Missouri Democratic Party Delegate Selection Should Not Be A Secret

I attended part of the Democratic Party Delegate Selection Caucus Training Workshop in St. Louis City on Saturday, March 27. It was an unpleasant experience.

It was hot/warm. No air circulation. I have no idea why the ceiling fans were not turned on. The door to the parking lot was left open but smokers were hanging out too close and wind did not favor the nonsmokers inside.

As a hearing impaired person, it is important for me to sit in the front of an event so I can read the lips of speakers. I sat on the front row. Unfortunately, the speakers did not speak from the podium. For much of the time I was at the meeting, the speakers spoke from the center aisle of the first row. Most first row participants sat side saddle in chairs with necks craned. It was uncomfortable. In my case, understanding what was said went poorly.

I was told at the Information Table that I did not need the literature because it was intended for the person running my ward/township/county caucus. I got the impression that being the Committeewoman not running my caucus meeting made me persona non grata. I explained that I am deaf and written materials are important to my understanding of things. All will be handled by your chair, I was told. I took the literature anyway.

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Glad I walked off with the packet. Inside, I found out how may delegates were awarded to each ward. My Committeeman, the senior committee person in our ward, will run our caucus meeting and is not one to share information. As example, I had to contact our county chair to obtain the location of our ward caucus.

I am embarrassed that my central committee and state party have done such a poor job promoting participation in delegate selection.

It was announced that the Missouri Democratic Party would soon post caucus locations on their website. Soon. It was March 27. Caucuses are April 7th.

It was announced that St. Louis City Democratic Committee had advertised caucus locations in the St. Louis American. The City Chair offered to provide a copy to anyone who wanted it. That’s pretty much it for publicity by City Democratic Central Committee. It does not have a website/blog. A committee has been assigned to work on it. Yes. A committee. Meanwhile, St. Louis County Democrats announced they had promoted their caucus locations with every tool including their website and on Facebook.

It took me 15 minutes to post the St. Louis City Ward Caucus Locations and Delegate Selection Information on our 7th Ward Independent Democrats blog.

We were told at the beginning of the meeting that the meeting was really for people running the April 7th caucuses, not people who wanted to be delegates. There was no “Wow. Thanks everyone for giving up a beautiful Saturday afternoon to be with us. Great to see so many people want to be a part of the process.” It seemed instead very unwelcoming, Establishment politics, insiders perturbed by the presence of non-insiders.

Caucus training was to include a power point presentation. As a hearing impaired person, this was going to make attending the event worth it. But, after the meeting started, we were told that the Missouri Democratic Party is short staffed and there was no one to provide the power point presentation at that meeting. We were told that the Party was working on a video about delegate selection that would be posted soon on the MPD website. Soon. It was March 26. Caucuses are April 7th.

We were told the delegate apportionment between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton at the ward caucus level would be based on congressional district vote, not ward vote, and be released, yes, soon. I wanted to ask a question about this. It appeared they were saying that wards/townships/counties that voted overwhelmingly for Bernie Sanders would end up with more Hillary Clinton delegates if the congressional vote went for Clinton.  I was not given an opportunity to ask about this. It’s possible that I just misunderstood. I have written the Missouri Democratic Party for a clarification on the matter.

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I stayed long enough to find out the Missouri Democratic Party has abandoned the “Must Have Voted In Presidential Primary” requirement for participation in the delegate selection process and election as a delegate/alternate. Allowing people who could not be bothered with voting in the Presidential Primary to participate in the delegate process is a very big deal. We were told the change was necessary because some counties would not be able to provide lists of those who voted March 15th in time for caucus. Discussion on this matter was shut down before all questions asked/answered, including mine.

I have requested the names of the counties that Missouri Democratic Party knows will not be able to provide lists of persons who voted March 15th in time for use at April 7th caucuses.

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And, as I said, it was hot and getting smoky in the room, I was unable to read speakers’ lips most of the time, and sitting side saddle was very uncomfortable. So, I left the meeting. I find it hard to believe there was not more intrigue after I left.

This is not my first rodeo. April 7th will be the ninth time I have participated in a ward/township/county Presidential Caucus in Missouri. It will be my first caucus as 7th Ward Committeewoman but not my first caucus as a committeewoman because I was previously elected in another county.

But this is only the second time in my life that I felt like caucus was some kind of inside deal. Four years ago, the 7th Ward Caucus was held at the Mardi Gras Inc. office and there was only a handful of us there. I made a commitment then to do my best to get the word out and increase participation for 2016 caucus.

I hope everyone participates in their caucus. I hope activists write some fine resolutions to be voted on. Again, the locations for City Ward Caucuses are here.

