Vote No On Prop A Body Cam Scam

PropAballot2Proposition A is Rex Sinquefield’s unconstitutional proposal to abolish the Recorder of Deeds and spend alleged cost savings on police body cameras. Proponents contend that monies mandated by state law for records preservation at the Recorder’s Office will be available for body cams. It won’t. Proponents contend that monies mandated for technology services and hardware for the Recorder’s office will be available for body cams. It won’t. Proponents contend that a sitting elected official can be transferred to a civil service position under the Assessor and her duties transferred to the Assessor without giving the Assessor the title of Recorder. It cannot happen. This ballot issue is a wet hot mess that needs to be defeated.

More on Prop A
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— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman

Vote No On Prop B Election Scam

propb1Proposition B is a Rex Sinquefield measure to reduce voter turnout for School Board Elections and Charter Amendments. The proposal only moves election of Mayor, Comptroller, Board of Aldermen President, and Aldermen to State/Federal Elections, leaving School Board, Community College Trustee, and Ballot Issues for April Election or Special Elections.

More information on Prop A

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— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman

Lewis Reed Fails To Lead, Again

city-hall3Under the Charter of the City of St. Louis, initiative petitions and their signatures go to the Board of Elections for verification of signatures. If signatures are sufficient, the issue has another stop before going on the ballot. A Charter Amendment by initiative petition must be sent to the Board of Aldermen and aldermen have 60 days to act on it.

The Board of Aldermen can put its seal of approval on it or not. If not, it goes back to the Board of Elections and on to the ballot anyway. The process allows our elected representatives to vet initiative ballot issues but not change them. It’s an opportunity to point out flaws or give praise.

On August 2nd, Primary Election Day, St. Louis City voters were asked at the polls to sign an initiative petition for funding of police body cams. It turned out to be a scam by Billionaire Rex Sinquefield and State Senator/mayoral candidate Jamilah Nasheed relating to the Recorder of Deeds Office, and a poorly written one at that.

So many people wanted to remove their signatures that I contacted the Board of Elections about how they would do it. Unfortunately, the Board of Elections did not produce the necessary affidavit until the day before the affidavits were due.

In September, Rex Sinquefield’s agents began collecting signatures for an initiative petition to change dates of some elections and reduce turnout for city charter ballot issues and school board elections. Fewer people voting would make Sinquefield better positioned to finally get rid of the earnings tax, bankrupt us into disincorporation, force us into annexation by the County, and elect his own anti-public education school board.

On September 9th, the Board of Aldermen Agenda noted that aldermen had received the proposed Charter Amendment on the Recorder’s Office from the Board of Elections. There was never any such notice for the Charter Amendment to change election dates, but it is known that it has sufficient signatures and was sent to Board of Aldermen.

On October 10th, Board of Aldermen President/mayoral candidate Lewis Reed introduced Board Bill 164 for the Charter Amendment on the Recorder’s Office. It was assigned to the Ways & Means Committee. No board bill was ever filed for the Charter Amendment to change election dates.

You would think that President Reed would want a thorough vetting by the Board of Aldermen of these two Rex Sinquefield proposals. You would think that he would jump at the opportunity to hold public hearings, expose these two ballot issues, lay out the case against the ballot issues as a first step toward educating voters and defeating Sinquefield. But he did not. He let the clock run out.

And what of the reformers on the Board of Aldermen? What of 28th Ward Alderwoman/mayoral candidate Lyda Krewson, 8th Ward Alderman Steve Conway (who chairs the Ways and Means Committee that Reed’s bill was assigned), and 24th Ward Alderman Scott Ogilvie? What of the aldermen who talked about reducing the number of aldermen as the first step toward professional policy maker aldermen? This was an opportunity to debate policy, an opportunity to be statesmen. They chose instead to give Rex Sinquefield a pass.

Why don’t Board President Lewis Reed and aldermen, including the three running for mayor, and the odd numbered ward aldermen up for re-election this year, want to go on record voting against these horrible proposals?

Whether or not they support Rex Sinquefield is something that should be asked all candidates for mayor and all candidates for aldermen this year. Media, debate moderators, ward organization surveys, all need to ask where the candidates stand on these two ballot issues.

What are President Reed and his aldermen colleagues hiding? Are they all jockeying for Rex Sinquefield money now?

Disclosure: I am a City employee who works at the Recorder of Deeds Office. I am an archivist who perform records conservation and preservation services, not a manager. I speak only for myself here as the 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman and do not represent the Recorder or City of St. Louis. I have not discussed this matter with the Recorder. I had my job for nearly 20 years before I was elected a committeewoman, did not become committeewoman because of my job, did not get my job because I am a committeewoman. I have scheduled vacations days for all election days. I did not write this on taxpayer time. I wrote it myself. I have an ongoing beef with Rex Sinquefield’s attempts to legally buy elections. His main goal for St. Louis is to force it to re-enter St. Louis County as a means to eliminate the city’s earnings tax. I have endorsed Tishaura Jones for Mayor.

— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman

 

Whatever Happened To Lyda Krewson’s Reduce & Reform Committee?

city-hall3When I first saw the initiative petition to change municipal election dates, I thought maybe Reduce & Reform STL was behind it. It appeared to reduce the number of elections. I have long been an advocate of moving all our elections together to increase turnout and reduce costs. Finally some reform I could support, or so I briefly thought.

Reduce & Reform STL was the ballot issue campaign committee created by 28th Ward Alderwoman Lyda Krewson and 8th Ward Alderman Steve Conway to support passage of Proposition R, the November 11, 2012, Charter amendment to reduce the number of wards from 28 to 14.

I opposed that amendment but did not actively work against it at the polls. I thought then, and still do, that doubling the number of constituents, neighborhoods, businesses, and institutions requiring an alderman’s attention is creating a big mess. But, I had just been elected a committeewoman that August, my alderwoman sponsored the board bill to put it on the ballot, and I had yet to form a ward organization or raise any money.

According to reports filed with Missouri Ethics Commission, Reduce & Reform STL raised $8,230.16 and spent $7,301.00 on the successful effort. Most of the money came from aldermen:

$3,000 from 28th Ward Alderwoman Lyda Krewson
$2,500 from 13th Ward Alderman Fred Wessels
$1,000 each from 7th Ward Alderwoman Phyllis Young and 8th Ward Alderman Steve Conway
$750 from 24th Ward Alderman Scott Ogilvie
$500 each from 14th Ward Alderwoman Carol Howard, 15th Ward Alderwoman Jennifer Florida,16th Ward Alderwoman Donna Baringer, 17th Ward Alderman Joe Roddy, 25th Ward Alderman Shane Cohn

Other donors of note:
$1,500 from Chameleon Integrated Services (government IT contractor)
$1,000 from St. Louis Police Officers Association
$1,000 from EMB Development Group
$500 from 4th District State Senator Joe Keaveny
$500 from realtor Jerome Glick
$200 from attorney Jane Dueker

After the election, Reduce & Reform STL filed with Missouri Ethics Commission to convert the account to a political action committee. It transferred $929.16 from the old committee to the new one, kept the same name, and kept Krewson as Treasurer and Conway as Deputy Treasurer.

Reduce & Reform STL reported only Limited Activity to Missouri Ethics Commission in 2013, 2014, or 2015.

On March 29, 2016, just days before the April 5th municipal election, Reduce & Reform STL received a $10,000 check from Civic Progress PAC.

With that money, on March 30th, it paid $4,000 to Jobs With Justice for a literature drop. Reduce & Reform STL did not report to Missouri Ethics Commission a printing bill or direct expenditure for a ballot issue or candidate relating to that literature drop.

With that money, on March 30th, it also made a $6,000 donation to Citizens to Elect Jamilah Nasheed. Nasheed was not on the municipal election ballot. She did, however, spend $11,900 on Proposition E (earnings tax renewal) radio ads.

On April 5, Mike Owens, husband of Krewson, replaced her and Conway as Treasurer and Deputy Treasurer.

On April 8, Mayor Francis G. Slay announced he would not seek re-election.

On June 14, Krewson declared she was a candidate for mayor.

On July 18, Reduce & Reform STL terminated and its remaining $537.16 was donated to Billionaire Rex Sinquefield’s Better Together.

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On August 2, Rex Sinquefield and 5th District State Senator Jamilah Nasheed joined forces on the Police Body Cam Scam initiative petition. 

