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Alderman Kennedy reflects on the changing politics and policies of St. Louis

St. Louis Alderman Terry Kennedy, D-18th Ward
David Kovaluk I St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Alderman Terry Kennedy, D-18th Ward

St. Louis Alderman Terry Kennedy is the latest guest on Politically Speaking, where he spoke with St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Rachel Lippmann about his 30-year tenure on the Board of Aldermen.

Kennedy represents the 18th Ward, which takes in nine neighborhoods in central and north St. Louis — including the Central West End, Vandeventer and JeffVanderLou neighborhoods. He’s planning to resign in early January to become clerk of the Board of Aldermen.

A second generation alderman, Kennedy joined the board in 1989. He succeeded his father, Sam Kennedy, who served on the board for 21 years. During his time in office, Kennedy helped create the North Sarah development — a state, federal and private partnership that brought about new housing in his ward.

Kennedy was also the key backer of a Civilian Oversight Board for the St. Louis Police Department. That idea languished for years, until aldermen ended up passing legislation after Michael Brown’s shooting death in 2014 in Ferguson. Afterthe Jason Stockley protests in 2017, aldermen ended up giving that board subpoena power.

Among other things, Kennedy has been critical of plans to allocate taxpayer dollars to build sports facilities. He contended that policymakers needed to go through a “paradigm shift” in 2017 after debating whether to use tax proceeds to build a MLS stadium. Ultimately, voters rejected that proposal — and another ownership group brought forth a plan that pays for almost of the stadium with private money.

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

  • He talked extensively about his deep roots both in St. Louis and East St. Louis. He also talked about how he was initially reluctant to run for alderman, citing his hesitancy to join the “establishment” after many years as an activist.
  • He said that his time in office has been “enriching.”“Hopefully my tenure as alderman has helped make a difference,” he said.
  • He says he’s seen a positive shift in aldermanic thinking over the past few years. “New thoughts are being considered that [before] if you bought up would just simply go in one ear and out the other,” he said. “Still, it is not at the level of sensitivity necessary to, in my opinion, make the changes the city really needs to move it forward.”
  • Kennedy believes the implementation of the Civilian Oversight Board showed that St. Louis could implement progressive policies. “And it did not have the impact of the red flag wavers,” he said. “It hasn’t caused disruption of the police department. Police officers have not been willy-nilly subpoenaed in by a group of unruly individuals attacking them.”

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Music: “All My Tomorrows” by Shirley Horn

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