ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) – During an hour-long debate the three candidates aiming to be the next Mayor of St. Louis discussed a variety of topics at a candidate forum carried by KWMU Radio Monday.
Incumbent Mayor Francis Slay is asking voters for an unprecedented 4th term, while Alderman Lewis Reed and former Alderman Jimmie Matthews say its time the city saw a change in leadership.
On the topic of crime Mayor Slay touted the progress.
“Crime has actually dropped by twice the national average in the past six years,” Slay said. Slay attributes that decline to the police department’s changes made under his watch.
But Challenger Aldermanic President Lewis Reed disagreed.
“When we begin to say that we’ve dropped the crime rate down, lets not omit the fact that the crime rate has dropped consistently across the United States of America for the last twelve years also,” Reed responded.
All the candidates had a different opinion on how to fix St. Louis Public Schools, charter schools, and the city’s dwindling population.
Mayor Slay said he has spent the last six years working to create better schools. “I’m also working with others to support quality free public charter schools in the City of St. Louis.”
But both Reed and Matthews said there’s been too much focus on charter schools.
“We’re banking everything on the charter schools and if we continue to bank everything on charter schools we will continue to loose population,” Reed argued. He said charter schools in the city can’t compete with quality public schools in the suburbs.
“I’m here because of public schools,” Matthews, a former St. Louis Public School teacher said. “Many people don’t have money to go to private schools and our resources are being drained by charter schools.”
Tax Increment Financing
With the largest tax break in St. Louis history tied up in a two year court battle, the subject of Tax Increment Financing came up. Slay, defended the use of TIFs as a temporary tax break to get projects moving.
He said the jobs that TIFs create spur economic activity for the city.
However Reed questioned whether the city is becoming too easy with TIFs. He said we need to take a step back and see if the TIFs pass the “but for test.” “Is this project even possible? Often times the City of St. Louis will be the first money in the deal,” Reed said.
The Missouri Supreme Court is deliberating over whether a $390 million TIF the city gave developer Paul McKee for his northside project is appropriate.