St. Louis Oracle

St. Louis-based political forecasting plus commentary on politics and events from a grassroots veteran with a mature, progressive anti-establishment perspective.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Endorsement: Re-elect Jim Shrewsbury

On the surface, both candidates for aldermanic presidency in St. Louis are good, capable candidates with many similarities. Voters must decide whether to fire incumbent Democrat Jim Shrewsbury and replace him with 6th Ward Alderman Lewis Reed.

Both candidates have impressive aldermanic experience. Reed’s 8 years on the board is about average, but it is dwarfed by the 24 years (as either alderman or board prez) served by Shrewsbury. Only Fred Heitert, the board’s sole Republican, has served longer.

Both candidates claim to be embracing a Jeff Smith-like “for all St. Louis” approach bridging racial gaps, but, like in Smith’s own contest, support has lined up largely along racial lines. Breaches of the racial divide include Reed’s endorsement by five white aldermen and Shrewsbury’s endorsement by Sen. Maida Coleman, Alderman Bennice Jones King, former alderman Irv Clay and the Service Employees International Union.

Both candidates support civilian oversight of city police as proposed by 18th Ward Alderman Terry Kennedy. This has been an unfulfilled African American priority for a decade or more, but it is (wrongly) perceived as something that matters only to African Americans. That perception has been the biggest stumbling block to passage. Consequently, as one of its few white supporters, Shrewsbury’s re-election to his high-profile office will help get it done better than replacing him with an African American, whose support would be tacitly written off as race based. (This works the other way too: County Executive Charlie Dooley’s opposition to civilian oversight is more important to opponents than opposition by white officeholders.)

To their credit, according to the Vital Voice, both candidates “have been supportive of GLBT issues.” That is noteworthy, considering that Shrewsbury’s political base in southwest city and Reed’s political supporters in north St. Louis are the only two areas of the city that backed the anti-gay “definition of marriage” constitutional amendment.

To their mutual discredit, both candidates supported public funding for new Busch Stadium, and neither candidate has exerted leadership in either supporting or opposing the state takeover of city public schools. Shrewsbury has been criticized for his leadership role in guiding the current ward redistricting plan to passage, but I understand (but have not verified) that Reed also supported that bill.

Other important issues include exempting stock options from the city earnings tax, ending medical waste incineration and the candidates’ positions on the proposed lease of Forest Park land to BJC Health Center, which are discussed in detail in my earlier post below.

One major difference is responsiveness. Shrewsbury lists his home number in the phone book, and the after-hours recording on his office telephone suggests that you call him at home and also gives you the number, a practice which Reed actually criticizes. Shrewsbury returns phone calls promptly. In contrast, Reed’s home phone is unlisted, and the Arch City Chronicle notes, “sometimes you have to call him twice or three times to get his attention.”

Another major difference is style. Shrewsbury is a principled, matter-of-fact, no-nonsense guy who doesn’t “showboat” to the media. Reed has criticized Shrewsbury’s lack of “vision,” without really saying what that means. The contrast is reminiscent of that between Former Mayor Vince Schoemehl and Former County Executive Gene McNary. In describing their joint efforts for the region in the 1980s, Schoemehl explained that McNary “sold the steak,” while Schoemehl “sold the sizzle.” Notably, sizzle-selling Schoemehl’s ward organization backs Reed. But the “vision” thing doesn’t resonate with me. If “vision” means new proposals and new ideas, let’s see them! Reed offers hardly any specifics. The appeal seems to be an attempt to tap into the “style over substance” trend that is infecting society. I don’t buy it.

Reed touts the fact that a majority of sitting aldermen endorse him, but I regard this is another factor favoring Shrewsbury. The sad fact is that, with a very few exceptions, our board of aldermen is a really sad collection of pols. Mediocrity is a level of excellence to which many aspire at best. Shrewsbury has used his leadership to try to bring professionalism to the board, and the laggards resent it. They want Reed to put an end to that annoyance. Even a newspaper supporting Reed admitted that he “doesn’t list professionalism of the Board as a plank in his platform.”

