Tishaura Jones elected St Louis’s first black female mayor

The Associated Press
Jones, who is currently the city treasurer, said: ‘we’ve begun breaking down the historic racial barriers’ in the city

Tishaura Jones has been elected as the next mayor of St Louis, Missouri, making history as the first Black woman to hold the city’s top position.

“This campaign can unequivocally say that we’ve begun breaking down the historic racial barriers and the racial divides that exist, and have existed for generations in our city,” Jones said on Tuesday night, adding that she “will not stay silent” in the face of “any injustice”.

“As a city, we’ve been surviving. We’ve suffered disinvestments, decades of violence, broken promises from our city’s leaders, who have bowed to the will of special interests and insider dealings,” she said. “It’s time for St Louis to thrive.”

Jones, who currently holds the position of treasurer in St Louis, defeated Alderwoman Cara Spencer, who conceded the race on Tuesday night. The final vote tally between the two women was Jones with 52% against Spencer with 48%.

Jones told St Louis Public Radio it felt amazing to win. “I’m ready to get to work and usher in St Louis’s new era,” she said.

In her concession speech, Spencer praised Jones and spotlighted the historic nature of the election result.

“This is something we should all celebrate,” Spencer said. “Our city broke a glass ceiling tonight, a ceiling that shouldn’t have been there.”

Spencer also promised, while surrounded by supporters at her watch party outside the Mahler Ballroom, to work with Jones to help solve city issues.

“I’m proud to be a citizen of St Louis tonight,” Spencer said. “The treasurer was my opponent but she is not my enemy. The people of St Louis have spoken, and I pledge my support to Mayor-elect Tishaura Jones to move our city forward.”

Others, including the Democratic National Committee chair, Jaime Harrison, chimed in to congratulate Jones on her win, calling it a “great & historic achievement” on Twitter.

There is considerable work to be done in the way of governing the midwestern city of 300,000 residents known as the “gateway of the west”, and eyes will be on Jones as she sets about tackling problems.

The city remains in a struggle to regain its economic footing, particularly after the shutdowns caused by Covid-19.

It’s a considerable challenge in a city that has lost more than 556,000 residents since 1950, when population peaked. The St Louis economy has been historically tied to industrial manufacturing and is famous for being the headquarters for Anheuser-Busch. It ranks 13th among US cities with concentrations of Fortune 500 companies.

While new industries such as healthcare biotechnology are emerging, average hourly wages have lagged behind those of the broader US. According to 2019 data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, St Louis residents earn 84 cents less across industries than the national average.

That includes cooks, who earn almost $1 less than what they average nationwide, and are particularly vulnerable as downtown restaurants try to reopen and get back to normal operations.

Violence, particularly killings, also remains a critical problem. According to police statistics, 262 people were killed in St Louis last year, at a per-capita rate 30% higher than any year going back to 1950. So far in 2021, 46 killings had been recorded through 6 April, exceeding the high pace of 2020 by 10 deaths.

As a candidate, Jones’s platform included spurring small business innovation, driving sustainable and equitable investment in the local economy, and unification efforts between communities and St Louis police.

“Our city stands at a crossroads. Every day, we are haunted by the ghosts of our past, by centuries-old problems, and every day, it seems like we attempt the same tired solutions. Today I am asking you to dream bigger,” Jones says on her campaign website.

There appears to be momentum for Black women to be given power to create such changes. Last year in Ferguson, Missouri, just 10 miles from St Louis, Etta Jones was elected as the first Black and first female mayor.

In a statement on her campaign site, Jones said confronting St Louis’s “extraordinary challenges” with enthusiasm, optimism and grace, would present opportunity. She has pledged to recruit more counselors for substance abuse and mental health, as well as social workers.

Jones also was highly critical of law enforcement tactics in the city as a candidate.

“St Louis, this is an opportunity for us to rise,” she said in her victory speech. “I told you when I was running that we are done avoiding tough conversations. We are done ignoring the racism that has held our city and our region back.”

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https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/apr/07/tishaura-jones-st-louis-first-black-female-mayor


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