Open Season

You donít need a single reason to recall your alderman, especially in north St. Louis

Even among the trash-strewn lots and crumbling buildings lining his north-city ward, Alderman Freeman Bosley Sr.'s soiled and sun-bleached Mercury Sable stands out as an egregious eyesore.

"I just use it to ride in," quips Bosley, who maintains he has more important things on his mind these days than auto care. "If God wants it clean, he'll rain on it."

Tops on his agenda, says Bosley, is the redevelopment of the Third Ward's Hyde Park neighborhood, a once-thriving retail and residential area that in the past five decades has spiraled into disrepair. As he pilots his dirt-stained ride down the neighborhood's main drag, Salisbury Street, the 71-year-old alderman points to vacant lots and buildings where he envisions new gated communities, chain restaurants like Red Lobster and the International House of Pancakes, and an entertainment district with jazz, blues and country & western clubs.

Soon, bystanders take notice of Bosley's creeping jalopy and wave him over to say hello or discuss neighborhood goings-on. He's scarcely traveled 300 yards, and already he's held four impromptu meetings with constituents, most of whom he knows on a first-name basis. Hard to believe that, just six months earlier, Bosley almost lost his nearly thirty-year grip on the ward.

"I played Hardin cheap," concedes Bosley, referring to his political rival Jeffrey Hardin, who came within nineteen votes of toppling Bosley in the aldermanic primary last March. "I rested on my laurels. I didn't think anyone would vote for him."

Immediately following the primary, Hardin sued Bosley and the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners over alleged voting improprieties. A judge rejected Hardin's argument, but the battle over Bosley's aldermanic seat appears far from over.

Last month a residents' group in the Third Ward began a recall petition against Bosley, making him the fifth alderman in the past two years to face a recall threat. With the exception of the ongoing recall effort against Alderman Tom Bauer in the 24th Ward, all of the recalls have taken place in the predominately African-American wards of north St. Louis, where aldermen say political infighting and fragile egos make for a constantly contentious climate.

Bosley claims the recall against him reeks of "petty politics," with Hardin supposedly working covertly to wrest the seat from the longtime alderman.

"He's totally behind this," insists Bosley, who in April won his fifth straight -- and seventh overall -- term as Third Ward alderman. "That's the only thing they have to try to get rid of me. He's still upset they lost the election."

Hardin, for his part, denies any involvement, saying the effort is in reaction to an eminent-domain project that has forced several Third Ward residents from their homes. Still, Hardin does not deny recently picketing Bosley's home and vows he will someday defeat his opponent.

"Inevitably, I will have Bosley's seat," Hardin vows. "That's a fact."

"It's open season on aldermen," says Alderman Jeffrey Boyd, who's facing a recall in the 22nd Ward. "If you have a personality conflict with them, recall them. My recall is all about sour grapes."

Leading the recall of Boyd are former 22nd Ward Aldermen Kenny Jones and Jay Ozier, who acknowledge they're out to settle the score dating back to 2003, when Boyd took the aldermanic seat from Ozier by a scant eight votes. They claim Boyd sullied their reputation during that election by campaigning on a platform of unapologetic "race-baiting."

"Boyd used our support of Slay to defeat Ozier," says Jones. "He sent out literature calling Slay 'Master Slay' and calling us 'house aldermen,' like we were his house niggers."

This past June the issue rose to a boil within the mayor's office, when Jones and Francis Slay engaged in a profanity-laced fracas over Jones' involvement in the recall. The argument ended with Jones losing his $73,000-per-year gig as Slay's executive director of the Civil Rights Enforcement Agency.

Reached at home, where he's searching for a new job and recovering from a nasty bout of hay fever, Jones wouldn't comment on the status of the recall but coyly guaranteed its success.

"Let's put it this way," the ex-alderman says. "Just as the sky is blue on a sunny June day, Jeffrey Boyd will be on the ballot."

Political observers say the successful recalls of former north-city alderwomen Melinda Long and Peggy Ryan have motivated those working to oust Boyd and Bosley. Long lost control of the 21st Ward in 2003 when Bennice Jones King, whom Long defeated in 2001, led a recall to regain her aldermanic seat.

Ryan was sent packing from her position as Fourth Ward alderwoman this June following a recall led by one-time political ally O.L. Shelton. Prior to those recalls, only one other alderman in the 91-year history of the city charter has lost office through recall -- Jimmie Matthews (27th Ward) in 1988.

Still reeling from her recall, Ryan says the system is being abused.

"The recall process was set up for malfeasance in office, not because you don't like someone personally," she says. "My recall had nothing to do with my work as an alderperson. It had only to do with a personal situation between me and O.L."

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