By MICHEL MARTIN, NPR
Voters in St. Louis last week delivered a historic victory for Tishaura Jones, the first Black woman elected mayor and the latest triumph for progressive candidates in the St. Louis region.
Amid unrest at local jails, surging gun violence, and a pandemic that has disproportionately hurt people of color, Jones said the race will no longer be an afterthought in the mayor’s office.
“We are done avoiding race and how it holds this region back,” she told NPR’s All Things Considered.
The current city treasurer, Jones ran on a progressive platform — calling for a “reimagining” of public safety and promising to close the Workhouse, one of the city’s pretrial detention centers that has come under fierce scrutiny for inhumane conditions. After being sworn in on April 20, she intends to shut down the Workhouse within 100 days.
Voters on Tuesday also fueled a progressive flip of the Board of Aldermen, and recent years have brought a wave of progressive candidates into office, including St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell, U.S. Rep. Cori Bush and Ferguson Mayor Ella Jones.
In discussing her second run for mayor (Jones ran unsuccessfully in the 2017 mayoral election), she brought up her 13-year-old son. Jones recalled the two talking about what, exactly, the mayor does.
“I said, ‘The mayor is over the police and trash and firefighters,’ and named all the departments,” Jones said. “And he said, ‘Oh, you’ll be over the police? That means I’ll be safe.’ And that statement just hit me like a ton of bricks because I shouldn’t have to run for mayor in order for my son to feel safe.”
After a campaign that did not shy from conversations about race and policing, Jones is determined to bring that focus to the mayor’s office: “We have not had the opportunity to have those difficult and tough conversations about the systemic racism that permeates every policymaking decision in our region and in our city.”
In the interview, Jones was critical of the city’s police union. Jeff Roorda, business manager of the St. Louis Police Officers Association, responded to Jones’ comments by directing NPR to a statement made after last week’s election: “We congratulate all of yesterday’s winners and we commit to continue to partner with them or anyone else willing to do the hard work of making this city a better, safer place to live.”
The following excerpts from the interview have been edited for length and clarity.
Click here to read the full article and interview on NPR.