“I told you when I was running that we aren’t done avoiding the tough conversations. We are done ignoring the racism that has held our city and our region back.”
-Treasurer Tishaura Jones, Mayor-elect, City of St. Louis
Despite being the clear front runner after her strong showing in the primary mayoral race and the early returns from absentee voters that showed a wide margin for Tishaura Jones, the final tally was surprisingly close. Unofficial returns show that Jones garnered 52 percent and her opponent Cara Spencer had 48 percent of the votes cast.
As St. Louis seeks to reverse its economic stagnation and unrelenting population decline and deal more honestly and realistically with its two most urgent crises – the historic level of violent crime and the harmful impact of the coronavirus pandemic – it must reckon with its crippling historic racial inequities and injustice. This mayoral race is a case in point, as we saw how a relatively obscure alderwoman was able to mount a well-financed campaign.
Notwithstanding her assertion about her progressive ideas and a gracious concession speech, Cara Spencer was willing to go back to the well-known playbook (way beyond anything incumbent Lyda Krewson, to her credit, was willing to participate in under similar circumstances in 2017) of negative advertising fueled by misinformation and racial dog whistles.
Jones rightly rebuked, not by name, her opponent’s campaign tactics. “Some will chalk the negativity that’s been spewed over the past few months as just politics and it should be my responsibility to just ignore it and move on … But I will not stay silent about the need to eradicate dog whistle racism and the underlying bigotry in the discourse of our politics,” Jones said.
There will be no substantive progress in St. Louis until this region faces up to the crushing costs of a continuing willingness among some to stoke racial division and exclusion for their narrow self-interest.
This is a moment to seek reconciliation, not pandering to long-held bias and hostility and resorting to regressive divisiveness. Fortunately, a majority of the voters of St. Louis made their choice and want to move beyond personal recriminations and ill will to see a path that moves us in a more positive direction.
Well-intentioned power can afford an ability to convene, to decide and to implement. Economic growth in this region, including its urban core, the city of St. Louis, is possible and desperately needed, but can never again be subordinated and take a back seat to equity and justice.
Tishaura Jones, the city’s mayor-elect, has served as treasurer of St. Louis since 2013 and prior to that she served in the Missouri House of Representatives for five years. In both positions, she served with distinction as a leader and is now prepared to lead this city with the same competency, hard work and dedication to service.
We acknowledge the city’s myriad and difficult challenges are daunting, but there are also new opportunities for cities like St. Louis in a post-Trump administration that can be leveraged beyond the federal dollars the city will receive in the current relief package and additional funding from infrastructure spending or future earmarks. St. Louis can once again be a go-to place for those looking for opportunities, if the city shows it is ready to change course and begin to realize its great potential to rejoin its place among the nation’s most successful and prosperous cities.
We are optimistic about the possibilities and have confidence in the fresh, forward-thinking leadership that will be provided by Tishaura Jones and her administration. We share their belief that we do have an opportunity for us to rise if we can mitigate some of the hostility and distrust of our past that has kept our region mired in mediocrity and stunted growth