Women — and women of color in particular — have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic economic crisis with higher rates of COVID-related job losses, layoffs, reduced hours and furloughs. At the same time, women are three times more likely than men to have left their jobs during the pandemic because of increased family demands.

 

Under these circumstances, it is more important than ever for our local leaders to support women. We asked a series of questions to each St. Louis City Mayoral candidate to find out how they plan to address this crisis. Below are responses from the following candidates, listed alphabetically: 

  • Tishaura Jones, Treasurer of St. Louis City

  • Lewis Reed, President of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen 

  • Cara Spencer, St. Louis Alderwoman 

Candidate Andrew Jones did not respond to our attempts to contact him. 

 

1. Question: How will you help women remain in or reenter the workforce to ensure an equitable economic recovery and to prevent women, especially women of color, from experiencing increased gender/race wage gap?  

 

Tishaura  Jones:  I fully understand the difficulty of being a working mother during this pandemic. Managing my son being at home and the office of the Treasurer has been a difficult task. The most important thing the next Mayor must do to assist working mothers and mothers who want to begin working again is handle our pandemic response. We have to have clear guidelines and enforcement, as well as a robust vaccination program in operation. After we have the pandemic under control in the city, we can move to expanding paid family leave, pre-kindergarten options, and investment in women-owned businesses and projects. I’ve always been a leader in women’s causes, and that’s why I am the only candidate with the support of both NARAL and Planned Parenthood. My advocacy and leadership for women will not stop once I am in the Mayor’s office. 

Lewis Reed: In 2018, I sponsored and passed ordinance 70748 which creates an Equitable Economic Growth Framework. This framework took 18 months to build. It lays out the path to an equitable economic future for our City that I will implement as Mayor. It will lead us to increase the City’s population by 30,000 residents by 2030 and exceed the national growth rate in jobs and payrolls among our key industries. It will also close existing opportunity, employment, wage, entrepreneurship, and wealth gaps for women and people of color; achieve sustainable long-term tax revenue growth for the city; and address environmental inequality.  As Mayor, I will make sure this plan is fully implemented and helps women remain in an reenter the workforce. 

Cara Spencer: Lack of access to quality, affordable childcare is one of the biggest hurdles for women re-entering the workforce. One of my first responsibilities as mayor will be to seek and lead the distribution of resources available from the city, state and federal government to compensate losses people have suffered because of the pandemic. I will prioritize funding for childcare and after school programs to help empower women to get back in the workforce.  

Women will be at the top of my list of those who must be involved in advising in the distribution of federal aid and in receiving compensation in the form of cash and other available resources and advantages in COVID relief efforts. My goal would be for this experience to guide the city in new policies and examples to set on how to raise women out of such vulnerable positions.  

2. Question: Childcare is an essential workforce support that is a driver for economic development. While childcare is extensively utilized by families in Missouri, the availability of quality care and the rising cost of childcare, can be large barriers to families. The issue of childcare access has only been exacerbated during the pandemic as schools and daycares have closed.How do you plan to ensure access to affordable, quality childcare for all families in St. Louis?  

 

Tishaura Jones: Our city isn’t a poor city, we’re a cheap city. Over the last 20 years, we have given 700 million dollars away in TIFs and tax abatements. Nearly 60% of that money would’ve been for our public schools. We have the money to vastly expand our pre-kindergarten options. So, my answer is simple. We make our budget reflect the fact that we value childcare and early childhood education. I’m hopeful that with the recent passage of Proposition R, we’ll be able to see more quality options available for families. 

Lewis Reed: I supported the passage of Prop R which helps to fund $2.3 million each year dedicated to early childhood programs and services in St. Louis City. The funds are being prioritized for programs serving high-needs children and families. I believe early childhood education is key. As Mayor, I would lobby the State for more funding for childhood education. 

Cara Spencer: I am committed to supporting working families and promoting the healthy development and well-being of children. Access to high quality care and learning opportunities lays the foundation for children’s development and, ultimately, their success in school and in life. Unfortunately, many families do not have access to the affordable, high-quality childcare their children need. 

As mayor I will prioritize federal funding to help supplement the cost of childcare as families go back to work.  

This past week I announced my child-centered education platform. As mayor, I will make educating all our city’s children a priority. Children are the future of our city. I will work to fulfill their fundamental right to an excellent education. My platform includes developing a citywide plan for schools, prioritizing and repurposing vacant school buildings, and supporting a Special School District and universal early childhood programs, among other concrete plans. I will also implement a moratorium on the opening of new schools in the city until we address the pressing issue of the 11 schools that closed their doors this year. 

3. Question: Workers need time off to care for themselves and their loved ones. But many workers find that taking unpaid time off to meet their family duties places a severe economic burden on their families that is unmanageable. The current pandemic and economic crisis have made this challenge even more evident. How will you implement and expand family-friendly policies, such as paid leave?  

