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Only a few city aldermen face competition

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 24, 2009 - Competition is vigorous between some candidates competing in the March 3 primary elections in St. Louis' odd-numbered aldermanic wards. In three races, candidates find themselves responding to allegations of wrongdoing either by opponents or the media.

In the 1st Ward, incumbent Alderman Charles Quincy Troupe was among several politicians who came under criticism for wanting to use city money for anti-crime programs of dubious worth. In the 21st Ward, aldermanic candidate Antonio French is denying allegations that he has failed to pay earnings taxes on his consulting income. Meanwhile, Travis Reems, the 25th Ward Democratic candidate, dismissed claims about using campaign money to pay himself. He says his campaign reimbursed him for using a credit card to cover the cost of printing campaign material.

In most city aldermanic races, winning the Democratic primary is tantamount to victory because only a handful of Green Party candidates and no Republicans filed for the seats.

1st Ward

One hot race is in the 1st Ward, where incumbent Troupe, a former state representative, is slugging it out with former Alderman Sharon Tyus. Although Troupe touched off controversy last year by urging residents to arm themselves, he now says the real solution is more police protection and more services for young people to provide alternatives to crime. Troupe cites his efforts to transform the old 6th District Police Station into a recreation facility for youths as an example of what a community can do to reclaim youngsters. He says Tyus suffers from "rubber arm syndrome, always patting herself on the back, telling everybody she's a lawyer, as if that's going to solve the problems in the ward."

Tyus was controversial when she was an alderman, but she also has a reputation for hard work, especially in housing and other programs for the North Side. "I pledge to be an accessible alderman," she says. "One of Troupe's problems is that he doesn't know how to be inclusive. He's very thin skinned."

A third candidate in the race, Rhonda Kohlman, did not return phone calls.

3rd Ward

The incumbent in the 3rd Ward, Freeman Bosley Sr., has first elected to the Board of Alderman in 1977. Bosley cites housing and other improvements as the reasons he should be re-elected, but plenty of challengers disagree.

Challenger Velma Bailey, a school teacher and former alderman, complains the ward has fallen apart on Bosley's watch.

A similar concern is expressed by candidate Jeffrey Hardin, a business consultant who almost defeated Bosley the last election. Hardin says, "I'm running out of necessity" because he says Bosley has no plans to address crime, vacant buildings, the loss of jobs and other problems in the ward.

Another Democratic candidate is Shantel Woods, who didn't respond to inquiries about her campaign.

5th Ward

Incumbent April Ford Griffin faces little opposition in the primary now that challenger Brenda Berry Simpson dropped out of the race.

19th Ward

This ward has its share of bad housing and crime, but it is one of the few North Side neighborhoods with a small shopping district, near Grand and Page. License Collector Michael McMillan helped bring it about when he was the alderman in the 19th Ward.

Seeking to carry on the tradition of bringing services, housing and jobs to the ward is Marlene Davis, the incumbent. She has held a leadership role on a number of citywide initiatives, including chairing the St Louis School Board and the Housing Authority.

Challenging her is Michelle Ingram Lawrence, a social worker, who says she is running to focus even more attention on jobs, housing, crime, health care and more protection and resources for the elderly.

21st Ward

Incumbent Bennice Jones-King faces Antonio French, a political consultant, ward committeeman and Pub Def blogger. King says her primary focus is on ongoing development, including new housing and construction of a recreation center in O'Fallon Park.

French says 20 percent of the murders in St. Louis occurred in the ward, and he wants to organize more people to pay attention to neighborhood crime. He also calls for installing cameras on street corners where violent crimes are known to occur.

25th Ward

When Alderman Dorothy Kirner decided to retire from her ward that includes Carondelet and Dutchtown, she probably had no idea so many newcomers would line up to replace her. Four have filed. They include ordinary residents, such as Angela K. Singler, a homemaker with no political experience but a desire to address crime, vacant buildings and absentee landlord problems. She is endorsed by the 25th Ward Democratic Club.

A second candidate is Shane Cohn, a consultant in human resources, who has the support of the St. Louis Labor Council, St. Louis Young Democrats and state Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford of the 59 District. Cohn says he has helped to build a neighborhood organization over the past four years, wants to focus on public safety and youth programs, among others, in the ward.

The third candidate Travis Reems, a business consultant, agreed with the rest in saying his focus would be on addressing crime. He also thinks the next alderman needs to pay more attention to business and economic development.

The final candidate, Deborah Kotraba, is a restaurant server who wonders "why Dutchtown can't be another Soulard or a Lafayette." She said that would be her goal. She has the endorsements of the city's police and firefighter unions.

Robert Joiner has carved a niche in providing informed reporting about a range of medical issues. He won a Dennis A. Hunt Journalism Award for the Beacon’s "Worlds Apart" series on health-care disparities. His journalism experience includes working at the St. Louis American and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where he was a beat reporter, wire editor, editorial writer, columnist, and member of the Washington bureau.