Tishaura Jones Makes History – The University News
St. Louis-born Tishaura Jones made history on April 7 when she was elected the city’s first black woman mayor. Jones is a self-described progressive who served as a Democratic committee woman, served two terms in the Missouri House of Representatives, and most recently was Treasurer of St. Louis.
Savanah Seyer, a senior at SLU who also worked for University News, is the Executive Administrator at MO Political, the company that represented Jones. She worked strategically throughout the campaign to interview the volunteers who participated in the public outreach, including recruiters, door knockers, telephone bank staff, and general organizers.
“A lot of people wanted to help with the campaign, so putting the right team together was something I took really seriously,” said Seyer. “[Jones] just inspires a lot of hope and motivation in ways that I’ve never seen in any other candidate. “
Matt Rauschenbach, political director and campaign spokesman, said Jones had three top priorities since the campaign began. The first is public safety. One notable subject is the Workhouse, the medium security facility in St. Louis City that has historically and presently treated inmates inhumanly, largely due to their inability to afford large bail-outs. Jones has pledged to shut down the infamous workhouse within her first hundred days in office.
“She likes to say that we don’t have to reform public security, we have to transform it,” said Rauschenbach.
This campaign goal touches on several facets of how our city works, including the organization of 911 dispatch centers. The overall goal is to limit direct community exposure to armed officers. People who are in a mental crisis would be given a mental health advisor, and people affected by homelessness would be given a case manager.
“I think that’s something really uncomfortable for people, but it’s necessary,” said Rauschenbach.
Your other two priorities are an equitable recovery from COVID-19, including planning and building public health infrastructure for the next public health crisis and economic mobility.
“As treasurer, she implemented the college kids program that gave kindergarten teachers a college savings account, and they topped it up with the first $ 50,” said Rauschenbach. “So we’re finding programs like this to break down the generation barriers that have been holding back blacks in St. Louis.”
Part of what made their victory so historic was the city’s new voting method known as assent voting. Consent voting is a non-partisan method of giving voters the opportunity to vote for as many candidates as they want, making the single winner the most approved candidate.
The consent voting is seen by many as a better alternative to the more traditional first-past-the-post system, where voters only select one candidate and the candidate with the most votes wins regardless of whether they get a majority of the votes. The approval vote therefore leaves room for challenges from third parties and also prevents the split of votes, in which a candidate receives a majority of the votes in his base areas but receives little or no support in other parts of the city.
This type of voting was seen in the 2017 Mayors’ Race, where Lyda Krewson was just barely able to win the votes and beat Tishaura Jones. Before the approval vote went into effect, Krewson won her race by just 888 votes, although this consisted mostly of just the city’s southwest corridor. Jones won across the city that year, including north of Delmar, although the turnout was much lower.
“The way of Spencer, [Jones’ primary opponent]has not won any community north of Delmar, and in most places it did not even get 20 percent of the vote, ”said Rauschenbach. “So that was really the first choice, probably for decades, with the winner spanning all of north St. Louis into the central corridor.”
One danger, however, was the lack of education the campaign team had found in this voting system. According to Rauschenbach, the Proposition D organizers who were responsible for this new system didn’t necessarily do their part in informing the public about how it worked. This meant the commitment fell mainly on the campaigns to make sure voters knew how to use them.
Seyer was part of this educational process and was repeatedly motivated by her respect for Jones as a candidate: “She’s not going to tailor her message to someone who makes it more convenient for her,” said Seyer. “She’s not afraid to talk about the real logistics to get these things done, which is so refreshing.”
Rauschenbach also emphasized how the language of politicians has a real impact on the way problems are dealt with in the future.
“For example, when you talk about something like the City Justice Center downtown, if you call it what it is – which is an injustice, it sets the tone for the process by which we are going to solve the problem.” Rauschenbach. “Much of that trust in the way we talked about things came from us while we were just having a dialogue about it. What is the name of a problem in St. Louis that affects black and brown communities to an extent many times greater than the extent to which it affects white people. “
Rauschenbach noted that the election of a black woman to be mayor is a strong moment for St. Louis. In her address at the swearing-in ceremony, Jones admitted that she was standing on a rock that was not built for her, in a rotunda that never saw her rise to mayor and worked in an office her ancestors could never have dreamed of .
“When a city like St. Louis, where race is so tangible, chooses a black woman [as mayor]That means that it is ready for progress, ”said Rauschenbach. “It is ready for change. It’s ready for transformation. “