Sunday 7th Ward Candidate Forum

Additional Information



7th Ward School Supplies Drive: Donate If You Can

school supplies7th Ward Independent Democrats are assisting Andrea Heugatter in Lafayette Square with her School Supplies Drive going on at Looking Glass Designs, her business, and at Lafayette Park Concerts.

The first delivery of school supplies went to Peabody Elementary School in Peabody-Darst-Webbe Neighborhood west of LaSalle Park Neighborhood. The second delivery went to KidSmart.

We are collecting new backpacks for kids and school supplies to help Andrea’s efforts. Here is the St. Louis City Public Schools School Supplies List.

You can drop off school supplies and backpacks at the olive green and white School Supplies container on the potting table at 1911 S 11th Apartment C, in back and upstairs.

You can also drop off at the July 17th Drinking Liberally Happy Hour.

Or drop off at Looking Glass Designs, 1917 Park or the next Lafayette Park Concert.

Call 7th Ward Committeewoman Marie Ceselski at 314-630-7599 with any questions.

7th Ward Independent Democrats Candidate Survey Responses

VoteTreasurer – 7th Ward Independent Democrats and 7th Ward Committeewoman Marie Ceselski have endorsed Tishaura Jones for Treasurer.

Circuit Attorney – 7th Ward Independent Democrats and 7th Ward Committeewoman Marie Ceselski have endorsed Kim Gardner for Circuit Attorney.

Sheriff – 7th Ward Independent Democrats and 7th Ward Committeewoman Marie Ceselski have endorsed Vernon Betts for Sheriff.

7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman and Committeeman – 7th Ward Independent Democrats have endorsed Marie Ceselski for 7th Ward Committeewoman and Marty Murray Jr for Committeeman.

Vote No On Proposition 1

Take a stand against the unethical campaign by St. Louis Public School District’s Special Administrative Board. Vote No on Proposition 1.

Don’t Support Taxation Without Representation. Vote No on Proposition 1.

Don’t Trust the St. Louis Public School District’s Special Administrative Board to spend more of your tax dollars. Vote No on Proposition 1.


Numerous complaints have been filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission (by 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman Marie Ceselski, 15th Ward Democratic Committeewoman Missy Pinkerton McDaniel, possibly others) regarding violations of campaign finance and election laws by the St. Louis Public Schools District and its Special Administrative Board.

  • SLPS/SAB has used school district funds and resources to support the property tax increase campaign.
  • SLPS/SAB has failed to properly report expenditures made on behalf of the campaign and properly report who paid for campaign expenditures.


Even after the SAB was informed of those two complaints and more, it continues to spend public funds on the campaign. Voters received several mailers identified as paid for by the SLPS but “for informational and educational purposes” and “not intended to advocate, support, or oppose Proposition 1.” In reality, they were advocacy pieces. If it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, it’s a duck.

SLPS continues to use staff and resources, including its website to push for passage of Proposition 1.

Under normal circumstances, MEC would have already rendered a judgment against SLPS/SAB. Unfortunately for taxpayers and voters across Missouri, the terms of three of six members of MEC expired March 15 and there is no quorum to conduct business.

“Tuesday’s municipal elections across Missouri are being conducted in an ethics-free zone,” wrote Tony Messenger in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

A vote against Proposition 1 is a vote against an unethical campaign that may never be held accountable because of a massive system failure.

The voters of St. Louis City elect a Board of Education to govern the St. Louis Public Schools (SLPS). Our elected school board, however, has no power over policy or budget of the SLPS.

Instead, SLPS is currently governed by a three member Special Administrative Board appointed by the Governor, St. Louis City Mayor, and City Board of Aldermen President. The SAB is not accountable to voters. Voters had no say in the change and cannot undo it.

This year the SLPS qualified for full accreditation, the first step toward returning control of our schools back to our elected board. The Missouri School Board, however, trusts the SAB more than an elected board to run things and in January extended the stay of the SAB by at least three years.

Your vote against Proposition 1 is a vote against taxation without representation.

The ballot issue says the proposed new revenue would be spent, in part, on “competitive salaries” for “teachers and staff.” Staff could very well mean administrators, more people with fancy titles. Staff could mean hiring someone to run another unethical campaign, maybe next time a slate of candidates for school board.

Your vote against Proposition 1 is a No Confidence Vote against the Special Administrative Board.

Do our public schools need more money? Yes.

Are there people we respect that support Proposition 1? Yes.

Are either reason enough to vote for it. No.

Please join 7th Ward Independent Democrats and 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman Marie Ceselski and Vote No on Proposition 1 this Tuesday, April 5th.

On Tuesday, Vote For Proposition 1 Tax Increase If…

In the 1970’s-80’s, there was a small group of legislator-lawyers in the Missouri House known as “The White Hats.” They actually read proposed legislation and amendments. They wrote amendments without the assistance of lobbyists. They asked hard questions and made eloquent speeches for and against proposals. They were data-driven before it was a thing, requiring documentation and not merely anecdote. They were champions for campaign finance reform and curbing conflicts of interest in public office, reproductive rights, child welfare, the poor and elderly, the environment, public education, civil rights, Labor, and the wise spending of public funds. They were Liberals that spoke against legislative pork. They often butted heads with important elected officials and lobbyists. They were heroes to me and others.

Then, one day in the early 90’s, some of the remaining White Hats fell off the pedestal we had placed them on. Times had changed. The Missouri House Speaker had consolidated power and was the most important elected official in the State. He ruled with an iron fist. He required votes for his priority bills. Sometimes these priorities were more for the good of a few than the many, bills that needed a legislative moral compass, needed The White Hats. But voting your conscience came to have repercussions. Your district would not get money it needed for a public works project. Campaign money would dry up and the Speaker would find someone to run against you. A relative might coincidently lose a job. The Speaker might allow abortion restrictions to come to a vote in order to secure Republican votes for his priorities.

And one by one, I saw The White Hats take to a House floor microphone to say how bad a bill was, walked away holding their noses to demonstrate the legislation stunk, and then they voted Yes.

I hate Proposition 1 because it reminds me of the Fall of The White Hats. I hate it because it makes me question my own values and what is and is not in the public’s best interest. I hate it because it forces me to decide if the ends justify the means.

Proposition 1 is a property tax increase to pay for $180 Million in bonds for capital improvements and other things.

Vote for Proposition 1 if you are OK with special elections designed to incur the least number of voters deciding the fate of an issue.

The City of St. Louis should be encouraging voter registration and voter turnout. Instead, our elected leaders have joined forces to ensure a handful of voters make an important decision. Why? Because they believe that the more voters who turn out, the more likely it will fail.

We need a Charter Amendment to move all our City elections to the state elections cycle. No more low turnout Spring elections in the snow and ice, no more special elections except to fill vacancies. It will save money and increase turnout.

On the other hand, if poor leadership by Mayor Francis Slay and Board President Lewis Reed have caused us to actually be in a capital improvements crisis, and this is a must have bond issue, then I can see where we might hold our noses and vote for it. But. But, we should also be bouncing both the Mayor and Board President out of office first chance we get for having failed to properly plan.

Section6Vote for Proposition 1 if you are OK with Section 6. of the enabling legislation and understand that the money will be spent with the qualification “substantially in accordance with Exhibit A,” the mysterious Exhibit A.

BB2CSAA-Exhibit AIn Congress, state legislatures, courts, and administrative commissions, an Exhibit is an attached document that says “Exhibit.” No such document exists for the Proposition 1 enabling legislation. Is there an attachment to the Board Bill? Yes. A vague list titled “Proposition 1 – CATEGORY.”

Adding further intrigue, several aldermen are under the impression that Exhibit A is actually the March 20, 2014 St. Louis City Capital Improvements Committee’s Needs Report.  Good luck finding out who is on that Committee and when it meets.

“Substantially in accordance” means that money can be moved around and most assuredly will. Do I believe for a second that the money identified for the Fire Department will not be spent on the Fire Department? No. I have every confidence that fire fighters will either see those funds spent as intended or raise so much hell that recalls of elected officials are the result.

Some of the other monies, I have no such confidence.

Could funds be used to enhance our long vacant Municipal Courts Building as part of a sales deal, essentially subsidizing redevelopment? Yes. I believe so.

Could funds from more than one line item be used for retaining the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency in St. Louis City? Yes. I believe so.

Could funds from the Ward Capital Improvement Fund be used to plug a hole in the Budget? Yes. I believe so. And it won’t be the first time.

Vote for Proposition 1 if you’re OK with aldermen getting more money for their Ward Accounts.

I have no issues with aldermen having a pot of money divided up 28 ways and used for capital improvements within their wards according to how each alderman sees fit. As a 7th Ward resident, I know that my former alderwoman used those funds smartly and as matching funds toward even more neighborhood improvements.

But the added funds for aldermen to spend was, let’s face it, a bribe to get their votes to put Proposition 1 on the ballot. My concern here is not the ethics of legislative pork. That train left a long time ago.  My concern is how easily aldermen had the rug pulled over them. A Budget crisis is coming/here and that new money for the ward accounts will be the first fatality, essentially turning the Ward Capital Improvement Fund into the Emergency Fund.

I also know that these ward accounts are part of what some call the “fiefdom” problem and oft ridiculed parochialism in St. Louis City. Funny thing is some of the very corporations funding Proposition 1 want an even stronger mayor system. They want a big pot of money from which the mayor can draw upon to do big things. But they have ponied up and contributed to increased support of the so-called fiefdom system.

Vote for Proposition 1 if you do not require transparency from your elected officials.

Aug15-Sample-Ballot1The word “tax” does not appear in Board Bill 2 authorizing the bond issue vote nor in the ballot language you will see at the polls. The word “tax” does not appear in any of the proponent literature.

Sure. It’s been done before. But this time it is different. This time, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has failed to call a tax, a tax. While some news stories have included information on the tax increase that would result in passage of the ballot issue, the headlines speak differently.

A tax increase elsewhere is called a tax increase.
tax4 tax5


Tuesday’s ballot issue for a tax increase, however, has only headlined as a bond issue.


The number of people who read a news story is much lower than the number of people who read a headline. I am not suggesting a conspiracy here. I am suggesting that in a ballot issue campaign with a well-funded proponent side and no opposition, the daily paper of record failed in its role as public watchdog. I am also suggesting that we need a Charter amendment to require the words “tax” and “increase” be used in both enabling legislation and ballot language for any tax increase.

Vote for Proposition 1 if you believe the ends justify the means.

I believe that the men and woman of the St. Louis City Fire Department walk on water. They should be paid well, pensioned well, and have everything they believe is required to fight and prevent fires and attend to emergency medical situations.

I want to vote for this bond issue so that they get what they need. I really do. The question is, do I turn a blind eye to all the imperfections of this bond issue? Do I hold my nose and vote in the affirmative? That is the question each of us must ask and answer.
The 7th Ward Independent Democrats did not meet and vote on an endorsement for this issue. I could not have dragged three members to a meeting in the summer. As committeewoman, I have pledged my endorsements to whatever the members decide. Since there was no vote, I cannot endorse either way.

Still, I wanted to provide a forum for the general public to be educated on Proposition 1. Finding pro and con speakers, however, proved impossible. In the end, I thought we’d post pro and con essays on the 7th Ward Blog and call it a day. I asked Alderman Jack Coatar, who voted for the enabling legislation, but he declined. Board President Reed, the bill’s sponsor, did not respond. As I continued to ask elected officials to write in favor of the ballot issue and they were not interested, I grew more frustrated and just gave up on it. Sorry. I tried.

Marie Ceselski
7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman

A Response To Some Sam Cummings Propaganda Circulating

Dear Sam Cummings Voter Who Is Not Related To Him:

7th Ward Independent Democrats had an over 30% turnout for our Endorsement Happy Hour. Drama brought by you and your candidate, Sam Cummings, was predictable. So, I was pleased to see anyone show up, and even more pleased that some stayed after they voted and enjoyed great pizza and craft beer despite your distractions.

You and most of the entourage of your candidate, Sam Cummings, failed to purchase food and beverages at the restaurant, a requirement posted in the event notice. I called the meeting, so I felt obligated to compensate the restaurant for your bad manners out of my own pocket.

You and your candidate, Sam Cummings, disturbed customers with rude protestations and in your face taking of photographs. Pick on me all you like but it’s pretty low to take out your frustrations on dining patrons.

7th Ward Independent Democrats is a private organization, a club, but our Membership Applications have never been a secret. There’s a website. Earlier we had a Facebook page. Most ward organizations in St. Louis City do not have either.

In our organization, voting rights kick in upon paying dues, participating in two events, and verifying voter registration. Your candidate, Sam Cummings, has never made any objections to me regarding these requirements or brought it up at any of our events.

Most, if not all, open ward organizations in St. Louis City have similar requirements. As example, the 15th Ward Democrats require three meetings.

Most ward organizations here in St. Louis City are not open ward organizations. The committeeman and/or committeewoman make the endorsements without vote by a membership. 7th Ward Committeeman Brian Wahby has endorsed Jack Coatar, so his new committee, 7th Ward Regular Democrats, supports Coatar, without a candidate forum or vote or even having any members. He’s entitled to do that.

For 7th Ward Independent Democrats, voting on endorsements has been, with the exception of last Tuesday, weighted voting- the more you do, the more votes you get. Your candidate, Sam Cummings, and his family have cast their weighted votes on numerous ward endorsements and never voiced any concerns at any of our events.

In order to put to rest the ridiculous notion that your candidate, Sam Cummings, was somehow going to be robbed of an endorsement from our organization via weighted voting, I made the decision to carry out the endorsement vote using one man, one vote.

Your candidate, Sam Cummings, lost the endorsement vote and not all of us in the room even voted. I did not vote.

Your candidate, Sam Cummings, was not permitted to vote because he had quit the organization last year.


Sadly, your candidate, Sam Cummings, did not inform his family that he had quit. This led to more drama at the Endorsement Happy Hour.

7th Ward Independent Democrats sponsored a candidate debate open to the public. I do not know where people get the idea they have a right to speak at every event open to the public. It was not an invitation for the public to come and query the candidates. I understand that you and some others did not like the format. But the format was no secret. No one forced you to attend. There was no conspiracy to silence you.

I am deaf and was unable to adequately read your lips to understand what you were saying at the candidate debate. I thought you had asked if the debate was going to run democratically and I said, no. I have apologized for not hearing your actual question. Yet you continue to make a big deal about it. I am beginning to think you are merely trying to take advantage of my disability, which is something your candidate, Sam Cummings, has done.

I had worked in my paying job for 17 years before I ran for Committeewoman. I am a Committeewoman in spite of my job not because of it. 

You seem to be really wound up about Chelsea Merta making ends meet by borrowing her Mom’s old car with Indiana plates, a car bought in Missouri and taxes paid here. Your candidate, Sam Cummings, was still living with his parents a little over a year ago, was living with them when he ran for state representative. Unlike your candidate, Chelsea Merta hasn’t run for public office with someone else picking up the tab for rent, utilities, food, and laundry.

— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman