Our First 100 Days - Just the beginning…

By Mayor Lyda Krewson

Photo by Paul Sableman Title: Kiener Plaza
Source: Paul Sableman
License: CC BY 2.0

Lydia Reason 250pxIt's been 100 days since I was sworn in as Mayor of St. Louis, and the optimism and enthusiasm I felt that first day has not diminished. I wake up every day energized to accomplish great things for St. Louis.

It's the hard-working city employees who really make this city run. The Street Department, refuse workers, police officers, grass cutters, firefighters, health and human service workers, engineers, tree trimmers, recreation workers, EMS officers, accountants, lawyers, and so many more. That first day and every day since then I have realized more and more just how important these dedicated employees are to the success of our city. They do a great job, often under difficult circumstances, and always without enough funding. Thank you to each and every one of them!

We have a lot to be proud of right here in St. Louis – in the day-to-day stresses and hustle of running our city – it is easy to forget the things we do well. Business startups, great neighborhoods, medical centers, universities, technology companies, financial services companies, museums, cultural institutions, large and small businesses, and our 109 parks are all first-rate. Let’s stop being so humble and brag about ourselves more.

Below are some of the things my staff and I have been hard at work on over the last 99 days. We are just getting started, so keep watching and engaging with us as we work every day to make St. Louis better. 

Neighborhood Safety has been and remains Job #1 

Over the last 99 days, we have worked with law enforcement, consultants, residents, and departments to develop a modern, collaborative, and more equitable approach to a safer city for all of us. Below are some of the highlights and ongoing efforts.

  • Embraced and implemented a new strategic planning process for the police department under the guidance of consultants Paul Evans and Joan Sweeney, who are largely credited with significantly reducing violent crime in Boston. This process brought together 65 of the department’s top commissioned and civilian employees. Chief Lawrence O’Toole has developed and implemented a number of strategic changes as a result of this effort.

  • Implemented ‘Precision Policing’ – an approach that focuses on the most violent and known offenders to reduce gun violence, including victims of firearm assaults and actively wanted alleged perpetrators of gun violence.

  • Bureaus – The department has moved from two bureaus to four: Neighborhood Policing, Investigations, Professional Standards, and Community Engagement.

  • Reestablished separate gang and narcotics units with new leadership, initiatives, and reporting.

  • Community Relationships – Recognizing that both preventing and solving crime requires good community relationships, each officer is now required to spend at least 20 minutes per shift out of their vehicle, visiting with and getting to know folks in the neighborhood. This may seem simple, but in a city in which police were dispatched 265,000 times last year, running from call to call can be all-consuming.

  • CityStat – Initiated and implemented CityStat – we have broken down historic barriers to forge greater cooperation between police and our City's many civilian departments. Every two weeks, police commanders and civilian department heads now meet at CityStat meetings to pinpoint public safety concerns and marshal our city  resources to eradicate them. Police commanders discuss issues that need to be addressed immediately by the operating departments. Examples include overgrown trees and bushes in a park that provided cover for criminals and prevented visibility for police – street lights that are out, dumping in vacant lots, and buildings that need to be boarded and secured. In addition to the immediate benefit of correcting the issue, the collaborative nature of this biweekly meeting generates greater understanding that crime is not just a police problem. We all have an important role to play in creating safer neighborhoods.

  • Opiate Overdose Prevention – In 2016, 271 people in St. Louis died from overdosing on opiates. The Police Department has dedicated a detective solely to investigate opiate deaths.  In collaboration with the National Council of Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NCADA), each officer will begin carrying Naloxone (Narcan) on their belt to use in emergencies to block the effects of opioids and prevent overdoses.

  • Police Commissioner Search – I have named an all-star Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) to assist and advise in the search and selection of the Police Chief position vacated by the retirement of the former chief. These individuals are all city residents, who are geographically, racially, gender, and professionally diverse. The committee includes a real estate professional, an executive director, a former police chief, a community organizer, an attorney, a former police commissioner, the aldermanic Public Safety Committee chairman, and others who care deeply about this city and crime. The CAC has held two large community forums to gain input from all interests, and two committee meetings. All meetings are open to the public. Information and meeting dates can be obtained at http://bit.ly/stlcitycachome. The CAC is advisory to the City's Public Safety Director regarding the process and selection of next Chief of Police. The City has issued an RFP developed with the CAC for a search firm to assist with recruitment of the new police chief. We expect to engage the search firm in August.

