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Politically Speaking: Alderman French on how mayoral bid is about building up city neighborhoods

Alderman Antonio French, January 2017
David Kovaluk I St. Louis Public Radio

On this episode of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum, Jenny Simeone and Rachel Lippmann welcome Alderman Antonio French to show for the first time.

The 21st Ward alderman is one of seven Democratic candidates running to succeed St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay. 

French’s ward takes in parts of the Penrose, College Hill and O’Fallon neighborhoods. He first won election to the Board in 2009, unseating an incumbent alderman. He won re-election in 2013 by a landslide. Because he’s running for mayor, he is giving up the chance to run for a third term on the Board.

Related: Listen to extended interviews with each of the Democratic candidates

Before he entered electoral politics, French gained notoriety for launching PubDef.net — one of the first Missouri news web sites that used video to document the Show Me State’s political scene. His use of video and social media during the aftermath of Michael Brown’s shooting death received national attention.


French has been a longstanding critic of some of Slay’s big-ticket policies, including the Northside Regeneration Project and a bid to raise the city’s minimum wage. But French has also supported some of the mayor’s initiatives when he’s been able to extract some concessions, such as when he voted to help fund a proposed football stadium aimed at (unsuccessfully) keeping the Rams in St. Louis.

A few highlights from the show:

  • French says that there’s been too much emphasis on building up St. Louis’ central corridor, as opposed to individual neighborhoods. “We have to use our incentives and tools that we have to start building up neighborhoods,” French said. “It can’t just be a playground for folks who live in the suburbs.”

  • He said he would not retain St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson in his current job if he’s elected as mayor. “I think Chief Dotson has really made it impossible to repair this broken relationship,” he said. “He’s burned so many bridges with the community and elected officials, key figures we need to be partners in rebuilding our city.”

  • He said he isn’t sold on a proposed sales tax increase. Most of the money would go for a MetroLink expansion, but supporters also want to direct some of the funds toward public safety. But French pointed out the tax that’s being used in this instance can’t be used for police salaries. He wants to change that. “St. Louis city is already close to having the highest sales tax in the country, and not one dime will be put towards what everyone says is our highest priority, which is real public safety, more officers on the street, and better pay for new cops,” he said.

  • French said he’s a solid ‘no’ vote on a bid to use city funds to help build a stadium for Major League Soccer. He’s one of eight members of the Board of Aldermen’s Ways and Means Committee that could vote on the proposal later this week.  

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jenny Simeone on Twitter: @jnnsmn

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Follow Antonio French on Twitter: @antoniofrench

Music: “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy & “Telepathic Mind” by Bruiser Queen  

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.