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Candidate Questionnaire Responses from the 25th Ward

February 18, 2009 25th Ward, Politics/Policy 5 Comments

Four years ago I was a candidate for Alderman in the 25th Ward, losing with 44.1% of the vote in the 2-way race . In November 2007 I moved downtown to a loft in the City’s 6th Ward where Kacie Starr Triplett was elected earlier in the year after a 3-way race.

Dorothy Kirner, who defeated me in 2005, decided not to run again this time.  Four candidates filed as Democrats.  The winner of the March 3rd Democratic primary will potentially face Independent Chris Clark on April 4th (assuming he submitted signatures yesterday and they are verified).

This election cycle I sent out letters to candidates in contested primary races asking them to complete an online questionnaire.  The following are answers from three of the four candidates on the Democratic ballot in the 25th Ward: Shane Cohn, Travis Reems and Angie Singler.  A fourth candidate did not respond.

4. Campaign website URL is (this WILL be published). Type ‘none’ if you don’t have a website/blog.

Cohn:  www.myward25.com

Reems: http://www.WardUnited.com

Singler:   www.Ward25.com

5. List your 3 main qualifications for the position?


#1: Professional Experience. My professional experience as a HR Manager and
#2: Volunteer Experience. I helped to revitalize the neighborhood business association, and have been on the board of the housing  development corporation. I have also
#3: Community Experience.

#1: Having worked in City Hall, I have first-hand experience in working to overcome the bureaucracy our residents face in working with our local government. As Alderman, I will be chief advocate for our residents, pushing through the blockades on their behalf.
#2: I bring to the Alderman’s position experience in local government, politics, business and community advocacy. At the end of the day, it will be my experience in and around government and other elected officials that will aid me in getting done those things that our neighborhood needs done.
#3: I provide leadership with the vision, knowledge and experience to hit the ground running on day one, and not needing to learn on the job.


#1: I have roots in the 25th Ward as I have raised my family and lived here for over 25 years.
#2: I have leadership experience in bringing people to work together for our community (Resurrection School Board Member, Auction
Chairwoman, Womens Club, etc.)
#3: I care deeply about all of our neighborhoods in the 25th Ward, reconnecting our community, and improving the city of St. Louis

6. Only one of the current 28 Aldermen does a blog so that others can read about issues in that ward. Will you, if elected (or re-elected), have a blog with postings on a regular basis? If not, what method of communications will you have with your constituents, the press and interested citizens?

Cohn:    I believe in an open forum for communication in our ward. I currently maintain a blog (www.myward25.com) which also allows user  comments. [The only blog I’m aware of that does so.] I will also maintain other methods of communication with my constituents such as mail, email, text, facebook, etc. I believe that our elected officials should be open and accessible and will work hard to maintain  regular communications with the residents and businesses in the 25th ward.

Reems:  I have operated a blog for the past 3 years. I’ve used it to communicate my ideas, as well as pertinent information about the area from various groups and elected officials. It has been a wonderful tool for discussion of ideas thanks to the comments received from others. I will continue to use my blog to disseminate information, gather resident thoughts, and communicate in general. But there are many without access to the Internet, and for all residents, I will utilize other available resources, such as newsletters and direct mail.
Because communication is a two-way street, as always, residents can share their thoughts and ideas with me via phone, email, text messaging and in-person. Communication has never been easier, we should do more of it.

Singler:   I want to be the most accessible and transparent Alderman! I currently have a website/blog at www.Ward25.com and if elected, want to maintain and update the website and blog with relevant information about what is going on in our neighborhood and at city hall for everyone to access 24/7.

7. The top five issues facing your ward in the coming four years are:


#5: Strengthening Neighborhood Associations
#4: Youth & Citizen Engagement
#3: Residential & Business Development
#2: Foreclosure Crisis
#1: Neighborhood Safety


#5: The rental situation is neither good for the renter, nor for the housing stock of our neighborhoods. In order to have true financial security, home-ownership is a must. Home-ownership provides stability for families and our neighborhoods, as it helps reduce transience. I will help our neighborhoods and residents by pushing for programs that encourage home-ownership.
#4: As Alderman, I will work to attract new businesses and jobs by bolstering our business districts.
#3: I will establish advocacy councils to encourage greater resident participation in decision-making.
#2: One element that draws crime to our area is certainly the condition of many properties in our neighborhood. I have developed an extensive plan for improving the housing in our neighborhood, which includes escalated development of tax deficient properties, building a strong block-unit program, and working proactively with the City Counselor’s Office to arrest the problem of nuisance properties.
#1: Dutchtown has been identified as having the highest crime rate in the city–a city that in the past few years has been recognized as the most crime ridden city in America. If we are to ever stabilize our neighborhood, we must first root out the elements of crime. I will push for greater police presence, community policing and special patrol districts.


#5: Neighborhood crime and safety
#4: Vacant buildings and problem properties
#3: Litter and Ward beautification
#2: Business Growth and Development
#1: Community involvement
8. The top five issues facing the City of St Louis in the coming four years are:


#5: Promoting Energy Efficient Development/Redevelopment
#4: Addressing the “Great Divide” between north and south
#3: Addressing Poverty and Homelessness
#2: Addressing Public Transit Infrastructure
#1: Addressing Public Education in the City of St. Louis


#5: The city of St. Louis continues to hemorrhage population because of many issues. Chief among them is the poor state of our education system. We must work together to find a lasting solution to the state of our schools.
#4: Having never fully gone through the civil rights movement, as many of the other southern cities did in the 1960s, St. Louis has never dealt with our issues of race. Racial inequities continue to divide us, not only geographically, but on many issues, from policing to jobs. We must confront our issues of race if we are ever to move on as a city.
#3: Another issue that has lead to the city’s population decline is the real and perceived crime rates. For many of us who have been victims of crime, the crime in the city is very real. However, the actual rate of crime has been overplayed by the media and is embellished by those that don’t live in the city. We must find a way forward by addressing those that commit crime, but also address the underlying causes of crime, such as joblessness, poor education, and other inequalities in our society.
#2: At the root cause of many of our ills is the fact that the city has lost many jobs due to the de-industrialization of our job-base. We must retool our workforce for our service-based economy and work to attract service-based companies, such as call centers and data centers, but we must also work to attract those manufacturing jobs still remaining, that fed so many middle-class families and provided opportunity to families over the past decades.
#1: St. Louis can no longer afford to operate as if it is an island unto itself. We must work with our metropolitan counterparts to improve the entire region. If we continue to fight over the same resources, we will continue to lose. We must all work together to increase the resources available to the entire St. Louis region.


#5: Crime and safety

#4: Public schools

#3: Revenue sources
#2: Downtown development (Ballpark Village, etc.)
#1: Urban flight (loss of population)

9. The top five issues facing the Greater St Louis Region (The St Louis MSA) are:


#5: Attracting more residents to the urban core.
#4: Education and Healthcare Equity Issues
#3: Encouraging Small Business Growth
#2: Addressing Public Transit & Infrastructure Needs
#1: Consolidation of Municipalities


#5: With the recent defeat of proposition M in the county, the entire region is put in jeopardy of having inadequate transportation. We must come to the realization that the mass transit in most major metropolitan areas is subsidized, and is so for the better of entire region.
#4: As the city of St. Louis cannot continue to operate as if we are alone in the region, so must the region work to protect the city. For without our urban core, there is nothing at the center of the region propelling us forward.
#3: .
#2: .
#1: .


#5: Economy (loss of jobs, development, etc.)
#4: Public Transportation (Metro)
#3: Infrastructure (bridges and roads)
#2: Improving our schools
#1: Relationships between local governments (city, county, etc.)

10. State offices like State Rep & State Senate as well as the Presidency all have term limits. Cities like New York City have term limits in place. What are your thoughts on local term limits of 8-12 years:

Cohn:   I think term limits can be positive if implemented appropriately. I think it is important to foster the development of leadership in our communities and affording new leadership the access to leadership positions in our neighborhoods. We have seen, though, at the State level how term limits can also adversely impact quality of legislation by removing people too quickly from office before they have an opportunity to become acclimated to various committee assignments, statewide issues, etc. If implemented, I think a more broader range than just 8 years should be instilled. Perhaps 4 – 5 terms would be appropriate. That allows for a generation of leadership which  is more than enough time to prove your worth and cultivate new leadership in the community to take your place.
Reems: As we’ve seen with the term limits placed on our State House and State Senate, we continue to lose institutional knowledge when we are not able to choose the best representation for ourselves. As State Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford says, “the best term limits are elections.” Which is exactly what Antonio French demonstrated last November with his election as 21st Ward Committeeman.

Singler:   I would be in favor of term limits for local offices if approved by city voters.

11. Would you support a ban on smoking in public places within the City of St. Louis? Yes or no and explain.

Cohn:   I think this is the right thing to do for the citizens of our community. There are a number of other major cities who have implemented these programs/laws successfully over the past few years. I would work to understand the best method to implement such a measure in the city – whether that is thru a vote of the citizens or the board of Alderman. Personally, I feel that this is a decision that should be made by the people of St. Louis.

Reems: This issue is very divisive. There is a strong argument from proponents of civil liberties to not restrict a private act, such as smoking, even in public venues. On the other side of the issue is the very clear public health concern. It seems that government usually does side with the greater good over the personal preference. That being the case, I would side on a compromise, such that property owners (those who own bars, restaurants, and other publicly available private property) be able to designate their venue as smoking, non-smoking, or have separate enclosed spaces for each, with separate HVAC systems for each. As for truly public venues, such as government owned or funded property, I would support a ballot issue for the public to vote on whether or not to enforce a complete no-smoking policy.

Singler: This is a decision that needs to be addressed at the state level. It would be unfair to local city businesses to ban smoking if businesses in the county have different rules. With the economy like it is, we do not want to create any more disadvantages for our  local businesses. Like the state of Illinois, this public health issue should be addressed by our state government.

12. Do you support effort to get local control of the St Louis Police?

Cohn:   I think local accountability is critical. I would support local control. However, the decision making authority for this does not reside with the board of alderman. It will literally take an act of congress, but I would work with the local state legislators to make this happen.

Reems: This too is an issue with strong arguments on both sides. On the one-hand, those in favor of maintaining control of the St. Louis Police in the hands of people selected by the Governor argue that local control, such as through the Board of Aldermen and the Mayor, would overly politicize the Police Department. And on the other side, those wanting local control argue that no other police force in the state is controlled by an entity outside of the municipality and that local residents, many of whom take issue with how the Department has been run, wanted greater scrutiny over the operations of the Department. Again, both sides make good points. And again, I think there is room for compromise. I’d like to see the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners, those that oversee the running of the Police Department, elected by non-partisan popular vote with strict campaign finance regulations, rather than appointment by the Governor. This solution allows for the politicization of the Police Department, but at the same time allows for residents to have greater voice into how the Department is run.

Singler:   No. At this point it should remain at the state level.

13. Elected offices in many cities are non-partisan. In the city we seldom have candidates other than Democrats yet we hold a
primary and general election. Going non-partisan could save money every two years by eliminating the March Primary. Your position on
switching to non-partisan local elections is:

Cohn:  I would favor a non-partisan local election.

Reems: The hope of democracy is that the best candidates bring their ideas to the forum of public debate for the voters to then decide who has the best ideas and qualities to lead. The ideal is to have the best representatives of each party debate their ideas among those of like thinking, and then select the best candidate among them to then discuss the group’s ideas with other groups. Almost a filtration system for the best ideas and best candidates. By removing primary elections, we would remove the ability for potential candidates to voice their ideas and qualifications, and we would remove the voters’ ability to choose the best to lead.

Singler:   I am in favor of non-partisan elections for Alderman. Elected Alderman work together in a non-partisan way as it is, so lets save the
taxpayers money and an extra trip to the polls by focusing on the candidates and the issues instead of a political party for city politics.

14. Prior Charter Reform measures, if passed, would have reduced the number of Aldermen/Wards in the city. Describe your thoughts
on a reduction in the number of wards:

Cohn: I think that there is some merit to the reduction of Aldermanic wards in the City of St. Louis. However, many people look at St. Louis county government and their county council structure without taking into consideration that there are 96 municipalities – each with their own mayor, city manager (in most cases), city council. St. Louis County has more “representation per capita” than the City of St. Louis. I don’t think that this is the most pressing issue facing our city, but should be reviewed as a matter of efficiency. However, this is something that needs to be determined by the people of St. Louis – not the people who are holding office.

Reems: Proponents of a reduction in the size of the Board of Aldermen also tend to be proponents of increased participation so far as neighborhood groups are concerned. This seems to be a contradictory stance. Either we need more voices at the table or we don’t. I would agree with those in favor of more voices at the table. Better ideas come about when more people are involved making the decision. An Alderman serving roughly 12,500 residents, as they do now, can provide better service than one serving 25,000 or more residents.

Singler:  I am unsure about this issue at this point. I would like to see how Wards/Aldermen can be reduced and how it would affect the current Wards. The 25th Ward has a lot of needs at the moment.

15. In many wards persons interested in seeking office are told to “wait their turn.” Describe your thoughts on this view:

Cohn:  I think that people who are qualified and interested in running for public office should do so. Period. As Alderman, I will work to develop future leadership in my ward. I want to be able to step aside after a few good terms with a full slate of candidates whom I’ve worked with in making our neighborhoods a better place for everyone.

Reems: This is far more complex than the issue might seem. Being told to wait one’s turn could mean a few different things. It could mean that the person being told to wait, just isn’t ready and needs more experience. It could mean that the person that currently has the job is doing a good job and a change could be detrimental to improvements that are underway. It could also mean that the power structure just doesn’t know what to do with the person wanting to jump in. I, in fact, have been in the past told to wait my turn. Sometimes I listened, sometimes I didn’t. I always prevailed, nonetheless. My advice to someone being told to wait their turn is to evaluate why they are being told to wait, and then decide for him or herself whether the time is right to serve in that position, or if there is a better way to serve to community.

Singler:   Deja Vu! Past candidates in the 25th Ward have been told to “wait their turn” when they have had new ideas or would like to run for office to make the Ward and City a better place to live and I received the same response. When I first announced my candidacy for the 25th Ward, I received the same “wait your turn” response from the political establishment. It took a lot of courage to stand up and put forth the effort to challenge a well established incumbent…and I believe people seeking office should be supported instead of discouraged. Contested elections make for a good democracy.

16. Past charter reform also would have consolidated many of the county offices. Describe your thoughts on consolidating County offices and/or making some appointed positions rather than elected:

Cohn:  Well, I think it wouldn’t hurt to look at consolidation with St. Louis County. I think that would be a large undertaking, but definitely worth some conversation. Otherwise, I think where duplication of roles occurs we should look at how to best serve the people of our community while streamlining expenses. I think a patronage system (appointments) don’t always bode well for accountability and transparency. However, we must have people who are able to work well with one another in running our City/County offices.

Reems:  With as many offices and agencies as the city has, there is certainly room for redundancy and overlap, but moving from elected to appointed positions will not help the issue. Again, the further we move decision-making from the voters, the less popular the decisions will be.

Singler:    It is important to have the St. Louis City and Counties working together as much as we can on issues that affect us all. I have no firm thoughts on this issue at this point.

17. Outline your thoughts on the role/duty of the Alderman vs. Bureaucrat. Who should do what and why? What is the ideal role of the Aldermen?

Cohn:  An Alderman is someone working for the betterment of their community and representing the voices of their constituents in passing legislation and addressing concerns at City Hall. A Bureaucrat, by definition, is someone who acts in a routine without exercising intelligent judgement. I don’t believe that this type of person has a place in government. The ideal role of an Alderman is to build community, create understanding and awareness of issues impacting their ward and the city, and to work for the people they serve.

Reems:  I’ve actually been asked many times over the past few years what the job of the Alderman entails. My answer is always the same. We have 28 wards in the city, and each ward has an Alderman. For the 28 Alderman, there are 28 different ways to do the job. There are some you never see nor hear from; there are some that pick-up trash in intersections; there are some that build neighborhood groups and organizations; there are some that focus mainly on legislation. It is not for me to tell another Alderman how he should do his job. I can only tell you what kind of Alderman I will be. I will be a full-time Alderman, at work each and everyday, either in City Hall or in a Ward Office. I will be an Alderman in constant contact, via phone, email, text messaging or in-person. I will be an Alderman that works to support the groups we have in the ward, such as DT2, DSCC, Dutchtown West, Mount Pleasant, and Trinity. I will be an Alderman that works to support new groups trying to form. I will utilize legislation when needed to help the ward or city. I will utilize relationships when that is needed instead. I will be an Alderman that listens to the residents and works on their behalf for what is best for the 25th ward and the city of St. Louis.

Singler:   An Alderman is elected to serve the people in their Ward. I believe an Alderman should be available and transparent to the neighbors  in their Ward and follow through with issues and concerns that they have in a reasonable amount of time. Even more, Alderman should focus not only on improvements to their Ward, but focus on improving the entire city of St. Louis.

18. “Aldermanic Courtesy” is the practice of letting an alderman do as they wish in their ward even though it may not be the best policy for the city as a whole. Your thoughts?

Cohn:  I have respect for those who represent others throughout the city, and will certainly respect their decisions. However, I will have my own voice and will work to influence and build consensus around issues that are important to my ward and the city as a whole. We all must work together for the growth of this great city!

Reems:  Due to the weakened form of legislative government we have in the city of St. Louis, most legislation passed deals with issues on a ward level. As such, most ward level legislation deals with issues that effect only the ward in question. I would hope that an Alderman knows whats best for his or her ward better than any other Alderman. That being said, if I were to have a cause of concern that a piece of legislation might adversely effect the entire city, I would certainly act.

Singler:  I believe every piece of legislation should be evaluated on its own merits, and not simply passed based on the old practice of “Aldermanic Courtesy.”

19. St Louis’ zoning code (classifications, parking mandates, etc) is now 60+ years old. It is largely an auto-centric code. Many cities are replacing such codes in favor of “form based” codes designed to produce more urban building forms. Describe your thoughts on the current zoning ordinances and efforts to bring St Louis’ zoning into the 21st Century:

Cohn:   I support zoning review initiatives that encourage environmentally-friendly, urban, and pedestrian friendly environments.

Reems:   St. Louis is now a mix of what many laymen would call suburban-like neighborhoods that were once home to neighborhood businesses, such as bakers, grocers, and the like. Most of those businesses are now gone, and those neighborhoods are now mostly residential. Our commerce and retail is now mostly on major thoroughfares, such as Chippewa, Grand and Broadway. This movement away from pedestrian-friendly neighborhood shopping has forced a move to auto-centric codes. Further, without the hope of any greater public transit, due to the current cutbacks at Metro (Bi-State), and with the North-South Metrolink line at least 10 years away, we again are forced to an auto-centric mindset. Of course, there are great examples of mixed-use with ideal on-street parking and behind building off-street parking, such as South Grand from Arsenal to Utah. But that is the exception and not the rule. We do have opportunities to develop those types of mixed-use in the 25th ward, such as along Meramec, between Grace and Michigan, but again, that is not the majority of our geography. We need a city-wide comprehensive zoning plan that makes sense for today’s use and our goals for tomorrow’s use.

Singler:  Our St. Louis zoning codes need to be updated! I love reading about some of the urban development issues on this blog and am in favor of supporting city legislation or codes that are more urban friendly.
20. With respect to physical development, how do we attract more residents & businesses?

Cohn:   With all due respect Steve, this question deserves more than just a quick response. There are so many factors that influence attracting residents and businesses to our city and neighborhoods. Urban planning and design, public transit, quality of public education, safety, incentives, issue awareness, citizen engagement, breaking down institutional and interpersonal barriers, taxing structure, … yada yada yada.

Reems:   The attraction of residents will come as we work on the underlying causes for residents to not be attracted to the area, such as crime, education and lack of marketable housing stock. In 1960, St. Louis was the tenth largest American city with a population of over 750,000 residents. Our city’s population then went into a 50 year decline. Many factors lead to the depopulation, including movement to the suburbs–St. Louis County and beyond–and de-industrialization. The fact that the city is now half its size leaves us with an over abundance of housing stock, which results in a great many boarded-up and vacant buildings. It’s like we are wearing a pair of pants 10 sizes too big. St. Louis, unlike some other cities, was built for high density, due in great part to our inability to expand our borders, trapped between the river and the county. Kansas City, for example, continues to grow geographically even today, because it is bounded on some sides by unincorporated Jackson and Clay counties. Being built for high density, we have in our ward many multi-family dwellings, which force a specific use: rental. But building home-ownership is just a start, for the stability of our neighborhood, we must ensure that our residents are able to stay in their homes. Over the last few years we’ve seen our property taxes and the cost of home maintenance rise, but seniors have seen their fixed incomes fall. This has put many seniors in dangerous jeopardy of losing their homes, which will not only make homeless many of our neighbors, but also decimate our neighborhood with even more vacant or poorly maintained properties. As our city is unlikely to double in size to fill its capacity, ultimately our only way forward is to reduce the density of housing stock in our core residential areas. We can achieve this through pursuit of redevelopment. With the use of tax-abatement, we can attract developers willing to rehab multi-family structures into fewer units, such that a 2-family building becomes a single-family home and a 4-family flat becomes two townhomes. Buildings with even more units can be made into condo units. The private market, especially in the current economic crisis, can only provide for so much redevelopment on its own.

Singler: One way to increase residents and development is to address the public school issue in the City. We need to bring our school system back on track to attract younger families and new businesses. Addressing the crime problems within the City and also focusing on improving some of our infrastructure (like public transportation, pedestrian lighting, more walkable areas, etc.) will help as well.
21. In November 2008, voters in St Louis County rejected a sales tax that would have triggered a previously approved city sales tax for transit funding. To fund transit in the future we need to do what?

Cohn: Educate. Educate. Educate. Many view public transit as a method for “poor people” to move about our city. However, it could also (if adequately funded and efficiently managed) provide youth in our community access to local shopping/dining establishments. Tourist a mechanism to venture around town. Residents a savings instead of having to purchase vehicles, pay for insurance, taxes, fees, etc. We need a better operating public transit system, and I will work hard to make that happen.

Reems: Citizens for Modern Transit, a group supporting Proposition M, clearly identified that the problem facing the ballot measure was timing. The economic crisis became worse as people were headed to the polls. There was no way that voters were going to approve a sales tax increase at this time, and it had nothing to do with the ballot measure itself. Unfortunately, the voters in the county were more concerned, as to be expected, with their current economic situation than the long-term economic situation of the entire region. We need to do a better job of selling subsidized mass transit as a loss leader for a better regional economy.

Singler:  We need to seek help from the Federal government and even at the state level so that we can improve our public transportation system. Wouldn’t it be great to have a North/South metro line? Helping to get the finances of the transit system in order is a necessary first step.

22. The Gateway Arch is the symbol for the city but many feel is is not well connected to downtown & the rest of the city. A lid over the depressed section of I-70 has been discussed for many years. Some have argued in favor of eliminating that stretch of I-70 once the new Mississippi River bridge is finished and having a nice boulevard to handle north/south traffic. As an alderman, which option would get your support and why?

Cohn: This is an interesting question since the highways and the park surrounding the Arch both belong to the Federal government, represent a tremendous interest to residents and commuters in our region. There are many federal regulations and policies that dictate construction practices for these areas due to safety and environmental requirements. I support making the Arch grounds more open to pedestrian traffic and connecting to downtown. There are already public and private groups looking into this possibility, and will work with them to determine the best path forward for our city.

Reems: Eliminating a part of I-70 does not seem a feasible option, as much traffic, both interstate and local, uses it. Turning the depressed section into a tunnel might be a more wise decision.

Singler:   I would have to see and learn more about the details of each plan before I would offer support for either option. However, I am in favor of connecting the downtown to the Arch grounds so that one of the Jewels of our city is more walkable and visitor friendly.

23. Last year or so a bill was passed by the Board of Aldermen to give restaurant owners with outdoor patios/sidewalk cafes the option of allowing customers to bring their pet dog with them. However, 7 of the 28 wards opted out of this provision. What are your thoughts of having what should be a city-wide policy cut up into a ward by ward policy?

Cohn:   I believe a city-wide policy should be in effect for the entire city. It is confusing to residents when legislation is cut up ward by ward. Further, business owners have the ability to opt in or out based upon their customers. Consistency is important in legislation and enforcement.

Reems:  Here again, we are faced with an issue that pits personal preference against the greater good, or desire depending on if you see this as a public health issue. There can be an argument made that having pets at an eating establishment can be a potential health hazard. And, it certainly could be a nuisance to other diners, especially those with allergies to canines. Having been a member of the board that established the first dog park in a city park, I certainly understand the desire to increase public acceptance of dogs in society. Again,  would call for property owners wanting to serve a clientele with specific requirements, in this case a dog, to serve them in a separate space. Just imagine a day when the maitre d’ asks you if you want to sit in the “dogs” or “no dogs” section.

Singler:   This is another example of Wards acting like little fiefdoms. We should be working together as an entire city instead of having various rules from one Ward to another.

24. East-West Gateway has studied expanding MetroLink light rail through both North & South St. Louis. Assuming we could get federal assistance, what are your thoughts on expanding the current system?

Cohn:   I would support this, and would welcome an expansion into my ward.

Reems:  Such a system would benefit the entire city. It has been sorely needed.

Singler:  I am 100% in favor of creating a North/South line! Perhaps even including streetcars like those purposed for the Delmar Loop…or even one that goes along Grand Boulevard.

25. Some have advocated the building of streetcar lines in the city to serve the transit needs with in the city. As opposed to Light Rail used to transport suburbanites through the city to downtown. What are your thoughts on the use of modern streetcars such as those used in cities like Portland, OR and Seattle, WA?

Cohn:  I would support a stronger public transportation infratructure in our city.

Reems:  On my trip to Seattle, I mostly walked, as I was trying to see things rather than get from place to place. It seems that most uses of streetcars are as a novelty, transporting tourists around sightseeing. I’d advocate a rail system similar to that used in Washington, D.C. My concern with the currently proposed North-South Metrolink line is that there is an intention to build large parking lots just outside the city to facilitate park and ride. The concern here is that the rail line will be viewed–and used–to move suburbanites through the city, than for intra-city travel, such as in New York. The other problem beyond the North-South line will be in reaching other areas of town not currently or projected to be served, and how to serve those areas without the ability to build new lines due to building density, unless our rail lines share road space, such as in Amsterdam.

Singler:   Again, if we can get Federal assistance, I am 100% in favor of streetcars! This would be a great draw for visitors to come to our city to ride a street car like back in the day!

26. The population of the city is roughly 353,000, down a half million from its 1950 peak. What number of total population should be our goal for the 2050 census?

Cohn:  A realistic goal would be 500,000. It takes many more positive interactions to overcome just one negative reaction. We have a lot of work to do, but there’s no reason that we shouldn’t be able to see population increase in the next 40 years of a reasonable size.

Reems:  Our goal, rather than be a magic number, should be to have a density that matches our job-base, our ability to educate and our ability to provide adequate city services.

Singler:    As many as we can!

27. The 1% City Earnings Tax gets blamed for a lot. Many feel the City needs to eliminate this tax and seek alternate revenue sources. What are your thoughts on eliminating the Earnings Tax?

Cohn: I don’t know too many people who enjoy paying taxes. I favor elimination of this tax, however, we have to be practical in how we approach something of this nature, as we still need to support city services that are vital to our community.

Reems:  The tax is actually 1.5%. One percent is paid by the employee, and another one half of one per cent is paid by the employer. Some employees looking to relocate to the region see this as a reason to not live in the city; some employers looking to relocate to the region also see this as a reason not to locate in the city. The fact is that the 1.5% is used to pay for services that we all benefit from, such as garbage, forestry, parks, etc. If the city didn’t receive this revenue, it wouldn’t have funding for the services we all use. Short of increasing the property tax, which would cause even more displeasure to city residents and businesses alike, there is no funding source that can replace the earnings tax. Finally, many major city’s find that this funding source is the only reliable funding source for such necessary expenses, and those smaller municipalities without an earnings tax get the revenue either by increasing property taxes or by increasing sales taxes, or they don’t provide the services, such as garbage which leaves residents paying for it themselves.

Singler:   We can not eliminate the Earnings Tax until we find an alternative revenue source for the city.

28. In 2010 we will have a new U.S. Census. The population of St. Louis will be determined at that time. In 2011 we will need to redraw ward boundaries to reflect the change in population that occurred between 2000 and 2010. Please share your thoughts on how to draw ward boundaries to best serve the city as a whole.

Cohn:  It is likely to be a battle between north and south, as wards will need to be reflective of population changes. I’m sure that entire wards will look differently (hopefully not as jerrymandered as the 20th ward), but I will work to ensure that we have equal representation throughout the city and a ward map that is reflective of the neighborhoods we serve.

Reems:  It is impossible to know what the new boundaries will be prior to having the block-level census data. That being said, it is generally expected that the northern part of St. Louis will have lost enough population since the last census to warrant increasing the northern wards in size, which will shift the boundaries to the central corridor, which has definitely grown in population. The wards containing portions of the central corridor, especially the loft districts of downtown, are likely to shrink in geographic size due to this increase in population. The southern portion of the city will see changes, but it is impossible to tell what they might be. Most likely, the 25th ward will increase in geographic size due to the loss of residents, especially respective to the rest of the southern part of the city.

Singler:  The boundaries should be more square/simple and not so gerrymandered. It is so confusing to people on what their Ward boundaries are…so lets make it more simple!

29. The Americans with Disabilities Act became federal civil rights law in 1990. Yet today, nearly 20 years later, we still see new construction which lacks a basic provision such as an accessible route from the public sidewalk to the front door od the business. How do we as a city ensure future development is accessible to those with disabilities as well as friendly to the able-bodied pedestrian?

Cohn:   This is completely unfair to those who are not able bodied. We need to ensure that all new contruction projects – particularly those dealing with public infrastructure – are accessible to all and follow the appropriate laws.

Reems:  I have to admit that I had to call Steve about this question. I was baffled as to how developers get around federal mandates regarding accessibility. Steve explained to me that the problem lies in that prior to development, through the construction phase, the federal government provides no enforcement, and neither does the city’s Building Division. And, only after the fact, can a complaint me lodged with the federal government against non-compliance with the ADA. It seems to me, and my layman’s understanding of the issue, that as federal law supersedes local ordinance, the city’s Building Division, during plan reviews, should require adherence to any and all federal and state laws, including accessibility.

Singler: One way is to update our city zoning and building codes and ensure they are enforced. And if new construction is not in compliance, we as a City, need to demand the proper accessible routes.

30. Share your thoughts on historic preservation tax credits and demolition of our older building fabric:

Cohn:  I favor historic preservation tax credits, believe the history of this city shouldn’t be taken for granted. We could do a better job of balancing new construction with rehabilitation of our existing assets.

Reems:  Simply put, we must encourage maintenance and rehabilitation of our historic buildings because we derive our identity as a city from them.

Singler:  We should encourage people to preserve the historic and cherished buildings that we have. It was a shame that the old South Town Famous & Barr was torn down because it was such a beautiful building. We need to save the buildings that we can and encourage historic preservation tax credits.

31. The Edward Jones Dome is not getting any younger. If elected, it is a possibility that the St. Louis Rams may ask for major upgrades or a replacement of the dome during your term in office. Share your thoughts on this issue:

Cohn:   We should abide by the current contract with the Rams organization.

Reems:  While I would not want to see the Rams leave the city, I would have to weigh the dollars and cents of supporting a public works project such as this against the potential loss of revenue, both directly and indirectly from the loss of identity. It would come down to the number whether St. Louis would be better or worse off from such an undertaking.

Singler:   I would need to see the finances before making any decision on replacing or for any major upgrades to the Dome. With the economy the way it is, there are more important issues facing the city right now (like crime, schools, etc.).

32. Bicycle friendly cities tend to attract young workers and good paying jobs (aka the Creative Class). How can St. Louis become more bike friendly? For example, one thought is to provide bike racks along sidewalks on commercial streets. Please share your thoughts on the goal of becoming a more bike friendly city.

Cohn: Adjusting public right-of-ways, providing more pedestrian friendly access, and improving accessibility of bike paths and racks along commercial streets would be ideal.

Reems:  First we must ensure safer placements of Bike St. Louis routes. Not all existing routes are safe for either the cyclist or other vehicles. We must take a city-wide inventory of the location of lanes and other resources necessary for cyclists to grow the cyclist movement from one of hobby to one of true alternative transportation.

Singler:   I love the Bike St. Louis paths and signs throughout the City. I would be in favor of increasing bike paths and city bike racks and more ideas to encourage City bike riding.

33. Related to the above is the idea of requiring developments to provide bike parking as a small percentage of the auto parking provided. Share your thoughts on setting minimum standards for bike parking within the city:

Cohn:  I think this is something that is situational. Some areas may offer high bike traffic than others. I think it would depend upon the neighborhood and its needs. Not something you necessarily have to legislate.

Reems:  We would need to ensure that the minimum requirements were realistic to the actual need, unlike many of the minimum parking standards.

Singler:   When I went to Germany, I was amazed by the amount of bicycles I saw around. Men in suits were riding bikes around to work, and it was great to see. Again, I would love to see more alternative forms of transportation like bikes in the city and would support bike racks or special bike parking in the City to encourage their use.

34. More and more progressive cities are providing narrow on-street parking spaces for scooters & motorcycles. 5-6 scooters can be parked in the space normally occupied by one car. Would you favor efforts to do such in St. Louis?

Cohn:  Yes.

Reems:  Parking is at a premium in the city, especially in commercial and mixed-use areas. We should look at alternatives to our current system of fixed space parking. We need balance between the arguments for smaller spaces and for the ticket system, like in Seattle, WA. Perhaps an alternative is to mark one foot “parking units” on the street and a vehicle owner pays for those parking units that their vehicle occupies.

Singler:    Again, I would be in favor of parking for scooters and motorcycles and other greener forms of transportation.

35. Recently we’ve seen the city & Clayton use tax incentives to lure law firms to new developments or to retain them. These are firms that have lots of money. However, they also provide a good tax base for the city. Share your thoughts on the use of tax incentives to attract/retain affluent firms:

Cohn:    They must be in the best interest of the entire city, and have a proven value to the tax payers of the City of St. Louis.

Reems:  Rather than attracting specific businesses to relocate to or remain in the city, I’d like to see us focus on development-based incentives, which would be open to anyone locating or relocating to the newly developed space. This would provide an equal footing for all businesses considering whether or not to move to St. Louis or remain here.

Singler:   We need to be careful and proceed cautiously when using tax incentives to attract or retain affluent firms. It requires careful negotiation and a very delicate dance.

36. Ballpark Village remains a drawing board fantasy at this point. Did tax payers get taken by the Cardinals on promises to build on the site of the old Busch Stadium?

Cohn:    I think there were some unfair promises and expectations set for the tax payers with this deal. The city has hedged its risk as best it can given the circumstances, but I’m rather disappointed about the lack of progress down there.

Reems:  With the recently passed board bills, only time will tell what will become of the former Busch Stadium.

Singler:  At this point, we need to move forward with getting Ballpark Village built and completed. It was supposed to be partially completed by the All Star game, and now we still have an empty field. It is time to put the pressure on and get that part of Downtown St. Louis energized again.

37. It has been nearly a year since Pyramid Construction folded. Low & high-profile projects remain stalled. One high-profile project is the remaking of the failed downtown indoor mall, St. Louis Centre. In 2007 St. Louis committed general revenues to help get the project done. With Pyramid out of the picture should any new deal on St. Louis Centre put general revenues at risk?

Cohn:  No.

Reems:  Unfortunately since Pyramid’s bankruptcy, the economic climate in general and the real estate market in specific have both imploded.  Even if the St. Louis Centre project were to be developed in the next 18 months, it is uncertain if there would be tenants, either residential or commercial, to fill the space. It might be best to mothball the project until some of the current vacancy is absorbed, such as the nearly empty Railway Exchange Building, formerly occupied by Macy’s operations.

Singler:    We need to keep our options open and seek out new development for our Downtown. When one door closes we need to be active in finding another door to open. However, we need to be cautious about using tax incentives or general revenues in the future for projects like these.

38. Many say they’d move to the city if the schools were better. As an Alderman you have no control over the schools. Still, what advice would you offer for those in charge of the St. Louis Public Schools?

Cohn:    We need fiscal responsibiltiy and transparency, neighborhood-based schools, teacher and administrator accountability, and quality recruiting methods for educators. Let’s do what’s best for our city and our children! They are our future!

Reems:  Compromise. A trouble with the schools is the competing interests. There is a group that wants to ensure that the collective bargaining power of the teacher’s union is not eroded, and rightly so. There is a group that looks at the failing test scores and wonders why we spend more per child than many county school districts and is willing to try anything to get their children educated, and rightly so. What worries me is that in the next two years the federal mandate for the desegregation program will be gone, which means that the funding for the program will be gone. Some of the magnate schools are our most productive and best performing schools. So I wonder what will happen when the funding for these schools is gone, and we are left to depend on the already inadequate funding our schools already receive. Part of the problem is that our district is top heavy with administration. Part of the problem is that a district as geographically large as ours is going to have high overhead, especially in transportation and building maintenance. We are facing this problem right now in the 25th ward, with Cleveland High School being closed. While it would be the best thing for the neighborhood to have Cleveland open again and operating as a school, there just isn’t the public funding for it. At the end of the day, all interested parties will need to compromise–give in a little on their interest in the realization that if they don’t, nothing will be left to fight over because the district will be bankrupt.

Singler: Alderman have no control over the city schools, but we should do as much as we can to save some of our beautiful school buildings like Cleveland High School….it is so sad sad that it is sitting empty now.

39. Charter schools are seen as a viable alternative by some and undermining to the public schools by others. What are your thoughts on charter schools?

Cohn:    First, it’s important to note that the St. Louis Public School system is a completely separate legal entity from the City, and does not report through the Board of Alderman or the Mayor’s office. Second, the State Constitution affords every child in this State access to a quality education. Unfortunately, the St. Louis Public Schools have been plagued for too long with inadequate services and failing the youth of our community – perpetuating long standing social ills. As a product of a public education system, I whole heartedly believe that our communities and nation are best served with strong public education systems. We need alternatives, but also need to invest and work to enhance our public education system.

Reems:  The problem here, again, is competing self interests. In this case, it is mostly money. The charter schools, while privately operated are publicly funded. Each dollar that leaves the public school district to go to charter schools, leaves a hole. Charter schools, some of which have better administration that the public district, have typically lower overhead, as some don’t provide transportation and others aren’t weighed down by large building maintenance. The main problems with charter schools are that they aren’t held to the same educational standards that the public district is, and that the teachers are not members of the union, a situation which makes it easier to get rid of bad teachers, but doesn’t protect good teachers. Again, we need balance. We need to hold charter schools accountable for results, and we need to protect good teachers from administrative abuses. The ideal would be creating a situation where schools compete for students. Where students want to go to well performing schools, and under performing schools were held accountable.

Singler:    I would like to gather more detailed information on Charter Schools in the City of St. Louis before making a comment.

40. St. Louis as the center of the region attracts homeless from throughout the region. Share your thoughts on the City’s current response and what the city should be doing to help the homeless?

Cohn:  We have been talking about fighting poverty for decades. It’s time we actually start addressing underlying social issues that create a fear of people who are different than us. We have a responsibility to addr

Reems:  People are homeless for one of three reasons. The first being mental illness and substance addiction. During the 1980s many federal programs were cut that provided aid to those with mental instabilities, that cannot provide for themselves and could present danger to themselves and others. Many of those under these programs were turned onto the streets. These people cannot be productive members of society without professional help, and often medication. The city is at the mercy of the state and federal governments when it comes to this group, due to funding. The second group are those that have given-up on society. These people for one reason or another have decided to not participate in our community and have instead decided to fend for themselves on the street. They do not seek to better themselves, nor the greater community. We can only help these people by not allowing them to harm themselves or us any further. We can only help these people by not supporting their destructive ways. The final group are those that society has given-up on. These are the people that were one paycheck away from being on the streets and come subject to the whims of life, such as losing a job or physical illness. But for the grace of whatever power we might believe in, many of us could easily be in this situation.  This is the group we must help the most. These people need a little assistance to get out of the hole they live in, and then they can again be productive members of society.

Singler:  Supporting the homeless through non-profits, religious organizations, and city shelters should be an important part of our community service. We could also partner and offer educational opportunities for our homeless to aid them in getting back on their feet.

41. Many Aldermen advocate owner-occupied development only within their wards. In our current economic climate new owner-occupied development may not be a realistic demand for a few years. Most of us have rented at one point in our lives, share your thoughts on insisting on owner-occupancy in order tp support the redevelopment of a property.

Cohn:   Unfortunately, not everyone is able to (or sometimes even wants to) own a home. There will always be a need for rental properties. Rental doesn’t always equal problems. (Look at University City, Clayton, Richmond Heights where there are also neighborhoods with large tracts of rental property.) My ward has a high concentration of multi-family units and rental properties. I am not opposed to high-density planning, but do believe in adequate tenant screening processes and property management. Unlike some other Alderman, I would be ok with maintaining these properties as multi-family units, but would prefer and encourage owner-occupied rental properties.

Reems:  The rental situation is neither good for the renter, nor for the housing stock of our neighborhoods. In order to have true financial security, home-ownership is a must. Home-ownership provides stability for families and our neighborhoods, as it helps reduce transience. We can help our neighborhoods and residents by pushing for home-ownership. Many families became home-owners for the first time over the past few years through questionable, and sometimes fraudulent, lending practices. These families were robbed of the American dream. Worse yet, they were given a glimmer of hope, only to have it then stolen away. It just might be worse to be given a promise of hope than to never have had it to begin with. For our neighbors in this situation, we can solicit the state to help stop foreclosure. And we can use our community corporation as a conduit to help our neighbors connect with local and national non-profits that aid in this situation. We must ensure that our neighbors in this situation are not given a dream denied. And we can go further. For those families that have never dreamed of home-ownership, we can use our community corporation to act as a channel to connect our neighbors with other non-profits that give true low-rate loans and small forgivable loans. We can use our housing corporation to build new housing where none exists and renovate existing housing to make affordable home-ownership a possibility for our neighbors. We can make home-ownership a realistic possibility.

Singler:     While owner-occupied development is preferred, it is not a necessity. If elected Alderwoman, I would work towards holding landlords accountable for the state of their property just as owner-occupied properties do.


So there you have the 25th Ward.  Coming up this week I’ll have responces from candidates on the Northside — in the 1st, 3rd and 21st Wards. I’ll also have Mayoral candidates prior to the March 3rd primary.


Currently there are "5 comments" on this Article:

  1. Matt says:

    Excellent questionnaire, Steve!

    The smart, urbanistic responses make that endorsement a difficult one.

    What about having more than one at-large representative in order to break down aldermanic courtesy?

    The New Orleans City Council has 5 districts, with 2 at-large member on top of that for a total of 7.

  2. John Deal says:


    How much did Shane Cohn pay for the advertising space at the top of the page? Don’t you think that is a little over the top? What about this Chris Clark? Did he reply or are you waiting to see who wins in March to let him in on the debate?

    [slp — Shane Cohn paid the entry level rate — $50.00. The views are set to be used between now and the March 3rd election. The questionnaire was open to candidates in contested primary races only. I may do a new round for candidates in contested races in the general election.]

  3. Not all renters are drug dealers. Actually I’ve rented for 3 years and put drug dealers in jail.

  4. a25thwardresident says:

    Thanks for the post. Wish you would have questioned the candidates attendance pattern at the committees they are involved with. I know of two individuals that had a horrible attendance pattern on meetings and committee meetings. This can be viewed from the minutes of these meetings and committee meetings. My concern is how will they represent the 25th Ward when their attendance at meetings were poor. (in my point of view) I applaude Angie, she is sticking with the issues at hand and avoiding all of the mudslinging that is developing.
    Another concern is the individuals getting involved with Mr. Cohn. Seems he is not having control over others. Starting to wonder if he will only be a puppet on a string if he actually wins the position. The Ward needs change and I hope the right person wins this.

  5. alsoa25thward-er says:

    a25thwardresident – You question the involvement of two candidates’ attendance pattern at the committees they are involved with and then say you’re supporting Angie. So, you would rather have someone as alderman who has 1) lived in the ward for 25 years and 2) never bothered to be involved with the neighborhood she lives in than to support someone who 1) may have missed some meetings but 2) has been involved since they moved into the neighborhood? That doesn’t make sense at all. Remember all those committees people were dedicating their time to, even if it was only a little bit, was VOLUNTEER time. And when it comes to volunteer time, every bit counts and should be appreciated.

    And as for the people that Mr. Cohn has been getting involved with, they are the people who have been selflessly dedicating themselves to the neighborhood for years. Again, they are residents and business owners who are involved, not because they have to be or because they are getting paid to be, but because they believe in the potential of the 25th ward. Why shouldn’t those people be passionate about who wins this race. They have as much, if not more in some cases, than most invested into the neighborhood.


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