UPDATED: Tuesday Public Safety: Bill To Defund City Emergency Management Agency

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The Hearing on this Board Bill was cancelled. Perhaps someone finally told the sponsor that all appropriations bills have to be recommended to Board of Aldermen by Board of Estimate and Apportionment.

Make your voice heard. Contact your Alderman and Board President Lewis Reed. Contact Info at end of post.

10 am Tuesday, October 31st, 2017
St. Louis City Board of Aldermen
Public Safety Committee
Kennedy Hearing Room (#208)
City Hall, 1200 Market City

Online Calendar Meeting Notice/Agenda

Agenda Includes Board Bill 119 by 21st Ward Alderman John Collins-Muhammad to defund the City Emergency Management Fund (sic) Agency and re-appropriate the funds to a workforce development and employment to out-of-work residents program to be named “City Works Now.”

Presently, the City Emergency Management Agency (CEMA)  has four employees, two funded by City General Revenue and two funded by grants and other funds. See Budget summary for CEMA below.

The General Revenue side of CEMA’s funding is $206,985. Board Bill 21, however, seeks $215,000 for the new jobs program, which is more than the General Revenue funding.

Grant funding not used for the grant application’s purpose(s) could be returned to the funding source but cannot be diverted to another program.

Perhaps the alderman believes by charging the Mayor to declare the City in an unemployment emergency that emergency management funds can be spent on an employment program.

Either way, this legislation seeks to defund CEMA.

However, the City Charter has something to say about all this. It says that the alderman cannot reappropriate funds.

“Article IV. Board of Aldermen. Section 25 – Expenditures to be pursuant to ordinance; recommendations required.Except as otherwise expressly provided in this charter, no money shall be expended except in consequence of appropriations made by ordinance, and no improvement involving any expenditure of money shall be ordered except by ordinance. No ordinance making, changing or transferring an appropriation or contemplating or involving the payment of any money shall be adopted unless the board of estimate and apportionment shall have recommended or joined in recommending the same.”

The Board of Estimate and Apportionment did not send the Board of Aldermen this legislation, meaning it violates City Charter, making it a wet hot mess.

Addressing our City’s unemployment rate among Black youth is laudable. Gutting the agency charged to “reduce the loss of life and property” with “a comprehensive, risk-based emergency management program of prevention, preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation” is, however, an inappropriate response.

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Members of BOA Public Safety Committee: 18th Ward Alderman Terry Kennedy, Chair; 5th Ward Alderwoman Tammika Hubbard; 7th Ward Alderman Jack Coatar;12th Ward Alderman Larry Arnowitz; 20th Ward Alderwoman Cara Spencer; 21st Ward Alderman John Collins-Muhammad; 22nd Ward Alderman Jeffrey Boyd; 23rd Ward Alderman Joe Vaccaro; 25th Ward Alderman Shane Cohn; 27th Ward Alderwoman Pam Boyd. Board President Lewis Reed is a voting member of all committees.

Contact Information for all Aldermen and Board President

— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman

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Who Are SLPOA’s Elected Allies?

It started with a question on Twitter. One with an answer, I thought, that I had already started researching.

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I’ve gone back and reviewed campaign finance reports filed by St. Louis Police Officers Association with Missouri Ethics Commission. I looked at contributions, including in-kind, made after the shooting of Michael Brown, August 9, 2014, in Ferguson. I chose that date because it seemed to me like no candidate or elected official in their right mind should have accepted* a check from SLPOA after that date.

Here is what I found.

SLPOA Donations to Aldermen
Includes current aldermen and current aldermen who ran for another office during the period but did not win.

7th Ward Jack Coatar (Total $3500) – $500 1/5/2017; $1000 1/27/2016; $2000 1/22/2015
6th Ward Christine Ingrassia (Total $1200) – $200 6/22/2015; $1000 1/5/2015
23rd Ward Joe Vacarro (Total $1200) – $700 7/18/2016; $500 6/22/2015;
22nd Ward Jeffrey Boyd (Total $1000) – $500 8/11/2016; $500 2/2/2015
26th Ward Frank Williamson (Total $1000) – $500 2/2/2015; $500 10/16/2014
8th Ward Steve Conway (Total $500) – $500 1/27/2015
5th Ward Tammika Hubbard (Total $500) – $500 2/23/2017
16th Ward Tom Oldenburg (Total $500) – $500 3/20/2017
12th Ward Larry Arnowitz (Total $500) – $500 2/2/2015
27th Ward Pam Boyd (Total $350) – $100 4/27/2017; $250 3/13/2017
25th Ward Shane Cohn (Total $250) – $250 12/13/2016
13th Ward Beth Murphy (Total $150) – $150 3/23/2017

Aldermen- Adding January 2013** to August 10, 2014…
22nd Ward Jeffrey Boyd (New Total $1800) – $300 7/31/2014; $300 4/21/2014; $200 1/13/2014
6th Ward Christine Ingrassia (New Total $1600) – $400 4/10/2014
23rd Ward Joe Vaccaro (New Total $1400) – $200 10/2/2013
12th Ward Larry Arnowitz (New Total $1000) – $500 3/23/2014
13th Ward Beth Murphy (New Total $350) – $200 4/21/2014
14th Ward Carol Howard (Total $200) – $200 6/11/2014

SLPOA spent thousands of dollars on the failed aldermanic campaigns of Ken Ortmann (9th Ward), including donations to his ward organization, and Jennifer Florida (15th Ward).

SLPOA Donations to Board of Estimate & Apportionment
The real decision-makers on money and policy matters for City of St. Louis.

Mayor Lyda Krewson, previously 28th Ward Alderwoman, has received $6,529.99 in checks and in-kind from SLPOA since August 2014.

Comptroller Darlene Green received a $1000 donation from SLPOA in January 2016.

Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed received $500 from SLPOA in February 2015.

SLPOA Donations to Missouri House (St. Louis City Delegation)
Includes current state representatives and current state representatives who previously were aldermen during the period.

81st District Fred Wessels (Total $675) – $175 8/1/2016; $100 6/16/2016; 400 4/27/2016
79th District Michael Butler (Total $600) – $200 8/18/2016; $100 8/26/2015; $200 10/21/2014; $100 8/25/2014
82nd District Donna Barringer (Total $600) – $200 2/15/2016; $200 10/15/2015; $200 2/18/2015
77th District Steven Roberts (Total $500) – $250 4/20/2017; $250 2/9/2016
80th District Peter Meredith (Total $400) – $100 5/15/2017; $300 5/24/2016
76th Dsitrict Josh Peters (Total $300) – $100 3/24/2016; $200 10/14/2015

Missouri House- Adding January 2013** to August 10, 2014…
82nd District Donna Barringer (New Total $1100 ) – $500 8/4/2014
79th District Michael Butler (New Total $700) – $100 8/23/2013
76th District Josh Peters (New Total $400) – $100 1/22/2014

Miscellaneous SLPOA Donations

Stephen Webber, now Chair of Missouri Democratic Party, received a total of $1250 in 2015-2016 as a State Representative and unsuccessful Missouri Senate candidate.

State Auditor Nicole Galloway received a $250 in June 2017 and $200 in October 2015 from SLPOA.

I know a number of elected officials who received donations from SLPOA have recently supported protesters and hit the streets with them during actions. But I am unclear as to which elected officials were protesting, which were there for a photo op, and which were just loitering to see what was going on or just passing through the crowd.

To be clear, I am not saying elected officials are bought and paid for by SLPOA. My position is that these are elected officials that SLPOA believes were or are allies. They have a confidence about them that a majority of elected officials stand with them and will stand with them no matter what. We don’t know right now who SLPOA’s allies are, but we will. Voters who want Black Lives to actually Matter will work to hold them accountable.

*SLPOA made a donation to Alderwoman Sarah Martin. She was under the impression that the donation was returned but it was not. After brought to her attention, my understanding is that the refund is being made, so I have not included it as a donation. If there is anyone else who refunded or rejected an SLPOA donation, let me know and I will edit the post to acknowledge.

** January 2013 was chosen as that 2013 was the previous election year for aldermen. Some aldermen only raise funds during their election year.

Previous post regarding SLPOA and donations.

— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman

Central Committee Should Support Treasurer Jones Against Takeover By Board of Aldermen

I have written St. Louis Democratic City Central Committee requesting the Committee seek a veto from Mayor Krewson on Board Bill 92 to reduce authority of City Treasurer Tishaura Jones and to support any lawsuit by the Treasurer to strike down the legislation.

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The Votes by Aldermen are not available on the BOA website yet.

As mentioned in the email, Central Committee previously opposed elimination of Recorder of Deeds and state legislation to reduce authority of our elected Sheriff.

Consistency dictates if Central Committee will defend two elected county offices against takeovers, it should do the same for a third county office, and all county offices.

Board Bill 92 is sponsored by 22nd Ward Alderman, and perennial citywide candidate, Jeffrey Boyd, who came in 5th of 7 candidates for mayor in March of this year. He received only 1,439 votes. Jones came in 2nd with 16,374, only 888 votes separating her and winner 28th Ward Alderwoman Lyda Krewson.

Boyd came in 3rd of 4 candidates in the August 2012 Treasurer election in which Jones won her first term.

In August 2014, Boyd ran and lost to Mavis Thompson for City License Collector.

Perennial Candidate, that’s Jeffrey Boyd. Sore Loser.

Suggested reads…

6/22/2-17 St. Louis American: Using reserve funds is only a quick fix

7/6/2017 St. Louis American: Political payback still holds St. Louis back

— 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

 

UPDATED, AGAIN: BOA President Files Lame Meeting Notices Legislation

UPDATED to include response by Board President on his failure to provide transparency on his own meeting notices.

