Vote No on Prop NS Property Tax Hike



Initiative Petition posted at end.

This bond is a bond issue by initiative petition which, if it passes, will be paid for with increased property taxes.

Say NO to a property tax increase that does not say “tax increase” on the ballot and to the initiative petition drive in which signature gatherers lied and said there was no tax increase involved.

Say NO to a bond issue and tax increase which was not vetted by the Board of Aldermen.

Say NO to a tax hike on the eve of  the City needing to find solutions to a $20 Million budget deficit.

Say NO to creating more funding for the St. Louis Development Corporation, an independent city agency with major transparency issues.

Also, be aware that former Mayor Vincent Schoemehl has been spearheading this proposal from the beginning, invested at least $1000 to the Prop NS campaign committee, and loaned the committee another $1350.

Is funding the stabilization of structures and reducing demolition by neglect a worthy cause? Yes.

Are there some very dedicated, earnest people working for passage of this ballot issue? Yes.

But this is neither the right proposal nor the right time to pass a tax hike.

Vote No on Prop NS.

– Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman
Petition Full Language


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

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. 


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.


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


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.




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.

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