
Bauer flyer spotted recently.
Urges people to "re-elect" him.
Committee listed as paying for it was teminated a year ago.
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