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Tweet from mayor’s office angers aldermen

CITY HALL – A social media post from the mayor’s office laying out how much capital improvement money was available for every ward received a stinging rebuke from several aldermen on Friday.

Jacob Long, Mayor Lyda Krewson’s director of communications, said he had meant no harm when he sent a tweet with the information. He just wanted people to know there was money available for neighborhood improvement now that it’s warmer. It wasn’t meant to be negative, he said.

“As of this week, there’s quite a lot of unused ward capital money, sitting on the table,” the tweet said, as it listed more than $9 million in the accounts for the 28 aldermen, ranging from $9,653 to $1.9 million. “If you’ve got a neighborhood project in mind, contact your aldermen.”

Aldermen denounced the tweets in the twittersphere and on the floor of the Board of Aldermen as misrepresenting how much money they really had to spend and as an attempt to attack them. 

The money comes from a half-cent capital improvements tax. Each ward receives an equal portion of the money, and aldermen can designate it for such purposes as sidewalk repairs, anti-crime cameras and street paving. According to the 2019-2020 budget, each ward gets about $326,700 a year.

But the aldermen said that much of the money in the unallocated accounts was actually being held in reserve for big projects, or that the city’s Board of Public Service hadn’t yet filled a request from an alderman.

Twenty-Third Ward Alderman Joseph Vaccaro said that aldermen had reserved hundreds of thousands of dollars for sidewalk work that hadn’t been done yet. 

“Our money’s been sitting there waiting,” Vaccaro said. “It is a slap in my face.”

Twenty-Fifth Ward Alderman Shane Cohn said, “Putting this nonsense out on social media [is] to stoke your constituents into thinking that we aren’t doing what’s in the best interests of our neighborhood.” He said the mayor’s office needed to apologize for spreading disinformation.

And Fifth Ward Alderwoman Tammika Hubbard said she banked a lot of money sometimes for major developments. 

“Trust me, in my ward, we will be spending it, but the hurdles and hoops that you have to jump through to even spend the money to make your neighborhood safe is just unreal,” Hubbard said.

First Ward Alderwoman Sharon Tyus said the $1.9 million in her fund that was officially uncommitted actually was intended for such things as speed bumps and curbs. She promised a fight if there was no apology.

And Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed said he knew that all of the aldermen were looking after their wards.

“It’s beyond unfortunate that the mayor’s new director of PR had an adversarial relationship with this Board of Aldermen since he came, but the thing that’s important for each and every one of you to know is that he had an adversarial relationship prior to him getting here,” Reed said. “It’s clear now that he thinks very little of the board.”

Reed asked for an apology.

Long, who was an investigative reporter for KSDK before Krewson hired him in October, denied he had anything against the Board of Aldermen.

Stephen Conway, Krewson’s chief of staff, said that what Long gave out was public information. 

“We want people to know that if there’s improvements they want in the community, they should let their aldermen know,” he said.

Here is the amount the tweet from Long said was available for capital improvements in each ward.

  • Ward 1         $1,887,715
  • Ward 2         $ 441,593
  • Ward 3         $ 659,108 
  • Ward 4         $ 335,009
  • Ward 5         $ 600,546
  • Ward 6         $ 151,015
  • Ward 7         $ 35,765
  • Ward 8         $ 137,934
  • Ward 9         $ 343,504
  • Ward 10       $ 42,975
  • Ward 11       $ 390,285
  • Ward 12       $ 147,266
  • Ward 13       $ 153,890
  • Ward 14       $ 246,520
  • Ward 15       $ 55,991
  • Ward 16       $ 85,810
  • Ward 17       $ 161,500
  • Ward 18       $ 135,963 
  • Ward 19       $ 113,595
  • Ward 20       $ 634,443
  • Ward 21       $ 219,436
  • Ward 22       $ 338,385
  • Ward 23       $ 9,653
  • Ward 24       $ 296,199
  • Ward 25       $ 197,539
  • Ward 26       $ 356,463
  • Ward 27       $ 556,231
  • Ward 28       $ 357,286
  • Total             $9,091,620

Jim Merkel

southsidemerkel@gmail.com Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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