In September, Better Together began its initiative petition drive to move some municipal elections to state election dates but leave ballot issues, school board, and community college trustee elections as Spring elections with dramatically reduced turnouts. This is the petition to game the system in Rex Sinquefield’s favor, reduce turnout for charter amendments toward getting rid of the earnings tax and implementing other changes. It is one of three local initiative petitions Sinquefield is presently funding.

Krewson has some explaining to do. When she talks about being a champion for reform, what does she mean? Rex Sinquefield’s Agenda?

I hope not. I like Krewson. I volunteered for her Board President campaign, went door to door in the 23rd Ward for her. And, I don’t have to agree 100% with a candidate in order to vote for her or him. But…

This City needs a champion for big change and one who will stand up to Rex Sinquefield and the consultants getting rich off him. I will vote for the candidate that I believe will do both the best.

— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman

Note: There will be a meeting 6 pm Monday, October 3, 2016, to discuss launching an initiative petition drive for a Re-Vote on reducing the number of wards.

Updated: Rex Sinquefield’s Bankrupt St. Louis Petition

wakeupamericaRex Sinquefield is loading up the Spring ballots with charter amendments. This is the third initiative petition- with paid signature collectors- in a row.

In addition to the Police Body Cam Scam amendment and the Low Turnout on Local Ballot Issues & School Board Elections amendment, his operatives are now working on the Bankrupt St. Louis amendment, a proposal to provide tax credits for payment of earnings taxes and exempting anyone making under $50,000 from the earnings tax. 

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I recognize one of the sponsoring petitioners on this petition- Larry Stendebach. He is the tech guru for Pelopidas, the PR/lobbying firm making a mint off of Sinquefield.

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Stendebach is also part of Rex Sinquefield’s dizzying array of Political Action Committees. He is Deputy Treasurer of Great St. Louis, based in Jefferson City, of course

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Great St. Louis is entirely funded by Rex Sinquefield, from his personal check and closing out the account of his Vote No on the E-Tax  PAC, same address as Great St. Louis. Most of the Great St. Louis money has gone to the losing Primary campaigns of Republican candidates for Governor and Attorney General, Catherine Hanaway and Kurt Schaefer.

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Closer to home, on August 18th, Stendebach and Martin Casas filed papers with the Missouri Ethics Commission to create yet another Rex PAC- STL Votes!- to support an unnamed ballot issue. Casas manages social media for Better Together, another Rex Sinquefield project. Casas is also one of the sponsoring petitioners for Rex’s initiative to reduce turnout on local ballot issues and school board elections. I would imagine the new PAC is for that.

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So, when a signature gatherer tells you that the Bankrupt St. Louis petition has nothing to do with Rex Sinquefield, feel free to take up some of his or her time and provide the facts.

It appears the signature gatherers started Friday at the 78th District Re-Vote polling places and then hit the many special events this weekend around the City.

St. Louis City voters just reauthorized the earnings tax last Spring with 72% of the vote.

Here’s the process for these City charter amendment initiative petitions.

1) Upon acquiring sufficient signatures plus some, petitions are delivered to Board of Elections.

2) Board of Elections verifies signatures. If enough signatures…

3) Board of Elections notifies Board of Aldermen that an initiative petition is ready for ballot.

4) Board of Aldermen has 60 Days to consider- including holding hearings- and adopt the proposed amendment as is- no changes. If it adopts amendment, and mayor signs, it becomes law without public vote. If it does not adopt proposed amendment, or if mayor does not sign, or his veto is not overriden…

5) Board of Elections places issue on ballot.

6) Charter Amendment passes if it gets 60% of the vote.

This is no way to have a serious discussion about the earnings tax and how to replace the earnings tax. This is a punitive measure by Rex Sinquefield. His operatives are throwing everything at the wall in hopes something sticks. He has unlimited resources to pay signature gatherers a consultants. The initiative petition process was never intended to be a means for the wealthy to buy their way on to the ballot. It was never intended to be a business.

Photo Credits: 15th Ward Alderwoman Megan Green

— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman

The Other Rex Sinquefield Petition- Changing Election Dates

I am a huge fan of changing local election dates for St. Louis City to state and federal election dates. It would, I believe, increase turnout for local elections and significantly reduce the budget for the Board of Elections. I have been advocating election date changes for about fifteen years.

