PATCH — Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed didn’t spend much time talking about issues the day his campaign bus stopped at a Patch neighborhood senior citizens center last week. Instead, he spent his time at the Grace Hill Senior Center in far south St. Louis talking about what happens when people get involved.
“You all have the power to move people to a better place,” said Reed, who is running for a forth term in the March 5 primary.
At debates and forums, Reed has been more aggressive when facing his two major challengers, Ward 15 Alderwoman Megan Green and State Senator Jamilah Nasheed. But to this audience of seniors, his message was simply positive, even if he delivered it with the slightly fiery tone of a minister.
Without mentioning the upcoming election, Reed spoke of his own role as chief lawmaker. As head of the executive branch, the mayor is in charge of all the city’s agencies. The board president has a different role, Reed said, noting his seat on such boards as the St. Louis Airport Com-mission and the East-West Gateway Council of Governments.
“What we have is a bully pulpit,” he said. “They literally can ignore us. They have done that at times,” Reed said, speaking of the executive branch. However, “As the chief lawmaker for the city, I can really get some things done.”
He mentioned the Youth Crime Prevention Fund, which he says has helped more than 20,000 young people. He talked about his effort to stabilize households for senior citizens, and increase public safety in the city, efforts that involve the public schools, job creation, and stabilizing families.
Reed spoke at length about efforts that have been tried in cities across the country, including Operation Ceasefire. When these programs get to people before they commit the violent acts, the murder rates have dropped sharply, he said.
Cities that have implemented this include East St. Louis and New Orleans.
“They start by saying you cannot arrest your way out of a problem,” said Reed. Instead, the high crime rate is treated like a health problem. The effort involves all kinds of people and groups, including non-profits,job agencies, courts, police, elected officials and others. “We have to do it not on an adversarial level,” Reed said.
The next step, he advised, is to concentrate on the people and groups most likely to commit murders. Reed noted that one percent of the population is responsible for more than 60 percent of murders. Participants in these programs include at-risk youth and ex-offenders, people who might be prone to violence.
Group leaders will point out things they have done in the past that might send them to jail, and how to prevent that in the future by restarting a positive life path. The program also helps participants in other ways, such as helping them find jobs.
“A lot of them have no idea they can go from where they are to holding down a job,” Reed said.
At the same time, Reed spoke of what happens when a community won’t participate in solving crimes. More than half of the murders in St. Louis City go unsolved.
The issue of violence is one that hits close to home with Reed. Both his brother and nephew were murdered.
With so much gun violence in the city, he says it’s an issue that touches almost everyone.
Reed says he goes into classrooms and asked students how many of them know someone who has been shot or killed, the answer is staggering.
“By the time you’ve finished, every hand in the classroom went up,” he said.