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Slay and French, political foes, reach accord on St. Louis crime plan

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St. Louis Board of Aldermen approve civilian oversight board

Alderman Antonio French addresses the St. Louis Board of Aldermen before voting on a bill for a civilian oversight board to investigate complaints against city police officers on Monday, April 20, 2015. French sponsored the bill, which passed in a 17-8 vote. Photo by Cristina Fletes-Boutte, cfletes-boutte@post-dispatch.com

ST. LOUIS • Alderman Antonio French stood before his fellow aldermen in October and pledged to filibuster the city’s stadium financing plan unless a comprehensive crime plan was developed by Mayor Francis Slay.

For weeks, the alderman and the mayor battled over the issue and debated what constituted a plan. Slay argued that the city already had one.

On Tuesday, hours before the aldermen debated and pushed forward the stadium financing bill, French and Slay announced they had reached an agreement on a plan to stem the tide of crime throughout the city.

The plan, released on French’s website comprehensiveplan.org, outlined four points: identifying 15 focus neighborhoods; committing city resources over a two-year period; adding public accountability through the city’s public safety committee; and devoting other efforts, including park rangers, and creating new youth activities, job placement services and economic development assistance to the city’s most crime-ridden areas.

“After many weeks of talks and negotiations with the Slay administration, we have developed a strategy to help combat this growing violence in our city,” French said in a video posted online.

French said focusing on 15 neighborhoods where most of the city’s crime takes place was vital. Those neighborhoods are three on the city’s south side — Gravois Park, Dutchtown and Bevo Mill — and 12 on the north side: Baden, Walnut Park West, Mark Twain, Mark Twain I-70, Penrose, O’Fallon, Hyde Park, Wells Goodfellow, Kingsway West, Greater Ville, Jeff-Vander-Lou and West End.

French said cameras would be installed in the neighborhoods.

The announcement showed the evolution of French’s political career. Once a reliable critic of Slay, French, who gained notoriety during the Ferguson unrest, has begun working with the administration on crime. And, he backed the administration’s stadium financing plan after taking the lead on developing a minority participation plan for potential construction jobs.

“What we are doing should not be taken as an experiment,” Slay said on his website. “It is the more thoughtful deployment of the thousand things the city already does, many of them well.”

Then he added: “I particularly want to point to the work of two people, Chief of Staff Mary Ellen Ponder and Alderman Antonio French, who came to trust each other.”

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Nicholas J.C. Pistor is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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