The Best Place

On March 14, Wellston residents gathered to pray over the dilapidated Wellston Loop Bus Station building at the corner of Hodiamont Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Drive. They prayed, “We see sticks, neglect, abandonment, irresponsibility and trash, but God sees a new tarp, a new roof, food and a thriving market.”

The EYE rarely focuses on Alderman Jeffrey Boyd in any citywide election because he’s more bluff or stalking horse than actual candidate. 

In the 2017 mayoral election, The American didn’t consider him among the main contenders, and indeed he only received 2.67% of the vote. That was just about two percent more than perennial candidate William Haas — and that was 28% less than his then-mayoral opponent, St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura O. Jones

Now Boyd is challenging Jones, the incumbent, in the Democratic primary for St. Louis treasurer on August 4. However, by ignoring Boyd as a nuisance candidate, we’ve been ignoring some valid concerns from his own community. So, this EYE is dedicated to those concerns.

“All you have to do is look around,” said Karen Buckley, project manager at the Wellston Loop Community Development Corporation. 

She was talking about the historic JC Penney building at 5930 Dr. Martin Luther King Dr. Owner Fred Lewis has been begging for support from Boyd to renovate and preserve the property for 20 years, but has received none. 

She was talking about the historic Wellston Loop Bus Stop building that still sits in shambles at the corner of Hodiamont Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Drive. In 2006, Wellston Loop CDC was in negotiations with Bi-State Development and others to renovate the building using transportation grant money, but Boyd put a stop to it. 

“Now we are looking at, 11 years later, a completely dilapidated building,” said Don De Vivo, executive director of the Wellston Loop CDC, who is running for treasurer on the Green Party ticket.

While Boyd has had an active hand in letting these buildings sit and rot, he managed to secure $40,000 in federal money to give his own storefronts a facelift in June 2017 through SLDC’s Neighborhood Commercial District Improvement Program. This program is funded through Community Development Block Grants.

SLDC awarded him facade improvement money for his (fairly new at the time) business, Best Place Banquet Hall, and the car lot at 5736-42 Dr. Martin Luther King Dr., which Boyd owns through his company, WEUSI Enterprises.

In April 2016, De Vivo wrote a letter to the Community Development Administration about Boyd’s conflict of interest in applying for these grants. One of the biggest points of contention was that Boyd was the chair of the aldermanic Neighborhood Development Committee at the time, and he didn’t recuse himself from voting on the allocation of these funds. Boyd voted “present,” but his presence alone is influential in a room of his peers, De Vivo said.

“Members of our community have attempted to apply for the same program with no support from local government,” De Vivo wrote. “Now we seem to be in direct competition with a sitting elected official who uses his connections through his public office to push his projects through.”

De Vivo also stated that the public had no real way to voice opposition to the situation. Boyd’s conflict-of-interest public disclosure notice was released in the St. Louis Daily Record — a newspaper for sale only at the publisher Missouri Lawyers Media’s two offices, the World News store in Clayton, or by paid digital subscription. 

“The public disclosure meeting on February 22, 2016, conducted by Alderman Boyd, allowed for no community input other than raising hands; when participants asked to speak, they were denied the opportunity,” De Vivo wrote. “Those that opposed were intimidated, told their opinion didn’t matter, and personally attacked.”

Unsurprisingly, the city counselor’s office essentially sided with Boyd, though they wrote, “A potential conflict may exist due to his ability to have possibly gained inside information with regard to such activities.” 

The EYE reached out to Boyd for comment but did not receive a response by press time. However, in past emails to the Wellston Loop CDC, Boyd has contended that they claim he obstructs other projects and activities in his ward for petty reasons or for personal gain. 

“Why would I want to sabotage something that is benefiting the community?” Boyd wrote. “That is not my style. I can choose to support or not support whatever I want to.”

Just to be clear of the timeline, Boyd first applied for SLDC’s commercial district improvement money in 2015. Yet, he wasn’t approved until just months after he essentially served as a stalking horse in the 2017 mayoral campaign, which Jones lost by 888 votes (Boyd got 1,439 votes). Boyd received the $40,000 check in his hand in March 2018.

Endorsement from racist police union 

For those who want to rid the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department of racism, endorsements from the St. Louis Police Officers Association sway votes — in the opposite direction of their support.

For Alderwoman Sharon Tyus (D-Ward 1), the police association’s endorsement of Jeffrey Boyd for St. Louis Treasurer “speaks volumes as who you should not be voting for in the treasurer’s race,” she wrote on Facebook on July 2.

Jones ran unopposed in the 2016 Democratic primary election for treasurer. However, Jones and Boyd both ran for mayor in the March 2017 municipal Democratic primary election. Jones captured 30.4% of the vote, just 888 votes behind now Mayor Lyda Krewson. Boyd only received 2.67% of the vote in that race, which had seven candidates.

Tyus’ Facebook post is accompanied by a photo of six Boyd campaign signs in front of the police union’s headquarters at 3710 Hampton Ave.

“Just to be transparent, I did the bulk of the work to put Jeffrey Boyd in office in 2003,” Tyus wrote. “The worst political mistake of my life. I vetted him. I got so many other people he did not have access to to support him. I raised his money. He has broken every promise he made to me and others.”

Boyd did not respond to The American’s request for comment about Tyus’ comments or the police union’s endorsement. 

In the City of St. Louis, there are two police associations that represent the police, Tyus wrote.

“One, the St. Louis Police Association (SLPOA) is composed of mostly white officers and is headed by the very controversial Jeff Roorda,” Tyus said, talking about the association’s business manager who is known for spewing hateful, divisive rhetoric

The other is the Ethical Society of Police (ESOP), which is composed of mostly Black officers. The SLPOA and Roorda have never stood with the ESOP or their own African-American members, said Heather Taylor, president of ESOP.

“It would be a powerful move if we ever heard the police union come out and state that protestors, activists, Milton Green, Luther Hall (Black officers who have been harmed by white officers) and some of the issues that African-American officers face are valid and they’re accurate,” Taylor told The American in January. 

Instead, the SLPOA puts out “racist” and “homophobic” memes, along with “vile statements about women,” she said. ESOP does not plan on endorsing in any race in the August 4 election.

“In 29 years in political office, I have never known the St. Louis Police Officers Association to ever endorse or support a black candidate that in any way supported and looked out for the interest of Blacks or the Black community,” Tyus said. “Furthermore, they do not support and have attacked white moderate to progressive candidates. When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

Political EYE is a political column by The St. Louis American’s editorial board. Rebecca Rivas reported this column.

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