 

Tishaura Jones: Paid family leave should be available for every worker in the City, but as Mayor, I only have purview over city employees. As Mayor, I would use an executive order to expand the city employee’s paid family leave program. Furthermore, I would push our partners and private employers throughout the city to have paid family leave programs or expand their current paid family leave programs. When our workers and our family do better, our city does better, and I will do everything in my power to support the working families of St. Louis. Last but not least, as Treasurer, I implemented a new family leave policy to allow parents to take up to two hours off to attend school functions for their children. 

Lewis Reed: I support expanding family and maternity leave for city employees. No one should have to choose between losing their job or taking care of their family. 

Cara Spencer: As mayor I will find a way for the city to offer paid family leave to all employees. This benefit will cover both parenting and caregiving responsibilities. The first argument opponents make against it is that it costs too much. I believe that a thorough cost-benefit analysis will reveal that the city’s problem with job retention makes turnover more costly than providing a benefit of paid family leave that will help make workers want to keep their city jobs. This benefit is essential for the city to become a preferred workplace for the future for city residents. 

4. Question: Research has demonstrated time and time again that a diverse workforce is good for business, innovation and financial returns. What do you think is needed for St. Louis to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce? How will you support such efforts?  

 

Tishaura Jones:  One of my first priorities as Mayor will be to re-implement the position of Deputy Mayor of Racial Equity, which I believe will be a key effort to ensure we prioritize diversifying our workforce in the City of St. Louis. In my administration, we will make sure that everyone has a seat at the table so we can make sure we put forward our best effort to be an inclusive and welcoming city.  

Further, as Mayor, I plan to do a full evaluation of our personnel practices. We have way too many open positions, and I’ve heard complaints from St. Louis citizens who apply for jobs but wait months for a response. There has to be a better way to process applications and fill positions in a timely manner, and I plan to make that happen because I am certain that we will discover a diverse group of applicants simply by expediting our processes in a modern and efficient way. 

Lewis Reed: Ordinance 70748 that I sponsored and pushed for creates an Equitable Economic Growth Framework to address these issues head on. I will focus on building up entry level and mid wage jobs; create better workforce and educational programs that meet the need of our job seekers and growing business sectors; and work to move the business community to adopt workplace policies that diversify the workforce, increase worker retention, and provide access to wraparound services so that at least half of all job holders in the city work for employers that have committed to such policies.  We must change the personality of our city to make it more appealing to a diverse workforce and as mayor I will focus on that. 

Cara Spencer: Diversity is a key driver in innovation and studies have shown that diverse teams in companies produce more revenue. The same is true for cities. America’s fastest growing cities are becoming more diverse and St. Louis has a diversity of human capital from which to grow.  

St. Louis’s workforce has slowly declined as crime rates and racial segregation push families out. First and foremost, we have to get violent crime under control. I have a 10-step plan with three main pillars that will reduce violence significantly the first year I am in office. 

If we want to recruit diversity to the city we have to build a city that works for everyone. Trash needs to be picked up, alleys need paving, 911 calls have to be answered, and systemic racism must be broken down. We have to get rid of disparities in critical areas, like health outcomes. I’m committed to effectively addressing issues outlined in the Racial Equity Indicators Report. 

 

5. Question: Women’s voices and experiences are distinct. Ultimately, the table where decisions are being made should reflect the society it represents. How will you ensure that women’s voices are heard and considered under your leadership?  

 

Tishaura Jones: Here in St. Louis, we have the opportunity to make our leadership almost entirely led by women of color. It is my belief leadership should always mirror the best of our city. We understand that the people closest to the problem are the solution and Missouri women get things done. We elected Circuit Attorney Gardner and Cori Bush because this city understands the importance of giving everyone a voice. My administration will hold to this standard. We will make sure that everyone in this city is not only seen but also represented by those who resemble their community.   

Lewis Reed: Currently as President of the Board of Aldermen, I work to ensure women’s voices are equally represented on our committees. Also, we have more women elected officials at the Board of Aldermen than ever before! My legislative director is also a woman. I will work to ensure that my cabinet members are diversified, represent all voices and make sure that they are empowered. As mayor of the city, I will set an example to everyone else, that distinct and diverse perspectives give the best opportunity for success. 

Cara Spencer: Bringing voices to the table that have long been silenced and ignored is of utmost importance. I pledge to have a strong program of recruiting women to my cabinet and making sure women are appointed equitably to boards and commissions. I will host town halls routinely and ensure my door is open to the constructive criticism and feedback regarding policy from representatives of our city’s most underserved and underrepresented communities – including, but not limited to, black women, trans women of color and Latinx women. 

Join us for our next Seeking Solutions Symposium – Women in the Economy: An Underleveraged Powerhouse and Why it Matters to Businesses and Communities

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