St. Louis: The Bosnian Chamber of Commerce Held A Debate Between Two Mayoral Candidates
Although the issue of SabaH with this article’s information will be in your hands when you read this message, and we already know who won the preliminary election for mayor of St. Louis, this information deserves to be recorded because the Democratic candidates, current Mayor Francis Slay and his opponent Lewis Reed, for the first time in the history of the existence of the Bosnian and Herzegovinian community, have intensely fought to win every Bosnian vote. As mentioned before, the results of the preliminary election will be known by March 6th, and the conclusion of this newspaper is on Monday, March 4th . Of course, our readers outside of St. Louis will be informed of the results in the next issue.
Last Wednesday, just five days before the mayoral election, the president of the Bosnian Chamber of Commerce Sadik Kukic – Suma, with a small group of board members, made sure that the “Bosnian Chamber of Commerce” offices are ready and prepared for the upcoming debate and debate between the two mayoral candidates.
Guests who decided to spend the evening hours in this first cultural institution given to the Bosnian community by the city of St. Louis, served drinks and then listened to an introduction from Sadik Kukic, who pointed out that the Bosnian Chamber of Commerce is a non-profit organization with “501C” status and that it has no legal right to prefer any political candidate.
“We have the right to give both candidates an equal opportunity to present themselves to us”, said Kukic, who previously thanked everyone for coming this evening to the Bosnian Chamber of Commerce.
Carol Howard, alderwoman (representative in the city council) for 14th ward, which includes the “Bevo Mill” area where most of Bosnians live, at the beginning of the program welcomed all the attendees and introduced the first candidate–Lewis Reed, saying that he has already completed several successful years as president of the board of Alderman.
Being in a big hurry and racing against time, Lewis Reed spoke very briefly. During the five minutes of his speech, Reed was able to say that he was a family man and father of four children and has an excellent understanding of the needs of the community because of his 13 years serving as alderman. Continuing with his speech, Reed said that his first goal when he becomes mayor will be fighting crime in St. Louis, stressing that the number of killings during the tenure of Mayor Slay is unacceptable.
“Bosnians need to have a representative in city hall, and when I win, I’ll try to be there to make sure your voice is understood”, said Reed in his presentation noting that the Bosnian representatives must be among firefighters and policemen.
Talking about the economy, Lewis Reed emphasized that he will strive for better employment and investing in projects that will bring new jobs. In his vision for solving the economic crisis, Lewis Reed saw opportunity in the so-called “small businesses” that need to be financially supported to be able to accept new workers.
“As the next “mayor” I promise you that I will get up every morning with thoughts of how to help you” – Reed said at the end of his speech, and with apologies rushed to leave the Bosnian Chamber of Commerce to attend the next meeting.
The second part of the presentation lasted longer because unlike Reed, Mayor Francis Slay has held the position of mayor continuously for 12 years, and that evening he had time to spare. After Carol Howard briefly presented and greeted him with welcoming remarks, Mayor Slay theatrically began his presentation by saying:
“Talk is cheap if the words are not supported by actions. I want you to talk about actions behind us and ahead of us”.
Since Bosnians came to this city, they remembered Slay as mayor. Slay reminded the audience that has made a significant contribution during the construction of the minaret next to mosque on Lansdowne Ave., and that he helped the Bosnian community to get a free building, which is home of Bosnian Chamber of Commerce.
“The city has obtained all the necessary documentation and all necessary permits for the construction of a minaret faster than that of the mosques in Bosnia”, reminded Slay and continued: “I always showed respect to the Bosnian community and the Bosnian representatives. The Bosnian community is welcome, and you are a part of our city”, said Slay.
In the further course of his speech, mayor Slay stressed that he has already taken all the necessary steps to begin the construction of the Sebilj, a monument in the Bosnian park on the intersection of Gravois and Morganford–a project our paper has already written about in the past.
Talking about the future, Mayor Francis Slay first reminded people that during his tenure there were a lot of difficulties that may have occurred after the September 11th and the recession in which this country has been for a while.
“In this age of recession, we are still investing $12 billion for the development of the city. The crime rate is still high, but we have recently lowered it. We have the technology and strategy to continue the fight against crime. We continue with providing better conditions in schools. We continue with the opening of the new ‘charter schools’ — schools that are better and provide a better environment for our children. We have created a program called “Let’s Save St. Louis” that will protect our children. We have reduced the number of homeless by 38 % in the past, and we will continue with it through various programs. As far as the economy is concerned it is on the rise in the city, and as far as “small businesses” go, the city of St. Louis is one of the top ten in America as a city where it is easiest to start a new business. The city is now cleaner, healthier and better educated”, Slay said. He added that before him are many challenges, and that he expects support in the elections, that will give him a chance to overcome them. “Together we will build this city for our future”, said Slay at the end to the people present in the Bosnian Chamber of Commerce last Wednesday.
The people present that evening had an opportunity to ask questions, so Vedad Alagic asked the mayor whether the city offers financial assistance to those who want to start their own business. The mayor said that there are certain programs and it is best to utilize the existing resources at City Hall to help him with that. Vedad Alagic also asked whether St. Louis City and St. Louis County will administratively merge, to which the mayor responded that the city has developed a partnership with the County that leads to this goal.
Elmo Zahirovic asked the mayor why St. Louis has lost 50% of the population in the previous period, with the additional question of what is happening with the St Louis airport.
In response to a question about the airport, Mayor Slay said that the crisis occurred at the airport when the “TAA” airline went bankrupt, but that many things have changed for the better, since the construction of the new runway and the St Louis airport investing over $ 700 million a year.
“We have about 126 flights a day with our airport and we have more employees at the airport than other smaller cities such as Philadelphia, San Diego, Sacramento”, he said in his reply Slay adding, “After the 1950’s, the population has consistently declined. Our entire region has weakened because the larger were populated. The last census showed that we lost 29,000 people compared to the previous census”, Slay said at the end.
The rest of the evening, thanks to the president of the Bosnian Chamber of Commerce Sadik Kukic Suma, who owns the restaurant “Taft,” passed in a pleasant atmosphere with cuisine served free of charge to the guests. This was also an opportunity to socialize with each other very well, which will be recorded as one of the best events in this recently started 2013.