Tower Grove East Neighborhood traditionally has one of the highest voter turnouts in the city, says TGE Association President Chris Naffziger.

A primary election will be held Tuesday, March 3, to choose candidates to run in the April 7 election for Board of Aldermen.
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Nine candidates running in the March 3 primary appeared at the TGENA
candidates’ night on Feb. 24. About 75 residents were in the audience to hear them present their positions and answer questions sent in advance.

Here’s a rundown of who appeared and a gist of what they said:

Sixth Ward

Daniel Elder, Republican
Christine Ingrassia, Democrat, elected April 2013
Jonathan McFarland, Green Party

Elder, who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. House of Representatives, said he wants to look at root causes of why the city is losing population: poor education and high crime. He wants to legalize all drugs across the board and wants police to stop using military tactics on urban streets.

Ingrassia said she bases her priorities on heavy input from the community. She doesn’t think two years –- she was elected in 2013 — is long enough for her to accomplish her goals.

McFarland said he is running to promote citizen inclusion in government. He has worked with youths through a non-profit organization and they tell him they are not included in anything; this is why they tend to lash out, he said. Young people have nothing to do these days except sports, and he wants to improve their options. He also said he wants legislation to increase wages and supports making St. Louis a sustainable city.

Question: The Sixth Ward is a linchpin ward in the city. It has great diversity. What is your vision for development of the ward while allowing for its diverse needs?

Elder: He does not have a vision for the ward. He wants to remove barriers to the city’s growth.

Ingrassia: She has tried to be purposefully aggressive in bringing development into the area. She was successful in getting 15 homes rehabbed in Fox Park with a combination of affordable home and tax credits. She is working on a comprehensive plan for neighborhoods. She is trying to do the best to foster relationships in neighborhoods. It’s happening in Fox Park, and the community is coming up with a strategic plan. The area needs to bring urban “pioneers” and long-time residents together.

McFarland: He wants to foster relationships with young people and invite more small contractors to buy housing. He wants to see strong businesses.
Question: How can we bridge the racial gulf created by Ferguson?

Elder: Legalize drugs. Once crime drops, families will feel safer. Begin a voucher system that offers school choice to students.

Ingrassia: Listen to the needs of constituents. The Board of Aldermen just passed legislation to break down barriers for recipients of Section 8 housing, which prevents landlords from refusing to rent to tenants who receive the housing aid. She lives on a diverse block in the neighborhood that includes same-sex, LGBT, white and black residents.

McFarland: He grew up in the West Side of St. Louis and did not feel included. The city does not include young people and should work on that problem.

Question: What is your position on the civilian oversight of police bill?

Elder: Favors the bill and wants subpoena power added. The civilian board should be independent.

Ingrassia: Supports the bill.

McFarland: Supports a civilian oversight bill.

Question: What is your position on having a $15 minimum wage in the city?

Elder: Does not support it.

Ingrassia: Supports a minimum wage in the $10 to $15 range.

McFarland: Supports a $15 minimum wage.

Eighth Ward

–Stephen J. Conway, Democrat, elected in 1990
–Kevin McKinney, Democrat

–Republican Robert J. Shelli was not present

Conway said he grew up here and graduated from St. Louis University Law School. He is chairman of the city’s Ways and Means budget oversight committee. He is running on his record of progress in the neighborhood, citing how seven nuisance homes were removed recently. His leadership has kept the neighborhood united.

McKinney moved to the city in 1997 and has been a resident of the Shaw neighborhood since 2005. He said it’s time for a change because Alderman Conway has been in office for 24 years. McKinney owns a consulting business that helps to develop housing for seniors and the disabled.

Question: Only a small part of TGE is in the Eighth District; what will you do for it?

Conway: He said he attends all neighborhood meetings and helped to bring about streetscape improvements, which involved making a congested Grand Boulevard more pedestrian friendly. He has helped reduce the number of nuisance properties. The old police station at Magnolia and Grand is alive again. He has pushed for state historic credits in the area. Two townhouses now stand at Wyoming and Arkansas, where a building underwent gut rehab. He has done an active, thorough job in Tower Grove East.

McKinney: He said he has been out talking to people in Tower Grove East, citing the area around Utah and Connecticut, where people feel left out. When they come to meetings, no one answers their questions. People in TGE haven’t seen the alderman much in their neighborhood, he said. They want to talk about how life can be better for them in ways other than brick and mortar.

Question: Are you concerned about housing affordability?

Conway: He said he has struggled to make the neighborhood safe for families and to reduce crime and nuisance properties. He cites properties at 3529 and 3535 Utah, which underwent gut rehab and were priced at $88,000 and $115,000. He cited improvements the city has done on South Grand. He said he wants to keep people here in low-to moderate-income housing. He cited the federal home improvement program, which offers $5,000 to qualified homeowners for repairs to homes.

