Let me start by saying that this election cycle has given me hope. In December, I was clear that for me, there was something at stake in the coming months.
“Here’s what I’m going to need us to do, St. Louis. I’m going to need us to take a good strong look in the mirror and make a decision…I’m asking us to claim this as our rock bottom, and I’m asking us to treat the Spring elections as though our life depends on them. Because it does.”
“…Nothing is more systemic than policy and the way in which our city runs. In addition to the opportunity to elect a new mayor, as of this writing, there will be races in 9 of the aldermanic wards (only odd are up this year). These campaigns, the issues raised and how they are framed, the public’s engagement, how we hold our press and leadership accountable — this is a litmus test for whether or not we are ready for a new version of ourselves.” - Me, in DecemberFebruary Me feels like we’re doing pretty well on the test. I have seen engagement and passion and commitment and energy spreading like nothing I’ve witnessed in St. Louis. This could just be the view from the seat I have this time around, but based on so many conversations and the building shift over the past two years I think it’s more about the fact that enough of us are taking this movement seriously.
I also want to be clear that the 5 major democratic mayoral candidates have truly impressed and moved me. In all the ways in which St. Louis has its own special brand of things, putting yourself out there to run for Mayor of this city is not a small consideration. My familiarity with the contours of the physical, emotional and social toll the work I’ve been doing has taken on me, I can only begin to imagine what the past year has been like for the candidates and their families. And in the face of that toll — or maybe as a result of it — the amount of growth between the debate at the end of January and the forum last week was audible and visible in the majority of the candidates. Regardless your ultimate opinion of the content and choices, each has heard criticism and praise and has deepened their learning and ability to convey ideas and issues critical to our city’s growth. I truly thank each of them for their service and sacrifice on behalf of St. Louis.
Of course, because they are all human and in politics, each candidate has their flaws, each their past votes or actions which could invoke side-eye up against their current campaign promises. There have been enough articles written, papers served and money tracked that any given supporter has enough fodder to lead us all in a Twitter-fueled chorus loop of “but their emails!!” between any two given candidates. As I’ve said many times, St. Louis does not have the luxury of expending its energy on FB comment battles and Twitter wars. St. Louis does not have the luxury of holding each candidate up to a mirror of perfection. St. Louis does not have the luxury of spinning our wheels on who should and should not get out of the race.
St. Louis has work to do, reality to get uncomfortable with and change to make if it’s going to thrive. It needs a Mayor who:
- is not only unafraid of doing things that have never been done before, but who has a track record of doing so #Unflinching
- has the support of everyday people here locally who care passionately about and/or whose lives depend on change #ThePeoplesCandidate
- has a national, active platform and network of advocates and supporters behind them when they begin to ruffle the Status Quo #National
There is only one candidate in whom I’ve seen all three of the above live and in action, and that is Tishaura Jones.
I’ve said to a number of audiences that the work I’ve been called/lucky/crazy enough to do for the past two years has resulted in an opportunity to listen, engage, reflect, get feedback, adjust, and repeat with and between St. Louis’ citizens, non profits, entrepreneurs, corporate leaders, elected officials, activists, philanthropists, educators, media, etc. I’ve done the same with people in all of those positions in other cities and/or who transplanted to St. Louis and/or who left St. Louis for somewhere else. I have seen, witnessed, and experienced disparate corners of this city’s psyche that few are able to see at the same time. It is through that lens that I am clear on what St. Louis needs to truly have a chance at delivering on its potential:
- #Unflinching Doing what we’ve been doing — or slowly and safely evolving from it — will continue to result in the same disparities we’ve seen for 50+ years. Disparities that are tied to population loss, persistent crime, $14 billion in unrealized GDP and infant mortality rates like that of a developing nation. The inertia of Business as Usual must be interrupted intentionally and directly and on purpose. Yes, it will ruffle feathers and people will be aghast AND that will be nothing in comparison to what we lose if we don’t.
- #ThePeoplesCandidate Empowerment of the people who choose to or who have no choice in living here is an absolute and unavoidable piece of changing the tide and the perception of St. Louis. We cannot market, polish or spin the reality of what life is like for a large number of people who inhabit this city (see disparities and outcomes mentioned in #1)
- #National St. Louis has long been known for being overlooked for national money, national opportunities. This means that if major regional systemic change is to happen, it is left to be funded locally. As the Status Quo controls funding streams (directly or indirectly), and major systemic change is often perceived as a threat to the Status Quo, it’s no surprise we’re still looking at the same disparities decade after decade. Some of the most disheartening moments I’ve had since moving back to St. Louis 12 years ago have been learning the detailed backstories on so many opportunities for major shifts in multiple topic areas that have died on the vine because when they truly started to move toward change they were choked by suddenly unavailable funds and support.
- #Unflinching Tishaura Jones has implemented new programs, initiatives and ways of doing business that directly address some of our region’s most intractable legacy issues. She’s taken fire and continued with more. That is the muscle she has been developing.
- #ThePeoplesCandidate Tishaura Jones’ campaign started with the people. Strategic ploy or not, the Draft Tishaura movement preceded her public candidacy by 7 months. Her list of endorsements is made of organizations closest to the needs of our region’s most vulnerable, individuals on the forefront of St. Louis’ momentum toward a new and prosperous story, and people and organizations who have been on the front lines of fighting for — and winning — change in St. Louis. There is no question to whom Tishaura Jones would be most loudly held accountable.
- #National Before Tishaura Jones’ now-viral letter, donations were coming in from all over the United States. Since then, national endorsements have made clear that more than just locals are rooting for St. Louis. At this point, her loss would be another opportunity for St. Louis to be painted as uninterested in shedding its past and doubling down on more of the same.
I can do math, so in no way do I feel like March 7th is a lock. However, I’ve spent my career in the business of understanding communities of all types and over the past two years have gotten a crash course in the community of change. What I see coming together on behalf of a new story for St. Louis — and coming together for Tishaura Jones — gives me more than hope. It’s showing me — and many others — a tangible example of what’s just within reach.
St. Louis City Resident, Ward 17
PS: Right! Aldermanic races, very important for all of the reasons above! I only know two races personally, but I apply the lens above to those as well. With the process for reduction from 28 to 14 kicking off with the 2020 census, we should be taking the longview. For me that means Joe Diekemper in the 17th. Shout out to Lindsay Patton in the 19th, Dan Guenther in the 9th, and Megan Green in the 15th.