By ED FINKELSTEIN
“Organized Labor is a key ally in our fight to build a city and an economy that works for everyone – not just the wealthy and well-connected,” St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones told delegates of the St. Louis Labor Council at its September meeting in discussing the goals she wants to accomplish as the city’s 47th mayor.
Elected last April as the city’s first black female mayor, she outlined an aggressive program to help St. Louis grow and be safer. She didn’t mince words.
“Enacting this positive vision can’t be the burden of government alone – every sector, public and private, has to be engaged to help make this a reality. We need to look at our enforcement, infrastructure and programming needs across the board.”
She stressed that her administration’s top two priorities are getting people vaccinated and protected against COVID-19 and improving public safety.
To reach that goal she called on the Labor Movement to help. She has reached out to the locals of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and UNITE HERE to discuss how to get their members, predominantly working in service industries, vaccinated.
“We can end the COVID-19 crisis but ONLY if we get our vaccination numbers up,” the mayor stressed.
In outlining the challenges of improving public safety throughout the city and especially in downtown, Mayor Jones made a critical point:
“Let me be clear – police cannot be our ONLY method to address crime and public safety. Poverty is the root cause of crime, and addressing it – with a good union job, for example, is critical.”
To address the poverty issue, the mayor noted the city is spending $11.5 million from the federal American Rescue Plan toward improving public safety with youth jobs and programming and community violence intervention programs, like the new STL Cops Clinicians program that has already helped over 1,400 people with issues relating to housing, lack of basic needs and mental health crises.
MORE ACTION, PLANS
Additionally, the mayor noted the city has:
- Taken action against problematic bars and clubs downtown.
- Launched a new Downtown Engagement and Public Safety Initiative.
- Sought community input on how to allocate the $500 million in federal monies awarded to the city, resulting in 2,500 responses with ideas and suggestions.
- Preparing a process to provide $500 for financial aid to each of 10,000 families hit by the pandemic.
- Allocated $8 million in the public health infrastructure to get COVID resources into the neighborhoods.
- Earmarked $30 million to grow jobs and opportunities and assist small businesses, enhance workforce development and expand broadband and Wi-Fi.
- Initiated a series of “Pop Up City Halls” to bring representatives of city departments into the neighborhoods to outline city services, job referrals and COVID and rental assistance.
- Launched a massive hiring program to fill critical jobs throughout the city’s departments, including a $3,000 hiring bonus for all jobs that will be paying $15 an hour with good benefits.
Outlining many more efforts in only her first five months in office, the mayor stressed to delegates:
“The roots of the issues facing our city run deep. It’s easier to treat the symptoms than the cause, but I am committed to addressing the root causes… (which will take a) multipronged approach and engagement of all our resources.”
She received a standing ovation.
Major Jones’ political career began in 2002 when she was appointed as Democratic Committeewoman of the 8th Ward. She served two terms in the Missouri House of Representatives where was selected as the first African-American woman in Missouri to hold the position of assistant minority floor leader. She is also the first African-American woman to serve as city treasurer.