CITY HALL – Mayor Lyda Krewson thinks the city is riding a tsunami of construction and economic activity. She says crime is headed down, but not enough. And she believes now is a good time for people from all sides to talk about reuniting the city and the county.
“I’m proud to be your mayor at this time of such great momentum in our city. Each of you has played a part in this momentum,” Krewson told members of the Board of Aldermen in a 23-minute State of the City address at Thursday’s weekly meeting. “You have made this momentum happen.”
The last mayor to give a State of the City address was Francis Slay, who stopped the practice early in his administration. Then on May 17, the Board of Aldermen passed a resolution, sponsored by 21st Ward Alderman John Collins-Muhammad, asking Krewson to give the speech again.
Krewson said she’d be delighted and arranged to give the speech at the very next meeting.
Krewson mentioned a long list of projects either recently completed or under construction. They include the Gateway Arch park renovation and museum as well as Kiener Plaza. She went on to list the Soldiers Memorial and Enterprise Center renovations, as well as new projects at Ballpark Village and Union Station where a Ferris wheel and aquarium are going in. If a soccer team comes here, there could be a new soccer stadium as well.
There also is the $1.7 billion National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency facility in north St. Louis and additional work at Cortex in the Central Corridor.
Altogether, more than $8 billion in projects are underway or have been recently completed in the city, the mayor said. “There are cranes in the sky and construction dumpsters on the curbs,” she said.
“Developments are underway in all of our neighborhoods,” Krewson said, mentioning articles about the city in the New York Times, Forbes and other publications. “Today, we are a safer, more walkable, more livable city.”
Meanwhile, the city’s population of residents ages 25-34 has grown by 13 percent, she said.
In the midst of this, the mayor said, is the biggest continuing problem: crime. Violent crime has decreased by 15 percent and overall crime by six percent, she said. However, she added, “If you are a victim of crime, one crime is one crime too many. Those statistics don’t matter.”
The city is working on stopping crime through prevention and enforcement.
In “Hayden’s Rectangle,” where violent crime centers on the north side, there has been an 18 percent decrease in crime and a 24 percent decrease in homicides. The area is named for Police Chief John Hayden, who designated the areas bounded by Goodfellow Boulevard to Vandeventer Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Drive and West Florissant Avenue as a major problem area.
The police also are focusing greater attention on downtown and the Dutchtown and Gravois Park neighborhoods.
Krewson also said the police were having to deal with a shortfall of about 130 officers, mainly brought about by the requirement that city employees must live in the city. Other city departments are having the same problem.
The mayor encouraged aldermen to support a bill calling for a citywide vote on lifting that requirement.
Also, Krewson said, the city is significantly increasing its efforts to reduce the number of vacant buildings, both by saving the ones that can be saved and demolishing the ones that can’t.
She spoke of her hopes for union between the city and county after the advocacy group Better Together abandoned its efforts to put the issue on the ballot.
“The task force’s proposal, as you know, has been withdrawn, and as I like to say, it’s a pause,” Krewson said. “But this represents a new opportunity for us to come together, to listen, and to hear one another more.”
“The competition for jobs, for development, for opportunity, should not be between St. Louis and Wildwood, or Affton and Hazelwood, or midtown and Brentwood. The real competition should be between St. Louis and Nashville, or St. Louis and Louisville, or St. Louis and Indianapolis or Dallas or Denver,” she said.