Building on a background as a public servant, financial services professional, and educator, Tishaura O. Jones was sworn in as Treasurer of St. Louis on January 1, 2013. She is the first woman to hold the office in the history of St. Louis and is running for Mayor of the City of St. Louis.
As Treasurer, Tishaura increased transparency in city government, modernized the parking division, and saved the city millions of dollars through streamlining treasury operations. She has embarked on an ambitious agenda to improve the overall financial health of city residents by opening the Office of Financial Empowerment, offering free financial literacy classes and counseling, and the College Kids Savings Program, which gives every kindergartner in the public schools, district and charter, a $50 savings account for college.
Prior to becoming Treasurer, Tishaura established a track record of leadership in the Missouri House of Representatives. She was a Missouri State Representative from 2008-2012 and was the first African American and First Female Assistant Minority Floor Leader. As a member of the leadership team, she was the second in command of the Democratic members of the Missouri House of Representatives. During her tenure, she was a strong advocate for education, women’s reproductive rights, healthcare, and economic development.
I am running for Mayor because I love this City. I am also running for Mayor because this City needs to change. I am not afraid to say that.
I plan on looking at every issue, be it money invested in our parks or tax incentives, through a racial equity lens. We need to be asking if the decisions we make truly help our City, especially those who have been disenfranchised, red lined, and flat out ignored for way too long.
Everything will be on the table. We will look through each and every program in City government and make the changes necessary to ensure that government is working for the people. From participatory budgeting to the modernizing of services, we will ensure that we are taking steps to make City government easier to navigate, easier to participate in, and easier to understand.
For some of that change, we do not need to invent new programs. There are programs all over the country we can learn from, that we can adopt. I plan to work hard as your Mayor, but I do not plan to waste time ignoring things that are working well elsewhere. We have too much at stake in this community to do any differently, and we have too much to do.
We have to look at research based policies across the country. We have to figure out how to make them work for St. Louis, and let them roll. We have to look at the research that has already been done here through things like the Ferguson Commission and the For Sake of All report and incorporate those ideas into our policy. The Treasurer’s Office is a good example. I found an office that did a couple of things inefficiently, looked for ideas for how to do things better, and over the past four years, the office has learned how to do those things—and a whole lot more—better.
As we change, we are going to have to change together. Life-long residents, newcomers, immigrants, students, seniors, young people, blacks, whites. Inclusion before exclusion, listening before speaking.
I’m not against using tax incentives for development. But, I want to make sure that we are coupling those tax incentives with community benefit agreements. That there is a priority for those who are living in the area to get the jobs created by the development, that these jobs are living wage jobs, and that benefits are attached to make sure together we are investing in the community. If we are forgoing tax revenue, let’s make sure that we are getting a return on that investment in another way, be it youth Centers, jobs, or affordable housing.
We need to fully staff our police department. Let’s see where we can cut costs to pay police what they deserve, something comparable to what police officers are being paid in other municipalities. Being a police officer is a difficult job. They are first responders to everything. They aren’t always equipped to handle what they come in contact with. They come in contact with mental health issues, substance abuse issues, poverty, and much more. I’m in favor of putting social workers with police officers so that we can connect people to services. We need to put more resources into solutions that deter crime, rather than putting our resources into keeping people behind bars. That’s why I advocate closing the City’s Workhouse once and for all.
We spend millions of dollars a year to keep that place running. The place where a man who was recently bitten by a rat and waited weeks before receiving medical attention, where a woman suffering from severe mental health issues hung herself because she couldn’t pay her bail, and where there are reports of guards forcing inmates to fight each other. It will take some time, and a lot of work, but if we are able to reallocate the dollars put into keeping people down into raising people up, the city would be much better off.
This is not to say that serious crimes should not have serious punishments. They should. But being poor, being sick, and being homeless warrants a different response from government than simply locking that person up. Police stations should act as social service providers and more resources should be put into mental health services and substance abuse centers. We also need to work with the rest of the region to ensure that they are doing their fair share, not just dropping people off at the boundary of the City. For too long, the City of St. Louis has taken on these issues alone. We must force the rest of the region to participate.
Our regional issues extend into transportation. Recently, at my direction, the Parking Commission allocated two million dollars to fund the next phase of the North/South Metro planning process. I am determined to keep this process moving forward. Our community is separated in too many ways, and too many people have a hard time getting to centers of employment and recreation because we do not have transportation options that work for them.
Development cannot be done without the full participation of the community. For decades, St. Louis has jumped around, investing here, giving tax breaks there, without any real reason for why and where we are doing this. As a result, subsidy has often gone to the parts of the city that need it least. That practice needs to stop. We need a comprehensive plan for the entire City.
I visited all 28 City wards on Election Day. Doing this in one day made the contrasts that much more stark. Housing in the 13th Ward looks just like housing in the 27th. But, the value of those homes is much different. Why? Because of red-lining and racism and a general lack of investment North. We need to change that. Our City will never be what it can be if half of it is left to fend for itself.
There are people all over the City who love where they live as much as I do, and they want to stay there. South, North, East, West – ALL of these areas need to provide opportunities for employment, for education, for recreation. We need to make sure that predatory practices are not making some areas unfit for people to live.
We need to protect our most vulnerable citizens by expanding access to responsible banking and credit, by insisting on a minimum wage that is a livable wage, by instituting paid family leave policies. We need to create a Tenant’s Bill of Rights so that renters across our City have the tools they need to ensure their housing is livable and safe. We need to do what we can as a City to make sure we are laying a foundation that allows all citizens to be successful and to thrive. That is our responsibility.
I’ve seen the passion that lifelong residents have for this place. I’ve seen the pride when a new restaurant opens in your neighborhood, when your child is able to be educated at a school just down the street, when someone new moves in next door and, at your invitation, begins attending the neighborhood meetings.
I’ve also seen the influx of new residents, activists with ideas, ready to roll up their sleeves and put in the work to make all of these things happen.
We all want to succeed. We all want to do better. We all want needed change.
I WANT TO BE THE MAYOR WHO GETS US THERE.