– Marie Ceselski
7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman
stlcity7thward@aol.com

 

Mardi Gras Post-Mortem, From Negative Impact on Soulard’s Neighbors to Money Issues

Make Your Voice Heard

Post-Mardi Gras Forum
6 pm Thursday, March 3rd
Mardi Gras Inc Headquarters
2200 Dolman @ Ann

I’ve put together a list of some of things that I think are going wrong with Mardi Gras and Solutions: 1) Negative Impact on Soulard’s Neighbors, 2) Lack of Crowd Control at Barkus Parade, 3) Food Trucks at Taste of Soulard, 4) Decreased Number of Porta Potties & Citations, 5) Horrible Street Music, 6) Lamest Grand Parade, 7) Young Drunks Day Must End, 8) Mayorless Ball, 9) No Official Fat Tuesday Celebration, 10) Where Does The Money Go?

1) Negative Impact on Soulard’s Neighbors

McKinley Heights, Fox Park, Tower Grove East, Benton Park, LaSalle Park, Clinton-Peabody, Bohemian Hill, Lafayette Square, all of these neighborhoods pay a price for Mardi Gras.

On Mardi Gras Grand Parade Day, these neighborhoods become the parking lots for parade goers and host the amateur drinkers at their worst end of partying stage. They get more public urination, vomit, trash, property damage, and criminal behavior than Soulard does. When we say “it’s just one day a year” and “our businesses depend on this,” we need to keep in mind that our neighbors currently get nothing for their troubles.

Solution: Soulard’s Neighbors should get Grand Parade Day security and porta potties, proportional to impact, and an opportunity for a piece of the Mardi Gras revenue pie. As partners, they should have seats on Mardi Gras Inc and Mardi Gras Foundation. This can be accomplished by adding seats and rotating which neighborhood sits on the boards.

2) Lack of Crowd Control at Barkus Parade

Barkus Parade (Pet Parade) was one of our favorite neighborhood events. This was the third year for our Krewe of Mister Pony wagon float and bead throwing to crowd. We spend $400 a year on beads, masks/hats, and snacks/beverages for the krewe. This year may have been our last year.

There was a substantial lack of barricades and security, professional or volunteer, along the parade route. There was little if any crowd control and hundreds of parade goers interfering with the flow of the parade. Adults and children blocked parade walkers, demanding beads. A mob took over much of Russell and there was no separation between parade and parade watchers. It resembled the last Grand Parade down Russell. If anyone had needed an ambulance, it would not have been possible.

Barkus Parade, not Winter Carnival, is The Family Friendly Mardi Gras event. That’s not a bad thing, except for the hundreds of very small children turned loose into the parade. We spent more time watching out for toddlers to make sure we did not run over them with the wagon than we did throwing beads into the crowd. Not our idea of fun. Another new problem with unsupervised children in the parade was the taunting of dogs. That a child was not bitten is a tribute to how well socialized our puppies are but also, probably, luck.

Solution: Barriers need to separate crowd from the parade along the entire Barkus Parade route and the barriers need to be enforced by an army of well trained volunteers or professional security.

3) Food Trucks at Taste of Soulard

Taste of Soulard is a great weekend event showing off Soulard’s many dining and drinking venues. Food trucks from businesses outside Soulard have no business in Soulard during this event.

Solution: Respect Soulard businesses. No non-Soulard food trucks should be out in Soulard during Taste weekend within Soulard.

4) Decreased Number of Porta Potties & Citations

There were fewer porta potties this year. They were suspiciously absent from alleys. We noticed many more women peeing in alleys this year.

Solution: More porta potties are needed. This is not an area to cut costs.

Every year, we get a count in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on the number of public urination, underage drinking, etcetera citations/arrests related to Mardi Gras Grand Parade Day. But we never hear about how many incidents actually resulted in fines/jail. We have no data from which to evaluate how current laws and municipal court are serving us in this matter and whether adjustments need to be made.

Solution: Mardi Gras Inc should publish information on the citations/ arrests relating to Mardi Gras Grand Parade Day and, by the end of the year, also report the action that occurred by the courts.

5) Horrible Street Music

When I think of Mardi Gras music, Top Forty does not come to mind. Where was the Blues? The Jazz? The Zydeco? The Cajun? I don’t mean the ticketed tents. I mean the street music. It was just horrible this year. Horrible.

Solution: Perhaps there can be a Mardi Gras Music Contest of some sort to encourage a better selection of Mardi Gras street music on Grand Parade Day.

6) Lamest Grand Parade

If I did not know there was a sports-related theme to this year’s parade, I would have guessed the theme was generic party. Floats with a few sports-theme helium balloons: Lame.

And the 15-20 minute delay between floats was ridiculous. Dragging the parade out to sell more beer was the excuse we heard.

