This speech was delivered at a press conference on January 3, 2020.
Good morning, and thank you for being here today.
As you know, unfortunately, we’ve had a particularly violent start to the New Year here in the City of St. Louis. I am both troubled and discouraged by that, and I send my condolences to the families of the victims.
I’m sure you all have questions for me about crime – and our plans to address it in the New Year. And I will do my best to answer those questions today.
But I want to begin by highlighting some of our many accomplishments from 2019 – and discuss what’s on the horizon for 2020, which of course includes a renewed emphasis on public safety.
Right now, when I travel across the City of St. Louis and spend time in our wonderful neighborhoods, I see a tremendous amount of progress and momentum as evident by the cranes you see in the sky and the construction dumpsters you see by the curb.
In 2019, every single ward continued to see new growth and new development. We know this because the number of permits issued by the Building Division was up over 2018 with a total value of more than $1.2 billion.
That’s billion with a B... much in part because of minorities and women.
The St. Louis Development Corporation reports that for 2019, participation by women and minority owned businesses surpassed $800 million in estimated construction value across nearly 90 new projects.
As Mayor, I’m proud of these numbers, because I believe diversity in our people and our workforce is our strength. All of this tells me is the City of St. Louis is in the middle of a historic renaissance that benefits everyone in every neighborhood.
We are welcoming new and younger residents who are as diverse as they are talented, and who share our belief that the City is alive and thriving.
We’re attracting companies to relocate here and hire these new residents. Look at Square bringing close to 1,000 jobs downtown. And at the same time, we have T-Rex and Cortex fueling innovation and technology.
The City of St. Louis is truly at the center of developing a next generation workforce to meet the challenges of tomorrow. That’s more momentum and jobs, and our robust local economy proves it.
The City’s unemployment rate of 2.9%, according to the St. Louis Federal Reserve, is below the state and national average. For African-Americans, it’s at its lowest point in more than ten years.
The vast majority of new jobs created in Missouri through November 2019, compared to one year ago came from right here in Metro St. Louis, according to the State of Missouri.
The City’s GDP is not only one of the strongest in the state, it’s among the fast-growing in the entire region. The City accounted for 10% of the GDP of the state with 5% of the state’s population. We have every reason to believe this incredible momentum will continue into the New Year.
In 2020, we will see work begin on major projects like the 97 acre NGA campus in North St. Louis, the Convention Center downtown, the new MLS stadium in Downtown West, and continued expansion in Cortex to solidify its reign as the region’s innovation hub. These projects alone represent more than two billion dollars in development and more than five thousand jobs for St. Louisans.
It’s just further proof that businesses are investing and people are excited, because they’re confident about the direction we’re headed in the City of St. Louis.
Some other City highlights from 2019 for you:
- We graduated and hired about 150 new police officers and currently have close to 100 recruits in the academy.
- 79 new police vehicles were delivered or are coming in February.
- 8-year low in total average jail populations averaging 1,005 across the City Justice Center and the Medium Security Institution.
- The Fire Dept. installed 3,071 smoke detectors .
- 20 new fire trucks will be delivered in January 2020.
- RFPs for body cameras in the Police Dept. are under review.
- 1,116 job candidates were hired by the City and 202 appointees by the Mayor were sworn in by the Register.
- Our Trash Task Force now has 200 cameras to catch illegal dumpers and has issued more than 400 citations. (That’s up from about 250 in 2018.)
- Streets Dept. filled 6,251 potholes (~2,000 more than in 2018).
- 115 ward capital projects for $11.3 million.
- Refuse added 6 new trucks in 2019, down from when the city had refuse backlogs and purchased 20 in 2018. A total of 64 trucks on average complete 55 daily collection routes.
- The Water Dept. repaired 390 water main breaks and 916 fire hydrants and pumped 40 billion gallons of best tasting water in the country.
- Parks Dept. issued 5,631 permits and completed $1.3 million capital bond projects in the city’s 7 recreation centers.
- 218 festival permits were issued by Board of Public Service.
- STL Youth Jobs made pre-employment contact with more than 1,000 kids and provided summer jobs to about 800.
- City of St. Louis Recreation Centers served at least 18,000 youth and adults with team sports, swimming, and classes.
- We funded affordable housing at $6.6 million. Our Affordable Housing Commission leveraged $120 million in private investments and awarded more than $5 million for safe, affordable housing.
- 21,040 people received homeless prevention services, and 2,404 individuals used transitional housing services.
- More than 1,000 beds are now available during Cold Weather Outreach. A warming bus is available every night at Chestnut St. and 13th St. and rides and Metro passes available, through the end of February.
- The City signed the Paris Agreement to become a Fast Track City to end HIV/AIDS by 2030.
- 24,000+ Housing Conservation Certificates of Inspection (Occupancy Permits) were issued.
- 1,326 Commercial Occupancy Permits were issued.
- 109,106 requests were answered by the Citizen Service Bureau (12,956 more than 2018). 2,780 of those were tweets.
- We demolished about 800 dangerous and vacant buildings (this compares to 350 last year, 150 in 2017, and 28 in 2016) and cut and cleared more than 13,000 vacant lots of weeds and trees.
- 205 PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) projects were completed worth $3,563,010 worth of construction invested in making buildings energy efficient.
And the Mayor signed more than 140 pieces of legislation: creating laws making it illegal for kids under 18 to have a gun, banning conversion therapy to protect LGBT youth, establishing our Criminal Justice Coordinating Council to reform the justice system, enabling the sale of medical marijuana in the City, and becoming the first Midwestern City requiring new construction to be “solar ready.”
Over the last year, our efforts and our City’s world-class attractions and cultural institution have garnered both national and international acclaim.
Forbes recently called us one of the top tourist destinations in the country for 2020. Also, we’ve consistently been ranked as one of the best cities in the country for entrepreneurs – particularly women entrepreneurs – to come start up, stand out, and stay.
But I would be remiss today if I didn’t also acknowledge the other reason why St. Louis was in the headlines in 2019 and again already this year.
Senseless gun violence - aided by illegal drugs and the state’s lenient gun laws - continues to cut lives short and tear families apart.
As Mayor, and as someone who’s personally felt that pain, I empathize and sympathize with the families of every person we’ve lost, particularly the children.
It’s one reason why in 2019, I created the Office of Youth, Children and Families to better address and support the needs of our kids, because every child deserves to get ahead. They are our future.
But I also know my words alone will not be enough. People want action.
That’s why in 2020, in conjunction with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners, we will have a renewed focus on public safety as our highest priority. Already, these vital relationships have made our streets safer. Working with our intelligence division at SLMPD, the FBI Safe Streets Task Force, for example, made more than 350 arrests in 2019 and seized more than 90 guns. These were people wanted for violent felonies including homicide and carjacking.
I am working to increase pay to address chronic understaffing, especially in the Police Department for our brave first responders, but also for all City employees who work so hard to provide basic services.
I am also working with the State Legislature to lift the residency requirement for police, which I believe will address our shortage of officers and will remove one barrier we face to employing and retaining talented, dedicated officers.
Additionally, I continue to work with the Governor’s Office and the mayors of the state’s other largest cities - Kansas City, Springfield, and Columbia - on legislation to keep firearms out of the hands of juveniles, prior offenders, and abusers and to provide additional resources for mental health and witness protection.
But in 2020, we must continue fighting violent crime from every angle. And that means addressing the root causes of crime like poverty, blight, and disinvestment.
In 2020, our Health Department will take the lead on implementing the Cure Violence model in three targeted areas in the City. That’s Walnut Park, Wells Goodfellow/Hamilton Heights, and Dutchtown. By treating gun violence as a public health crisis, which I certainly believe it is, some cities have seen a reduction in violent crime. I’m hopeful we’ll see the same.
Also in the first few months of 2020, we will be unveiling the City’s new Equitable Economic Development Strategy. It’s a data-driven, comprehensive framework to help us guide investment and redevelopment north of Delmar and in underserved areas of South St. Louis. We expect that this will lead to more jobs and support existing businesses as we provide opportunities for all of us.
Lastly, in the new year, we will begin stabilizing LRA properties using new funding from Prop. NS. In fact, our new Prop. NS Project Manager starts on Monday.
But it’s worth noting that for the fourth consecutive year, LRA has sold more properties than it’s taken in: 272 vs 552. And our inventory is going down a bit, but we still need to rehab properties to spur development and improve neighborhood property values.
It’s my great honor to serve as Mayor of the City of St. Louis, and I appreciate everyone coming today to hear about all positive momentum we’re building for the future.
I said this on Tuesday at the annual New Year’s Eve memorial for homicide victims, but it’s worth repeating.
Coming together as a City is just the beginning. Staying together is progress. And working together… will be our success. It’s on all of us to make that happen and continue the momentum that will push St. Louis forward.