  • Competitive Compensation for Police – On April 4, St. Louis County passed a half-cent sales tax that will generate $80 million per year for public safety. The county executive has said that county officers will receive a 30% salary increase. While I congratulate the County, this event has materially changed the dynamics for St. Louis City’s Police Department. City officers are already paid less than County officers. With the promise of a big raise in the County, many City officers are considering a move. We need to keep our good, experienced officers, and we need to recruit high-quality candidates for our Academy. 

In my first two weeks in office, I went to Jefferson City to ask the state legislature to allow a small increase in property tax to increase police compensation. They denied this request. 

Knowing the competitive disadvantage we are facing, I worked with the Board of Aldermen to ask voters to pass a half-cent sales tax in November. If passed, this will provide an average of $10,000 per officer in salaries and benefits. Firefighters will also receive a similar increase. The Circuit Attorney’s office will receive $1.5 million, and recreation, youth jobs, and mental health/social workers will receive about $1 million each.

  • Department of Justice Violence Reduction Network – St. Louis is actively working with the Department of Justice's Violence Reduction Network program. The initiative is a comprehensive approach to reducing violent crime that leverages existing Justice Department resources in communities around the country. The program helps local law enforcement agencies enlist tactical and operational expertise available from numerous federal agencies. The program's core components include customized training and technical assistance; tools to enhance information sharing, including peer-to-peer exchanges; and community practice collaboration among the 27 cities who are part of the network.

  • Highway Patrol assistance – We collaborated with the Missouri Department of Public Safety to provide 25 to 30 state troopers to patrol the interstate highways within the city – limited enforcement over the years has resulted in excessive speed and too many guns and drugs on our highways. We welcome the assistance – after all, St. Louisans are state taxpayers too. We deserve the same service as the rest of the state.

  • St. Louis Community Release Center – After meetings with members of the Missouri Department of Public Safety and the state's Department of Corrections, officials at the state-run Release Center agreed to reconfigure the mission and operations at the center. The center will now focus on re-entry programming, no longer releasing residents during the day regardless of whether they have appointments to find work or permanent housing. The new focus on re-entry and programming is already having some positive effect on downtown and nearby neighborhoods.

  • MSI – the Medium Security Institution on Hall Street – My senior staff and I toured MSI soon after taking office. The facility was built in 1966 with no air conditioning, which was common in that day. We determined that after 51 years, and a recent electrical upgrade, temporary air conditioning was a viable alternative. On July 24, five large industrial temporary air conditioning units were delivered and installed

This conditioned air has created a more humane and much safer environment for both pre-trial detainees and for our staff. Air conditioning is one step, but the overall goal is to reduce the population at MSI. Recognizing that the control over this census lies in the hands of others, I convened meetings with judges, the Circuit Attorney’s Office, Probation and Parole, Corrections, and Public Safety to discuss if there are any steps that can reduce the length of stay. We agreed to implement regular meetings with all parties involved to determine if there are ways to maintain public safety as the utmost goal, while moving detainees through the process more swiftly.

  • Clemens House Fire – We met with neighbors and collaborated with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Natural Resources to evaluate and analyze the debris and air quality as a result a huge fire at the long vacant and historic Clemens House on Cass Avenue. Fortunately, the results of the air quality tests are negative for airborne asbestos. The cleanup of the debris strewn in the path of the plume will continue to be approved, directed, and supervised by the EPA. We will continue to work with residents to be sure they get the services they need in the aftermath of this event.

  • Minimum Wage – We know well that that poverty rates and crime statistics are linked, which is why the ability to earn a living wage is absolutely an issue of public safety. The City implemented the increase in the Minimum Wage from $7.70 to $10 per hour for city businesses with more than 15 employees. We advocated to maintain the increase, which was passed by the Board of Aldermen in 2015 and upheld by the Missouri Supreme Court this spring. In May, the Missouri State Legislature voted to preempt the city ordinance and return the minimum wage to $7.70 per hour effective August 28th. We will continue to fight for better wages for working families.

Efficient and Reliable Service Delivery

Our goal is to provide excellent, efficient, and reliable services to all residents regardless of ZIP Code or ward. We have undertaken several initiatives to improve the service that residents receive. Our departments rely on the eyes and ears of residents to report problems. Please continue to report through the Citizens Service Bureau 314-622-4800; through twitter @stlcsb; or through the website at http://bit.ly/stlcitycsb

  • Commenced Data Analysis – We have begun in-depth data analysis, reporting, and communication of some of our most challenging service delivery issues, including trash pickup, overgrown weeds and brush on vacant lots and in alleys, dumping, and street lights out. The city has 58,000 street lights, not counting those located in alleys. Please report any that are out.