Solution: Mardi Gras Inc needs to come up with parade themes and enforce it for the floats. Perhaps the parade will be shorter but it will be a quality parade. Mardi Gras Inc should sponsor costume contests in addition to float contests. This will give the parade a more festive look and certainly increase the quality of the parade. Mardi Gras Inc. needs to reach out to neighborhood/ethnic/business groups/school bands across St. Louis and encourage participation in the Grand Parade. If someone made a decision to drag out the parade this year to sell more beer, that person should be fired.

7) Young Drunks Day Must End

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Each year, the crowd for Mardi Gras Grand Parade gets younger and younger. This year, we spent a little over an hour walking around and saw very few people over 25 years of age, other than neighbors defending their property by sitting in lawn chairs in front of their homes.

We saw lines for beer and Hurricanes. There were no lines for food. In fact, in an hour’s time, we did not see a single person buying food or eating food. Not a one.

Crying On The Curb began at 9 am this year. 9 am and she’s drunk, alone, and on her fanny crying about losing her friends. And then she threw up. Of course. Neighbors witnessed it, turned around, and went back into their house, did not make it over to enjoy our fabulous breakfast spread of donuts, bacon, and gumbo. They are just too tired of Crying On The Curb being Mardi Gras.

Most of our neighbors/friends in Soulard, as well as McKinley Heights and LaSalle Park, stayed home. Few ventured out very far. Our friends said hanging out with young drunks was not their idea of a party. Soulard Restoration Group did not have an open house at Soulard Station this year. We think that contributed to some over-25 Islanders staying closer to home.

Solution: The image and reality of Mardi Gras Grand Parade as Young Drunks Day must end. Perhaps making partying here more expensive by requiring food purchase with alcohol purchase. Maybe start the parade earlier and close alcohol sales earlier. I don’t know what the answer is but some big change is needed. Mardi Gras Grand Parade has become something that is done to Soulard and its neighbors, not for us, and that has to stop.

8) No Official Fat Tuesday Celebration

This year, Mardi Gras Inc. took the easy way out and declared a St. Louis Blues hockey game to be the official Fat Tuesday event. No parade. No hassles.

I am familiar with discontent among some Downtown residents regarding previous Fat Tuesday goings on. But I am disappointed that Mardi Gras Inc. just promoted a for-profit event and I am wondering if this was another cost cutting measure. In my own mind, there should be a parade or something. My concern is that if Soulard organizes its own Fat Tuesday parade, we will end up with way too many partyers from outside the neighborhood and not have the necessary extra security.

Solution: Fat Tuesday Carnival at somewhere big- Franklin Room, gym at Humboldt School, etc., from 5-8 pm. Make it a family friendly, free admission event with mask making, a costume contest, talent show, music, indoor parade around the hall, with good food for sale, maybe make some money with raffle tickets. Yes. I understand some of this replicates Winter Carnival at Soulard Market but Mardi Gras should be about multiple parties. Maybe throw the local bars some business by arranging for discount drink later with proof of attendance (stamping hands would be easiest) at Fat Tuesday Carnival.

9) Mayorless Mayor’s Ball

The grant money to neighborhood projects comes from the Mayor’s Ball. We need to think about what happens if there isn’t a Mayor’s Ball. The Mayor was not in attendance at his own party this year. What happens when he leaves office?

Solution: Rename the event- City Hall Ball. Use a host committee of citywide elected officials.

10) Where Does The Money Go?

How many freebies are given away for Mardi Gras events? How many elected officials and their families/friends go to Mardi Gras Ball or party tents for free? For example, in 2013, the Foundation, donated over a $1,000 worth of Mardi Gras event tickets to the St. Louis Democratic City Central Committee’s Trivia Night Silent Auction.

Solution: Mardi Gras Inc. and Foundation should not give away freebies or, if it wants to continue, it should post the names of the beneficiaries and freebies received on the websites.

Transparency should be a priority for our Mardi Gras organizations. Neither Mardi Gras Inc.  nor Mardi Gras Foundation post financial information (revenue, expenditures, debt) on their websites. The Foundation says its audit is available by request.

Solution: You should not have to request financial information from these organizations. They should post quarterly financial reports and the audits on their websites. And they should post meeting notices as well.

Mardi Gras Foundation pledges only 10% of net revenue to neighborhood grants. Why is that amount so low?

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The real problem with its finances is 2200 Dolman @ Ann, the warehouse that was supposed to be renovated into an event venue but is presently permitted as an office. The Mardi Gras Foundation bought the property in 2011 and took out a large mortgage. There is less for neighborhood projects because of this redevelopment project.

Put aside the issues of whether Soulard needs another large event venue to compete with existing venues and whether the neighbors would have consented to liquor licensing. Look at what this thing is costing Mardi Gras Foundation: $125,000-$200,000 for roof repair in 2016; $69,000 for fire sprinkler system in 2011, $325,000 for interior alterations in 2011.

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Solution: Get out of the development business and sell the warehouse.