Leonard Johnson Should Quit His Job To Run For Alderman

city-hall3If Leonard Johnson wants to become 7th Ward Alderman, the first thing he should do is quit his job with the City Treasurer. Current 7th Ward Alderman Jack Coatar resigned from the City Circuit Attorney’s Office before he announced running for alderman. And he made a very big deal about it during the campaign.

Johnson is Deputy Chief of Staff, management, a salaried position. He’s not on a clock. Staying on while running for alderman is unnecessary, bad publicity waiting to happen.

This issue is sure to attract more than a little attention because the City Treasurer, Tishaura Jones, is running for mayor. Her election is my political priority, and fast becoming my personal priority. We do not need distractions such as Leonard Johnson.

So why would Leonard Johnson do this? Is he that selfish? Doesn’t he get it? Is he actually trying to help another candidate for mayor? I don’t know the answer but I am leaning more and more toward the last.

Why doesn’t the City Treasurer fire Johnson or force him to take a leave of absence? I would think it has to do with the City Treasurer being a patronage office, not Civil Service. Patronage employees have First Amendment rights that Civil Service employees do not have. It’s not the first time a patronage office employee has run for alderman. In the case of the Treasurer’s office, however, it appears that employees have a right to run for public office without any restrictions.

Leonard Johnson told me that his boss initially resisted the idea of his running but was now OK with it. In reality, the City Treasurer cannot legally stop him from running or force him to quit or take a leave of absence. I am not even sure if there is such a thing as a three month leave of absence for other than medical/family leave.

There is huge difference between being OK with the decision of an employee and not being able to do anything about it. In my book, Johnson was not honest with me.

And this is a personnel issue with legal consequences, so I certainly understand why the Treasurer is not in a position to say much on the matter.

Leonard Johnson first approached me over two years ago about his interest in becoming alderman. Rumors were circulating that Alderwoman Phyllis Young wanted to retire, would resign, and there would be a special election. And then I didn’t hear back from him until recently. My guess was he was only interested in being alderman if there was no primary.

Leonard Johnson had two years to lay a foundation to run in 2017 against Jack Coatar and he didn’t do it. He had two years to become active in every neighborhood association, meet thousands of voters, understand the wants and needs of his would be constituents.

When he called me about running in 2017, he asked me for information on the Kosciusko neighborhood association. He wanted to be alderman and didn’t know Kosciusko is the industrial tract in the ward. Again, he had two years to learn 7th Ward 101. He made no effort.

But Leonard Johnson doesn’t really want to be alderman. That’s part of the problem here. His boss is running for mayor. He figures there are coattails. He figures at least one organization that will go door to door for him. He figures the 7th Ward Committeewoman and Committeeman can be bullied into endorsing him. He doesn’t really like city politics but he wants to be a state senator. That’s what is going on. He thinks becoming alderman puts him in play to replace term limited Jamilah Nasheed. I really wonder where this ridiculous idea came from. It’s quite a leap from alderman to state senator, almost as big as from state senator to mayor.

Johnson was scheduled to work the 7th Ward’s Sigel School polling place on General Election Day. He was supposed to hand out the 7th Ward Independent Democrat‘s sample ballot and Draft Tishaura flyers. 7th Ward Independent Democrats was making its endorsement of Jones for mayor early morning on election day. We wanted to be the first ward endorsement.

Johnson was given instructions to hand out ballots as people went into polling place and Draft Tishaura flyers as they came out. After the election, I found out Johnson had been handing out the ward sample ballot and his own campaign literature, not the Draft Tishaura flyers. He was basically using us to campaign for himself. Yes. Why on earth would I think he is either very selfish or helping another mayoral candidate, or both?

The 7th Ward needs a good candidate against Jack Coater. Unfortunately, that is not Leonard Johnson. Fortunately, filing just opened Monday and I am optimistic that a real choice will be on the ballot.

–Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman

Statewide Initiative Petition for NonPartisan Elections Is A Hot Mess

huxleyWednesday, Damien Johnson submitted four initiative petition drafts with the Missouri Secretary of State. Johnson works in the initiative petition industry, was treasurer of Democrat Dylan Hassinger’s recent state senate campaign, and previously a Republican activist and GOP candidate for 64th District State Representative.

Three of his petitions are marijuana related.  I have not compared them except to see that one is more of a right to grow petition and two are in depth legalization.

But 2018-003 is an initiative petition to replace political party August primaries and party label November general elections with November nonpartisan elections with runoffs to follow for some elected offices. Some.

These petitions are in the public comment phase. Later they could be approved for signature collection.

This nonpartisan elections petition is a hot mess.

The petitions covers U.S. Senate, U.S. House, Missouri Senate, Missouri House, and all statewide offices except State Auditor, which would remain a partisan primary and general election every four years. It also does not cover county offices, meaning they would continue to be elected by partisan primary and general elections. This amendment would set up a two tier election system for state offices, certainly one more costly than present.

Filing fee for these nonpartisan offices would be $100 or less and no signature collection would be required, meaning every Tom, Dick, and Harry would file and the ballots will be many, many, many pages long.

The November election for the nonpartisan offices would require a winner to earn 50% of the vote or there would be a run-off election. Given the time needed to certify the first vote and set things up for the run-off, the second vote would be between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s guaranteed to be lower turnout because of holiday season, let alone the possibility of the first snow complicating matters.

Let me also point out that this post-November election period is when newly elected legislators participate in freshmen orientation. This is when they learn the Senate/House Rules and procedures, get staffed, and receive introductions to agencies, before their swearing in and session begins the first week in January.

Most disturbing about this proposal is the part were we would still have August elections for ballot issues, most surely low turnout because the only other elections on the ballot will be county office primaries. While I can find no link between this petition and Rex Sinquefield, certainly he stands the most to gain from this proposal.

— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman

Petitions at the Polls: Bond Issue and Ward Preservation Charter Amendment

news232In addition to people handing out ward ballots and candidate or ballot issue literature, you may come across two or more initiative petitions that you will be asked to sign.

One of them you may already know about, the bond issue relating to vacant buildings. I blogged about this earlier. 

As an update, I have encountered five signature gatherers on this petition. Each told me this was a ballot issue to stop out of state real estate speculators. When I pointed out the petition was for a bond issue each said the bond issue was not the main point of the petition. When I pointed out that the petition is also for a tax increase because it is a bond issue, and that the tax increase part is not forthright in the petition or ballot language, each said there is no tax increase involved. They will tell you anything to get you to sign.

A new petition you may be asked to sign is from the Saint Louis City Ward Preservation Committee. It is very straightforward. It seeks a do over vote on the 2012 charter amendment to reduce the number of wards from 28 to 14, doubling the size of each ward and the number of constituents represented by each alderman

In 2012, I don’t think anyone could have imagined that we would be at war with a billionaire and his political consultants. Reducing the number of votes needed on the Board of Aldermen to carry out his wishes is maybe not such a good idea.

The Committee sponsoring this petition includes Jesse Todd (18th Ward Democratic Committeeman, who chairs the committee), Chris Carter (27th Ward Democratic Committeeman),  Pamela Boyd (27th Ward Democratic Committeewoman), Gregory F.X. Daly (Collector of Revenue, Mayoral Candidate, and 12th Ward Democratic Committeeman), John Carpenter (23rd Ward Democratic Committeeman), Jake Hummel (State Representative, State Senator Candidate, and 11th Ward Democratic Committeeman), Larry Middlebrook (2nd Ward Democratic Committeeman), Dale Sweet (20th Ward Democratic Committeeman, who serves as attorney for the committee).

— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman

Vote No on Constitutional Amendment 6

voteboxThere is a lot of confusion on what Constitutional Amendment 6 does and does not do.