Most recently, I  blogged about this reform idea in January 2015. In the 2015 7th Ward alderman election, candidate Chelsea Merta had pledged to work on this from both the Board of Aldermen and State Legislature angles. More on the latter in a moment.

So you might think that I’d be thrilled when a petition came along to change St. Louis City elections from March & April to August & November. But I’m not. The devil is in the details.

I was first approached to sign the petition outside City Hall. The signature gatherer told me it was to increase voter turnout by moving local elections to the Fall when state elections are held. I got excited.

But, like many other voters, I am going to be very hesitant about signing petitions after the Rex Sinquefield and Senator Jamilah Nasheed Body Cam Scam Petition.

Wanting to believe that someone had taken my idea and run with it with the best of intentions, I glanced over the petition, picked up the pen to sign, but then saw two names as sponsoring petitioners at the bottom of the first page: Stephanie Lewis and Martin Casas.

Stephanie Lewis was spokesperson for Rex Sinqefield’s No on E Tax campaign.

Martin Casas handles social media for Rex Sinquefield’s Better Together.

So, I did not sign.

I spent a number of days trying to get a screen shot of the petition’s three pages, so I could study it to find the horrible parts. Then I contacted Garrett Webb asking for a copy. Mr. Webb is a political consultant and also one of the sponsoring petitioners. He obliged and emailed the petition to me. The three pages are posted at the end.

Then I set up a meeting with Mr. Webb to discuss the problems I found, and there are huge ones. 7th Ward Committeeman Marty Murray, Jr. and me met with Mr. Webb last week to go over concerns. It was a friendly talk. I think some of the consequences were genuinely new issues for him.

One of the problems with initiative petitions is that the ballot issues are vetted by Board of Aldermen but no changes can be made. If this had originated in the Board, consequences would likely have come to light, changes made.

Here are the Issues: The petition if enacted would result in extra super low turnout for School Board, Community College District Trustee, and ballot issues because there would be no citywide or ward contests to draw voters out. The petition only moves municipal officers and aldermen from March and April to August and November without addressing other elections. Rex Sinquefield could and would run the table with charter amendments- including getting rid of the earnings tax- under 2% turnout scenarios. He could elect his own anti-public education School Board Slate.

None of the seven signature gatherers that I spoke with over the past weeks said anything about this petition reducing the cost of elections. That’s because it’s not intended to reduce the number of elections. It’s intended to reduce turnout in elections important to Rex Sinquefield.

Moving the elections is still a great idea, I think. But needs to happen in a specific way to make sure a billionaire who votes in the Ozarks does not bankrupt us. Instead of putting this on the March 2017 ballot, we should…

First, the Board of Aldermen and next Mayor should lobby the Missouri General Assembly to change our School Board and Community College District Trustee elections to state elections. Without the Legislature’s assent on this matter, moving election dates for other elected officials is putting the cart before the horse.

Second, if successful with the Legislature, the Board of Aldermen should then send voters a charter amendment requiring local ballot issues- referendum or initiative- go to voters during state elections. There needs to be some option for real emergency referendums, perhaps some extra super majority of aldermen consenting or unanimous vote by Estimate and Apportionment, but the language needs to be tight. Many of us are familiar with how emergency clauses work on legislation today, which is everything fits the definition of an emergency. Because of it, the right of the people to petition to undo legislation by public vote is just nice words in the City Charter.

Third, if voters pass the local ballot issues election date charter amendment, the Board of Aldermen should send voters an amendment moving the mayor, comptroller, board president, and aldermen elections to state elections. There needs to be a provision for special elections to fill vacancies, of course. And, I’d also like to see a sunset on the local officials election change- twenty or so years. We would evaluate how it worked and either vote to renew it or go back to the old election dates. I’d like to see it with a sunset clause so that the decision to have it back on the ballot is not left to aldermen or initiative petition.

Which brings me to the argument against moving local elections or local ballot issues to state elections- people are weary of long ballots. My answer to that is we can declutter the ballot by making it more difficult for people with big money- like Rex Sinquefield- to purchase ballot space via initiative petition. Petition Election Date Change Final_Page_1Petition Election Date Change Final_Page_2Petition Election Date Change Final_Page_3b