ST. LOUIS, Missouri — Mayor Tishaura Jones (D-St. Louis) wants four more years in office.
As she approaches the two-year milestone in office, the first-term Democrat said she "absolutely" plans to run for re-election in 2025. Jones made her remarks on Wednesday during an exclusive interview with 5 On Your Side.
Jones was addressing the city's shrinking population, a troubling trend that persisted for decades and accelerated during the pandemic, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
"I'm absolutely running for reelection, but I've only been here for less than two years at the time that we're talking," Jones said. "So population can't change that much in two years."
5 On Your Side Political Editor Mark Maxwell asked, "Is it fair for the public to evaluate whether population has grown from the time you took your office to the time you run for re-election?"
"I would say that's one way to measure our success, because if we look at the population decline, it's been declining since the 1950s," she said. "If we're looking at population to measure success of all of the mayors, then I guess we've all failed."
Last week, Jones rolled out her economic justice plan, which is funded in large part with federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. The strategic plan steers support to specific neighborhoods, targeting a racial divide in wealth and income.
An earlier draft of the economic justice plan said the city would encourage businesses to pitch in down payment money for workers to get into homes. Instead, the city's plan uses federal COVID-19 relief funds to do that.
The guiding document for restoring the city's economy lists "Grow the Population" as a key goal.
"St. Louis has put together these studies ... these plans ... these reports. But they sat on a desk and collected dust for years," she said. "We've taken a little bit from a lot of those reports and put it into action."
The proposal suggests giving down payment assistance to new homeowners living at or near poverty levels can help reverse the city’s population loss.
The mayor suggested racism and a lack of opportunities drive Black residents to move out of the city. She also said education and jobs could keep people here or bring them back.
"When I talk to people that I know that have left St. Louis for other cities, it's opportunities," Jones said. "They feel like, you know, St. Louis still has a racial divide and racism is still alive and well here. You know, we have to have these difficult conversations about how we provide opportunities to people that don't look like us."
"How do we even the playing field for our educational opportunities?" she asked. "We have some of the best universities in the country right here in St. Louis. But what are we doing to attract our citizens to attend those universities and then stay here after they complete their degrees?"
During the 25-minute interview, Jones criticized the police push to strip her control of the department, she defended her long-term plans to reform the city's police and emergency response systems and said the city has made progress in restoring adequate levels of city services after disruptions during the pandemic.
"We're not at rock bottom. We're trying to prevent from getting to rock bottom," Jones said. "I think St. Louis is on the cusp right now of a wonderful opportunity and we have to get everybody on board."
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