“Shall the Constitution of Missouri be amended to state that voters may be required by law, which may be subject to exception, to verify one’s identity, citizenship, and residence by presenting identification that may include valid government-issued photo identification?”

In neither the ballot language nor the Constitutional Amendment 6 Full Text will you find a program for free photo identification cards, or free copies of birth certificates necessary to get free photo identification cards, or free copies of any other documents that might be necessary.

The free photo identification cards may come later if the Missouri General Assembly funds a program to do so. The problem with that plan is that there was no discussion about what it actually takes to get documentation necessary to be issued an identification card in Missouri.

One of the requirements to get an identification card from a DMV office is a certified copy of your birth certificate. One of the requirements to get a certified copy of a birth certificate is a photo identification card. Yes. That’s right. You need a photo identification card to get a photo identification card in Missouri. Again, there was no discussion on this problem in the legislature.

Once Constitutional Amendment 6 is adopted, there is no guarantee that a free identification card program will be funded and that the Missouri General Assembly will not just require the identification cards to vote.

Constitutional Amendment 6 Opponent Website

St. Louis Public Radio Pro & Con Article on Amendment 6

We were unable to find someone willing to speak as a proponent for Amendment 6 at our 7th Ward Independent Democrats ballot issues forum. Here is the video of the presentation by opponent speaker Denise Lieberman, Senior Attorney, Voter Protection Program, Advancement Project. 

In person voter fraud is not a problem. Really. Truly. The problems reported by legislative advocates of this amendment have nothing to do with in person voting, the focus of the amendment. It’s a solution for an imaginary problem.

Missouri requires identification to vote, just not photo identification. Even if the Legislature were to change how the State issues certified copies of birth certificates, remove the must already have a photo identification card, that change would not affect Missourians born in other states. Other problems include how long it can take to amend a birth certificate that has a name misspelled and persons who have no birth certificate because their birth was not recorded.

Constitutional Amendment 6 is about reducing the number of people who vote.

Vote No on Constitutional Amendment 6, the modern day poll tax.

–Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman

Vote No on Amendment 4 to Ban Future Sales Tax Votes

voteboxOf all the ballot issues ever sent to Missouri voters, Amendment 4 stands out as the one that could have the most dramatic impact on funding of local and state services, more so even than the 1980 Hancock Amendment which requires public votes on every tax increase.

Constitutional Amendment 4 Full Text

“Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to prohibit a new state or local sales/use or other similar tax on any service or transaction that was not subject to a sales/use or similar tax as of January 1, 2015?”

Amendment 4 is opposed by the Missouri Municipal League

St. Louis Public Radio article on Amendment 4

Amendment 4 is funded primarily by the Realtors Association and is a preemptive strike against sales taxes on new service and technology economies in a Rex Sinquefield world where earnings and income taxes are banned. The wording of the ballot issue is very troubling. It could end up banning all new sales taxes and not just on services. Increasing property taxes to pay for everything would be incredibly unfair.

Vote No on Amendment 4. Don’t let voters in Jasper County tell voters of St. Louis City what we and can’t tax.

— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman

Vote No on Amendment 3 and Prop A Tobacco Taxes

voteboxMissouri has the lowest state tobacco tax in the United States: $0.17 per pack of cigarettes. The average state tobacco tax is $1.65.

Before us Tuesday in Missouri are two competing tobacco tax increase proposals. Constitutional Amendment 3 is sponsored by Big Tobacco and Proposition A is sponsored by Little Tobacco and the Missouri Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Stores.

Both proposals are opposed by the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and American Lung Association. 

Constitutional Amendment 3 Full Text

“Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:

  • increase taxes on cigarettes each year through 2020, at which point this additional tax will total 60 cents per pack of 20;
  • create a fee paid by cigarette wholesalers of 67 cents per pack of 20 on certain cigarettes, which fee shall increase annually; and
  • deposit funds generated by these taxes and fees into a newly established Early Childhood Health and Education Trust Fund?”

