(Good stuff. I’ll try to rebut ashriver’s points and make an opposing case over the holiday. – promoted by Clark)
Below are some reasons why I think anyone who believes in the values expressed by the Democratic Party should not support the candidacy of Francis Slay for St. Louis Mayor. I think all of these reasons fit into a general theme: in every local issue of substance, Slay has sided with the rich and powerful over the working class and the disenfranchised. In my opinion, one of the most important things about the emergence of the netroots in recent years has been that it pushed us towards a more meritocratic system. That is, in the traditional system, the power brokers in the media and the political establishment decided what ideas could even be heard and discussed, and they were very bad at doing so (often because they had vested interests in certain ideas). The emergence of blogs allowed good ideas to get a wide audience simply because they were good ideas, and not because they had to get the approval of someone in power.
From what I have seen, the St. Louis political system is exactly the kind of system that bloggers have raged against in the federal government. Insiders make decisions behind closed doors. Businesses have complete access to the political process and activists are ignored. Short-term, narrow-minded development plans to build “suburbs in the city”” are hatched and funded with taxpayer money, while intelligent people who propose plans to make St. Louis more urban and environmentally friendly are brushed aside. I have to admit I don’t know much about Maida Coleman, but she’d have to be pretty bad for me to think she’s a worse choice than Slay, not because I have any personal issue with him, but just because I think it would be an intrinsically good thing to win a victory against the gatekeeping establishment.
Anyway, here are some specifics about what I dislike about Slay’s administration thus far:
I. The School System. Slay has been one of the top recipients of Sinquefield’s pro-voucher money, and has already received 100,000 dollars from Sinquefield’s group for the upcoming election. This is already sketchy enough in my book, but looks especially bad when you consider that Slay personally campaigned for St. Louis school board members in 2003 who went on to run the public school system into the ground (yes, I agree it was bad already). In my mind, it should raise some serious red flags that a mayor who is literally getting hundreds of thousands of dollars from a pro-voucher group personally oversaw the collapse of the public school system. How do the parents of public school children feel knowing how much money Slay gets from voucher groups?
II. Development. Slay has allowed real estate developer Paul McKee to buy up large swaths of property in St. Louis neighborhoods, actively let them decay by not protecting them from brick rustlers (which reduces the property value of the surrounding properties, including those of residents and rehabbers), and then buy up the reduced price properties. In fact, the city itself allows its properties to deteriorate and drive down the property values in areas McKee is buying in. McKee has thus far not been required to provide any explanation for his plan for development and the city has shown no interest in enforcing the numerous code violations. More info is here and here.
III. Race Relations. Slay has politically ignored the black population of the city. He fired Fire Chief Sherman George in questionable circumstances, which resulted in a huge outcry from the black population of St. Louis. His response to the outcry in the black community was basically to ignore it, which has resulted in many more problems. Take a look at this video from last year’s MLK Day and tell me if this would happen to a “good administrator.”
IV. The Police Department. The St. Louis Police Department has had a series of scandals since Slay has been in office. For example, in 2005 a story broke about how the police department “discounted rape complaints at the scene, shredded records, let cases evaporate and shelved evidence that could have identified predators.” There have been several cases of police brutality. There was recently the scandal with Chief Mokwa’s daughter. Now, due to an archaic law, St. Louis is one of the only cities in the country that does not have control over its own police force (a state board controls it), so perhaps you could claim that Slay should not be blamed for these problems. Which might be a good point, except that after a group of activists had worked to craft a bill for a Civilian Oversight Board that would at least establish some small amount of accountability to the people of St. Louis, and after this bill passed the board of aldermen, Slay vetoed it. Thus, he has actively worked against giving the people of St. Louis oversight of their own police department.
There are of course a lot of other issues in St. Louis that could be mentioned, but that’s good for starters. McCain got only 16% of the vote in St. Louis City in the election; I think we can do better than this.