Pledging Racial Equity
of Decision Making
If the social unrest that has happened in St. Louis and cities across the country offers one takeaway, it’s that we either move forward together or we don’t move at all. Cara is committed to addressing racial inequity as a primary focus of her administration, uniting the city behind the issue and moving beyond tokenism to root out the systemic and cultural biases that exist in our government and institutions.
This will require meaningful changes in public policy. Cara’s administration will start by delivering city services equitably across the city.
- Building trust between law enforcement and the communities that they serve. Many people don’t trust the Police Department, and many police officers feel under-appreciated. One thing is unequivocally true: The city can’t “police” its way out of this problem, but it also can’t solve this problem without policing. To solve and prevent crime, we must mend the fabric of our community and our police. St. Louis has great social work programs in several higher education institutions. The city should partner and work with them to re-imagine the ways to serve communities. The first step is understanding that not every 9-1-1 call requires a response from an armed police officer. A mental health worker may be the best responder. Many other cities are driving down their violent crime with similar approaches – St. Louis can do it too.
- Making affordable housing a real priority. Cara has direct and personal experience with this over the past five years. The 20th Ward is a microcosm of the city, mirroring its assets and many of its challenges – 39% poverty, 30% vacancy and crime rates higher than many northside neighborhoods. But her work in the ward has changed the trajectory of one of the city’s most challenged communities. Hard work has stabilized blocks and attracted investment with a combination of affordable housing and market-rate development.
- Investing as much in low-income communities as in more affluent neighborhoods. As a city, St. Louis has been guilty of overemphasizing “silver bullet” projects rather than focusing on meeting the needs of the many residents who are struggling. St. Louis must find the balance that will allow it to equitably serve those who have been forgotten while putting the city on the path to growth for the first time in generations.
The long-term cost of inaction is more expensive than doing what’s right.
The post-Ferguson endeavors of community engagement, data analytics and much soul searching led the St. Louis community to create a body of work, including the Forward Through Ferguson and the Racial Equity Indicators reports, which provide a roadmap for the journey toward racial equity.
As mayor, Cara will commit to using that body of work as a guidepost to holding the city and other institutions accountable, ensuring measurable change over time. Cara will use the findings – and any updates in the future – for decision-making affecting all departments of city government and the everyday lives of city residents.
The 2018 equity indicators score for the City of St. Louis is 45.57 out of 100 (with 1 representing the greatest inequity and 100 representing the greatest equity). The tool for determining the score is built around the three themes identified by the Ferguson Commission:
- Youth at the Center
- Opportunity to Thrive
- Justice for All
Within each theme are three topics, and within each topic are eight indicators, for a total of 72 indicators.
Of the three themes, Justice for All has the highest score (51.54), followed by Opportunity to Thrive (42.58), and Youth at the Center (42.29). The topics within the themes show more variance, with scores ranging from 61.13 in the Civic Engagement topic to 25.75 in the Child Well-being topic. Among the indicators, scores range from 1 for Child Asthma to a high of 100 for High School Graduation Rates and Driving Status Violation Conviction Rates.
Cara is particularly concerned that the city’s lowest scores lie in the area of Child Well-being. Addressing the indicators that fall within that topic will get priority attention in her administration: among children – asthma, food insecurity, emergency room visits and poverty — and among youths – sexually transmitted disease rates and referrals to court.
A focus on these issues including goals, strategies and daily activities will be incorporated into the respective office or agency tasked with addressing each issue. Accountability will be achieved through a data-driven approach, where results are measured against goals combined with transparency by making all data available online.
As alderman of the 20th Ward, one of the most diverse and economically challenged wards in St. Louis, Cara has already been an effective leader in making St. Louis a more just city.
Among her initiatives:
- Recognizing that children of color are more than 10 times as likely as white children to visit emergency rooms for asthma-related complications, Cara spent more than a year working with the city and St. Louis County to reinstate an air quality monitoring program. For the first time in more than a decade, in 2019 air quality specialists were hired to resume monitoring and tracking the dangerous pollutants that can severely harm the lungs of children and adults as well.
- Cara sponsored and passed what is arguably the toughest municipal legislation in the nation regulating the payday lending industry, which preys on poor people and people of color with exorbitant interest rates. She passed the bill not only through the Board of Aldermen but also through a public vote to levy fees on the industry to regulate it. Cara made clear in the campaign that state lawmakers’ refusal to regulate payday lending as most other states do necessitates that the city does it. Subsequently, she assisted an alderman in Springfield, Missouri, to replicate St. Louis’s regulations there.
Cara knows it is past time to put racial equity front and center as a key priority for the city government. But it is not too late. The reports and studies are done. The issues are clear. Now is the time to start implementing solutions.
Change within government isn’t easy. But Cara has never been one to take the easy route. She has a proven track record of getting things done and is committed to making a meaningful and measurable change with regard to racial equity, so our city – and all of us who live here — can prosper, together.