Constitutional Amendment 3 Opponent Website

St. Louis Public Radio story on Amendment 3

Amendment 3 is deceptive, using children to write into the Missouri Constitution protections for Big Tobacco and more:

  • Public health agencies that receive money from the tax would be prohibited from advocating for tougher laws against tobacco.
  • Big Tobacco gets $9 Million a year for collecting the tax.
  • The funds would be spent by an unelected board.
  • The funds could be spent on private schools.
  • And there is some way off topic language relating to stem cell research and abortion.

Proposition A Full Text

“Shall Missouri law be amended to:

  • increase taxes on cigarettes in 2017, 2019, and 2021, at which point this additional tax will total 23 cents per pack of 20;
  • increase the tax paid by sellers on other tobacco products by 5 percent of manufacturer’s invoice price;
  • use funds generated by these taxes exclusively to fund transportation infrastructure projects; and
  • repeal these taxes if a measure to increase any tax or fee on cigarettes or other tobacco products is certified to appear on any local or statewide ballot?”

St. Louis Public Radio story on Proposition A

Proposition A is nearly as bad as Amendment 3.

  • Proposition A would fund transportation projects because proponents- convenience stores and gas stations- make big money selling gasoline and don’t want higher gas taxes.
  • Proposition A, if passed, and another tobacco tax increase is certified for a ballot later on, statewide or local, the increase from Proposition A is repealed. That’s right. Not if another tax increase passes, but if merely approved for a ballot.

Personally, it seems to me that if we are going to raise tobacco taxes, the money should go to county and city health departments and fire departments/districts across the state. It should not go to state at all. It should stay local.

Vote No on both Pro-Tobacco Industry Cigarette Taxes.

— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman

Vote Yes on Amendment 2 for Campaign Contribution Limits

voteboxConstitutional Amendment 2 would re-establish campaign contribution limits in Missouri on state (statewide and Missouri Senate and House) and judicial candidates.

“Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:

  • establish limits on campaign contributions by individuals or entities to political parties, political committees, or committees to elect candidates for state or judicial office;
  • prohibit individuals and entities from intentionally concealing the source of such contributions;
  • require corporations or labor organizations to meet certain requirements in order to make such contributions; and
  • provide a complaint process and penalties for any violations of this amendment?”

Full Constitutional Amendment Text

Proponent Website

In 1994, voters of Missouri approved Proposition A to establish campaign contribution limits as a statute, not constitutional amendment. It passed by 74%. In 2008, however, the Missouri General Assembly voted to repeal contribution limits and Governor Matt Blunt signed the repeal into law. Missouri has been a leader in low ethics and campaign finance standards ever since.

  • Amendment 2 would place a @2,600 limit on contributions to to statewide, state legislative, and judicial candidates and a $25,000 limit on contributions by persons or other committee to political party committees (state party and county central committees). Contributions to federal candidates, city or county candidates, and political action committees (including party ward accounts), would continue to be unlimited.
  • Amendment 2 would ban labor unions and corporations from making direct campaign contributions. Union and Corporation PACs, however, would could continue to make contributions.
  • Amendment 2 would stop committee-to-committee transfers of money, PAC A would no longer be able to contribute to PAC B, what many people consider to be money laundering.
  • Amendment 2 would prohibit candidates from accepting contributions from out-of-state committees unless they file with Missouri Ethics Commission.

Amendment 2 does not go far enough and certainly there is reason to distrust Fred Sauer, the anti-stem cell activist who has personally funded this ballot initiative. But Missouri’s reputation for unlimited money in elections, dark money from front organizations, and growing influence of campaign consultants means we are for sale to the highest bidder and this is the greatest threat to democracy of our times.

A Vote for Amendment 2 is how we start taking back our elections from wealthy interests and persons.

— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman