If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound? If a mayor requests 42 county officers to help patrol the city and no one in county government hears it, did she really make a request? The answer for St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson is an emphatic no, even though the distinct sound of a public relations thud is now echoing across the region as it becomes increasingly apparent she doesn’t know how to lead amid a growing violent-crime crisis.
Last month, Krewson suggested the county had been unresponsive to a request she claimed to have made in March for county policing assistance. Krewson stated on Sept. 13 that she asked the county to provide 42 officers to the city police department on a contract basis, but “they have been unable to loan us any officers,” the Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Kohler reported.
The county was “unable” because no such request arrived. Winston Calvert, chief of staff to St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, responded with no small measure of confusion last month, suggesting that perhaps the request got lost amid the escalating corruption turmoil surrounding former County Executive Steve Stenger.
County Police Chief Jon Belmar also responded, “We’re unaware of that [request]. I don’t recall that at all. I mean, at all.”
More than two weeks elapsed when Krewson could have offered clarification. Instead, she opted for silence. Kohler reported Sunday that Krewson never actually relayed the request to county officials.
It took a public information request to get to the truth. It revealed that Krewson only raised the idea in a March 21 letter to Tom Irwin, vice president for regional development and political affairs at Centene. As a concerned citizen, he had convened a meeting earlier in March of senior local officials to address violent crime, a source of increasingly bad national publicity for the region.
Krewson wrongly asserted that she proposed the loaner of 42 county officers during that meeting. She did no such thing. Irwin took no action on her letter since it’s not his job to relay formal requests between the county and city governments.
Krewson offered what can only be described as a lame, passive-voice, double-negative response when asked to clarify: “There was no expectation that it wouldn’t be shared. I can’t speak to exactly who he shared it with. My thought was it was shared with the others at the meeting.”
She sent the request to him “because Tom Irwin called the meeting,” she said. “He was the lead on the meeting.”
Borrowing from the mayor’s twisted syntax, St. Louisans had no expectation that Krewson wouldn’t lead when they elected her. Perhaps they, too, should have been more specific. Amid a violent crime epidemic in this city, it’s time for Krewson to step up and lead. Or step aside.