East St. Louis Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks sat down for a chat this week, starting by showing pictures of her children including the beautiful young daughter she lost in the middle of the election.
The point was that she got into the thankless, viperous world of city politics for her children and the city’s other children.
Then the conversation turned to the contest that left her new, reform-minded team on the sidelines while she saw the representatives of the status quo empower the man voters ousted as mayor. She said she has worked with former mayor and current City Manager Alvin Parks Jr., but it is clear there are severe limits on what she can now accomplish.
So what next for the mayor, and more importantly for the residents of East St. Louis?
Jackson-Hicks plans to continue talking with residents at open forums. She said public interest and ire are both high, but there is a lot of public education to do about city government.
She’s working on the hearts and minds that put her in office to begin with. Then we expect in the 2017 election there will be a backlash against the city council members who betrayed the City Hall housecleaning efforts that have been needed for decades.
“I came here to change the game, not to play the game,” Jackson-Hicks said.
Jackson-Hicks said the self-interest shown by those protecting the status quo will for years hurt the city’s economy. There were investors waiting to deal with an honest government that are now again sitting on their wallets.
Some reforms may be forced by finances, as the city’s options are dictated by a nearly $6 million deficit.
The cynics among us wonder whether Jackson-Hicks will ever again be in a position to change the culture of corruption and self-interest that keeps East St. Louis poor and crime ridden. But she still seems hopeful and motivated by the city’s youngsters.
The greatest adversary you can face is a mother protecting her young.