Tishaura O. Jones

Tishaura O. Jones in a meeting in the St. Louis Treasurer’s Office with a team from the Common Cents Lab at Duke University on Tuesday, February 7. 

Photo by Wiley Price / St. Louis American

On Monday, February 6, Tishaura O. Jones declined an editorial board interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Jones, of course, is a Democratic candidate for St. Louis mayor in the March 7 primary election and current city treasurer. She explained her reasons for not meeting with the Post editorial board in a letter to Tod Robberson, Editorial Page editor at the Post.

Two weeks ago, you used some of your ink to outline what questions you would be asking of mayoral candidates. You complained that “decades of sustained, abject neglect by city leaders have allowed a bombed-out graffiti-covered, war-zone image to prevail.” You said you were afraid to walk your dog at night and you called for a plan to “address blight and abate the graffiti that’s killing our city.”

You just moved here. It isn’t your city, yet. And graffiti is not what’s killing it.

What is killing our city is poverty. Since you’re new and you live in a great neighborhood, you probably don’t know that the poverty rate doubled during Mayor Francis G. Slay’s 16-year tenure.

What is killing our region is a systemic racism that pervades almost every public and private institution, including your newspaper, and makes it nearly impossible for either North St. Louis or the parts of South St. Louis where African Americans live to get better or safer or healthier or better-educated.

St. Louis needs to change. I am not afraid to say that. And I don’t mean the polite incremental kind that Alderwoman Lyda Krewson promises. I mean change.

I will look at every issue through a racial equity lens. I will ask if every decision we make helps those who have been disenfranchised, red-lined and flat-out ignored for way too long.

I will look through each and every program in city government and make the changes necessary to ensure that government is working for those people.

From participatory budgeting to the modernizing of services, I will take steps to make city government easier to navigate, easier to participate in and easier to understand. I’ll ask police officers and firefighters what would make their jobs easier. I’ll put social workers into the police department so that trained practitioners will be doing the jobs police officers aren’t trained to do.

We do not need to invent new programs for much of what I plan to change. There are programs all over the country we can learn from and that we can adopt. I know this because I’ve traveled to see them. I know that galls your writer who wrote that I am “high-flying” and should be grounded. I suspect she meant that I was “uppity” or had a “bad attitude,” but didn’t have the honesty (or courage) to be that overt.

I plan to work hard as your mayor, but I do not plan to waste time ignoring things that are working well elsewhere. We have too much at stake in this community to do any differently, and we have too much to do.

It’s the same way I have run the Treasurer’s Office. When I was elected, I found an office that did a lot of things inefficiently, and I looked for ideas for how to improve. Over the past four years, I modernized parking and launched a major effort to change lives practically with the Office of Financial Empowerment. You described that as “just doing my job” and wrote that the white guy you endorsed would have done the same thing. At least two of you have lived in Texas, so you will understand what I mean when I call that bullsh*t.

As mayor, I’ll take the same approach.

I’m not against using tax incentives for development. But, I want to make sure that we are using those incentives for blighted areas as intended and those we are coupling those tax incentives with community benefit agreements. Community benefit agreements can make sure there is a priority for those who are living in the area to get the jobs created by the development, that these jobs are living-wage jobs, and that they lead to real investment in the community. For decades, St. Louis has jumped around, investing here, giving tax breaks there, without any real reason for why or where. As a result, subsidy has often gone to the parts of the city that need it least. That practice needs to stop. We need a comprehensive plan for the entire city – one that recognizes that more needs to be outside the central corridor.

I will work to close down that rat hole of a Workhouse. Taxpayers spend millions of dollars a year to keep that place open to accommodate many people who do not need to be there, or be there so often. I’ll put the same resources into mental-health services, substance-abuse centers, re-entry programs, and job training. We also need to work with the rest of the region to ensure that they are doing their fair share around homelessness, not just dropping people off downtown or incarcerating them.

Too many people who live in North St. Louis have a hard time getting to centers of employment and recreation because we do not have transportation options that work for them. I’ll make that a priority, headlined with planning and development of a North-Side light rail system.

We need to protect our most vulnerable citizens by expanding access to responsible banking and credit, by insisting on a minimum wage that is a livable wage, by instituting paid family leave policies. We need to create a Tenant’s Bill of Rights so that renters across our city have the tools they need to ensure their housing is livable and safe. We need to do what we can as a City to make sure we are laying a foundation that allows all citizens to be successful and to thrive.

I think you were in Texas during Ferguson. If so, you may have missed what happened here: We woke up. Black people woke up. Allies stood up. Young people spoke up. Our best minds listened and produced a pair of remarkable documents, the Forward Through Ferguson report and the For the Sake of All report, that are blueprints for the next four years of a mayor.

I understand that the Post-Dispatch is hurting right now. I hear that soon you will have to lay off more employees. With readership down to below 100,000, it makes sense why you would resort to a more inflammatory news reporting style to boost readership.

There are some talented reporters at the Post who are very good at their jobs. I’ve had the privilege of talking with many of them. They have written about me fairly, objectively, and positively. I appreciate criticism when it’s due.

But what the editorial board and certain other reporters have done is nothing short of thinly veiled racism and preference for the status quo past. Something this city has had enough of.

I think there might be enough city voters who are with me and are ready to vote for that change in March and April. After we do that, you and your dog will be safer. And maybe you will consider hiring an African-American editorial writer. 

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(18) comments

Keithen

You have to be emotionally unintelligent or completely disconnected from the city to think that the statement "I will look at every issue through a racial lense" Is meant to support criminal behavior or be lenient on crime for any race of people. It simply means that belief systems, whether it be conscious or unconscious, have an impact on policy, law and justice. Those belief systems determine who matters in society and who does not. And to make right what is inherently wrong, some type of action must take place. I'd be proud to have Tishaura Jones as my mayor.

Keithen

StupidlyOptimistic

Speak like an accountant and carry a big heart.

One American

Mayor Jones, ------ Thank you for calling out the St. Louis American "FAKE-NEWS" organization for its' long term disrespectful, defamatory, duplicitous and discriminatory coverage of the African American community and/or African American community leaders. ------ It's disgraceful, but typical of the paper, that they didn't criticize the outgoing Mayor more precisely on his mismanagement of our tax-payer-contributed funds. Examples? ------ The majority white City Police force (members of the Fraternal Order of Police Union) have gotten filthy rich with higher salaries, low-work-hour requirements, 90% lifetime pension salary after only 20 years on the force.... ------ And, let's not forget that somehow, despite the fact that the Police can't find more Black officers, those same White FoP members are working a lot of overtime (time and a half) every week, ostensibly to pad their own pockets with more money. ------ Members of the city's majority white Fire-Department (Another Union) have gotten increases similar to the Police Union. ------ Almost all of the contracts executed by the city for "public works" or "infrastructure improvement" have been delegated to non-minority firms that are headquartered outside of the city...... and almost all of the sub-contractors those companies hire to work now..... are dominated by illegal aliens who have all but wiped out blue collar work opportunities for African Americans. ------ So, perhaps some folks are surprised by your revelation that the St. Louis American editorial board is implicitly racist and has no black editorial writers, not to mention its poor history of having ANY black writers. ------ But, I wasn't surprised. When Donald Trump talks about the "crooked media", he's talking about organizations like the St. Louis American whose ethics are so shallow that they use the paper to destroy people and concepts they don't like, under the guise of REAL NEWS. ------ Thank you for challenging that silly new, arrogant editor and demanding the paper get its act together. You forgot to give them the alternative of just shutting down if they can't be more objective.

One American

ATTENTION:

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Since I do not have the name or email address of the individual who is monitoring and approving or disapproving comment submissions on the St. Louis American website, I am sending you the message by this medium.

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I am asking you to stop disapproving my comments that agree with Mayor Jones' characterization of the St. Louis American organization as racist. Your deletion or disapproval of my comments is being monitored in real time and will be reported to your competitive media if it continues.

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Thank you!

One American

Mayor Jones,
------
Thank you for calling out the St. Louis American "FAKE-NEWS" organization for its' long term disrespectful, defamatory, duplicitous and discriminatory coverage of the African American community and/or African American community leaders.
------
It's disgraceful, but typical of the paper, that they didn't criticize the outgoing Mayor more precisely on his mismanagement of our tax-payer-contributed funds. Examples?
------
The majority white City Police force (members of the Fraternal Order of Police Union) have gotten filthy rich with higher salaries, low-work-hour requirements, 90% lifetime pension salary after only 20 years on the force....
------
And, let's not forget that somehow, despite the fact that the Police can't find more Black officers, those same White FoP members are working a lot of overtime (time and a half) every week, ostensibly to pad their own pockets with more money.
------
Members of the city's majority white Fire-Department (Another Union) have gotten increases similar to the Police Union.
------
Almost all of the contracts executed by the city for "public works" or "infrastructure improvement" have been delegated to non-minority firms that are headquartered outside of the city...... and almost all of the sub-contractors those companies hire to work now..... are dominated by illegal aliens who have all but wiped out blue collar work opportunities for African Americans.
------
So, perhaps some folks are surprised by your revelation that the St. Louis American editorial board is implicitly racist and has no black editorial writers, not to mention its poor history of having ANY black writers.
------
But, I wasn't surprised. When Donald Trump talks about the "crooked media", he's talking about organizations like the St. Louis American whose ethics are so shallow that they use the paper to destroy people and concepts they don't like, under the guise of REAL NEWS.
------
Thank you for challenging that silly new, arrogant editor and demanding the paper get its act together. You forgot to give them the alternative of just shutting down if they can't be more objective.

One American

Mayor Jones,

Thank you for calling out the St. Louis American "FAKE-NEWS" organization for its' long term disrespectful, defamatory, duplicitous and discriminatory coverage of the African American community and/or African American community leaders.

It's disgraceful, but typical of the paper, that they didn't criticize the outgoing Mayor more precisely on his mismanagement of our tax-payer-contributed funds. Examples?

The majority white City Police force (members of the Fraternal Order of Police Union) have gotten filthy rich with higher salaries, low-work-hour requirements, 90% lifetime pension salary after only 20 years on the force.... And, let's not forget that somehow, despite the fact that the Police can't find more Black officers, those same White FoP members are working a lot of overtime (time and a half) every week, ostensibly to pad their own pockets with more money.

Members of the city's majority white Fire-Department (Another Union) have gotten increases similar to the Police Union.

Almost all of the contracts executed by the city for "public works" or "infrastructure improvement" have been delegated to non-minority firms that are headquartered outside of the city...... and almost all of the sub-contractors those companies hire to work now..... are dominated by illegal aliens who have all but wiped out blue collar work opportunities for African Americans.

So, perhaps some folks are surprised by your revelation that the St. Louis American editorial board is implicitly racist and has no black editorial writers, not to mention its poor history of having ANY black writers. But, I wasn't surprised. When Donald Trump talks about the "crooked media", he's talking about organizations like the St. Louis American whose ethics are so shallow that they use the paper to destroy people and concepts they don't like, under the guise of REAL NEWS.

Thank you for challenging that silly new, arrogant editor and demanding the paper get its act together. You forgot to give them the alternative of just shutting down if they can't be more objective.

douglerner

I think you mean the St. Louis Post Dispatch being racist. Doesn't the St. Louis American have mostly an African American editorial board and mostly black writers and is a publication created for promoting news mostly for and about the African American community?

kjoe

Tishaura....do not take for granted what information you are given regarding the public schools. There are many, black and white, whose agenda includes minimizing what is said about education, because the historical lie....works well for them. Number one on this list would be what happened to cause the schools to be taken over, and the word choice being thrown around with an attitude of...."who could possibly be opposed to choice?" Peter Downs would be good to talk to, and so would Sylvester Brown. You need to explore the extent to which the population of St. Louis has been dis enfranchised regarding their children.

sciuser

Go Tishaura! I admire her courage and her vision for St. Louis!

One American

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Emma

Well. I think Ms. Jones has spoken clearly here. Even better, she has [at least] two rock-solid ideas; Metro expansion to North Side neighborhoods, and banking and financial access. Most important, she is on fire for city residents whose interests have been ignored for too long.

One American

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douglerner

I'm concerned about crime. That's a basic quality-of-life issue that affects all residents of St. Louis, regardless of race. Whether it's muggings, or car thefts, or break-ins or worse, I would hope there would be a real effort to make St. Louis a safe city for everybody, and show zero tolerance for crime.

When people feel safe to walk around their neighborhoods and shop and stroll, that has to improve the atmosphere.

I don't think "everything" needs to be decided through a lens of "racial equity." Black or white, there are some things which affect everybody. If there is rampant crime, is Jones going to say, "Well, let's see how crime impacts on racial equity" before taking action? I'm hoping her statement was just hyperbole.

Aitia

You have it reversed. It's "let's see how racial equity impacts crime." It's through racial equity (and this has been shown in numerous ways) that crime can be addressed and reduced.

douglerner

I don't know the stats on race and crime in St. Louis, but I would say the priority order should be (1) first protect the victims and prevent crime and (2) look at the long-term roots of crime which, while important, should come after helping the community immediately by getting criminals off the street and preventing crime.

Both short and long term solutions are needed.

Your reply reminds me of the old joke: Two social workers come across a man lying in the road after being beaten by muggers. He is bruised and bloody and can hardly move. One social worker says to the other, "Can you imagine the person who would do such a thing? That person really needs our help!"

Aitia

While semi-amusing, the joke misses the point. There seems to be a lot of agreement that something different has to happen. Looking at crime through the lens of racial equity is about trying to get to the heart of why the crime is occurring - stopping it from happening in the first place rather than just setting forth punishment after it has already happened.

Jones isn't saying stop enforcement (or at least I'm not hearing that) but rather trying to get to the core of the problem.

douglerner

Well, at least I got a "semi-amusing." :)

I agree we need to do both - continue (even ramp up) enforcement and also, of course, get to the core of the problem.

I'm not sure the core is racism rather than plain old economic disparity, the lack of good public education and after-school opportunities, and a lack of good strong family value instruction.

tkrozen

Hey Doug - I know what you're saying and I agree that the streets should be safe, but there should be better resources for criminals and people at risk for falling into (or back into) a life of crime. You can arrest as many people as you want, but eventually uneducated poor kids are going to come of age and need to feed themselves and their family and folks released from prison are going to come back and need to do the same. So, without livable wages, access to employment and transportation to employment, education and adequate housing, at risk individuals will always become criminals. So, in my opinion, our future Mayor here has it right. We need to address the root of the problem, not just prune the tree that's growing up into our house.

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