St. Louis city is divided by one long road — Delmar Boulevard.
Walk south of Delmar, and you’ll find a vibrant business district and affluent residential neighborhood. Walk north, and it looks like a country that’s been bombed out in a war decades ago and never rebuilt.
This inequity is at the heart of the city’s continual protests and high homicide rate.
“This year has been the most violent in decades, and the only answer seems to be to expand policing until it’s an occupying force in our neighborhoods,” said St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones.
Following her re-election win Tuesday night, Jones announced today that she was running for mayor of St. Louis. If she wins, she would become the first African-American woman to hold office.
At the heart of her campaign — as it was in 2017 when she lost to Lyda Krewson by 888 votes — is addressing racial and economic inequities.
If Missouri wants to see a calmer city with less crime, Jones said, St. Louis needs a leader who will stop ignoring its problems by simply forming another commission to conduct another study.
The St. Louis region has now conducted at least four yearlong studies on its inequities — including the Ferguson Commission report, For the Sake of All, the city’s Equity Indicators Baseline report, and the city’s Equitable Economic Development Framework.
“The answers are all in the report, report, report,” Jones said. “We just need the political will and courage to act.”
Jones, a former state representative, has served as the city’s treasurer for the last eight years.
She said her record of “bold and progressive policy” has been centered around closing the racial wealth gap and achieving racial equity in government. Among those policies is her initiative to establish savings accounts for every kindergartener in public schools, a recommendation that came from two of the reports.
A win for Jones would also double down on the “Black Girl Magic” progressive wave in St. Louis, which also includes Congresswoman-elect Cori Bush and Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner.
Filing for the 2021 municipal primary opens Nov. 23. The election is March 2, 2021. Typically, the Democratic primary determines the winner in the mayor’s race. But that changed with the passage of Proposition D on Tuesday.
Proposition D will establish an “approval voting” system and non-partisan primaries for the offices of mayor, comptroller, the board of alderman president and the board of aldermen.
All candidates will now appear on the ballot, regardless of their political party. Voters would get to approve or disapprove as many candidates as they like. The top two candidates would go on to face off in the general election.
Krewson, considered a more conservative Democrat than Jones, has not announced her bid for re-election. But her last campaign finance report showed her well positioned with more than $650,000 at the end of September.
That’s well above Jones’ $22,018, which she reported eight days before the Nov. 3 general election. Jones was also out-raised during her narrow loss to Krewson in 2017, but she notes her army of grassroots organizers and volunteers has grown in the last three years.
Steve Conway, Krewson’s chief of staff, told The Independent on Thursday that he’s heard Krewson say numerous times that she will seek another term. Her efforts to address vacant buildings, homelessness and improve city services are making a big impact, Conway said.
In January, Cara Spencer, a progressive St. Louis alderwoman, announced her mayoral campaign. Like Jones, she highlights the need to address the city’s inequities, particularly around tax incentives and economic development.
“I think like many of us, my eyes are glued on the national results,” Spencer said in response to Jones’ announcement. “Once that’s settled, and I’m hopeful on that front, I look forward to a robust discussion on the policies that can best move St. Louis forward. The more voices in that discussion, the better for democracy.”
It’s unclear if others will join the race, but Jones and Spencer have already engaged in some political bickering on social media with each other and with Krewson. Those spats will likely become more intense in the next few months.
But at her press conference today, Jones did not criticize the records of the other candidates.
“We are not a poor city; we’re a cheap city,” Jones said. “We have refused to invest in the things that will move our city forward. Every day we attempt the same old tired solutions. I’m asking you to dream bigger.”