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Tishaura Jones stays mum on police chief favorite, optimistic on new aldermanic reality

Mayor Tishaura Jones gives remarks regarding international airline expansion on Wednesday, June 1, 2022, at St. Louis Lambert International Airport.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Mayor Tishaura Jones gives remarks regarding international airline expansion in June at St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones says there is a lot to like about the four finalists to be the city’s next police chief.

But she’s keeping her preferences close to vest as her administration mulls over whom to select before the end of the year.

“I'd be telling you too much information if I told you who impressed me the most,” Jones said during an appearance on St. Louis on the Air on Thursday.

Still, Jones said that the candidates showcased notable characteristics during a Tuesday town hall at Vashon High School. She said Columbia, South Carolina, Deputy Police Chief Melron Kelly and former Norfolk, Virginia, Chief Larry Boone impressively rose through the ranks of their respective departments.

She also said that Wilmington, Delaware, Police Chief Robert Tracy was in charge of a department protecting a majority African American city and was successful at increasing diversity within his agency. And she added that St. Louis interim Police Chief Michael Sack skillfully handled the response to a shooting at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School in October.

“And all of them bring something different to the table,” Jones said.

Jones said that she wants the next police chief to be adept at implementing community policing — as well as using data effectively in determining how police officers are dispatched. And she wants the department’s chief to showcase leadership in interacting with minority communities.

She said that more than 1,300 people have watched the police chief forum online and that many more in attendance at Vashon High School had a lot to say about the finalists.

“We also got tons of comment cards,” Jones said. “And I've been reading through the comment cards to see what people liked about the candidates and what they didn't like. And we're taking all of that into account as we make a decision.”

Praises universal basic income movement

During the show, Jones noted that an aldermanic committee advanced Alderwoman Shameem Clark Hubbard’s proposal to set up a pilot program around universal basic income.

Jones said that plan would use $5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to provide close to 440 families with $500-a-month checks. The families would receive this money for 18 months under the proposal.

She said several other cities have put forward similar plans, including St. Paul, Minnesota, and Chicago, with ARPA funds. And Jones noted that the cities were following the lead of Stockton, California, which implemented a guaranteed basic income pilot program.

Families that took advantage of this program, Jones said, used the money to pay for rent and food. She said some participants didn’t have to work two jobs to make ends meet anymore.

“And we're finding that overall, families use this money to get out of poverty,” Jones said.

Optimism on new aldermanic reality

Earlier this year, Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed, as well as Aldermen John Collins-Muhammad and Jeffrey Boyd, resigned after being indicted in a bribery scheme. The three men were sentenced to federal prison this week.

“Our city was shaken by those indictments,” Jones said. “And no one wins.”

But Jones said the election of political ally Megan Green to be Board of Aldermen president should ensure a smoother ability for city government to function. She said that if Reed, Collins-Muhammad and Boyd were still in office, it would be less likely that efforts such as guaranteed basic income would make it past the finish line.

She also said it was notable that the city’s powerful Board of Estimate and Apportionment, which makes major financial decisions, will be all-female for the first time in its history. Jones, Green and St. Louis Comptroller Darlene Green serve on the board.

“And women tend to govern in a different way,” Jones said. “We think about who's not at the table. We think about families. We lead with compassion. And I'm not saying that men don't. But we just govern differently.”

Jones also discussed the city’s approaches to homeless people, the future of American Rescue Plan Act funds and efforts to make the city safer for pedestrians.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org

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Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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