Oh, what a difference a Black mayor makes.
Those were my thoughts as I listened to the poignant inaugural address by Tishaura Jones, the first black female mayor in the history of St. Louis.
Her audacity to reference her family’s relatives in East St. Louis, Ill., and her temerity in including East St. Louis Mayor Robert Eastern III as a speaker were both nods to a new day and new era of respect for STL’s neighbor to the east.
It never happened during the inaugurations or administrations of her white predecessors, and it begs the rhetorical question, why?
I vividly recall an incident during the administration of Mayor Vince Schoemehl. During that time, I was press secretary for ESL Mayor Carl E. Officer. Mayor Officer’s administration had intelligence regarding gang activity relocating from East Boogie to St. Louis. I attempted to convey that information to Schoemehl’s staff and was promptly informed that STL ‘had no gang problem.’
A larger elephant in the room is race. I occasionally saw STL’s first black mayor, Freeman Bosley, Jr. partaking in the nightclub scene of ESL, as I am confident Mayor Jones probably did at some point in her life.
The issue is about comfort levels and a capacity to see ESL as a neighbor, a partner, an asset, an ally and not as a threat.
In the past, white mayors glanced across the Mississippi River derisively and viewed ESL as an eyesore, a problem an “other.” It was anything but positive.
Mayor Jones said it best when she pointed out, in addressing STL’s crime prevention challenges, that “crime doesn’t stop at our borders.” Neither does opportunity.
Instead of the dismissive attitude that STL’s white mayors had towards including ESL in talks of regional development, Mayor Jones wisely realizes the potential in partnering with East Boogie to derail crime at our borders. She is also promoting regional cooperation, vitality and collaboration in enhancing the mutual development of both sides of the river, with the potential for jumpstarting tourism in the bi-state region.
Think about it. When those Goodyear blimps project aerial images of the St. Louis riverfront, Busch Stadium and the Gateway Arch, they are usually photographed from the East St. Louis riverfront.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful, profitable and optically magnificent if both sides of our Mississippi River mirrored each other in development, tourism, safety and beauty?
It just makes good economic sense.
Like it or not, the success of St. Louis and East St. Louis are mutually bound by a single thread of destiny and, perhaps, Mayor Tishaura Jones has the wisdom and vision to seek to transform what others have derided as a problem into a source of unlimited possibilities.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @JamesTIngram