For us, the choice for president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen comes down to two viable options, Jamilah Nasheed or the incumbent, and not simply because Nasheed and Lewis Reed are black, but because our mission is to strengthen St. Louis by empowering its black community.
The other candidate, Megan Ellyia Green, who is not black, is a candidate with an appealing progressive policy platform, much of which, if enacted into law, would help empower the black community and strengthen a racially divided St. Louis. However, Green has not yet demonstrated the necessary skill set to successfully maneuver in a complex political role like the aldermanic presidency. Moreover, she has not been an especially successful and impactful alderman. Her politics are to the left of most city residents, which are largely to the left of the board majority. We wish St. Louis and (especially) the city’s legislative body were more progressive, but wishing is not an effective political strategy and we do not believe Green would be the most effective aldermanic president among the three candidates. Further, her campaign is woefully underfunded. Her progressive advocacy on the board would, however, be strengthened by the election of a more progressive aldermanic president with more respect for her and her advocacy than Reed has shown.
We have endorsed Lewis Reed in the past for two of the city’s three most impactful citywide positions. Indeed, our early and strong support for Reed in his first campaign for aldermanic president – when he was a little-known 6th Ward alderman from Joliet, Illinois – was seen as vital to his initial election to his current position. It would be hypocritical and unfair of us to turn on Reed at this point and dismiss his accomplishments. Indeed, we offered him a front-page commentary space that he used to tout his accomplishments as board president. However, we feel he has held one of the city’s three most powerful citywide positions for more than a decade, and St. Louis should have much more to show for his leadership after 11 years to warrant giving him four more years in this position.
Voters must consider the position of aldermanic president strategically as one of the three seats on the city’s chief fiscal body, the Board of Estimate and Apportionment (E and A), that also includes the mayor and comptroller. Reed’s position as aldermanic president has given E and A an African-American majority for more than a decade, and yet the city’s black community concerns have not been forcefully addressed. Clearly Reed and Comptroller Darlene Green have never evolved any shared vision of how to improve conditions in the black community and, in so doing, strengthen the city overall. There is a need for the city to move more aggressively to enact policies that help realize our community’s vast, underutilized potential. Our community needs and deserves more forward-looking change.
We believe Nasheed would provide that change agency, not only at the Board of Aldermen but also on the Board of E and A. She has had some significant success in the state Legislature for a minority in a super-minority party. She has shown keen political skill working with the Republicans who dominate both houses of the Legislature, which she will need at the Board of Aldermen with its legacy of many dominant, entrenched, inept Democrats. Her policy stands in the Legislature, as Reed points out, have not always been progressive. While we would not defend all of her past policy positions and actions, she has shown an understanding of how to engage in transactional politics that benefit her community when the right deal is on the table. Moreover, we believe she has evolved as a person and as a more consistently progressive legislator over the years. Finally, we are certain that as aldermanic president she will face the unrelenting scrutiny that will make it politically impossible for her to act against the will of her community with impunity.
Importantly, we value Nasheed, in a large degree, because of her personal evolution, from a street-tough North City kid to a sometimes-reckless state legislator to a more mature and visionary state senator who represents her community ably and forcefully. That vision and forcefulness is something that city politics is lacking in its senior leadership positions. Consider all of the pain and suffering in our community since the election of Reed (and, before him, the comptroller) to two of our city’s most powerful public offices. Think of all of the acts done, without pushback, that ignore our community’s interests in those years. How many times have Reed (and, before him, the comptroller) stood up and seized the bully pulpits of these powerful positions to call attention to our pain and to demand change? It has happened too infrequently. While we believe that both are decent individuals, we feel that they have been much too compliant to a stagnant political status quo.
The city is experiencing an inflection period with some encouraging signs of significant economic growth and a more prosperous future, but the African-American community is suffering and is ill-prepared to benefit from any future economic upturn. We need an outspoken, engaged leader from our community to stand up, call attention to that pain, demand inclusive change, and then do the necessary, often unpleasant, hard political work to effect that change. We believe only one candidate for aldermanic president on the March 5 ballot has this requisite combination of courage, energy and political skill. Nasheed will be a bold advocate rather than a compliant office holder. That is why we strongly endorse JAMILAH NASHEED FOR PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF ALDERMEN.