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As Mayor, Cara Spencer Would Use ‘Focused Deterrence’ To Fight Crime

Alderman Cara Spencer, D-20th Ward, speaks at a press conference in support of Prop B at Bridge Bread on Cherokee Street on Oct. 25, 2018.
File photo / Carolina Hidalgo / St. Louis Public Radio
Alderwoman Cara Spencer speaks at a press conference in 2018.

For mayoral candidate and Alderwoman Cara Spencer, blocking St. Louis’ airport from being leased to a for-profit entity has been a big focus in the past few years — and she’s not certain her work is done yet.

“If contributions on the political side of things are any indication of future efforts, I would say that the proposal is still very much alive, and that’s worrisome,” she said on Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air.

If elected mayor, Spencer said she would bring the business community and other regional leaders together to discuss the airport’s future, rather than inking a lease.

“Now the real question is, what do we do with all the unused land? How do we expand the offerings there to increase what St. Louisans have access to as far as economic opportunity and sheer travel?” she said. “We can’t see this being handled in a silo as it’s been over the last couple of years.”

Regional governance would be on the table: “I would support looking at that, absolutely.”

A Democrat, Spencer is one of four candidates running for mayor, and she freely acknowledged that, among the three city officials in the race, she’s the least known. Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed is on his third run for mayor; Treasurer Tishaura Jones very nearly won four years ago. (Utility executive Andrew Jones, a Republican, is also making his second run, though he has never held elected office.)

But, with Prop D’s changes allowing people to vote for as many candidates as they “approve” of, she hopes her dark horse status may work in her favor. “People are looking for a change in government, certainly on the local level,” she said.

A St. Louis native, Spencer worked as a consultant for years, specializing in mathematical modeling, before being elected in 2015 to represent the city’s 20th ward on the Board of Aldermen. She lives in the Marine Villa neighborhood in south city, and she initially became involved in politics to get the neighborhood pool reopened. She was surprised to realize how much she liked being involved.

Her plan to fight crime involves “focused deterrence,” which brings both police and other resources to the handful of people responsible for the most violence in a city in hopes of helping them turn their lives around.

“We have been focusing our efforts geographically, in those rectangle-triangles, and we’ve had limited success,” she said. “We’re sweeping everybody in a neighborhood under the same rug. Living and representing that southside triangle, I can tell you that most of the people living here are law-abiding citizens.”

Another priority is fixing the city’s 911 system. She said 25% of all calls currently go to a recording.

“When you’re hearing gunfire in front of your house, you see somebody in distress experiencing a drug overdose or something like that, and you’re calling for an emergency, and you get a recording, it’s absolutely devastating,” she said. “It’s a real breakdown in trust. We know we have communities that do not trust our police department. When they’re willing to share vital information with their police department, the first thing we need to do — at the very least — is pick up the phone.”

The newly nonpartisan primary election is on March 2. The general election, which includes the primary’s top two vote-getters, is set for April 6.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Sarah Fenske served as host of St. Louis on the Air from July 2019 until June 2022. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.
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