Noon Wednesday Trump Protest, Expect Us In St. Charles

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Outstate Public Schools Are Not Problem Free

schoolaAnyone who thinks there is no drama in outstate Missouri school districts has not spent much time in outstate Missouri or on the State Auditor’s website.

Outstate school districts are just as likely as urban schools districts to benefit from team work or suffer from dysfunction, get caught up in financial intrigue, and have performance issues. The difference is, the more rural the district, the more likely there is no radio or TV coverage of what’s going on in the district, and the school board news in the local weekly newspaper may very well be the meeting minutes the school board secretary submits to the paper.

Outstate vs. urban school districts came up at the November 13th meeting at Northwest High School on the future governance for St. Louis Public Schools. Why do big districts have all the problems? The answer is they don’t. You just don’t hear or read about smaller districts very often. And the State is not forcing taxation without representation and replacing governance of those districts with appointed special boards.

Here are a few outstate school district stories you may have missed.

Hallsville, Boone County
9/27/2016 Columbia Daily Tribune: More than $500,000 in Hallsville School District bond projects performed without bids

St. Joseph, Buchanan County
2/16/2017 KCUR: St. Joseph School District Whistle Blower Resigns From School Board
6/2/2015 KCUR: Fired St. Joseph School District Superintendent Lands Job In Missouri Bootheel
2/27/2015 KCUR: Missouri State Auditor Rates St. Joseph School District Performance ‘Poor’

Nixa, Christian County
7/10/2016 Springfield News Leader: Credentials of Nixa Public Schools’ budget director questioned by audit organizer

Liberty, Clay County
7/27/2008 Columbia Missourian: Police investigate possible financial mismanagement in Liberty School District

Ash Grove, Greene County
9/30/2014 Springfield News-Leader: Ash Grove board attempts reboot with interim leader

Springfield, Greene County
2/15/2016 Springfield News Leader: Springfield Public School’s No. 2 finance official came from district blasted in audit

Lee’s Summit, Jackson-Cass Counties
2/23/2016 Kansas City Star: In Lee’s Summit school district feud, board member and superintendent trade calls to resign

Grandview, Jackson County
7/19/2017 St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Grandview School District officials say misplaced trust led to $1.6M embezzlement
8/27/2014 KSHB: Grandview superintendent accepted free tickets from district vendor, federal agency investigating

Joplin, Jasper-Newton Counties
3/2/2015 Joplin Globe: ‘Fair’ audit criticizes school district’s finances

Fox C-6, Jefferson County
5/26/2016 St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Audit suggests former Fox School District boss spent taxpayer money for own benefit

Eureka, Jefferson-St. Louis Counties
11/5/2013 St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Missouri Ethics Commission fines former Rockwood School Board member $10,000

Hannibal, Marion-Ralls Counties
11/24/2015 Missouri Times: Auditor Galloway releases Hannibal School audit, cites concerns with bond issue process. Audit also raises concerns with retirement incentives and electronic data security

Pleasant Hope, Polk County
8/12/2009 Boliver Herald Free Press: Overspending at R-6 likely due to construction of sports complex, audit says. Spending habits left Pleasant Hope school district close to financial stress


An Open Letter to State Rep. Shamed Dogan

vote-counts1Dear State Representative Dogan:

I read with great interest your 11/29/2016 guest column “How Missouri’s new voter photo ID requirement works” in the St. Louis American.

As a committeewoman, one of my jobs will be to assist voters in complying with the new law. Sadly, your guest column did not answer any of my questions. So, I am respectfully requesting that you write a follow up column on how one gets a copy of a Missouri Birth Certificate without having a Photo ID.

For example, the mail-in method for a Birth Certificate Copy requires a notarized signature. Perhaps you could provide a list of public notaries in each county and the City of St. Louis who notarize signatures without a Photo ID.

For example, the walk-in method for a Birth Certificate Copy requires a Photo ID of the copy applicant. The copy applicant may be an immediate relative. If the voter’s immediate relative with a Photo ID does not live locally, does the General Assembly plan on paying for transportation, lodging, and compensation for use of a vacation days or lost wages? What if there is no immediate relative with a Photo ID or the voter is not on speaking terms with any immediate relative with a Photo ID?