The other element of the job, the key vote on the three-person Board of Estimate and Apportionment, is even more important. As I mentioned in the last post, Shrewsbury has been the independent swing vote on matters on which Slay has differed with Comptroller Darlene Green, the board’s third member. Unsubstantiated rumors persist that Slay recruited Reed to oppose Shrewsbury (or at least tacitly supports his candidacy) to try to get a more reliable supporter than Shrewsbury on the E&A board. Just a few months ago, this city voted overwhelmingly to oust Sen. Jim Talent, primarily because they regarded Talent as a “rubber stamp” for President Bush. I fear that Reed, who is married to a city judge appointed by Slay, would become a rubber stamp for Slay. Shrewsbury’s thoughtful independence is good for the city.

In making an endorsement, I should first make a disclaimer or two. I live in the 16th Ward, which Shrewsbury represented for 19 years before winning the presidency, and I know him. I once ran against him (long before I became the Oracle. If I had been the Oracle then, I would have foreseen how decisively he would beat me). Also, in offering this endorsement, I realize that, quite properly, hardly anyone cares who a newspaper endorses for what, and that mere bloggers are probably regarded even lower. What matters (or should matter) to readers is whether the reasoning behind the endorsement makes sense to the reader and her/his own values and priorities. The Post Dispatch, Suburban Journals and Arch City Chronicle made competing endorsements backed by reasoning that largely made no sense. I humbly offer the reasoning in this and prior posts for your consideration.

The city would easily be best served by re-electing Jim Shrewsbury. We need his knowledge and experience. His personal integrity is impeccable, he is principled to a fault, and he really does have the best interests of the entire city at heart. Firing someone as hard-working and self-sacrificing as Shrewsbury would send the wrong message to potential leaders of tomorrow.

Coming this weekend: Predictions, plus some ward-level endorsements.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't both the (predominantly) white firefighters and police unions endorse Reed over Shrewsbury?

March 2, 2007 at 3:22 PM  
Blogger St. Louis Oracle said...

The St Louis Police Officers Assn made no endorsement in this contest. Both candidates favor civilian oversight.

The Firefighters Union (which I believe is about 50-50 racially) did endorse Reed. Most of the Reed lawn signs in predominantly white neighborhoods are on the lawns of union firefighters. However, I believe that F.I.R.E. has endorsed Shrewsbury.

March 2, 2007 at 3:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it was actually REED that CO-sponsored the redistricting legislation. Shrew voted for it, but says he did so to move it along and stop the bickering once he realized it was going to pass to prevent an even larger fiasco.

March 2, 2007 at 4:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

says he did so to move it along and stop the bickering once he realized it was going to pass

Odd argument, especially in light of his BJC vote. You must have misunderstood him.

March 3, 2007 at 7:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about the contention that Shrewsbury is vindictive and holds life-long grudges?

Is that just part of the game?

March 4, 2007 at 8:16 AM  
Blogger St. Louis Oracle said...

Just about everyone in politics holds grudges. Expect those aldermen who backed the loser in this race to suffer when it comes time for committee assignments.

As to Shrewsbury, I think it's noteworthy how well he gets along with many of the people who have run against him in the past. That includes State Rep Fred Kratky, Judge Jim Wahl, and myself.

March 4, 2007 at 1:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Firefighters Union (which I believe is about 50-50 racially)

Not even close. Most black firefighters chose to belong to a different organization.

"I think it's noteworthy how well he gets along with many of the people who have run against him in the past"

Hardly true. Ask Virvus Jones, Darlene Green, and Lyda Krewson.

March 5, 2007 at 6:37 PM  
Blogger St. Louis Oracle said...

"Most black firefighters chose to belong to a different organization."

Ironically, that organization is F.I.R.E., endorsed Shrewsbury.

"Ask Virvus Jones, Darlene Green, and Lyda Krewson."

Darlene Green has remained neutral in this race. She has a better working relationship with Shrewsbury on the E&A board than with Slay.

Virvus Jones is probably still bitter about the prison time he served for laundering funds to the stalking horse candidate that helped him beat Shrewsbury.

Krewson is still POed about losing her contest to Shrewsbury.

March 5, 2007 at 8:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^Odd response.

The thread was actually about Shrewsbury's relationships with his former opponents --

it's noteworthy how well he gets along with many of the people who have run against him in the past

Neither Green and Jones will lift a finger for him. Krewson, who represents Forest Park, can't even sit on the Parks committee.

What seems noteworthy is Shrewsbury's continuing ire against people who beat him -- or gave him competitive races.

If Reed beats or comes close to Shrewsbury today, it is unlikely that they'll be hanging out all that much. Right?

March 6, 2007 at 10:01 AM  

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