At the beginning of the St. Louis mayoral race – that, for all intents and purposes, ended on Tuesday, March 7 with the narrow Democratic primary victory of Lyda Krewson – looking at policy issues through a racial equity lens was an afterthought. Tishaura O. Jones made it center stage in her campaign, and others followed. At a mayoral forum on Jan. 29, Krewson said she wouldn’t push to have St. Louis Police Officers Association spokesman Jeff Roorda step down. By the middle of February, she was taking a strong stance against his hateful rhetoric and calling for him to be fired. Progressives, who supported Jones almost unanimously, forced that change. We believe without Jones’ boldly progressive, forward-looking campaign and the way it resonated with young and progressive voters, Krewson would never have made many of the progressive promises she made.
As Jones reminded her disappointed supporters when conceding (with a tiny losing margin of 888 votes out of 55,635 cast), it’s our responsibility to make sure the next mayor, as Krewson almost certainly will be after the April 4 general election, fulfills these promises. Let’s recall some promises Krewson made at the February 22 mayoral forum that The St. Louis American helped to moderate.
Forward Through Ferguson and For the Sake of All have called for “inclusionary zoning” policies that force developers to include low- and moderate-income housing within development projects that receive tax incentives. Jones said early in her campaign that she would lead this important effort and require that the city has mixed-income and affordable housing on all development projects. At the forum, Krewson said she would “absolutely” move the city towards an inclusionary zoning policy. So, for example, the $675,000 townhomes that Krewson wanted to give tax abatements to in the 28th Ward would have to figure out a way to make that project affordable for all residents – not only the wealthy – if it receives subsidy from the city.
Krewson said, “All neighborhoods should be mixed-income. I think it’s critical to do that.” The public must demand new zoning policies from Krewson that reflects this sentiment. Currently the Affordable Housing Trust Fund is not receiving the full $5 million that voters agreed to when they voted on a proposition to fund it in 2008. The mayor has the power to make this happen. At the forum, Krewson promised that she would make sure that it received the full $5 million, instead of the $4 to $4.5 million it has received since 2011. We will be watching.
Currently, if developers receive Tax Increment Financing (TIF), the city requires that developers employ a certain number of minorities, local residents and apprentices on their construction sites. However, if they don’t hit those goals, the developers currently receive no penalty. At the forum, Krewson said that she would support leveling financial penalties against developers who fail to meet the city’s minority participation requirements on projects that receive city support. “There ought to be clawback provisions for any incentive that the developer doesn’t meet the terms of the redevelopment plan, and that would include minority participation goals,” Krewson said. Like new zoning policy, this change could be made immediately through an executive order, and we will push to make sure the next mayor adheres to her affirmation with action.
When asked if the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department should help to enforce violations of federal immigration law, Krewson said, “Absolutely not.” She said it would create a lack of trust between the community and police, and as a result, people would feel even less comfortable reporting crimes. “It’s the job of the St. Louis police department to protect all of us, and that includes undocumented immigrants in our city,” Krewson said. We will hold her to that firm position.
Most importantly, Krewson promised to do everything in her power to end Mayor Slay’s legacy of deepening the city’s racial and economic divides. We believe that Krewson was almost the least likely person on the March 7 ballot to effect this change. Her campaign was orchestrated by mainstream Democrats with deep histories of fostering racial divisions to win elections – but it is she we all must hold accountable.
“I want us to stay united and stay connected,” Jones told supporters, “because we are the force that’s going to hold this next administration accountable. We are going to stay in contact because, you know what, change happens from the bottom up. We will not accept the status quo no matter who’s in office.” No, we will not and must not.