Forward Through Ferguson Mayoral Primary Questionnaire
Which current or historical policies do you feel have most contributed to the current set of racial inequities in St. Louis?
All 12 candidates participating in the March 7 primary were sent the following questions with a deadline of Thursday, February 23rd at 9am. Four candidates met that deadline and their answers are below, unedited and presented in last name alphabetical order.
Tishaura Jones (D)
The city continues to suffer from the legacy of Jim Crow and from deliberate public policy decisions that denied African-Americans opportunities. Wealth for many Americans is directly tied to home ownership. Both St. Louis and Great Migration African-Americans were only permitted to live in certain areas of the city through government sanctioned segregation. Private real estate agencies also steered African-Americans to these areas. The federal government dramatically expanded the middle class through the Federal Housing Administration (“FHA”) program. African-Americans were both prevented from getting FHA loans in their own neighborhoods or purchasing homes in predominantly white areas. At the same time, the government helped concentrate poverty in cities through large housing projects like Pruitt-Igoe.
The perception that African-American neighborhood were less desirable became reality largely because of the great imbalance in government investments. Now, because of that lack of investment years ago, many African-American neighborhoods aren’t considered desirable, which means grocery stores, banks, and other basic services have either left the community or refuse to relocate there. The median wealth for black families is $11,184, while for white families it is $134,008 and the poverty percentage is 30% for blacks, 8% for whites. Even today, since the city currently allows its three wealthiest wards to receive the most TIF money, it seems the leaders at the Board of Aldermen are continuing the same development patterns established after Jim Crow.
St. Louis remains one of the most segregated regions in the country, ranking fifth among the top fifty metropolitan areas. Additionally approximately, 30% of African-American families live in areas of concentrated poverty. Segregation, concentrated poverty, and the legacy of neighborhood disinvestment make it difficult to make money from home ownership. Many older African-Americans who meticulously maintained their property are unable to sell their homes because they live near vacant properties. Banks continue to not originate home mortgage loans in large areas of the city further accentuating the wealth gap.
The legacy of segregation also impacts the city school system. Initially, the city school district attempted desegregation largely by busing African-American students to predominantly white schools. City school desegregation efforts were ineffective and resulted in a federal lawsuit which created the Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation (“VICC”),which allowed African-American city students to attend school in St. Louis County school district. As the VICC program is in the process of being phased out, St. Louis Public Schools are 85% African-American.
Access to employment has hindered African-American wealth. As a snapshot, the unemployment percentage in St. Louis is 26% for blacks, 6% for whites. Most of the large companies in St. Louis are located in the suburbs and are difficult to reach via public transit. African-Americans not only experience employment discrimination, but also suffer from a lack of social capital. The “where did you go to high school” St. Louis culture exacerbates the historical inequalities in the job market.
Disinvested neighborhoods with limited educational and job opportunities are more susceptible to crime. Decades of “tough on crime” policies have further exacerbated problems in disinvested neighborhoods by incarcerating large swaths of people without providing real rehabilitation.
Lyda Krewson (D)
Both the policies of formal segregation through the drawing of political boundaries and the de facto segregation perpetuated by practices such as redlining contributed heavily to current racial inequities. These policies served to segregate our communities based on race and continue to segregate many of us in terms of the opportunities we enjoy. These policies also emphasize that we must proactively address the lasting impacts of this structure because its effects continue.
Johnathan McFarland (G)
The answer to this question is complex. I have thoroughly studied historical policy and the impact it has had on African Americans. There has been a war waged against African Americans, on several fronts; culturally, legislatively, and economically.
Culturally, African Americans have been disincluded in art forms that they have created, we have been represented as violent criminals in the media, and prosperous African American communities, throughout history, have been burned and destroyed. This erasure of affluence has had the effect of forcing African Americans to rely on white establishments for goods, services, and employment.
Legislatively, African Americans have faced Jim Crow laws, the War on Drugs, unwarranted investigations by the FBI, assassinations and defamation of leadership, mandatory minimums; which has resulted in immeasurable decline to our communities, especially in metropolitan settings. Additionally, legislation preventing African Americans from land ownership has, in my opinion, been one of the most negatively impactful measures our government has exercised against us.
Without the ability to own land, our ancestors were not able to create a starting point for their heirs. Had this been a policy that ended long ago, we might have had the chance to recover. However, red-lining and redistricting, resulted in measures preventing African American property ownership as late as the 1990s.
This combination of these measures has resulted in a complete devastation of the African American community, and I pledge to make racial equity a top priority as mayor, through my plan for our city.
Jim Osher (R)
I believe that municipal governments created a way to hand out traffic citations as a way to pay for policing and unjustly created an unfair tax on the poor people, In a way that creates a debtors jail.
This was done in a racially biased way as well.
My assistant was pulled over for in North County for not using an indicator for switching lanes in a 25mph zone. She is black and I have done it a number of times and never been pulled over.
I am white…