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When I ran for mayor, I emphasized that our city needed to have hard conversations around racial divides, equitable development, and the resources we deploy to improve public safety. When I was invited to testify at the Missouri Senate Interim Committee on Emerging St. Louis Regional Issues, I saw an opportunity to have a difficult discussion around St. Louis’ relationship with the Missouri Legislature.

As a former legislator, I respect the legislature’s ability to pass policies that affect the entire state, good or bad. From limits on abortion rights to the lifting of commonsense gun laws, I’ve seen how many of the same policies I fought against at the state level hurt St. Louis’ ability to now protect and provide for our constituents as mayor.

Let me be clear: Access to abortion is a St. Louis issue, and the last remaining clinic in the state is in our city. Further limiting reproductive rights would have disastrous consequences for our state, prohibiting people from making their own decisions about their bodies and economically empowering themselves and their families. While tech giants like Salesforce explore options to help employees relocate out of Texas in response to the state’s recent ban, Missouri Republicans have already announced they will likely unveil a ban modeled on the Texas law.

Mayor Tishaura O. Jones

Rated one of the top cities for startups, increasingly restrictive abortion bans make it more difficult for St. Louis to attract and retain talent and businesses. The very companies that we are trying to bring are the same that would be driven away by increasingly harsh restrictions on abortion rights.

Furthermore, as a result of the legislature’s work to remove permits for concealed carry and prime our state to be a firearm haven, our city and our state have become much more dangerous, from 2003 onwards when the first concealed carry law was passed. What happens in Jefferson City can, and far too often does, impede our ability to fight violent crime. In the most recent 2021 legislative session, the state’s Second Amendment Preservation Act, opposed by police, prosecutors, and business groups, limits local municipal police from working with federal law enforcement. O’Fallon’s police chief even quit in response to the new law.

Despite these roadblocks from the legislature, we’re using every tool in our toolbox to address crime at its root cause, allocating $11.5 million in American Rescue Plan funding for community violence intervention programs, social workers, affordable housing, and more. My administration is working with key business, civic, and community stakeholders to present a positive and inclusive, not punitive, vision for downtown St. Louis that will be released later this week. The issues we face go beyond a single issue or entity; solutions require collaboration across the public and private sectors.

If the state legislature is ready for a conversation around true collaboration, I’m ready. St. Louis regional leaders agree; a strong urban core is critical to the growth of the region as a whole. If the legislature wants to have an honest, difficult conversation about the support and cooperation the St. Louis region truly needs to thrive, my door is open.

Tishaura O. Jones is the first Black woman elected as mayor of the city of St. Louis.

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