Rex Sinquefield’s Local Goverment Reform Campaign Begins Tonight

When: 6 pm Tonight, Wednesday, May 11
Who: Richard Bose, Vice President, aka St. Louis Strong
What: Community Forum with St. Louis Strong or Unite St. Louis, depending on your source
Where: 1034 S. Brentwood #1700, University Tower, Richmond Heights, MO
How: By RSVP to St. Louis Strong

BT

I have some thoughts about reforming local government but, first, a few more details about tonight’s meeting and the Rex Sinquefield factor.

The event is hosted by Better Together St. Louis, a Rex Sinquefield project dedicated to reforming local government and free market solutions.

Rex Sinquefield is the Ozarks-based billionaire dumping millions of dollars in campaign contributions and initiative petitions across Missouri, our version of the Koch Brothers.

There is no “Better Together St. Louis” in the Missouri Secretary of State’s entity database. There is a Better Together fictitious name registration. It is owned by Missouri Council for a Better Economy, one of Rex Sinquefield’s nonprofits. MCBE was formed to help get rid of the City’s earnings tax.

Better Together is not a nonprofit but has a Board of Directors for show. Among these MCBE doing business as Better Together directors are Mayor Francis G. Slay, Jeff Rainford, Mayor Slay’s former chief of staff, and former Ambassador George Hebert Walker III, who chaired one of the last government reform groups, Citizens for Home Rule.

The address for tonight’s event is also the address for Pelopidas, the image  management and lobbying firm doing Rex Sinquefield’s bidding. Continue reading

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Central Committee Revisionist History

As a follow up to You Should Go To Saturday’s Closed STL City Democratic Party Meeting, some members of Central Committee and I have very different recollections of how Central Committee has done its business.

My recollection is that I brought Sam Cummings to one of my first Central Committee meetings. Then Central Committee Chair Mattie Moore told us that he could not attend the meeting because our meetings were closed.

My recollection of Central Committee is that we once had a website (via NationBuilder) and Central Committee meeting notices were never posted on that site.

My recollection of Central Committee is that there was a meeting at Humphrey’s, the meeting where we discussed whether or not everyone supported efforts to bring a Democratic National Convention to St. Louis (which it turned out not everyone did), and at that meeting I was berated for bringing up the subject of open meetings. I was told, repeatedly, that meetings had always been closed and that all county committees operated this way, which I knew was incorrect.

I have been fighting for open meetings ever since.

We have also been told by party leaders over and over again not to reveal meeting information or Central Committee business on social media.

 
2013

That today’s meeting time and location were publicized by not just myself but others as well appears to have hit a nerve with some on Central Committee.

I also have a different recollection on the filling of committee vacancies. Committee vacancies are not solely decided by the remaining committeeperson. Under the law, Central Committee members elect someone to fill a vacancy. The remaining committeeperson nominates and then Central Committee members vote on the nomination. By tradition, the nomination is always accepted, or has been as long s I can recall.

vacancy

I have not been to a Central Committee meeting in quite some time. I don’t attend because I am deaf, the result of flu complications in the winter of 2013. I do pretty good with one on one conversations where I can read lips. In a group setting, however, I need someone to come with me to clue me in on what is going on, and take notes in case I want to follow up on something. But, we have had, until perhaps today, closed meetings. I am not special, I just have a hearing impairment. If meetings are closed, meetings are closed for all non-committee members and we should not pick and choose who gets to bring someone and who doesn’t. A committeeperson’s challenger in August should have just as much right to attend Central Committee meetings as someone I bring to be my ears. And when I am certain that the meetings are open, then I will start going to the meetings again.

— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman

You Should Go To Saturday’s Closed STL City Democratic Party Meeting

365px-DemocratslogoAs a follow up to STL City Democratic Party Needs Open Meetings, which provides some history and facts on the subject, there is a secret breakfast meeting of the St. Louis Democratic City Central Committee at 9 am Saturday (May 7th) at Humphrey’s, 3700 Laclede. You should go. Candidates. Media. Activists. You should all go. Or at least try. My theory is that maybe you can embarrass the group into opening up these meetings.

The Agenda includes

  • New Committee Members Nominations
  • Beer & Pretzel Party Committee Report
  • Web Site Committee Report
  • Upcoming August Election
  • Open Topics

I see nothing on that list that should be done in secret.

Filling vacancies on Central Committee should be done in the open. Central Committee serves as the Primary for nominating candidates for special elections to fill vacancies for aldermen, state representatives, and state senators. Primary Elections are not private and neither should be filling vacancies.

For those unfamiliar with the filling of Central Committee vacancies locally, anyone appointed prior to the August Primary will run with the words “re-elect” or similar.

If there is some secret involving a fundraiser for Central Committee, I want no part of it. The raising and spending of money must be transparent.

The website for Central Committee should have been one person’s job, not assigned to a committee. Being web master for an organization is a thankless enough task, making it the responsibility of a group is cruel. Some of us have discussed creating an Unofficial St. Louis Democratic City Central City website/blog if this Website By Committee does not work out soon.

I cannot imagine what we would possibly want to keep secret about the August Election. It’s a Primary. Central Committee should be making no endorsements, showing no favoritism to any candidates. It’s a Primary, not a coronation. Central Committee should have sponsored a statewide candidates forum. But I’m a sucker for enabling Democratic voters with choices.

I would imagine that from time to time there might be something that Central Committee might wish to address in private. We can always do what other county Central Committees do, meet in executive session before or after a public meeting. But we can and should invite you, the public, to our meetings, like most Central Committees. We can and should invite your participation and transparency.

— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman

 

STL City Democratic Party Needs Open Meetings

365px-DemocratslogoOver the next months you may hear from some St. Louis City candidates for Democratic Party Committeewoman and Committeeman about opening up St. Louis Democratic City Central Committee meetings to the public, providing greater transparency on political party business, and making an effort to encourage more participation in party activities and elections.

Presently, to attend a Central Committee meeting, you must be an elected member of Central Committee or the invited guest of…, well…, I am unclear on exactly who is authorized to do the inviting. The rules are not written down and there are a number of opinions.

I have argued for open meetings since  I was elected the 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman four years ago.

Other county Central Committees have open meetings. I know they often have county Democratic Party clubs that they meet in concert with, usually monthly, and there’s often an inexpensive meal or snacks, and a keynote speaker. When needed, before or after the open event, the elected township committeewomen and committeemen meet briefly to conduct internal business. I know these open meetings take place because I have been to some. It provides transparency and encourages participation. I favor that format for St. Louis City Democrats.

And so does Alison Dreith, candidate for 6th Ward Democratic Committeewoman. Alison was Moderator at last week’s 6th & 7th Wards Circuit Attorney and Sheriff Candidates Forum. Alison told the audience that she had attended neighboring county Central Committee meetings- open meetings- and wanted that for St. Louis City. I have heard other candidates for committeewoman and committeeman voice their support as well.

Central Committee and County Democratic Club websites or Facebook pages provide information on open meetings for County Democratic organizations in 36 Missouri counties: Bates CountyBoone CountyCaldwell County, Callaway CountyCape Girardeau County, Cass County, Christian County, Clay County, Cole County, Cooper CountyFranklin County, Greene County, Howard County, Howell County, Jackson County, Jasper County, Jefferson County, Lafayette County, Lincoln County, Linn County, Miller County, Moniteau County, Morgan County, Newton CountyPhelps CountyPlatte County, Pulaski County, Randolph County, Ray County, St. Charles County, St. Francois County, St. Louis CountyScott County, Shelby CountyVernon CountyWayne Counties.

Online newspaper articles or online calendars provide information on open meetings for County Democratic organizations in another 15 counties: Cedar County, Dade County, Dallas County, Douglas County, Madison County, Maries County, Pettis County, Pike County, Polk County, Saline County, Stoddard County, Stone County, Washington County, Webster County, and Wright Counties.

I did not perform an exhaustive search and would not be surprised that I missed some.

Most counties in Missouri are small, under 25,000 population, and most of them do not appear to have Democratic Party Central Committees with an online presence. But neither does the St. Louis Democratic City Central Committee. There is a committee working on it. A committee.

According to longtime party leaders, St. Louis Democratic City Central Committee meets only in closed session because: 1) No county Central Committees in Missouri have open meetings; 2) This is the way it has always been done; and 3) Republicans might attend and hear our secrets.

Reason #1 is a myth. In fact, I have not found a single Central Committee in Missouri that only meets in closed session. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. Saying it’s rare.

Reason #2 is just plain sad.

Reason #3 is laughable. Even in the most Republican of counties in Missouri, Democrats meet at the steak house or courthouse in open session. And the Republican Party barely has a pulse in St. Louis City, in large part the State and National GOP’s doing. The Republican agenda is anti everything so many of us in St. Louis City hold dear.

The real reason Central Committee continues to meet only in closed session is there aren’t enough committeewoman and committeeman votes to dump the arcane policy/rule/tradition. That could change this August 2nd. I hope so.

A presidential election with so much candidate-driven volunteer energy is a great opportunity to add hands and hearts to the Democratic Party. Opening up Central Committee meetings will invite both participation and transparency. We need both.