Rex Inc. is negotiating privatization of St. Louis Lambert International Airport with no input from aldermen or public. The pro-privatization website by Rex Inc. appears to be saying this is the greatest thing ever and nearly a done deal.
We need to know who are our friends at every level of government, who we can depend on to stand with us against Rex Inc. That includes the Board of Aldermen.
We have an opportunity to vet 28th Ward Alderman candidates and find out where they stand on issues, including Rex Inc. related issues. We should take it. I am asking, again, that St. Louis Democratic City Central Committee invite all candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for 28th Ward Alderman to our Thursday meeting to answer our questions.
One candidate will get the nod from Central Committee and one or more rejected candidates will file as Independents. By vetting each of the candidates now and making this information known to the public, we would be providing a public service– information on citywide/regional issues that likely might not even come up within 28th Ward-only forums.
1) Forced re-entry of City into County
2) Privatization of St. Louis Lambert International Airport
4) Privatization of City Water Department
5) Re-Vote on Ward Reduction
6) Maintaining our County elected offices as elected
I understand this is hard for many of you, breaking with tradition, the idea that we not merely nominate the chosen alderman candidate of the ward’s committeeman and committeewoman. But this is an opportunity to find out where candidates (plural) stand on issues important to our future as a party, a City, and a region. I think that is our responsibility here, not rubber stamping a nominee.
Also, I have consolidated the Rex ballot issues information to a new Say No To Rex blog and Twitter account @SayNoToRex to keep track of Rex-related news.
7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman
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Today in corporate welfare news, St. Louis City’s Board of Aldermen HUDZ Committee approved Tax Increment Financing and a sales tax increase to benefit Developer Paul McKee’s car wash, gas station, and grocery store development.
The committee vote on this was 4-3, with 5 aldermen absent or not voting.
Voting for the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and a sales tax increase to fund a gas station, car wash, and grocery store were 7th Ward Alderman Jack Coatar, 17th Ward Alderman Joe Roddy, 19th Ward Alderwoman Marlene Davis, and 28th Ward Alderwoman Lyda Krewson (also a candidate for mayor).
Voting against the two bills were 15th Ward Alderwoman Megan Green, 20th Ward Alderwoman Cara Spencer, and 21st Ward Alderman Antonio French (also a candidate for mayor).
Absent or not voting on the measures were 3rd Ward Alderman Freeman Bosley Sr., 4th Ward Alderman Sam Moore, 8th Ward Alderman Steve Conway, 18th Ward Alderman Terry Kennedy, and 27th Ward Alderman Chris Carter.
Wait. There’s More. Paul McKee’s mega gas station project needs a small business loan and that will come tomorrow from the St. Louis Local Development Corporation: Item #7.
St. Louis Local Development Corporation is a nonprofit created by statute with no accountability to voters.
In addition to Item #7, note Item #4, a loan to Triumph Systems. This was on the September Agenda and the meeting was canceled the morning of the meeting.
Triumph Systems makes Zombie and Terrorist shooting targets.
Triumph Systems is not just any old zombie target company. It has celebrity connections. On staff is Chris Loesch, husband of right wing talk show host Dana Loesch. They are former 7th Ward St. Louis City residents, now of Dallas.
Mr. Loesch previously benefited from corporate welfare as an owner of Shock City Studios on Gravois in the Benton Park Neighborhood. That project received Brownfield tax credits and TIF from the City of St. Louis.
— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman
When 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 June 14, Krewson declared she was a candidate for mayor.
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
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.
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.