Jamilah Nasheed

Jamilah Nasheed was given permission to speak when she attended a meet and greet for candidates in the race for 18th Ward alderman at the Deaconess Center on Child Well Being on Monday, February 25. Nasheed is trying to upset incumbent Lewis Reed in the Democratic primary for president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen on Tuesday, March 5. The Democratic nominee for alderman in the even-numbered wards also will be decided on March 5. The candidates for 18th Ward are Jesse Todd, Jeffery Hill Jr., Darryl Gray, Judith Arnold and Elmer Otey. Incumbent Alderman Terry Kennedy did not seek reelection.

The St. Louis American has endorsed Jamilah Nasheed over incumbent Lewis Reed and Megan Ellyia Green in the Democratic primary for president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen on Tuesday, March 5. The American asked Nasheed about Mayor Krewson’s endorsement of Lewis Reed, legislation that the board needs to pass, Better Together, and her analysis of racial demographics in the likely outcome of her election.

The St. Louis American: St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson endorsed Lewis Reed for president of the Board of Aldermen in the March 5 Democratic primary. What does that say about him as a candidate? As a vote on the Board of E&A?

Jamilah Nasheed: Mayor Krewson took 32 percent of the citywide vote in the 2017 primary. But she was basically in single digits everywhere north of Delmar. So, her base is definitely in the more southern parts of our city. And there’s nothing wrong with that – as this paper pointed out last week, that’s essentially where Lewis Reed’s endorsements have come from during this campaign.

However, the fact that she felt a need to weigh in on this race, particularly in support of one of her opponents who helped divide up the 68 percent of the vote she didn’t win in 2017, should give us a bit of pause.

A vote on the Board of E&A in this city is a very powerful thing. These two seats and Comptroller Darlene Green make up the most authoritative legislative body in our city. Which I think is a big reason why many people have been left stunned by Reed’s actions there – like his reversal on the airport privatization proposal or his rush in 2017 to push through a questionable body cam contract for a company whose lobbyist used to work for him without even 30 minutes of debate, especially after he’d ardently opposed body cams in our city for years before.

So, after that endorsement, I think it’s fair for voters to wonder: Is Lewis Reed really going to be an independent vote for us at the E&A or will he just be Mayor Krewson’s reliable second?

The St. Louis American: The CBTU endorsement of you said your “fighting spirit” is needed in city politics. What is a fight that you think needs waging that no one is fighting or that needs a leader in city government?

Jamilah Nasheed: My fighting spirit is needed because our current aldermanic leadership is not standing up for all of us.  Lewis Reed fought hard for to help wealth county residents build a soccer stadium built for their fellow wealthy county residents. But the rest of the community was completely left out because Lewis Reed refused to incorporate a Community Benefits Agreement into his soccer stadium proposal. We need a leader who will fight for Community Benefits Agreements to be attached to development deals, to ensure that our entire community benefits. 

The St. Louis American: What are some examples of city legislation that are needed that Lewis Reed has not gotten passed by the Board of Aldermen?

Jamilah Nasheed: Under Lewis Reed, the Board of Aldermen has failed to pass important legislation that makes a real difference in the lives of everyday St. Louisans. Reed failed to pass a bill banning lobbyists from the floor of the Board of Aldermen. Reed failed to pass a bill requiring a Community Benefits Agreement for development incentives. Reed failed to pass a bill requiring a Community Benefits Agreement for the planned soccer stadium. Reed failed to pass a Homeless Bill of Rights. Reed failed to pass a buffer zone around Planned Parenthood. And Reed failed to pass legislation supporting his so-called Operation Ceasefire program.

Lewis Reed almost succeeded in killing the ordinance to create a city-wide minimum wage. In fact, he announced his opposition to it when it first was announced and worked to kill it at every juncture until the community applied so much pressure that he couldn’t push back its passage.

The St. Louis American: What are some of Lewis Reed’s votes on the Board of Estimate and Apportionment where you would have voted differently?

Jamilah Nasheed: When he approved of the current process being pursued to privatize the airport. I would not have voted to approve a process that left out a public vote and that required the city taxpayers to ultimately pay exorbitant retainers to so many Reed friends and insiders. The way Reed and E&A have handled the airport process is simply unacceptable.

The St. Louis American: How do you distinguish your position on Better Together’s proposal from the positions of your opponents?

Jamilah Nasheed: I don’t think there’s enough conversation around the reduction in minority representation that will take place if this merger proposal moves forward. We have seven black elected officials in citywide positions right now, and not a single one of those positions - license collector, recorder of deeds, treasurer, sheriff, comptroller, president of the Board of Aldermen, circuit attorney – will exist if this plan comes to fruition.

What’s even more dangerous is that the people of St. Louis city and county are being stripped of their voices. I stood up when Better Together announced its plan to put a merger on the statewide ballot and introduced legislation for a constitutional amendment. That amendment would require a majority of voters in the city and county to approve any merger proposal for it to pass. And, if merger advocates want to keep pushing for a statewide vote to determine our city’s future, I’ll keep fighting to make sure this becomes law.

We don’t try to tell the rest of the state how to run their local government, so people from outside our region shouldn’t be the ones determining what our future holds.

The St. Louis American: Of the three viable candidates in this race, two are black (Reed and you), while one (Megan Ellyia Green) is white. Given that the electorate is fairly evenly divided between whites and blacks and whites tend to have a higher voter turnout, that usually means the white candidate would be favored to win. How does this race differ from the usual paradigm?

Jamilah Nasheed: While the city may be evenly split, racially speaking, political appeal is a bit more complex than that. And I think voters in our city deserve more credit than that. Just look at the trouncing Kim Gardner gave her opponents in 2016, or how close Tishaura Jones came to becoming our mayor in 2017, despite the presence of four other African Americans on the ballot.

Jamilah Nasheed: You can look all the way back to 2012 in my own race against Robin Wright-Jones and Jeanette Mott Oxford. I was off the ballot for two months after I was drawn out of my district and could barely raise a dollar during that period, but eventually won in court and came out on top on Election Day with 40 percent of the vote.

The St. Louis American: The Post-Dispatch endorsed Reed. Do you have any comment on its endorsement?

Jamilah Nasheed: I was taken aback that the Post-Dispatch editorial board was willing to endorse someone who had consistently been called out by their own writers for not paying his taxes, engaging in Islamophobia, and his “struggles with the truth” all within the last month. Not to mention the shockingly brazen dark money conspiracy to elect Reed that Tony Messenger uncovered in the Post-Dispatch on February 26. I’m sure that the readers who read those articles were just as shocked as I was to see the endorsement, although maybe not completely surprised given their track record of questionable endorsements, and recent history of antagonism toward female candidates, particularly African-American ones.

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