Tonight should have been a good night for Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed. Tonight should have been when I and others had to suck it up and say, “Bravo, Sir, Bravo. Thank you. Well done.”

Should. Have. Been.

Over the past year, day after day, I have laid out the damning evidence of the City of St. Louis’s crappy job at transparency with regard to meeting notices and materials.

Most public meetings are not posted to the City’s online calendar.

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Some meeting notices are only posted in hard copy form near elevators at City Hall.
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Sometimes meeting notices are posted less than 24 hours before the meeting.
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Some meeting notices that are not posted to the City’s online calendar are instead posted on the agency’s webpages. Sometimes this is a link on the “Board Meeting Materials” page, sometimes elsewhere. There is no consistency. You can spend a lot of time hunting for the information only to find the link is bad.

In cases where a meeting notice is posted somewhere on the City’s website, it often will not include an agenda. Most meeting notices with agendas do not include exhibits/attachments.

It’s a wet hot mess. It’s 2016 and the City of St. Louis has no central online location for citizens to find information on public meetings and hearings in a timely manner so as to make their voices heard before a decision is made.

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And Board President Lewis Reed blew it. This week he filed Board Bill 152. It does not require posting of meeting notices in a central online location. There is no identification of who is responsible for the posting or the penalty for failure to do so. It only requires 24 hours notice. It does not require an electronic time/date stamp on the posting (which actually was once done on City website but disappeared). It does not require posting exhibits and attachments mentioned in agendas.

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It’s lame and it needs to be called out for what it is, a piss poor mayoral campaign gimmick. Lewis Reed does not provide Board of Aldermen agendas with the BOA Calendar Notices. He’s a hypocrite. He could have been providing that information by simple link iNall these years. Lewis Reed doesn’t need passage of a board bill to put his own house in order with regard to transparency.

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All City departments, agencies, boards, commissions, special districts, political subdivisions funded by City tax dollars should be required to have a designated public records officer to handle Sunshine records requests and post meeting or hearing information where applicable. In the case of appointed boards and commissions this will likely be the secretary. The City’s Register might be the designee for offices that she publicizes hearings for in the City Journal.

The public records officer should be responsible for posting online meeting and hearing notices with agendas, exhibits, and attachments, at a minimum by  9 am the Friday of the week prior to the meeting or hearing. Public notices required by city, state, or federal law to be posted as more advance notice should comply with those requirements.

These notices of meetings and hearings should be posted to a central location on the City’s website or some other location with link on City’s home page.

These notices should have an electronic time and date stamp that cannot be tampered with.

These notices should include a link to the last approved Meeting Minutes of the entity, where applicable. Meeting Minutes and Materials should be archived online in perpetuity as well as microfilmed or digital copy made.

Blighting reports should also be available online and linked when cited on agendas.

Penalty for failure to comply and enforcement should be included in the ordinance.

Let’s get that done. Let’s get a central online clearinghouse for public meeting information. But let’s not pass a board bill that basically says it’s OK to stick a meeting notice anywhere on the City website and call that progress.

Let’s get some real transparency going. And, then, if someone wants to get all fancy with subscription email notices, figure out how to do that by subject matter, zip code, etc., so that subscribers are not getting hundreds of meeting and hearing notices every day when all they want to know is when there is a liquor hearing affecting their zip code, when their special taxing district meets, or what is on the agenda for the Board of Aldermen’s Public Safety Committee.

This weekend, in response to criticism of his poorly drafted bill and failure to provide transparency at the Board of Aldermen, Board President Lewis Reed blocked my Committeewoman Twitter account.

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Board President Reed does not want to hear us but it does not stop us from speaking truth to power. Please contact your alderman and ask them to amend Board Bill 152 to include real transparency on public meetings and hearings, including posting all meeting and hearing notices and agendas in one online location and providing accountability if that is not done.

— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman

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

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To A Bill Filing…

This was the ballot language for a proposed $25 Million Bond Issue that I found posted on the St. Louis City Board of Aldermen’s Board Bills webpage last week.

Prop 1 Before

But the ballot language changed because this is the version now online.
Prop 1 After

It would seem that the wrong version was initially posted online.

I’m pleased to see the list of what the bond issue would be spent on trimmed down. I’d like to see it amended into a bond issue only for the Fire Department. They need it and it’s easier to pass a bond issue earmarked for one thing rather than multiple things. That’s how the bond issues in 1998 got passed. One for Fire Department. One for Police Department. One for nuisance property demolition.

Too many beneficiaries in a single bond issue lead voters to doubt what the money will be spent on. That’s what happened with the failed bond issue last August.

The Bond Issue will be heard in Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday, January 13th. For more information see the post on 7th Ward Independent Democrats Blog.