Kickin' Back Cosmos with the Underdog, Maida Coleman
Last night I stooped by Rue 13 on Washington Ave. to visit with the mayoral candidate during one of several "Meet & Greet" sessions she's had since announcing her candidacy.
I caught Coleman just as she was taking a first sip of a Cosmopolitan martini. "I haven't been drinking at all on the campaign, but tonight I feel like unwinding a bit," Coleman informs me.
Why she felt the need to imbibe, I did not ask. Though perhaps it was because earlier in the day the editorial board at the Post-Dispatch -- in their magnificent wisdom -- chose to endorse Francis Slay for mayor.
But if this worried Coleman, she didn't show it and soon she was talking to me off the cuff about anything and everything -- including political conspiracies, her disapproval for red-light cameras and her unusual plans for shuttered St. Louis schools.
Yes, Coleman continues to believe that Slay's campaign encouraged a woman with her same last name (Denise Watson-Wesley Coleman) to enter the Democratic primary just prior to Coleman placing her name on the ballot. As a result, Coleman -- a former Democratic state rep and senator -- chose instead to run as an Independent.
But Coleman isn't a broken record stuck on the same track of political treachery. She has some definite thoughts on how she'd improve St. Louis, and one of them should be a big hit with fans of Daily RFT. Coleman tells me that as mayor, she'd like to see those controversial red-light cameras removed from city streets.
"I see people all the time nearly causing accidents by slamming on their brakes to avoid getting a ticket," says Coleman. "You almost wonder if those camera vendors don't have some kind of kickback with NTB and AutoTire because they're costing people a lot of rubber."
As for city schools, Coleman suggests that the city refurbish its shuttered school buildings for use as housing for the poor. "The way it is now, if you're a homeless family you can usually stay in a shelter for maybe 90 days before you have to move on.
"That forces kids in those families to switch schools three or four times a school year," Coleman continues. "Many of our vacant schools could be fixed up for housing, with community centers and classroom on the ground floors. Why not?"
I first met Coleman back in 2004 at her 50th birthday party -- a soiree that included appearances by such notables as a newly elected senator from Illinois by the name of Barack Obama, football legend Jim Brown and hip-hop producers Trackboyz. (Coleman's sons John Harrington and James Coleman are musical talents of their own right, serving as front men for the Midwest Avengers -- crowned RFT's best hip-hop band in 2008.)
And while last night's "Meet & Greet" was a decidedly more low-key than Coleman's 50th b'day bash, the mayoral candidate has big plans for this year's birthday celebration in July. "I'll be 55 and I'll be mayor," she says. "You know, it's going to a heck of a party!"