The St. Louis American endorses Tishaura Jones for St. Louis mayor

From the St. Louis American

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St. Louis desperately needs to change. Fortunately, it has a unique opportunity to do just that. For the first time since the very beginning of this century, St. Louis will elect a new mayor this spring. Almost certainly, the winner of the Democratic primary on March 7 will be that new mayor. We must be wise and strategic in how we vote on March 7 if we are to elect a trusted change agent.

That change agent is not Lyda Krewson. Krewson, 64, has held elected office longer than anyone else on the ballot. She was first elected to the Board of Aldermen in 1997, and in the past 20 years she has done almost nothing to oppose the racially divisive politics practiced during that time (and long before). Her 28th Ward has been developed, with the abundant help of tax incentives she fought for, while areas of greater need in the city decayed without her complaint. The most racially divisive and developer-subservient person from Mayor Francis G. Slay’s administration, Jeff Rainford, has her ear. She co-owns the entrenched racial disparities in this city that she suddenly claims – including in an opinion column in our paper this week – that she wants to undo. Further, Jeff Roorda and the St. Louis Police Officers Association have decided hers is the administration they want to negotiate with. Let’s make sure that does not happen.

That change agent is not Lewis Reed either. Reed, 52, has held elected office nearly as long as Krewson – since 1999 – and held one of the three most powerful seats in city government as president of the Board of Aldermen for the past decade. If Reed were a change agent, St. Louis would have more to show for his 10 years at the Board of Estimate & Apportionment than we do. For all that time, he and Comptroller Darlene Green formed an African-American majority on the city’s chief fiscal body, yet policies that deepened racial divisions and disparities continued on their watch. Like Krewson, Reed has been developer-compliant, including during this current mayoral campaign, when progressive opposition to public incentives to build and improve sports facilities that he had been advocating has tied Reed in knots. Further, we have not been impressed with his organizing skill and competence in his current position. We would not endorse his promotion to Room 200 on the basis of his performance as aldermanic president.

Antonio French could be a change agent as mayor. French, 39, has been the Slay administration’s most vocal and persistent critic at the Board of Aldermen, where he was first elected in 2009. Yet when Rainford left and Slay became more cooperative, French was willing to work with the mayor to improve the city’s crime-fighting strategy, which all candidates agree is critical. However, we have serious concerns about his management skills, which are so critical to a chief executive position. We see this in his struggles to keep viable the initiatives he has started in his 21st Ward and in Ferguson. Of more immediate concern is his electability in this field. With one status quo white candidate and three competitive black candidates on the ballot, the only path to victory for a black candidate is overwhelming support from white and diverse progressives. French has been passed over for the endorsement from every major progressive organization – and a long list of prominent progressive individuals – making it very difficult to project a victory for him.

Those progressive organizations and individuals did almost unanimously support one candidate, and she is the only change agent who can win on March 7. That change agent – the candidate who deserves and needs the vote of everyone who wants St. Louis to change – is Tishaura O. Jones.

The progressive organizations that have endorsed Jones, 44, and pledged money and/or volunteers to her campaign – a mix of national, state and local – include Political Action, Democracy for America, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Missouri State Council, the St. Louis Young Democrats, Mobilize Missouri, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri and the Missouri National Organization for Women. These organizations are comprised of creative people from a new generation who want like-minded, forward-thinking leadership – and they identified it in Jones.

Democracy for America, which was founded by Howard Dean, cited both Jones’ current performance in her citywide elected position as treasurer, which she has held since 2009, and her platform for future change. The group lauded her creation of a program that grants each Saint Louis Public Schools kindergarten student $50 in a college savings account. Equally important are her creation of a Financial Empowerment Center, leadership on the St. Louis Unbanked Task Force (which has shown real improvement in steering vulnerable citizens to better financial services), and professional turnaround of what had been one of the city’s most inefficient, if not corrupt, offices. Democracy for America also praised her for the national attention she received for her letter to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s editorial board calling it out for perpetuating the city’s systemic racism, which went viral after it was published by The American.

We were equally impressed with the  list of more than 50 prominent local progressive activists and organizers who endorsed Jones and their reasons for doing so. They embody the energy and ideas needed to help the city reverse its past decline, and they think Jones is the leader who can catalyze that change. They include activist attorneys Thomas Harvey, Brendan Roediger and Blake Strode; education advocates Brittany Packnett and Faith Sandler; activist clergy Rev. Mike Kinman and Rev. Cassandra Gould; community organizers and activists Kayla Reed, Kristian Blackmon, John Chasnoff and Brittany Ferrell; 15th Ward Alderwoman Megan Ellyia Green; and 5th Ward Committeeman Rasheen Aldridge.

“At a time of dangerously regressive trends on the state and national level, St. Louis cannot afford to engage in business as usual,” they said in a collective statement. “Jones’ bold vision and moral clarity speak to the urgency of this moment and offer precisely the type of leadership that our city needs to embark on a path toward equity, justice and opportunity for all of St. Louis’s residents.”

We agree. St. Louis desperately needs to change – and has the potential to do so. While the city has fiscal problems, it also has the ingredients to foster greater economic revival. To achieve this will require greater racial equity to free up the vast, undeveloped potential in the African-American community. The city needs change that uplifts all neighborhoods and communities. Jones is being resisted by those who fear her demonstrated leadership and management skills and fearless determination to bring innovative, progressive, pro-growth policies and leadership to City Hall. Only Tishaura O. Jones can win this election and bring St. Louis the change it desperately needs. We strongly and unequivocally endorse TISHAURA O. JONES FOR ST. LOUIS MAYOR.

The municipal primary election is Tuesday, March 7. Absentee voting is underway.

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