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Politically Speaking: Alderman Spencer on entering the fray at the Board of Aldermen

Cara Spencer
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio
Cara Spencer

On another edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome St. Louis Alderman Cara Spencer to the program for the first time.

Spencer represents the city’s 20th Ward on the Board of Aldermen. The ward includes several south St. Louis neighborhoods, including Gravois Park, Marine Villa, Mount Pleasant and Dutchtown. And it takes in part of Cherokee Street, one of St. Louis’ most eclectic business districts.

(Coincidentally, Mannies is a former resident of what is now the 20th Ward – and actually lived on the same street where Spencer resides.)

A graduate of Truman State University, Spencer grew up in unincorporated St. Louis County and worked in the pharmaceutical industry for more than a decade. She was involved in the opposition campaign to a 2014 sales tax hike for transportation projects, but Spencer had never run for office before challenging incumbent Alderman Craig Schmid last year.

Ultimately, Spencer bested Schmid and another Democratic opponent last March – and then beat independent candidate Stephen Jehle in the general election. Since she was inaugurated last spring, Spencer has helped reopen Marquette Park pool and has pitched an idea to help clean up overgrown lots throughout the city. She also backed a minimum wage hike throughout the city and opposed a financing plan for a $1 billion riverfront stadium.

Here’s what Spencer had to say during the show:

  • Crime is the biggest issue in her ward and throughout the city. And she said gun crimes have become particularly vexing for city officials. “I think it’s because guns are incredibly and ridiculous accessible in the city of St. Louis,” she said. “And we have younger and younger people having access to guns. So I think 2016 should be the year that we really look at what we can do as a city about guns.”
  • She’s hoping to launch a “mow to own” program to clean up overgrown vacant lots. It would allow somebody in a neighborhood to procure lots from the city’s Land Reutilization Authority in exchange for maintaining them.
  • Spencer is still disappointed that parts of southeast St. Louis weren’t incorporated into the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Promise Zone.“It would have been a really great addition to that,” she said. “And I do look forward in 2016 in making sure that we are compensated for that omission. Because the whole designation of the Promise Zone is to focus and concentrate some resources down there that we really frankly need more than most places.”
  • Reflecting on her first few months in office, Spencer said she was struck by how little data are provided to aldermen before they make big decisions. “I come from a business background,” she said. “I’m used to making data-driven decisions. And so, that’s again one of the changes I’d see pushing this year.”
  • Spencer expects a big focus on retaining the city’s earnings tax in the first part of the year. City voters will decide whether to renew the tax in April.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Cara Spencer on Twitter: @CaraSpencerSTL

Music: “Sing About Me/I’m Dying Of Thrist” by Kendrick Lamar

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.