ST. LOUIS, Mo. – A quiet storm, which has been brewing here since mid-January, has recently become a political tsunami.
It all started when radio talk show host Bob Romanik, the infamous self-described Grim Reaper of Radio, featured St. Louis Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed on his show to discuss allegations made by Ward 15 Alderwomen Megan Green of political corruption.
The allegations revolved around a now defunct new NFL stadium proposal. Green told reporters at the time, “I am hardly the only alderperson on the board who has received promises of financial or political gifts from a party invested in the success of this stadium deal.”
The proposal would have required hundreds of millions in tax payer subsidies. Green had called for a public vote on the proposal, which City Hall, the mayor, and board president Reed rejected, knowing that the NFL proposal did not have public support.
Reed had agreed to appear on Romanik’s show to counter Green’s allegations.
While Green publicly but tactfully discussed her concerns, emphasizing her commitment to her constituents and the need for a democratic, transparent process, Romanik, and by proxy Reed, showed no such decorum.
Romanik, a major donor to Reed’s unsuccessful 2013 mayoral bid, assaulted Green’s personal character, using numerous gender-based, sexist, and misogynist expletives, while Reed laughed.
Instead of challenging the Grim Reaper‘s vile language and characterization of Green, Reed called Green’s allegations “reprehensible.”
Then the tsunami hit land. Reed belatedly took to Twitter to explain himself and assuage those angered by his consent of Romanik’s vitriol, but time and the peoples’ voices were not on his side. Now the board president is under fire.
Of note here are not only the comments of a lone talk show personality. Rather, the complexities of a political climate hostile to female office-holders – and women leaders generally – make this particular act more than an individual sexist assault. Arguably, it is a hate crime against all women, as the parameters of violent language – as espoused by Romanik – could easily turn into violent acts.
Unfortunately, Romanik’s caricature of Green and Reed’s acquiescence is not without precedence. In our political landscape women are often criticized not by policies, but by personal character, or must be lowered into an unlearned caricature, often with the use of offensive, sexist language.
The Grim Reaper’s words were literally disgusting, but the larger issue is the threat to the status quo that Green’s office has and will continue to lay bare. She is unbought and unbossed, which partly explains Romanik’s need to characterize her in misogynist, sexist terms, to belittle her as a women rather than addressing her policies, platform, and agenda.
Like the author of this turn of phrase, Shirley Chisholm, the first women of color elected to U.S. Congress, Green is articulate, courageous, and uncompromising. She is described throughout the city of St. Louis as the most progressive politician in office, and her voice and actions makes this sentiment clear.
She put her body on the line while protesting against police brutality in Ferguson, and championed implementation of a living wage of $15 an hour here.
With only one year in office, Green was also a vocal supporter for the creation of a police civilian oversight committee, and proposed implementation of participatory city budget.
She has pledged to never take money nor gifts from special interest. She is beholden only to the people.
This is undoubtedly an ugly episode. Romanik and Reed should both by held publicly accountable – in the media and at the polls.
While the actual outcome of this drama is yet to be determined, one thing is certain: A new, impassioned movement has been born here in St. Louis and Alderwomen Megan Green is one of its leaders. Like the movement surrounding Bernie Sanders nationally, Green’s support is broad-based and in motion.
I will continue to support her, as will thousands of other registered voters here – evidenced by the hundreds of phone calls into Reed’s office expressing their disappointment in his tacit approval of Romanik’s comments.
Additionally, we will continue to form coalitions to elect progressive candidates like Green. We will continue to call out those officials beholden to big-money special interests and corruption. We will have the last word.
Shuron Jones is the newly elected secretary of the 15th Ward Democrats (Green’s Ward) and a leader of the St. Louis Workers’ Education Society.
Photo: Alderwoman Megan Green (left) at the St. Louis Workers Education Society monthly community pot luck. | Tony Pecinovsky/PW