April 04, 2017

ST. LOUIS (AP) An anti-crime advocate whose husband was murdered in an attempted carjacking more than two decades ago was heavily favored Tuesday as St. Louis residents chose their first new mayor in 16 years.

Veteran Democratic City Council woman Lyda Krewson, 64, would become the city's first female mayor and replace Francis Slay, who chose not to seek a fifth term. Slay, 61, first elected in 2001, is St. Louis' only four-term mayor. He supported Krewson as his replacement.

Voters also will decide whether to designate $60 million from a business tax increase toward a 22,000-seat soccer stadium near Union Station downtown in hopes of luring a Major League Soccer expansion franchise. They also are weighing whether to eliminate the recorder of deeds' office and use the savings to buy police body cameras.

Krewson's narrow victory over city Treasurer Tishaura Jones in the March primary made her the odds-on favorite to win the race in the heavily Democratic city. Republican Andrew Jones, Libertarian Robb Cunningham, Green Party candidate Johnathan McFarland and independent candidates Larry Rice and Tyrone Austin also are listed on the ballot.

Krewson has pledged to work to reduce crime and improve impoverished neighborhoods. She and her two young children were in the car in front of their home in 1995 when her husband, Jeff, was slain during a random carjacking attempt.

Homicides have spiked in recent years in St. Louis, which annually ranks among the most violent cities in the nation based on FBI statistics. Krewson wants to hire more officers and improve training and diversity in the police department.

Krewson, an alderwoman for 20 years, said she wants to add more diversity to the police department. About one-third of St. Louis officers are black in a city in which blacks are a slight majority.

In an interview last month, Krewson acknowledged that many residents of St. Louis have a fractured relationship with police.

''We need to try and mend that relationship, and I think the best way of mending it is through a more diverse police force, a fully staffed police force and a better trained police force,'' she said.

St. Louis police don't use body cameras despite several officer-involved shootings. Police Chief Sam Dotson favors equipping officers with body cameras, but the city is low on funds.

Democratic state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed and Republican millionaire activist Rex Sinquefield came up with the plan that voters were considering Tuesday: eliminating the recorder of deed's office and having the assessor's office absorb its functions, with the cost savings going toward a body camera program for the department's 1,200 officers.

Supporters believe the consolidation would save about $1 million annually, nearly enough for the $1.2 million Dotson has estimated a camera system would cost.

City voters also will decide whether to designate money from a business use tax increase toward a soccer stadium for an expansion team that would start play in 2020 if St. Louis is awarded a franchise. The league is expected to award two franchises this fall, and St. Louis is a favorite to get one if the stadium is approved.

The ownership group SC St. Louis has agreed to invest $95 million in the project and cover the $150 million expansion fee. Owners are negotiating with the state seeking a donation of 24 acres of currently unused land.

Opponents, including several members of the board of aldermen, say city money should be focused on more basic needs like hiring police and helping the nearly one-third of St. Louisans who live at or below the poverty line.

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