Over 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 County, Boone County, Caldwell County, Callaway County, Cape Girardeau County, Cass County, Christian County, Clay County, Cole County, Cooper County, Franklin 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 County, Phelps County, Platte County, Pulaski County, Randolph County, Ray County, St. Charles County, St. Francois County, St. Louis County, Scott County, Shelby County, Vernon County, Wayne 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.