  • Improved Refuse Service – The city offers a comprehensive refuse service, which includes trash, recycling, yard waste pickup weekly, and bulk pickup monthly. In recent years, service quality has suffered because 30 of our trucks are very old and are broken down. We worked with the Board of Aldermen to obtain a $3 per month increase in the trash fee, the first increase in seven years. This fee will generate about $3.6 million per year and will be restricted to improving cameras in alleys, funding law enforcement of illegal dumping, and purchasing dumpsters and trash trucks. The city has 76,000 dumpsters and roll carts which are picked up several times each week. New trash trucks cost approximately $250,000 each!

  • Expanded Citizen Service Bureau services to document the specific responses, including an explanation of the next action necessary, if any. This provides better communication to residents, rather than indicating a request was closed when there was still another step to take to completely resolve the issue.

  • Sound Fiscal Management – The day after I was sworn in, I was supposed to vote on the 2018 budget. I refused the budget as presented and requested that expected use tax funds from a recently passed tax not simply be spent to plug holes in the budget caused by expected revenue shortfalls. I asked City agencies and departments to find savings and cuts so that the new use tax revenues could be allocated later this year by the City's elected officials, and so that spending would be purposeful, well-considered, and deliver real value to the taxpayers. 


  • Launched a vacancy initiative to establish “easy to access” programs aimed at rehabbing buildings from the Land Reutilization Authority's (LRA's) more than 3,000 buildings. Those buildings that can be saved will be offered at low cost to individuals, families, and small developers who are capable of rehabbing them and reestablishing them as occupied homes within two years. Nothing good happens in a vacant building.

  • Demolition of vacant LRA buildings – Supported aldermanic efforts to increase the funds available for demolition from $500,000 to $1,175,000 each year. The increase will only go into effect if the half-cent sales tax is passed in November 2017. This is not enough to demolish the thousands of buildings that are beyond repair, but we will endeavor to find additional funds in future years' budgets.

  • Green Infrastructure Program with MSD – The Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority has partnered with the Metropolitan Sewer District, the Missouri Department of Conservation, and the City's Planning and Urban Design Agency on the Green Infrastructure Program. Eleven dangerous buildings are removed and 21 more are being demolished as part of the partnership. This $13.5 million project will result in the removal of hundreds of dangerous buildings and create controlled storm-water absorption and runoff as part of MSD’s green-infrastructure initiatives.

  • Working to expand the "mow to own" program, under which neighbors who mow an adjacent vacant lot can own it for a nominal amount after two years. They must continue to maintain the lot and pay taxes on it. 

Economic Development

  • Incentive Reform – we are working with the Board of Aldermen, St. Louis Development Corporation, developers, and financial partners to achieve sensible incentive reform, without curtailing development. More incentives for projects in low- to moderate-market-value areas – all projects are required to demonstrate their benefit in terms of jobs, increased market value, new/improved services, MBE and WBE participation, hiring of City residents, etc.

  • Advocated to retain the State Historic Tax Credit, which is important for the renovation of our beautiful historic buildings. We worked with cities large and small across the state, including traveling to Cape Girardeau to testify in front of the governor’s state tax commission. Enacted in 1998, the HTC is the most successful economic development program in the state’s history. It has produced $8.2 billion in direct economic development in 81 different towns and cities around the state. The HTC has produced over 45,000 jobs, and a $2-for-$1 return on the state’s investment.

  • Continued to push for international flights at St. Louis Lambert International Airport – and recently were awarded its first nonstop flight to Cancun. We continue to advocate for a nonstop flight to Europe and are optimistic that we may land this in the next 6 to 12 months, due to collaboration with and marketing funding from the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership.

  • National Geospatial Intelligence Agency – $1.7 billion construction project at the intersection of Jefferson and Cass offers opportunities for revitalization and development of a number of our neighborhoods that have suffered from disinvestment for decades. In addition to bringing more than 3,200 jobs to these neighborhoods, the project overlaps with the footprint of the Promise Zone and Choice Neighborhood initiatives. The land will be transferred to the U.S. Air Force in 2018. Once the transfer is complete, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will begin the site activities needed for construction. The NGA is expected to begin occupancy in 2023. The Project Connect team is actively submitting federal funding applications to support infrastructure projects in the area including the 1-64 and Jefferson Avenue Interchange, and North Jefferson/Parnell and Cass Avenues. Project collaboration is continuing successfully between City, regional and federal agencies, along with nonprofits, private developers, residents, and local businesses.

  • Airport – The Slay administration made application to the FAA to consider a long-term lease of the Airport’s operation. This is a different idea – one I had never considered. It is worthy of consideration – after all, we shouldn’t kick every new idea to the curb, just because we haven’t thought of it before. The possible upsides include a better airport facility, more flights to more places, improved consumer services, and significant revenue to the City. If it does not provide these things, we won’t move forward with it. Any lease would be negotiated after a stringent RFP process outlined in federal law and must be approved by the FAA, the airlines, the City's Board of Estimate and Apportionment, and the Board of Aldermen.

  • City-County – County Executive Stenger and I announced a small committee to work with Better Together to study ways to accomplish more cooperation or combination. We need an outline of how it might work. Right now, there are too many loose ends and unanswered questions to move forward with anything. I do believe though that the big decisions we need to make are better made as a region. The competition should not be between Clayton and Downtown, or Hazelwood and Wildwood, or between Afton and Overland. The competition is between St. Louis and Louisville, or Nashville, or Indianapolis, or Kansas City or the East and West Coast. If we are to grow and thrive as a region, we must begin to think and act regionally. I am looking forward to the report of this committee next year.

  • Public Transportation allows our residents to get to their job, to school, to the grocery store and their doctor's appointments. On April 4, St. Louis residents voted to fund the local match needed to expand MetroLink. The planning study is under way, and options are being presented to stakeholders for their input. This is a long-term project that will likely be pursued over many years and require significant federal funding. When those funds are available, it is important that we are "shovel ready," we are working toward that now. 

A Better St. Louis For All

  • Homeless Services – Collaborated with our partners the St. Patrick Center and Peter & Paul to relocate 150 homeless individuals and families into transitional or permanent housing.

  • Workforce High School – The St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment (SLATE) hosted a graduation ceremony for 19-year-old Mekayla Thomas, a former inmate who recently earned her diploma through SLATE’s 24-hour Workforce High School (24WHS).

  • Heat Wave – Provided funds and worked with Cool Down St. Louis to provide energy assistance and hundreds of air conditioners to elderly and disabled residents during the recent and ongoing heat wave.

  • Confederate Monument – More than two years after an independent panel recommended removal of the Confederate Monument from Forest Park we negotiated for it relocation to a site yet to be determined by the Civil War Museum, at the Museum's cost. There are strong opinions on both sides of this issue; however, a place of prominence in our City’s largest park is not appropriate for a monument which celebrated our country’s shameful history of slavery.

  • Paris Climate Agreement – I joined hundreds of Mayors across the country in publicly committing to support the tenants of the Paris Climate Agreement. We will actively look for ways to make decisions which support our planet.

On our Plate...

  • Data and Technology – Bringing our city’s technological infrastructure up to date and into the future is critical for delivering better services. We are dedicated to making as much public data available to citizens online as possible. We are working to better organize currently available data and move quickly toward making additional data sets available. I believe in the motto: Data-to Insight-to Action.

  • Operational Audit and Analysis of pension plans and key departments under Mayoral purview, including the Police Department, Fire Department, Citizen Service Bureau, IT, and others to identify opportunities to streamline operations and better deploy resources.

  • Measuring Equity –  We applied for and have been selected along with five cities nationally to develop a set of indicators by which to measure our progress toward equity. Our administration will work with local partners to establish the baseline against which progress will be measured. The publicly accessible dataset, available early next year, will empower the entire St. Louis community to track successes and initiate data-informed interventions. The commitment to tracking and measuring equality is a vital step toward real accountability and reform.

  • Bloomberg 2017 Mayor’s Challenge – We applied and were accepted to participate in the Bloomberg Challenge, an initiative “designed to help city leaders think big, be bold, and uncover inventive – and, ultimately, shareable – ideas that tackle today’s toughest problems.” We will be working with City departments and community partners to develop St. Louis City’s application over the next few months.

  • St. Louis Public Schools – SLPS is currently governed by the State Administrative Board. With the accreditation of SLPS recently, we anticipate that the State may direct that governance be returned to the elected board in the next year or so. It is important that any transition be smooth and effective. We want to be helpful in any way to ensure the success of SLPS.

  • Town Hall meetings planned – We are planning a series of Town Hall meetings in September. We want to chat with you, hear your questions, and discuss solutions. We are in the process of finalizing the locations and dates … we will post them on the City website as soon as they are final. 

Thank you for the honor and privilege of serving as your Mayor. 

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