A four-way race in the 6th Ward

MIDTOWN – An entertainer, the wife of a former Congressman, and an engineer are running against the incumbent in the battle for the Democratic nomination for Sixth Ward alderman. 

Incumbent Christine E. Ingrassia, 43; Cedric Leroy Redmon, 32; Debra A. Carnahan, 58; and Henry B. Gray Jr., 49, are vying in the March 5 Democratic primary. 

The winner will face Michael J. Hebron Sr. in the general election will be on April 2. Hebron, 56, is the only candidate in the Republican primary.

The ward includes all or part of the Compton Heights, Downtown West, Fox Park, Lafayette Square, Midtown, Peabody Darst Webbe, Gate District and Tower Grove East neighborhoods.

In the order of how they filed, here is information about the candidates:

Ingrassia, who became an alderwoman in 2013, wrote in response to a list of questions that she has worked with neighborhoods to significantly improve all ward parks.  

The Gate District resident also listed crime, affordable housing, infrastructure needs and participation in neighborhood decision-making as major issues.

She supports a merger between the city and the county, but is skeptical of any effort funded by Rex Sinquefield, a wealthy local backer of conservative and charitable causes.  

Ingrassia opposes privatization of St. Louis Lambert International Airport and expressed dismay that a bill that would have required a public vote on the issue died in committee.  

The majority wants ward reduction, Ingrassia said. She said she was open to the possibility of voting for a recent bill to put this issue back in front of voters but had serious concerns about the ballot language and date of the election. She believes there should be an independent process to look at the maps of the city, compared to the census, and redraw the lines, without involving current or former elected officials or campaign workers.

If he’s elected an alderman, Redmon says he would bring to the job experience as an entertainer, song writer, radio personality, performer and full-time father. He was the city’s first ever youth ambassador and organized summer school programs for the St. Louis Public Schools. 

Redmon said he would be able to represent all parts of the ward. The ward needs an identity that promotes diversity, he said.  

He said he is on record as opposing a city-county merger. “I will always do what is best for the city of St. Louis,” Redmon said. “St. Louis is one of the grandfather cities of America,” Redmon said. The city needs to remain as it is and do better, he said.

On the issue of privatization of the St. Louis Lambert International Airport, Redmon said the city wouldn’t sell the airport, but lease it.  It could be a good deal if the city can hold on to the airport, he said. The city has to make sure it’s making the best deal and can get it back, he said.

Redmon said tax breaks for development could be good if the city makes good deals. But he said the city often doesn’t make good deals.

Carnahan comes from one of the biggest Democratic families in Missouri. Her husband, Russ Carnahan, is a former congressman. Her father-in-law, the late Mel Carnahan, was governor, and her mother-in-law, Jean Carnahan, served as U.S. Senator.

The Compton Heights resident was the first judge of St. Louis’ Problem Properties Court and served as an assistant circuit attorney. 

Carnahan would like the city to work on clearing up vacant buildings and lots and finish the Compton Bridge from Chouteau Avenue. There also is a need to promote development in the northern part of the ward, she said. And she criticized the huge concrete balls placed at some intersections to control traffic.

Regarding the coming decrease of wards in the city, it’s important that it be done fairly and that people involved in politics aren’t involved, Carnahan said.   

Carnahan spoke negatively about the prospects of privatizing the St. Louis Lambert International Airport.  The citizens of St. Louis have to have a voice in this process and must know where the money is coming from, Carnahan said.

In his campaign for alderman, Gate District resident Henry Gray is primarily interested in safety, infrastructure and tax dollars. 

Gray, a Gate District resident, said safety might mean putting out more beat cops. “Infrastructure is the lifeblood of all communities, all cities, all states. If it’s done right, the community flourishes. If it’s done wrong, the community suffers,” he said.

Gray, a civil engineer for the Illinois Department of Transportation, also criticized the traffic control balls at intersections. Money that should be used for sidewalks, fixing potholes and paving streets is going for the traffic balls, he said.

Speaking of the proposed city-county merger, Gray said the city will not necessarily benefit. “I don’t think a lot of people realize the complexity of having a brand new government,” he said. “You’ll have a multitude of issues that will have to be resolved.”

He withheld judgment on privatization of the St. Louis Lambert International Airport until the final study comes out. 

Tax increment financing and tax abatement are necessary evils if it’s done right, Gray said. But right now, they’re not done right, he said. Gray said they’re used in areas that don’t need them.

Mike Hebron is the only Republican running. He said he’s running because he thinks one part of the population is being overlooked.

“I feel like David and Goliath,” said Hebron, a real estate agent who lives in the Gate District. 

“I don’t think any body of government should be run by one party. I think there needs to be diversity,” said Hebron, the vice president of the Gate District East Association. “My tagline is ‘A Voice for All.’”

Hebron said he is against privatization of the St. Louis-Lambert International Airport and believes the public should have a chance to vote on it before any proposal is approved.

He’s excited about the prospect of a Major League Soccer team coming to St. Louis but says doesn’t know all the ins and outs of the proposal. 

Hebron says he hasn’t formed an position on a city-county merger because it’s still in the preliminary stage. 

He said the voters spoke clearly on the question of reducing the number of wards from 28 to 14. As a person who favors smaller government, he said he favors it.

Jim Merkel

Author: Jim Merkel

Born and raised in St. Louis, 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 four books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis. For more about Jim, visit www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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