Leonard Johnson Should Quit His Job To Run For Alderman

city-hall3If Leonard Johnson wants to become 7th Ward Alderman, the first thing he should do is quit his job with the City Treasurer. Current 7th Ward Alderman Jack Coatar resigned from the City Circuit Attorney’s Office before he announced running for alderman. And he made a very big deal about it during the campaign.

Johnson is Deputy Chief of Staff, management, a salaried position. He’s not on a clock. Staying on while running for alderman is unnecessary, bad publicity waiting to happen.

This issue is sure to attract more than a little attention because the City Treasurer, Tishaura Jones, is running for mayor. Her election is my political priority, and fast becoming my personal priority. We do not need distractions such as Leonard Johnson.

So why would Leonard Johnson do this? Is he that selfish? Doesn’t he get it? Is he actually trying to help another candidate for mayor? I don’t know the answer but I am leaning more and more toward the last.

Why doesn’t the City Treasurer fire Johnson or force him to take a leave of absence? I would think it has to do with the City Treasurer being a patronage office, not Civil Service. Patronage employees have First Amendment rights that Civil Service employees do not have. It’s not the first time a patronage office employee has run for alderman. In the case of the Treasurer’s office, however, it appears that employees have a right to run for public office without any restrictions.

Leonard Johnson told me that his boss initially resisted the idea of his running but was now OK with it. In reality, the City Treasurer cannot legally stop him from running or force him to quit or take a leave of absence. I am not even sure if there is such a thing as a three month leave of absence for other than medical/family leave.

There is huge difference between being OK with the decision of an employee and not being able to do anything about it. In my book, Johnson was not honest with me.

And this is a personnel issue with legal consequences, so I certainly understand why the Treasurer is not in a position to say much on the matter.

Leonard Johnson first approached me over two years ago about his interest in becoming alderman. Rumors were circulating that Alderwoman Phyllis Young wanted to retire, would resign, and there would be a special election. And then I didn’t hear back from him until recently. My guess was he was only interested in being alderman if there was no primary.

Leonard Johnson had two years to lay a foundation to run in 2017 against Jack Coatar and he didn’t do it. He had two years to become active in every neighborhood association, meet thousands of voters, understand the wants and needs of his would be constituents.

When he called me about running in 2017, he asked me for information on the Kosciusko neighborhood association. He wanted to be alderman and didn’t know Kosciusko is the industrial tract in the ward. Again, he had two years to learn 7th Ward 101. He made no effort.

But Leonard Johnson doesn’t really want to be alderman. That’s part of the problem here. His boss is running for mayor. He figures there are coattails. He figures at least one organization that will go door to door for him. He figures the 7th Ward Committeewoman and Committeeman can be bullied into endorsing him. He doesn’t really like city politics but he wants to be a state senator. That’s what is going on. He thinks becoming alderman puts him in play to replace term limited Jamilah Nasheed. I really wonder where this ridiculous idea came from. It’s quite a leap from alderman to state senator, almost as big as from state senator to mayor.

Johnson was scheduled to work the 7th Ward’s Sigel School polling place on General Election Day. He was supposed to hand out the 7th Ward Independent Democrat‘s sample ballot and Draft Tishaura flyers. 7th Ward Independent Democrats was making its endorsement of Jones for mayor early morning on election day. We wanted to be the first ward endorsement.

Johnson was given instructions to hand out ballots as people went into polling place and Draft Tishaura flyers as they came out. After the election, I found out Johnson had been handing out the ward sample ballot and his own campaign literature, not the Draft Tishaura flyers. He was basically using us to campaign for himself. Yes. Why on earth would I think he is either very selfish or helping another mayoral candidate, or both?

The 7th Ward needs a good candidate against Jack Coater. Unfortunately, that is not Leonard Johnson. Fortunately, filing just opened Monday and I am optimistic that a real choice will be on the ballot.

–Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman

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20 Democratic Candidates Have Accepted Money From St. Louis Police Officers Association PAC In 2016, So Far

SLPOAUPDATED with 8-Days Before Primary contributions.

According to April, July, and 8-Days Before Primary campaign finance reports filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission, St. Louis Police Officers Association PAC has made 30 campaign donations to date in 2016:

3 checks to other PACs
1 check to a St. Louis City Democratic Ward Organization 

28 checks to 24 candidates
20 Democrats and 4 Republicans
10 Candidates from St. Louis City, 5 from St. Louis County
2 Statewide Candidates
17 candidates for Missouri Legislature

Receiving $1,000 or more from SLPOA in 2016, so far, are St. Louis City Circuit Attorney candidate Mary Pat Carl, Governor candidate Chris Koster, St. Louis City 7th Ward Alderman Jack Coatar, and St. Louis City Comptroller Darlene Green.

$2,000: Citizens for Mary Pat Carl (St. Louis City, Democrat, candidate for Circuit Attorney) – 6/29/2016

$1,250: Koster for Missouri (current Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, Democrat, candidate for Governor) – $1,000 3/7/2016, $250 6/1/2016

$1,000: Coatar for St. Louis (current 7th Ward Alderman Jack Coatar, Democrat, St. Louis City) – 1/27/2016
$1,000: Missouri Fraternal Order of Police PAC – 1/28/2016
$1,000: Darlene Green for Comptroller (current Comptroller, Democrat, St.Louis City)

$800: Anne Zerr for Missouri (current 18th District State Representative, Republican, St. Charles County, candidate for 23rd District State Senator) – $500 3/7/2016, $300 6/27/3016

$750: Committee to Elect Jon Carpenter (current 15th District State Representative, Democrat, Clay County) – 6/1/2016

$700: Vaccaro for Sheriff Inc (current 23rd Ward Alderman Joe Vaccaro, Democrat, St. Louis City, candidate for Sheriff) – 7/18/2016

$500: Friends of Fred Wessels (former 13th Ward Alderman, Democrat, St.Louis City, current candidate for 81st District State Representative) – $400 4/27/2016, $100 6/16/2016
$500: Silvey for Missouri (current 17th District State Senator Ryan Silvey, Republican, Clay County) – 5/26/2016
$500: Committee to Elect David Gregory (St. Louis County, Republican, candidate for 96th District State Representative) – 6/29/2016

$300: Jerome Burke Election Committee (St. Louis County, Democrat, candidate for 69th District State Representative) – 3/24/2016
$300: Peter Meredith for Mo Progress (Democrat, St. Louis City, candidate for 80th District State Representative) – 5/24/2016

$250: Hensley for Missouri (Teresa Hensley, Democrat, candidate for Missouri Attorney General) – 1/28/2016
$250: Roberts for St. Louis (Steven Roberts II, Democrat, St. Louis City, candidate for 77th District State Representative) – 2/9/2016
$250: Lavender for State Rep (current 90th District State Rep Deb Lavender, Democrat, St. Louis County) – 4/11/2016
$250: Berg for Change (Karen Berg, Democrat, Jefferson County, candidate for 113th District State Representative) – 6/9/2016
$250: Friends for Travis Barnes (Democrat, St. Francois County, candidate for 117th State Representative) – 6/29/2016

$200: St. Louis Labor Council AFL-CIO Project 2000 – 2/15/2016
$200: Citizens for Donna Baringer (current 16th Ward Alderwoman, Democrat, St. Louis City, unopposed candidate for 82nd District State Representative) – 2/15/2016
$200: Robert Stelzer Campaign Fund (Democrat, St. Louis City, withdrew as candidate for 80th District State Representative, candidate for 10th Ward Committeeman – 2/15/2016
$200: Voters for Susan McClintic (Democrat, Boone County, candidate for 47th District State Representative) – 5/25/2016
$200: Citizens for Vicky Lorenz Englund (current 94th District State Representative and Lindbergh School Board Member, Democrat, St. Louis County) – 6/13/2016
$200: Citizens for Shane Roden (current 111th District State Representative, Jefferson County, Republican) – 6/30/2016

$100: Joshua Peters for the 76th District (current 76th District State Representative, Democrat, St. Louis City, unopposed for re-election) – 3/24/2016
$100: Citizens for Patricia Yaeger 6th District County Council (former 96th District State Representative, Democrat, St. Louis County, candidate for St. Louis County Council) – 4/26/2016
$100: 9th Ward Democratic Organization (St. Louis City, associated with 9th Ward Committeewoman Pat Ortmann and 9th Ward Alderman Ken Ortmann) – 7/20/2016

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.
tax3
tax4 tax5

tax2bondnews5

Tuesday’s ballot issue for a tax increase, however, has only headlined as a bond issue.
bondnews2

bondnews1bondnews7

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.

samquitward

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

Does The 7th Ward Need A Full-Time Alderman?

The recent 7th Ward Independent Democrats 7th Ward Alderman Candidate Survey asked the following question and received the following answers relating to work in addition to serving as alderman.

A9) Do you plan on working in a paid or volunteer position requiring 20 hours or more a week or running a business in addition to serving as alderman? If yes, please explain. (25 words or less)

John (Jack) Coatar: Yes, I plan on practicing law in addition to being an Alderman.

Chelsea Merta: I will work 56 plus hours a week as a full-time alderwoman and occasionally do some pro bono legal work for nonprofits.

Samuel J. Cummings, III: Yes, I believe politicians should have real jobs. Politicians who live solely on the taxpayers dime put personal careers over people’s interest.

Tell me what you think on this issue. Your answer should be specific to the 7th Ward. The Poll will be open until 5 pm Thursday and I will post results that evening.

Early Endorsements Do Not Equal Corruption

I do not have problem with elected officials endorsing candidates before filing has closed. You make an endorsement in your own name. You’re not beholding to a group if you do not wish. Your name and whatever political capital it brings is your own to share or withhold.

Me, I wait for a vote by my membership. That’s my thing. It’s not better or worse than what others do. It’s just how I roll.

I founded an open ward organization where members vote on endorsements. My endorsement goes with the 7th Ward Independent Democrats endorsement.

In the case of the 7th Ward Alderman vacancy and Board President race, my endorsement will come after our 7th Ward Primary Candidate Forum/Debate (7 pm Monday, January 19th at Lafayette Park United Methodist Church) and our 7th Ward Endorsement Election Happy Hour  (5:30-7 pm Tuesday, February 3rd at Sassy JAC’s, 1730 S 8th).

That’s how I do it. Some committee people also wait for their ward organization members to endorse. Others do not. Some have ward organizations without members. They exist on paper for campaign finance reporting purposes. There’s no uniform ward organization template in St. Louis City.

Aldermen, State Legislators, and Citywide Officials, of course, are free to make an endorsement any time they darn well choose.

Me, personally, with or without a ward organization, I’d want to see who files, particularly in an open primary, before I made a commitment. But that’s just me. It’s my thing. I respect that other electeds have their own thing.

I feel a need to bring this up because Sam Cummings, who may be a candidate for 7th Ward Alderman, recently Tweeted:

You’ll have to ask him whether he means “be wary” instead of “be weary.”

Sam Cummings does not represent the 7th Ward Independent Democrats. He’s a member but no longer an officer.

Sam Cummings appears to have a beef with some elected officials who have already endorsed Jack Coatar or Chelsea Merta for 7th Ward Alderman. I take that to mean he is either getting in the race or using his ridiculous #NoEthics #NoDemocracy #HiddenAgenda #Corrupt claims as an excuse for not filing.

One of the problems I have with Sam Cummings’ Pre-Filing Deadline Endorsement Conspiracy Theory is consistency. He’s fine with officials endorsing in the Board President race before filing closes. I’m waiting for my ward organization to make the endorsement but I’m not cranky over elected officials already throwing their names behind the re-election of President Lewis Reed.

Sam Cummings also does not appear to take issue with organizations, such as Labor or Business organizations with PACs, who do not wait until filing closes to make endorsements. They get a pass in his novel definition of ethics, democracy, and corruption. As conspiracy theories go, his is not very well developed.

Friday, January 2nd is the Filing Deadline for 7th Ward Alderman, Aldermen in even-numbered wards, and President of the Board of Aldermen. Here is some information on filing for alderman.

As I have said before, I am really looking forward to a robust debate by candidates for 7th Ward Alderman, be they two candidates or twelve. I have no control over other organizations, but I pledge to make sure that the 7th Ward Independent Democrats Candidate Debate is not about early endorsements.

–Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman