This is Part B of the 7th Ward Independent Democrats St. Louis City 7th Ward Alderman Candidate Survey with Responses.
B. The Candidate As Alderman. These are the Candidate views and goals questions.
B1) Describe your position on the proposed new stadium. (75 words or less)
John (Jack) Coatar: I think it is a sensible proposal because it would revitalize a blighted area of downtown, create 5,000 high paying union construction jobs, create 2,400 game day jobs and keep St. Louis as an NFL (and hopefully MLS) City. The new stadium would also free up additional dates at the America’s Center and allow St. Louis to generate an additional $20 million annually in convention revenue.
Chelsea Merta: I am a lifelong St. Louis sports fan and understand the connection between sports teams and civic pride. But there’s no guarantee the Rams will stay, even if we build the new stadium. Our residents should not bear the $350 million burden of paying for a stadium to satisfy a billionaire. I’d like to see the same efforts put into our biggest issues – crime, poverty, and education – to truly encourage development in our City.
Samuel J. Cummings, III: We all know having a football team can benefit our economy, however taxpayers should not fund it. As alderman of the 7th Ward I would allocate those tax resources to more long term impactful types of development in the same areas designated by stadium plan. I would develope vertical urban farming facilities in those areas and use the other tax resources to invest in healthy food distribution points like Soulard Market.
B2) Describe one action you would take as alderman to help reduce crime in the 7th Ward. (75 words or less)
John (Jack) Coatar: The first thing I would do is work with our existing police commanders in the 3rd and 4th districts to make sure police resources are being allocated effectively in the neighborhoods of the 7th Ward. We need to make sure we have a strong and visible police presence in our neighborhoods. I will also work with our neighborhood leaders to make sure they are coordinating effectively with the SLMPD and Circuit Attorney’s Office.
Chelsea Merta: One action I would take to reduce crime in the 7th Ward is to increase creative, alternative programs to strengthen the relationship between residents and police officers. Lafayette Square’s Movies at the Park program, at which police officers interacted with children, is a good example. Programs that allow positive interactions between police and residents create a social bond that can be a strong, effective deterrent to crime.
Samuel J. Cummings, III: Some studies have shown that having a high visibility of law enforcement helps reduce crime. This is the main reason for having an outside security force in the Soulard area. I favor the high visibility approach over the entire ward. Nevertheless, a more cost effective and revenue generating solution is by creating more jobs in the private sector. We have empirical evidence that indicates when employment goes up, crime goes down, especially petty crimes.
B3) Describe your position on a Civilian Review Board for the St. Louis City Police Department. (75 words or less)
John (Jack) Coatar: I support a Civilian Review Board but want to make sure we don’t create a review board that makes our police officers scared to do their jobs. Right now, many of our police officers’ difficult jobs are even more difficult because they fear that they won’t have the backing of their commanders and the community. We need to support both our police and our community. These should go hand-in-hand.
Chelsea Merta: I support a Civilian Review Board to encourage transparency, trust, and confidence between residents and our police department. The Review Board, as proposed by former Alderwoman Young, eleven other Aldermen, and President Reed, stands to strengthen our Community’s relationship with our police by creating a more collaborative, engaging process of investigating reports of misconduct. Bringing all parties to the table is the best way to repair the broken relationship between residents and the police.
Samuel J. Cummings, III: I favor an independent Civilian Review Board which can help ensure that the public has faith in that the police department is functioning to “Protect and Service” the community. The civilian review board should have transparent selection process, in addition to investigative and subpoena powers to be effective.
B4) Describe one action you would take as alderman to help reduce homelessness in the City of St. Louis. (75 words or less)
John (Jack) Coatar: Homelessness is a regional issue and the City and the 7th ward are bearing the brunt of the costs and responsibilities—far more than any other part of our region. I will work closely with our various homeless service providers to make sure they have the resources they need from the City and I will also work our regional partners to make sure they are supporting efforts to reduce homelessness.
Chelsea Merta: I support the many organizations that provide holistic care for our homeless and that provide pathways to self-sustaining lives. It was my honor to work with Stand Down for Homeless Veterans through Saint Louis University School of Law’s legal clinics. I will work on a similar program for homeless women with children.
Samuel J. Cummings, III: First, Increase economic and educational opportunities, many of the homeless either are unemployed or underemployed. Second, increase mental health services since a significant number of the homeless suffer from mental issues. Third, collaborate with local homeless providers like St. Patricks Center, Kingdom House and other faith based social service agencies to strengthen the support network aiming to end chronic homeless.
B5) Should City voters retain the City’s earnings tax in 2016 when required for vote by Missouri Constitution? If no, describe what tax or fee should be increased to replace revenue equal to 32% of the City’s Budget? (75 words or less)
John (Jack) Coatar: Yes, we should retain the City’s earnings tax.
Chelsea Merta: Yes. It is essential that voters retain the City’s earnings tax so crucial to our public safety budget. I oppose replacing it with higher property taxes or sales tax. I would support either a state referendum to eliminate the constitutional burden of an earnings tax vote every five years or an amendment to increase the timeframe between renewal votes to every 10 or 20 years.
Samuel J. Cummings, III: First, let us not forget how we got to the point of even having to make such a choice. It was Rex Sinquefield who spear-headed the constitutional amendment requiring the vote in an effort to carry out his crack-pot no tax agenda. Second, a loss of 32% of the budget would decimate city services. Therefore, I favor retaining the earnings tax.
B6) Describe the route and funding source for North-South extension of MetroLink that you would support as alderman or why you do not support extension. (75 words or less)
John (Jack) Coatar: I support a North-South Metrolink expansion. I believe the proposed Jefferson Ave. route makes the most sense for the region and also for the 7th Ward. Paying for such an extension will require time and billions of dollars from State and Federal agencies. We will have to build coalitions to get such an expansive project done.
Chelsea Merta: I support North-South Jefferson Avenue MetroLink extension. I want to work with state legislators for a referendum vote to allow local option gas taxes. In the City, we could use this for public transit. 10 States have local option gas taxes in use. Why not Missouri? I am also concerned about bus service and pledge to regularly ride buses to be better informed on the quality of service and advocate for riders.
Samuel J. Cummings, III: Route – identified by East West Gateway Council. There is seed money for transit on the table from the metro proposition A sales tax from 2010. Any solution will involve a city and county effort. To start, it is just a matter of changing our priorities and financing the project. Public Pension funds may help with financing. I support this type of infrastructure investment which would directly impact the economic growth in our ward.
B7) Do you support or oppose the City of St. Louis being forced by constitutional amendment to re-enter St. Louis County as a municipality and why? (75 words or less)
John (Jack) Coatar: I don’t support the City of St. Louis being forced to do anything we don’t want to do. I do support working closely with St. Louis County and merging services where it is more efficient and cost effective.
Chelsea Merta: I oppose any legislative or initiative effort to force the City to do anything without consent of local voters. There are many opportunities for the City to work with our neighbors to reduce costs or improve services, but I have yet to see or hear how St. Louis County does something better than we do in the City. Also, I pledge not to take any funds from Rex Sinquefield.
Samuel J. Cummings, III: This hypothetical is moot in our present environment. Economies of scale work best and the cost benefit of not duplicating services are obvious reasons to favor. However, the reality is at this time the County will not accept the City. For example, the City Earnings tax is one reason the County opposes re-entry. We need to have some serious discussions, to make sure the city doesn’t get negatively impacted, before we consider a change.
B8) Describe one Board Bill (other than a Charter amendment or a bill you may have proposed in answering a previous question) that you will sponsor as alderman and why. (75 words or less)
John (Jack) Coatar: I’m not sure what my first board bill will be but it will deal with an issue relating to public safety, jobs & growth, local government reform or transparency.
Chelsea Merta: I want to establish a program in the 7th Ward similar to Sweet Potato Project in North City. The LaSalle Park Youth Farm will provide employment and training in sustainable agriculture, culinary arts, and business with a focus on blackberries and squash family crops. Some of the land to be used are park areas requiring a lease agreement board bill which I will sponsor.
Samuel J. Cummings, III: A Bill which would adopt as the new Energy Conservation code of the City of St. Louis, the International Energy Conservation Code’s latest recommendations. The current ordinance uses 2009 edition. We must remember in today’s world technological advances move forward more rapidly than in the past. In addition to lowering energy bills, new energy codes can reduce the demand for new energy generation capacity, which will limit air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
B9) Describe an amendment to the City Charter (other than one you may have proposed in answering a previous question) that you will sponsor as alderman or a board bill/charter amendment previously adopted that you would have voted against and why. (75 words or less)
John (Jack) Coatar: I fully supported Alderwoman Young’s bill to reduce the number of Aldermen in the City. Beyond that, I believe that City government is outdated and inefficient in many ways. But Charter amendments should not be taken lightly or casually. They must be carefully constructed through the work of broad coalitions if they are to be successful. That said, I intend to be a leader on local government reform and not sit on the sidelines.
Chelsea Merta: I will sponsor a Charter amendment to move Spring local elections to Fall statewide election dates, saving $500,000-$700,000 annually in the Board of Elections budget and helping increase voter turnout. I will work with state legislators to move St. Louis City School Board and Junior College elections also to State election dates.
Samuel J. Cummings, III: I would have opposed legislation to put a charter amendment on a future ballot that would ask voters to bring the recorder of Deeds office under the umbrella of the mayor. The fact that the recorder is a policy maker allowed her office to issue marriage licenses to four gay and lesbian couples in defiance of the state’s constitution. This would not have been possible if this office had been an appointed position.
B10) The City’s Wards will be reduced to 14 from 28 after he 2020 Census. If you are alderman during this redistricting, what current ward would you want to combine with the 7th Ward or what specific neighborhoods would you want to combine to produce the new 7th Ward. Use 2010 Census figures. In the case of combining neighborhoods, the magic number is as close to 22,700 as you can get.
John (Jack) Coatar: I would like to see Soulard, Benton Park, McKinley Heights, Lafayette Square and LaSalle Park in the same ward. The actual boundaries of the ward will of course be affected by the census figures as well.
Chelsea Merta: The Board of Aldermen should aim to unify our neighborhoods’ micro-economies in order to best implement community programs. The new 7th Ward should include a unified Downtown St. Louis, Downtown to Downtown West; Old Frenchtown’s neighborhoods of LaSalle Park, Soulard, and Lafayette with adjacent Peabody Clinton and Kosciusko; plus Compton Heights, McKinley Heights, and Fox Park. 22,314
Samuel J. Cummings, III: I would consider the culture of the wards being merged. In the case of the 7th ward, I would favor merging with the 6th because its culturally similar. Additionally, I would merge the 9th that is apart of Soulard Neighborhood past Sydney Ave all the way down including Anheuser Busch.
B11) Closing Statement (75 words or less)
John (Jack) Coatar: I’m honored to be running for 7th ward Alderman and to have the support of long-time Alderwoman Phyllis Young. If elected, I will bring the energy and determination that we all know is needed to represent the 7th Ward. I’ll work to keep our neighborhoods safe, bring jobs and growth, will work to reform local government and I’ll also be responsive to your needs. I hope you’ll consider voting for me on March 3rd.
Chelsea Merta: Job One for Alderwoman Merta will be prompt constituent services as a full-time alderman and ensuring our continued economic growth while maintaining and increasing the quality of life for all residents. No one can replace Phyllis Young but I can safeguard her legacy of achievements and make my own mark as an independent thinker with a commitment to progress. I would appreciate your vote on March 3rd.
Samuel J. Cummings, III: Every candidate in this race is for public safety and will fight crime. However, as the only candidate who is not a lawyer and has actually created jobs; I’m the only candidate who will put people first and has an economic development plan for the ward. The future of the 7th Ward depends on us having an alderman with the experience and vision to develop our community. I’m the only candidate that fits the bill.