Recently, Bill McClellan penned a column about me titled “The Shadow Mayor of St. Louis strikes again.” The longtime Post-Dispatch columnist was referring to an op-ed I wrote here in The St. Louis American last week.
I want to thank McClellan for the new title of “Shadow Mayor”; it brought some levity and laughter to the weekend. He was right: what I proposed would not completely “eradicate violence in the city, but at least they were ideas, programs, something more concrete than rewards and balloon releases.” And, although readers of his column also enjoy his humor, I want to be clear: violence is a serious problem and calls for comprehensive, transformative, evidence-based solutions.
Leaders like Comptroller Darlene Green, Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner, Superintendent Kelvin Adams, and Rev. Starsky Wilson should also be credited with helpful ideas to protect our children all published in The American.
But we must not look only to elected leaders and individuals for answers to end violence. Community groups like the Organization of Black Struggle (“OBS”), the Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression (“CAPCR”), and the Close the Workhouse Campaign (led by Action St. Louis, ArchCity Defenders and The Bail Project) have spent years researching evidence-based methods for reducing crime in other cities.
Crime in the city has been a problem for decades, and we are long overdue for comprehensive, transformative, evidence-based solutions to prevent crime and invest in our neighborhoods. Now is the time for solutions, not political posturing and pointing fingers. I strongly support closing The Workhouse and using the $16 million savings to invest in Cure Violence, neighborhood revitalization, and other evidence-based crime prevention methods.
I propose the following first steps on how we can see this happen sooner rather than later.
Next week, when the Board of Aldermen returns, they should introduce a supplemental appropriations bill to fund Cure Violence. This appropriation should be offered as an annual match for corporate and philanthropic dollars to fully fund this program over a minimum of five years, with quarterly progress reports to the community. Another option is to propose a community benefits agreement for the new soccer stadium to include funding for these programs, since the city is providing the land free of charge.
And for those who say that I should “put my money where my mouth is,” I offer the following receipts:
- The College Kids Children’s Savings program has over 13,500 children saving for post-secondary education and assets of almost $1 million since we started it in 2015.
- Last fiscal year, I transferred over $11 million to the city to save the jobs of the Neighborhood Stabilization Officers, purchase tow trucks, and increase the city’s reserve fund.
- I raised wages to a minimum of $15 per hour for all employees in the Treasurer’s Office.
- My office paid for the Metrolink study, so we could get back in line for federal dollars to expand public transit in the city.
It’s worth noting that three out of four of my “receipts” answer calls to action from the Ferguson Commission.
I am willing to work with anyone to make our city safe and to invest in communities so they can thrive and grow. But the continual pointing of fingers, platitudes, and posturing are distractions.
We have everything we need to come together and put our city on a new path. The question is, will we?
Tishaura O. Jones is the treasurer of the City of St. Louis, the first woman and first African-American woman in that position. Her office’s investment strategy has yielded over $25 million for the city, and its College Kids program has helped 13,500 city students save nearly $1 million for higher education.