RIVERVIEW — Two business owners, both relatively new to politics, are facing each other in the race for 2nd Ward Alderman. One is aiming to macro-govern, the other micro-govern in this uniquely-drawn, six-neighborhood, industrial-laden ward that borders north St. Louis County on its west end and downtown St. Louis City on the east.
The six neighborhoods that compprise the 2nd Ward are Riverview, Baden, College Hill, North Point, Near North Riverfront and North Riverfront.
Only two candidates, incumbent Alderwoman Elicia “Lisa” Middlebrook and challenger Thomas Bradley, have filed for the Democratic nomination. The winner of the March 5 primary will not face opposition in the April 2 general election. The holder of the position will receive a salary of $37,299.
In the order of filing, here is information about the two candidates.
Alderwoman Middlebrook, who also works as a home healthcare proprietor, won the seat in a three-way special election in 2017, when Dionne Flowers vacated her seat after 18 years. She was appointed as the City Registrar by Mayor Lyda Krewson. Flowers had been one of only a few north side officials who endorsed Krewson in her election.
Middlebrook has only served as alderwoman for one year and admits that she’s still in the learning phase.
“I didn’t rush in head-first for the first year,” she said. “It’s a learning experience, so I took my time to learn and it’s been great.”
The freshman alderwoman doesn’t have any bills under her belt, but last Friday she introduced a resolution for a partial personal property tax abatement for Near North Riverfront-based recycling company, PSC Metals. The tax-abatement is for the purchase of a large industrial scrap metal shredder.
Middlebrook said the resolution will sustain 60 jobs that pay at least $60,000 per year. Should those jobs have been eliminated, she said, the approximate loss of earnings and payroll tax would amount to $460,000 over the next 10 years. She also estimated a net fiscal benefit of more than $900,000 for the city.
“I want to work hard for the entire ward,” Middlebrook said. “It’s not just my ward – it’s everyone’s ward, so working closely with them is important.”
The industrial community is also invited to monthly ward meetings to discuss their issues.
“It’s a big, diverse ward, so a lot of community engagement is necessary,” said Middlebrook, adding that she’s built relationships with some businesses but is actively seeking to meet more.
As for her platform, crime, economic development, affordable housing and education, top her list. And, for her, they all go hand in hand.
“I believe that once you curb crime—which proper education can—economic development starts, because they see that the residents care and then more people will want to live here,” she said.
Middlebrook’s challenger, Thomas Bradley works as a barber. Bradley has more of a micro approach to ward governance, he asserts that education is the root that must be cultivated for a better community.
For him, crime reduction is a priority. A few years ago, Bradley’s mother was stabbed to death during an attempted carjacking at a BP gas station in the Riverview neighborhood. He said it took police 20 minutes to make it to the scene. The death of Bradley’s mother is one of hundreds of murders that remain unsolved in a city known for its high murder rate.
“My platform is to decrease violence and crime rates by working with the police force and use my legislative powers to patrol and create an effective surveillance system in hot spot areas,” he said.
Also high on Bradley’s list is closing the Workhouse, another name for the embattled medium security institution jail which is located in the 2nd Ward. Activists have targeted the closing of the Workhouse over the last few years for what they call unsafe, unsanitary and unhealthy conditions.
“There is much work to be done in our community,” said Bradley.
By going door to door, Bradley said he has collected residents’ concerns, which include: too few stop signs, a need for speed bumps, rampant illegal dumping, and the large number of vacant and condemned buildings plaguing their neighborhoods.
“The people in our neighborhood know first-hand the problems we face every day and their input will always be considered and respected,” Bradley promised.
Middlebrook said local residents and a trash task force are tackling the illegal dumping issue, which she said was problematic because a part of the ward sits on the county border.
She said the task force is “doing a great job catching people. Residents are taking pictures and people are having to go to court and [are] getting fined.” She also said license plate readers and cameras have been installed and are rotated throughout the ward.
The election is on Tuesday, March 5.