St. Louis contenders for mayor and alderman take part in Trailnet's unusual candidate forum
If onlookers went to the Trailnet candidate forum looking for another chapter in St. Louis' tempestuous mayor's race, they were likely disappointed.
But if they ventured to the Contemporary Art Museum to hear a mayoral candidate sing “Amazing Grace” and “This Little Light of Mine,” they got exactly what they wanted.
The three Democratic contenders for mayor – incumbent officeholder Francis Slay, St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed and former Alderman Jimmie Matthews – joined candidates in three contested aldermanic races for the Wednesday night forum, held at the Grand Center museum.
Unlike more wide-ranging candidate forums and debates, Wednesday's gathering focused specifically on issues of sustainability, transportation and public engagement.
It also featured a rather unorthodox format: The first part of the evening featured a Jeopardy-like game where candidates answered questions about transportation and St. Louis trivia.
It also featured a talent competition, perhaps highlighted when Matthews snatched the mic to sing the two aforementioned songs.
After the light-hearted game, the mayoral candidates briefly answered questions about bolstering multi-modal transportation, fostering small business development and increasing city's sustainability.
On the small business front, Reed called for increasing resources to foster entrepreneurship and to work with Fortune 500 companies to help with the growth of startups. Slay expressed support for certain programs that give seed money to start-up companies and forge a closer relationship with St. Louis County on economic development issues.
Asked how he would make the city more sustainable, Reed said the city needs to think “beyond buildings and green issues.” That including taking a look at the city’s fleet of vehicles, as well tackling broader issues in the community.
“I think we have to think about the entire community,” Reed said. “I think you have to think about the economy. And also think about people and begin to address our city in a holistic manner when it comes to sustainability. So some of the things I would do is begin to address the issue of crime, begin to address the issue of economics within our city so we can grow jobs and things of that nature.”
Slay said that his administration drafted a sustainability plan for the city, and he added that he wanted to give city residents tools to make energy-efficient alterations to their homes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“We want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020,” Slay said. “And we also want to make sure we have everyone in the city of St. Louis living within 10 minutes of greenspace within the next few years.”
While prior candidate forums featuring Reed and Slay carried a decidedly negative tone, Wednesday’s event featured few fireworks. Slay had to leave the forum a little bit early to brief the press on the impending winter storm.
The rest of forum featured Democratic candidates from the 5th, 6th and 15th Wards answering questions tailored to sustainability, transportation, community engagement and the city’s parks.
Candidates present at the forum included all three 6th Ward candidates (Damon Jones, Christine Ingrassia and Michelle Witthaus), both 15th Ward candidates (Alderwoman Jennifer Florida, D-15th Ward, and Lisa Miller) and one 5th Ward candidate (Michelle Hutchings-Medina). Alderwoman Tammika Hubbard, D-5th Ward, did not attend the forum.
(The Beacon will have more on the contested contests for aldermen in the next few days.)
The aldermanic candidates couldn't escape the forum's quirky format. Notable moments during the event's talent competition included Florida belting out a rendition of Willie Nelson’s “All of Me,” Jones trying unsuccessfully to read a limerick off his phone and Witthaus showing off her hula hooping skills.
No word yet on whether future candidate forums will feature a “Name That Tune” competition.