And how does the Free Supportive Documents work since reimbursement would still place a financial burden upon the voter? Requiring a fee of any kind to vote is a poll tax, as I am sure you are aware.

Counties, including the City of St Louis, pay the State of Missouri to access the State’s Vital Records database and the copy fees are deposited to county general revenue. The Hancock Amendment would prevent the General Assembly from forcing county Vital Records offices to give out free copies.

Or is the plan for voters to get their Free Birth Certificate copies from Jefferson City? Sir, try doing that as a citizen who is not an elected official. See how long it takes to get the copy or if you get the correct copy the first time. Then try helping someone with the surname Jefferson, Johnson, Jones, Smith, or Williams get a correct copy from Jefferson City.

And has anyone considered the type of identity fraud and possible aiding of terrorism if the Missouri General Assembly lifts the Photo ID or notarized signature provisions for Birth Certificate copy requests and just lets anyone write in for a copy?

And then there’s the money for all this. But, for right now, I just want to know how you think this will really work.

I look forward to the answers.

Marie Ceselski
7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman
St. Louis City

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

Vote No on Constitutional Amendment 6

voteboxThere is a lot of confusion on what Constitutional Amendment 6 does and does not do.

“Shall the Constitution of Missouri be amended to state that voters may be required by law, which may be subject to exception, to verify one’s identity, citizenship, and residence by presenting identification that may include valid government-issued photo identification?”

In neither the ballot language nor the Constitutional Amendment 6 Full Text will you find a program for free photo identification cards, or free copies of birth certificates necessary to get free photo identification cards, or free copies of any other documents that might be necessary.

The free photo identification cards may come later if the Missouri General Assembly funds a program to do so. The problem with that plan is that there was no discussion about what it actually takes to get documentation necessary to be issued an identification card in Missouri.

One of the requirements to get an identification card from a DMV office is a certified copy of your birth certificate. One of the requirements to get a certified copy of a birth certificate is a photo identification card. Yes. That’s right. You need a photo identification card to get a photo identification card in Missouri. Again, there was no discussion on this problem in the legislature.

Once Constitutional Amendment 6 is adopted, there is no guarantee that a free identification card program will be funded and that the Missouri General Assembly will not just require the identification cards to vote.

Constitutional Amendment 6 Opponent Website

St. Louis Public Radio Pro & Con Article on Amendment 6

We were unable to find someone willing to speak as a proponent for Amendment 6 at our 7th Ward Independent Democrats ballot issues forum. Here is the video of the presentation by opponent speaker Denise Lieberman, Senior Attorney, Voter Protection Program, Advancement Project. 

In person voter fraud is not a problem. Really. Truly. The problems reported by legislative advocates of this amendment have nothing to do with in person voting, the focus of the amendment. It’s a solution for an imaginary problem.

Missouri requires identification to vote, just not photo identification. Even if the Legislature were to change how the State issues certified copies of birth certificates, remove the must already have a photo identification card, that change would not affect Missourians born in other states. Other problems include how long it can take to amend a birth certificate that has a name misspelled and persons who have no birth certificate because their birth was not recorded.

Constitutional Amendment 6 is about reducing the number of people who vote.

Vote No on Constitutional Amendment 6, the modern day poll tax.

–Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman

Vote No on Amendment 4 to Ban Future Sales Tax Votes

voteboxOf all the ballot issues ever sent to Missouri voters, Amendment 4 stands out as the one that could have the most dramatic impact on funding of local and state services, more so even than the 1980 Hancock Amendment which requires public votes on every tax increase.

Constitutional Amendment 4 Full Text

“Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to prohibit a new state or local sales/use or other similar tax on any service or transaction that was not subject to a sales/use or similar tax as of January 1, 2015?”

Amendment 4 is opposed by the Missouri Municipal League

St. Louis Public Radio article on Amendment 4

Amendment 4 is funded primarily by the Realtors Association and is a preemptive strike against sales taxes on new service and technology economies in a Rex Sinquefield world where earnings and income taxes are banned. The wording of the ballot issue is very troubling. It could end up banning all new sales taxes and not just on services. Increasing property taxes to pay for everything would be incredibly unfair.

Vote No on Amendment 4. Don’t let voters in Jasper County tell voters of St. Louis City what we and can’t tax.

— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman