My Economic Development Plan is officially available for release. Download below!!!!
Many thanks to my father, staff & volunteers for helping me run an amazing campaign. I was honored to represent that ideas matter in the 7th Ward Alderman Race. Congratulations go to Jack Coatar on the win. Jack and I might not agree on everything in my economic development plan but we must work together to get some stuff done that will improve Saint Louis. In that same light, much respect goes to Chelsea K Merta on a well run campaign. I hope that Chelsea & I can work together in advocating for accountability, empowerment of the people and the propagation of the startup tech community.
Although we did not win the election I will not stop my fight to ensure inclusiveness & economic prosperity in Saint Louis. When you take the results of the election into context the importance & impact of our candidacy becomes undeniable. Before I discuss my take on the outcome of the election lets look back on what drove me to run. The underlying premise of the things I am about to say is that career politicians making political chess moves are at the root of what is holding Saint Louis back. Career politicians are not bad people or evil doers. These are in most cases good people who have families and livelihoods that are dependent on political careers. The problem is that the game of conservative politics that they play has become disconnected from the civic challenges that we face as a city.
With the backdrop of Ferguson & political battles between the progressives and the establishment: the 7th Ward aldermanic race consisted of three candidates. Although all the candidates including myself were millennials two of the three were a product of chess moves by career politicians exercising the progressive and establishment political machines respectively.
Post- Ferguson, racial and political tensions resonated in a ward like the 7th Ward due to the lack of diversity and inclusion. Throughout the race I characterized this lack of diversity & inclusion in neighborhood/ward affairs as Institutionalized Racism. Although the 7th ward is roughly half white & half minorities all the neighborhood meetings and neighborhood business organizations that operate in the ward are ran by all white memberships. I repeatedly brought this up throughout the campaign with no response or challenge from my competitors. In order to give context to how this impacted the candidates that filed for election we must review some previous events in Saint Louis Politics.
The 7th ward aldermanic candidates were impacted by two political positions: Treasurer and Mayor. In 2012 four candidates ran for Treasurer of Saint Louis. The winner was Tishaura Jones with a 34.92 percent of the vote. I will cover how this impacted the race later in this letter. The 7th Ward committeeman Brian Wahby, one of the candidates in 2012 Treasurer's race, turned out last with 13.27 percent of the vote. The low performance of Brian Wahby led him to find other ways to extend his political power.
Although crime has been down in Saint Louis since 2002, the Post-Ferguson environment along with a few atypical high-profile violent crime incidents have created the narrative of fear and the lack of safety for caucasians in Saint Louis. While knocking 100's of doors I cannot count how many white residents I spoke with who told me their main concern was safety. Saying “I want an alderman who will keep me safe”. The establishment sought to capitalize on this fear to retain power. Thus Jack was the idea candidate for the establishment. He's a white prosecutor in a ward that is controlled by institutional racism. This was the perfect candidate to promote the message of public safety with the co-signment of the current Mayor Francis Slay, resigning Alderwoman Phyllis Young, and current Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed. The ground was laid for deals to be cut.
Lewis wanted to not have a true challenger for his position on the ballot. Francis wanted the 7th Ward to be in the hands of political accomplice and Phyllis wanted to make sure that when she stepped down the race would not become a free for all. This explains why Jack was able to raise $100,000 for $30,000 alderman job. The deal was Lewis would back Jack so that he would not have a challenger in the March election. Francis wanted to back Jack so once elected he could be a true challenger to Lewis long term. This is why both Lewis & Francis were at Jack initial fundraiser but only Francis was at Jack's election watch party. Meanwhile Phyllis endorsed Jack as the successor to the political establishment built on institutional racism. After Ferguson, Phyllis stepped down in light of the Civilian Oversight Board (COB) bill that was scheduled to hit her committee. Sharon Tyus called out Phyllis on this issue aggressively previous to her resignation. And as we know now the public safety committee hearing that Phyllis would have had to chair turned out to be the "Brawl in City Hall" brought to you by the Jeff Roarda show. But I digress.
Jack raised the most money ever in an alderman race for one purpose, to build a political career that allowed him to raise the stakes for any other challenger in next 7th ward alderman race in 2016 as well as prepare him to challenge Lewis Reed. The day Phyllis stepped down she endorsed Jack which came as a surprise to many but was an obvious pre-planned political move to insiders. Phyllis knew Jack as he was the political surrogate of Brian Wahby for many years.
So the moment Jack became the establishment candidate the progressives had to move to produce a competitive candidate. Tishaura, who ran against Brian, saw the candidate posed by the establishment as a challenge and wanted to have a response. This is evident in the fact the second candidate for alderman was Chelsea K Merta who previously was an intern for Tishuara.
The progressives have battled with the establishment in a multitude of political races. In many of these races, institutional racism has raised the burden for black candidates to win races in non black majority races as well as majority black races such as the 20th ward. Black politician are aware of this. I personally sat down with black politicians many who told me the 7th Ward is a white people's ward and an African American candidate would never be able to win. In races like the 7th and the 20th where institutional racism is high; The progressives saw the best way to win these seats was to run progressive white women candidates to try and unify the anti-establishment/progressive vote as the base and try and drive as much African American vote to clear the finish line. This strategy was successful in the 20th Ward. The goal of this approach is to win as many seats in all political levels for the progressive party so that a true progressive candidate could run for Mayor or other high level political positions in the long term.
Tishuara said herself in a conversation we had on twitter that she had a choice of supporting me or Chelsea Merta as the progressive challenge to Jack. In a ward where the political paradigm is that the 7th belongs to white people and an African American candidate has little to no chance of winning her choice of a white progressive women was a no brainer. In this paradigm, Chelsea was the idea candidate for the progressive machine Post-Ferguson. She is a white daughter of a police officer who is a civil right lawyer who would focus on one political issue: The Civilian Oversight Board (COB).
When Phyllis first stepped down my phone rang off the hook. Due to the fact that I ran for State Representative in 2012 for the 78th District which covered a majority of the 7th Ward, many political insiders wanted to gage where I stood. At the time the establishment had already geared up their plan and the progressives had their strategy in order. So I was the spoiler that by running would throw uncalculated risk into the two political machines. This is when I sat down with a lot of political stakeholders from both the establishment and progressive parties. I was made aware that the rumor was that since I had received a position in the tech community there would be no way I would jeopardize that to run for alderman. At this moment I sat down with my father & John Hickey of the Sierra Club to discuss our course of action. I know if I ran the odds of me winning would be slim due to the fact that I would be running against both the progressive and establishment machines. That's when we made the decision to run for one key purpose: To show that Ideas Matter! The goal of my candidacy was to do three things.
1. Draw attention to the real issues that plague our city such as 9,600+ abandon buildings and vacant lots as well as 600 million dollars in long term tax liabilities, large sums of which are for projects that no longer exist like Saint Louis Centre Shopping Mall.
2. Propose a comprehensive Economic Development plan that lays down the blueprint for the true solutions that will foster a prosperous sustainable future for Saint Louis that creates prosperity for people of all backgrounds. The pillars of this economic plan were: Social Reform, Community Empowerment, Clean Energy Policies, Urban Farming, Innovation & High Tech Jobs.
3. Address the Institutional Racism that existed in the 7th Ward and force whoever becomes alderman to address the true lack of diversity and inclusion in neighborhood/ward affairs.
After formulating a purpose and goal I still was on the fence on if I wanted to take on this task. The main reason I decided to run was to give my father and I an experience that we could share together. This campaign brought joy and vitality to him and that was the main reason I decided to run. In that light the campaign was a success. Thanks to the decision to run my father and I were able to share an experience that will last a lifetime. With that being said, the context of the results has so much more meaning.
The outcome of the race was as follows: Jack won with 515 votes, Chelsea took second with 252 and I took third with 190 votes. Being a product of political machines both Jack & Chelsea had large mail campaigns and canvass resources provided that not only provided endorsements but took the form of personal letters written by elected officials in support of their campaigns to their respective voter universes. All of my volunteers, mailers and voter contact campaign were ran from my camp alone which included MORE, Sierra Club, the AFT Missouri, AFT Local 420 Teacher's Union, and Coalition of Black Trade Union. All of my endorsements were from organizations that believed that the issues and ideas do matter more than political machines and chess moves. Organizations like the Saint Louis American & Local 73 Firefighter went with the Progressive machine. Virvus Jones sits on the board for the Saint Louis American which allowed for him to easily influence the outcome of that endorsement, incahoots with Mike Jones, with the premise of who can actually win. In my interview with the American the only questions I was asked were by Virvus & Mike who agreed I had great ideas but questioned my ability to win. By the time of our second debate everything that I had postulated and discussed with my father and John Hickey when I first contemplated running had been validated.
In conclusion, I want to again thank everyone who worked with me on this campaign. I have the fortunate ability to speak openly and freely as I am not a career politician. The things I have spoken on are all things that usually anyone who wants to make a career in politics would not speak on. I firmly believe that this is the root challenge to Saint Louis' success going forward. Career politicians lack the political willpower to attack the true issues that plague this city in fear of losing their political careers that they are heavily vested in. This form political conservatism is why politicians and organizations endorse based on who they perceive can win not who has the best ideas and merit.
The fact that my Economic Development Plan which we published Feb 17th had 1500+ views/downloads by election day (March 3rd) showed that ideas do matter. I received enormous amounts of support and admiration from elected officials, business stakeholders and even my competitors on such a well written and thoughtful economic plan. Also the fact that we got 190 votes shows that with no political machine and personal endorsement letters written by the elected officials ideas do matter. Chelsea with the power of the progressive machine was only able to pull 62 more votes than us. Jack on the other hand with the win proved that fear based politics still is the most potent way to drive action at the polls. People voted for Jack with the idea that as a former prosecutor he will keep them safe and the establishment is behind him. This is the same establishment that is built on institutional racism and the continuation of the status quo. With Ferguson Spring around the corner we will see how well this premise plays out for inclusiveness & diverse economic prosperity.
It is in this light that I am happy with the outcome of the race. Nick Pistor from the Saint Louis Post Dispatch wrote about my stance in the paper that came out the Sunday before the election. The issues that I brought up still exist and with an economic development plan that more people downloaded/viewed then came out to vote on election day, I proved that ideas do matter. All of this was done while being able to spend time working closely with my father, friends and colleagues to fight Institutional Racism and Career Politics for a better Saint Louis. With 2016 around the corner, do not be surprised if you see me again!
As a Entrepreneur/Developer who works in the high tech/startup industry downtown – I know what it takes to bring high wage, high skill jobs to STL. I want to extend Metrolink down Jefferson Ave to increase access to more job opportunities, create construction jobs to build the extension and clean our air by taking more cars off the road – reducing the asthma epidemic impacting our city’s kids. Like President Obama, I support increasing minimum wage to $10.10/hr. Cities like Seattle, San Diego & Wash DC have already done so.
I will attract high tech jobs to our ward. Businesses like Google and Ikea are expanding in states where clean wind energy is available – let’s compete for those jobs by increasing wind and solar energy in St. Louis. We can also build a diverse pool of high tech workers through programs like @Launchcode. While empowering our workforce I will secure funds to build business incubator spaces like @downtownTREX in other parts of the ward like Soulard to help create 100's of jobs.
Having fought in Jefferson City for MONA, fought in City Hall for our water rights against Veolia, fought energy companies to demand clean energy policies; You can have confidence that I will continue to fight hard for the best interest of my constituents and stand up for Progressive Values. I also firmly believe in safe neighborhoods with walkable/bikable streets. My Economic Development and Innovation plans will combat crime at its root: Poverty and the Prison Industrial Complex.
Pt.1 Many thanks to my father, staff & volunteers for helping me run an amazing campaign. I was honored to represent #IdeasMatter #7thWard
Fact that politicians are now talking about solutions to the 9600+ #LRA properties that I brought up in my campaign shows that #IdeasMatter
I support this effort! @ChelseaKMerta @jcoatar longterm let's work to get more minority involvement and end the #AllWhiteMeetings #7thWard