McKinney: He said people can’t afford to live — buy or rent — in $400,000 and $500,000 houses. He complained that everything these days seems to be about $300,000 and $500,000 houses. The city needs to push incentives for people to own and buy houses in the $120,000 to $150,000 range. People are leaving the area because they can’t afford to live here. The people he visits don’t know anything about a $5,000 program, he said.

15th Ward

–Beth Braznell, Democrat
–Megan Ellyia (Peggy) Green, Democrat, elected in 2014

–Republican Joshua Simpson was not present

Braznell said she has been a Tower Grove South resident for 24 years, is immediate past president of the St. Louis Association of Realtors and is a graduate of the Coro Women in Leadership program. She is a past president of the Tower Grove Heights Neighborhood Association.

Green was elected in a special election last October. She moved to the 15th Ward 10 years ago, participated in the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs and had planned to go to California but decided to stay in the city, which she said “has a ton of need.” Her background includes teaching in St. Louis public schools, working on policy and advocacy for early childhood education, being vice president of the 15th Ward Democrats and working on the Obama 2012 campaign. She is running because she wants to do things differently and prompt the Board of Aldermen to act like a legislative branch.

Question: What will you do to bridge the gap between Ferguson protesters and police?

Braznell: She is endorsed by the St. Louis Police Association and Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 68, but this does not mean she is anti-protester, she said. She is anti-crime. She believes in the right to protest and was up in Ferguson talking to protesters, but she does not agree with destruction and crime. She would like to see the gap healed. She wants to see the area become a safe place where people are respectful of each other. Meetings should be held where all get a chance to be heard and where dialogue is respectful.

Green: Being pro-police does not mean being anti-protester. She advocates for community policing models through dialogue and citizen oversight of police. There were a lot of angry people in the 15th Ward after demonstrations in which 600 neighborhood residents protested and didn’t appreciate being labeled as bad because a couple of teens created havoc. Response to the situation should be cathartic, and people should be allowed to have a discussion.

Question: What will you do for the Tower Grove East part of the 15th Ward?

Braznell: In 1996, she was approached to help manage and improve distressed properties. She started the non-profit Tower Grove South Management Corporation, which managed distressed rental property in the neighborhood. She helped to train landlords and mediate disputes in TGS. Poorly maintained buildings often have high turnover because tenants just leave, she said. Another key issue is promoting a thriving business district. She also is concerned about the wedge area south of Gravois near St. Pius V Catholic Church.

Green: She sees abandoned houses and wants the city to have a tenant’s bill of rights under which renters have a certain level of expectation of what landlords must provide. Most tenants don’t know what their rights are. She’d like to see a crackdown on bad landlords.

President of the Board of Aldermen

–Lewis Reed, Democrat, elected board president in 2007
–Erik Shelquist, Republican

–Jimmy Matthews, Democrat, was not present
–Jeffrey Schaefer, Green Party, was not present

Reed: He said that when he served as Sixth Ward alderman, he helped to bring in $1.7 billion in development. He added that Ferguson and Shaw shootings have propelled St. Louis into a much different time now.

Shelquist: He is an urban affairs major at Harris-Stowe
State University and says he has fallen in love with cities. He has lived in the St. Louis area since 2001 and in the city since 2011. He would like to articulate a vision as legislative leader for St. Louis city government. And he is a great devotee of Middle Earth from the “Lord of the Rings” books.

Question: What is your position on the proposed $985 million football stadium? Do you support it?

Reed: He said he doesn’t have enough information to make an informed decision about whether it’s worth it and what the payoff would be. Before he can make such a decision, he said, he would want to know how the stadium would be utilized for the rest of the year when it wasn’t used for football.

Shelquist: He said he is against a taxpayer-funded stadium.

Question: Do you support efforts to put the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in north St. Louis?

Reed: He said he recommended a change in legislation requiring the city’s Land Reutilization Authority (for eminent domain) to come back to the Board of Aldermen and hold public hearings for each property acquisition. Only then could the board authorize acquiring a property.

Shelquist: He does not support the use of eminent domain. He thinks there is a misplaced sense of urgency about a lot of development in the city. He wants St. Louis to be a city of neighborhoods and houses.

Question: An African-American mother asks what she should tell her sons in the wake of Ferguson and fear that police will be called.

Reed: He said he would tell mothers to tell their sons to pull up their pants, as he has told – shouted at — his 18-year-old son. Because of Ferguson, we are having conversations we need to have. We will be a much stronger city as a result, he said.

Shelquist: He urged fostering better relationships among teens with friends and urged residents not to be afraid of people wearing hoodies but to go talk to teens. He said he would hope neighbors would be more supportive of each other.