One of the many reasons political campaigns and elections are so frustrating is that (with the exception of U.S. president and vice president) candidates run alone and we cast votes for individual politicians, yet politics and government are group endeavors based on relationships. As we all know, politicians make many promises on the campaign trail that begin with “I,” yet almost everything that gets accomplished in government involves collaboration and negotiation. It’s a game of we, not I.
We believe this essential fact of government must be considered when voting for president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen in the March 5 Democratic primary. We know how incumbent Lewis Reed handles the Board of Aldermen as its president. More importantly, we know how Reed votes on the city’s Board of Estimate and Apportionment (E & A), the city’s chief fiscal body that also includes the mayor and comptroller. And while none of his challengers have ever held the position he holds so there is no way of knowing how they would conduct themselves on either board, we do know that a change in this position would bring change to the current relationships at both the Board of Aldermen and E & A. And those, we insist, are changes worth voting for.
On the Board of Aldermen, we believe it speaks volumes that white conservative colleagues like Aldermen Joe Vaccaro, Beth Murphy and Joe Roddy endorsed Reed. Of course, he also was endorsed by a number of black colleagues on the board, but for a black incumbent aldermanic president to be endorsed by black colleagues says very little. It’s knowing that the likes of Vaccaro, Murphy and Roddy think their interests would be best protected by keeping Reed in charge of the board that convinces us that it’s time for change.
At E & A, the case for needed change is even more dramatic. More than 11 years ago when we endorsed Reed over incumbent Jim Shrewsbury for aldermanic president, we knew we were endorsing a relatively unknown 6th Ward alderman from Joliet, Illinois. We also knew we were endorsing the election of a new black majority on E & A, the city’s all-important chief fiscal body. If we knew then how little we would have to show for that black majority on that board 11 years later, perhaps we would have placed less faith in the relative unknown from Joliet. Certainly we have not forgotten that it was only a few months after Reed beat Shrewsbury that then-Mayor Francis G. Slay promoted Charles Bryson so a black man could demote then-Fire Chief Sherman George – without a peep from Reed, who was endorsed by the white-dominated firefighters’ union that wanted to see George sacked. More silence and indifference in the face of threats and assaults to our community would come from Reed.
The St. Louis Chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists said it best: We need Nasheed’s fighting spirit at the city level. We need it at the Board of Aldermen – and we need it even more at E & A. Comptroller Darlene Green has been an able steward of the city’s finances and has made a number of principled stands against attempted misuses of city money. Her steadfast insistence that city voters should be required to approve privatization of St. Louis airport operations is commendable and set a principled standard for city officials. But we have not failed to notice that she never draws a status quo challenger of the type that the likes of Vaccaro, Murphy and Roddy would endorse against her. The interests that are benefitting most from the current, inequitable city government seem to be satisfied with Green – and, clearly, with Reed. But the loudest voice of the status quo comes from Mayor Lyda Krewson, who has endorsed Reed – it’s Reed she wants with her on E & A.
There is one major difference between the Nasheed of 2019 and the Reed of 2007. We did not really know Reed that well when we first endorsed him; we just knew that he had some ability and that we wanted a black majority on E & A and black leadership at the Board of Aldermen. In Jamilah Nasheed, however, we have a candidate – born and bred in North St. Louis – whom we know very well and have known for decades. That also means we know her weaknesses and flaws and have a very advanced sense of how to hold her accountable. We also know that she would disrupt a regressive and inequitable status quo in St. Louis government that Reed has helped to maintain for more than a decade. And that is why we have strongly endorsed JAMILAH NASHEED FOR PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF ALDERMEN.