Mayor Slay and Alderman French to meet on violence in St. Louis city

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) - Opposing factions in St. Louis City Hall appear ready to meet, seeking common ground in an effort to curtail violence in the city.  The agreement comes in the wake of gunfire outside a high school football game, Friday, which sent fans and players scurrying for cover.

The shooting happened just outside the football stadium at Sumner High School.  Terrified fans were rushing for safety and the game was briefly stopped until police secured the area.  Frustrated neighbors were still talking about what happened, Monday, and equating it with larger crime problems in the city.

“The news is so depressing you don’t even want to look at it because every time  you turn around somebody’s getting killed or somebody’s getting shot up or something,” Celestina Jamerson told us from her home across the street.  “It don’t seem like anything’s being done about it for real.”

The question of what’s being done has been the center of a battle between Alderman Antonio French and the office of Mayor Francis Slay.  French has threatened to block funding for a new NFL stadium on the city’s north riverfront if violent crime is not addressed in what he describes as a “comprehensive fashion.”

“I think there is a majority of aldermen down there who realize that crime and violence is a more pressing need than a stadium.  And that we can get to a stadium and there might even  be votes for a stadium deal, but we need to deal with this violence situation first,” French said.

But Mayor Slay’s chief of staff, Mary Ellen Ponder, says French is off base.  First, she points out, there is a comprehensive plan on line for all to see.

She also points out that French has been a leader in a call for more jobs to cut down on crime, something she says the stadium would create.

“We need more jobs to help people and lift them out of poverty.  The stadium certainly creates thousands of new jobs.  You are able to fight crime at the same time as moving the city forward and making progress and redeveloping blighted areas.”

French have often been critical of Slay’s administration.  He’s laid much of the blame for the city’s problems at the mayor’s feet.

“When the  may or says we’ve been doing what we’ve been doing for fourteen years, number one, clear to everyone else, is that it’s not working.  Whatever they’ve been doing has not worked.  We are on pace to have a 20 year high in the number of homicides in the city of St. Louis.”

But Ponder says aldermen have not been partners in much of what they’re trying to do.  One example:

“We’ve laid out a path for how to fund more officers.  That’s before the board of aldermen right now.  I understand that’s not a strategy that interests most of them.  I’d love for an idea to get more officers from them.”

But in the wake of the shootings near Sumner, after being questioned about why they’re not talking by FOX 2, the two sides have agreed to at least meet.

Ponder says the meeting was scheduled after we met with French, but prior to our arrival at the mayor’s office.  They are scheduled to sit down together Friday, with hopes that some common ground can be found.