Thank you for the invitation. However, I distinctly remember that your editorial board at the Post-Dispatch made a decision in July 2016 not to endorse in county races other than circuit attorney. In case you forgot, here’s a link to the editorial where you said “the only candidates we would endorse are those with solid qualifications who also promise to work to eliminate the office.” And since I am not making that promise, I believe that makes me ineligible for consideration.
Famous St. Louisan Maya Angelou once said, “When people show you who they are, believe them, the first time.” So, I’m going to take your word for it. Since 2016, this editorial board has done nothing but use its pen, ink, and declining readership to try to disparage my reputation as a public servant of the city I love and serve. Consequently, I am not inclined to accept your invitation. However, what I will do is use this as an opportunity to take a stroll down memory lane of your petty editorials. Shall we?
In 2016, it was pretty light. You only wrote two attack pieces. One telling me that I should give up a benefit that was afforded to elected officials for decades before me, but somehow became an issue after I took office. Despite the fact that this “perk” was added to my taxes as income, you compared me to Marco Rubio’s performance in his response to the president’s State of the Union address.
The next salvo was in 2017, when the mayor’s race was in full swing. You called me the “high flying treasurer” and said that I should be brought down, which is nothing more than a euphemism for calling me an “uppity” Black woman who didn’t know her place. In February, I declined your interview for an endorsement in the mayor’s race, because, based on advice from Maya Angelou, you showed me who you were. Instead, I published my response to your interview request in The St. Louis American.
In your endorsement of then-candidate Antonio French for mayor, you spent almost as much time attacking me as you did endorsing him. “Treasurer Tishaura Jones has treated public office as a grab bag of perks for her personal enjoyment.” You wrote. “We need a mayor who consistently upholds a high standard of ethics. She is quick to deploy the race card recklessly. The mayor’s job is too important to entrust to someone with such demonstrably bad judgment.”
After I exceeded everyone’s expectations in the primaries – including yours, I might add – you said, “Jones has long tended to blame others for her own shortcomings. Even after Tuesday night’s loss, she offered no hint of admitting that personal failings might have turned voters away. Instead, she blamed the other African-American candidates for refusing to bury their male egos and bow out of the race. Voters value honesty and transparency. Add a dose of humility, and Jones might still have a promising political future ahead.” Even the Washington Post called your response bull [expletive].
It was clear to me after the mayor’s race that I would never receive an objective eye or ear from the editorial board, which the last time I checked still doesn’t have one African American. I called you out on it in 2017, and I will continue to call you out on it until it changes.
How can I forget when you accused me of fraud related to the funds I raised to remove the Confederate monument in Forest Park? In case you’re still wondering, that check was presented to the city parks department as soon as GoFundMe mailed it to my office.
When I tried to help the city and the Scottrade Center fund renovations, after they changed the terms of the lease behind closed doors, you said I control too much money and with too little transparency, saying, “Jones might hope to boost future political prospects by asserting herself as the hero who saved the Scottrade Center renovation. That’s not her office’s role, and taxpayers shouldn’t tolerate it when so many other city needs are going unmet.” I’m damned if I try to help and damned if I mind my own business. I just can’t win, can I?
Three months later, you called Alderwoman Megan Green and I hypocrites for supporting community benefit agreements for development projects after a sales tax increase for police salaries was passed by voters. Never mind that CBAs have been attached to some of the largest projects in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Detroit in recent years. St. Louis gives away millions in tax incentives to wealthy developers and gets nothing in return. And you think we should continue to give our tax dollars away at the expense of our schools, crumbling infrastructure, and declining tax revenue?
And, how could I forget the holiday season? You were working hard trying to make me out to be Ebeneezer Scrooge for starting the nation's second largest children’s savings program. You made a declaration that my office “has no business running children’s savings programs,” despite the fact that these programs are often birthed from state and local treasurers around this country. Here’s some news for you, Mr. Robberson. My office has received national awards for the innovative way we fund financial empowerment services. And, here’s what will blow your mind: other cities (Los Angeles, Newark, and St. Paul, to name a few) are asking us how they can funnel parking dollars to financial empowerment services like we have. So, who's the Scrooge now?
2018 started with a bang. It started with your declaration that parking money belongs to the city, not the Treasurer’s Office. Well, the last time I checked, I’m elected by the citizens of the City of St. Louis. My office is in City Hall. My employees are city employees. This narrative that the money doesn’t go to the city is a boldfaced lie. You further insinuated that I used the office’s budget as “the treasurer’s play money to spend as she pleases.” You consistently conflate the facts about my budget and how much is due to the city. The sum of $18 million is gross revenue, before my employees are paid, before operational expenses of running the parking division, before debt service. The city has received more money under my administration through contributions from the parking fund and returns on investments than ever before. But, of course, those are the facts you refuse to report.
When I petitioned the legislature to expand financial empowerment services to other treasurers around the state, you hit back with this one: “The city coffers are not Jones’ personal piggy bank. Her efforts to change the law so she can dip into parking revenue whenever she wants and spend without checks and balances is an unprecedented power grab.”
The rest of 2018 and 2019 were a series of editorial pieces about the lawsuit, which my opponent joined after he garnered a mere 1,400 votes in his embarrassing bid for mayor. Might I remind the readers that this same opponent ran against me in 2012 and is running against me again this year. Describing the nuances of the case against me in which my opponent and the mayor have joined would take another page, so I won’t bore everyone with your opinion.
And, last but not least, we arrive at the present year, 2020. Your unhealthy obsession with who I endorsed for President and how I responded to the pandemic led you to pen three scathing articles in the short span of eight days. First, you blamed Megan Green and me for Bernie Sanders’ loss in the presidential primary, saying “it’s not just a rebuke to Sanders but also to his two most prominent local surrogates.” When I learned that COVID-19 was community-spread and could directly affect my employees’ health, I shut down parking meter operations and ordered my employees to shelter in place, days before any other local official. You questioned my legal authority to do so, and, just two days later, you tried to say that mayhem would ensue if parking wasn’t enforced. Newsflash: that never happened.
As treasurer, I am responsible for protecting the credit rating of the parking division, which is tied to the city’s credit rating. During my tenure, the credit rating of the parking division was increased twice as a result of my sound financial decisions. I objected to my opponent’s premature request to transfer $5 million to the city’s reserve fund, because we did not yet know the full extent of the aid coming from the federal government. We are still in the middle of this pandemic, and we do not know how long this will last. My position has been and always will be a conservative position when it comes to protecting the city’s and parking division’s finances. My degree in finance and my experience in the investment banking industry informs my decisions. Your statement about “desperate times calling for desperate measures” is reckless and irresponsible.
And, last, at a time when this country is reeling from the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, this country’s failure to deal with systemic and institutional racism is on display for the world to see. And nowhere is this more prevalent than your editorial board, which still doesn’t have an African-American journalist. You continue to perpetuate a double standard when writing about Black elected officials. Might I also point out that your columns are eerily similar to my opponent’s complaints and campaign promises. You accused me of “pay to play” by awarding a multi-million-dollar contract to a Black-woman-owned business, while ignoring the response we sent to your questions that explained that the process was transparent and open to the public. Let me also make this abundantly clear: I am unapologetically Black and will use the power of my office to empower Black people and others who have been ignored and marginalized for far too long. Your continued attacks on Black elected officials in this city, in this current environment, is insensitive and tone-deaf.
You don’t want to know the truth. And, frankly, I’m tired of trying to convince you otherwise. You’ve consistently shown me who you are, and after four years and 23 different editorials dragging my name through the mud, it’s crystal-clear to me that you’re not capable of anything different. Therefore, I am declining the opportunity to interview with the editorial board of the Post-Disgrace – oops, I meant Post-Dispatch – again.
Tishaura O. Jones is treasurer of the City of St. Louis.