St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones is keeping busy, but she made time recently to talk to Missourinet about what her administration is up to.

Jones, a Democrat, is more than halfway through her first term in office. Prior to becoming mayor she served as city treasurer for St. Louis. Before that, she spent two terms in the Missouri House and served as Assistant Minority Floor Leader.

Transgender executive order

Jones said her recent executive order will help the transgender community, and will address needs on the local level.

“Like providing gender appropriate bathrooms in all city buildings, by allowing trans kids to participate in sports and not having to self-identify what’s on their birth certificate but whatever they identify as when they show up,” she said.

Jones also said her executive order will not conflict with two new laws taking effect in late August. The new laws bar anyone from “coercing” a minor to undergo a gender transition and bar transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports.

“The state law targeted schools and the state law targeted hospitals to make sure that children under 18 can’t get access to puberty blockers or gender appropriate care,” she said. “Our executive order makes sure that on the local level that we are not discriminating against the rights of trans youth.”

The order also includes provisions to make sure St. Louis includes the LGBTQIA+ community when developing the local economy.

Access to mental health care

Mayor Jones recently attended the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting, which was held last month in Columbus, Ohio. Upon returning, she began talking more about the need to provide better access to mental health care for the city’s population. Jones said the city’s health department recently established its first behavioral health unit.

“We’re marshalling all of the resources across the country that we can find, (and) our most important partner thus far has been the CDC,” she said. “They’ve been helping us with technical support as well as physical people actually helping us stand up this behavioral health unit.”

Jones added that the behavioral health unit doesn’t provide direct care, but lets people in St. Louis know where they can find help. Her administration is also gathering data on what kind of mental health crises some residents are dealing with, along with where resources for help can be found.

Opposition to agenda of Republican leaders in Jefferson City

Jones criticized Missouri’s Republican leaders in Jefferson City for what she said is an agenda designed to take over St. Louis. She cited bills that failed to pass that would return control of the St. Louis Police Department to a state-run board, as well as legislation to appoint a special prosecutor to handle violent crimes.

“If they really cared about public safety, then they would enact common sense gun safety laws like universal background checks, and red flag laws and repeal permit-less carry,” Jones said. “Those things not only make our neighborhoods dangerous, but it also puts our law enforcement in danger.”

Jones also told Missourinet the push is not limited to St. Louis.

“In other cities across the country – like Nashville; Jackson, Mississippi; Arlington Texas – we see GOP-led legislatures taking over things such as mundane as renaming streets,” she said. “They’re trying to take over water departments, airports, convention and visitor’s commissions.”

Jones said it was a hot topic at the recent U.S. Conference of Mayors. Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, maintain that they’re trying to reduce violent crime in St. Louis.

But Jones also told Missourinet that she thinks there’s still room for bipartisanship and that she has a “very good working relationship” with the state’s Republican Governor, Mike Parson. She described herself and the governor as being ‘recovering legislators’ and that there is a level of mutual respect between the two.

Jones happy with Gabe Gore’s performance as Circuit Attorney

St. Louis underwent a change in leadership in the Circuit Attorney’s office when Gabe Gore was sworn in last last month. Mayor Jones is happy so far with the job Gore is doing.

“I think he’s doing a good job and trying to attract people to come back to the circuit attorney’s office,” she said. “He’s already attracted some pretty high-profile executive positions to come back and others are in consideration.”

Jones said her office has been assisting Gore’s office as he and his new staff get settled in.

“We’ve been helping him get through the budget process because that process wraps up at the end of this month and trying to make sure that he has all of the tools that he needs to be successful,” she said. “He is leading the office with as he says, ‘an air of excellence.’ He wants to bring excellence back to the circuit attorney’s office.”

Gore was appointed Circuit Attorney by Gov. Mike Parson following the resignation of Kim Gardner, who resigned last month. Gardner came under heavy criticism after an armed robbery suspect out on bail struck a teenage girl with a car, causing the girl to lose both of her legs. Gardner said she resigned under pressure, accusing Republican leaders in Jefferson City of racism and of trying to take control of the city’s government.

Jones reminds people of St. Louis’ positives

While St. Louis takes a beating in media headlines about violent crime and urban decay, there are a lot of positives and opportunities as well, according to Mayor Jones.

“We have a ton of economic development projects on the horizon through the American Rescue Plan Act, investing in neighborhoods that haven’t been invested in in decades,” she said. “So this is the time to invest in St. Louis. We’re on the cusp of really turning this around.”

Jones also touted the city’s entertainment options.

“Did you know that 300 out of 365 days a year you can find live music in the city of St Louis? Our arts scene, I think, is second to none,” she said. “Our sports facilities are full every time that there’s a game.”

Jones also had praise for foods native to St. Louis, including its own branch of Chinese cuisine, toasted ravioli, and St. Louis-style pizza.

Copyright 2023, Missourinet.