Natalie Vowell Is Still Not A Democrat

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I wrote about Natalie Vowell in 2014 when she ran for State Representative without meeting the two year voter registration requirement.  She was, unfortunately, elected a Bernie Sanders delegate to Democratic National Convention. Her antics at convention caused people to google her name and end up at that two year old post- 289 views in a 48 hour period.

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As a Bernie Sanders supporter and a Democrat, I am embarrassed by Natalie Vowell and her political circus act.

I hope to muster support from other members of St. Louis City Democratic Central Committee and Missouri State Democratic Party, and in the future have both refuse to accept her check to file for public office as a Democrat. We can do that. She is not a Democrat. Never will be. Natalie Vowell belongs to the Natalie Vowell Party and no other.

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Central Committee Revisionist History

As a follow up to You Should Go To Saturday’s Closed STL City Democratic Party Meeting, some members of Central Committee and I have very different recollections of how Central Committee has done its business.

My recollection is that I brought Sam Cummings to one of my first Central Committee meetings. Then Central Committee Chair Mattie Moore told us that he could not attend the meeting because our meetings were closed.

My recollection of Central Committee is that we once had a website (via NationBuilder) and Central Committee meeting notices were never posted on that site.

My recollection of Central Committee is that there was a meeting at Humphrey’s, the meeting where we discussed whether or not everyone supported efforts to bring a Democratic National Convention to St. Louis (which it turned out not everyone did), and at that meeting I was berated for bringing up the subject of open meetings. I was told, repeatedly, that meetings had always been closed and that all county committees operated this way, which I knew was incorrect.

I have been fighting for open meetings ever since.

We have also been told by party leaders over and over again not to reveal meeting information or Central Committee business on social media.

 
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That today’s meeting time and location were publicized by not just myself but others as well appears to have hit a nerve with some on Central Committee.

I also have a different recollection on the filling of committee vacancies. Committee vacancies are not solely decided by the remaining committeeperson. Under the law, Central Committee members elect someone to fill a vacancy. The remaining committeeperson nominates and then Central Committee members vote on the nomination. By tradition, the nomination is always accepted, or has been as long s I can recall.

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I have not been to a Central Committee meeting in quite some time. I don’t attend because I am deaf, the result of flu complications in the winter of 2013. I do pretty good with one on one conversations where I can read lips. In a group setting, however, I need someone to come with me to clue me in on what is going on, and take notes in case I want to follow up on something. But, we have had, until perhaps today, closed meetings. I am not special, I just have a hearing impairment. If meetings are closed, meetings are closed for all non-committee members and we should not pick and choose who gets to bring someone and who doesn’t. A committeeperson’s challenger in August should have just as much right to attend Central Committee meetings as someone I bring to be my ears. And when I am certain that the meetings are open, then I will start going to the meetings again.

— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman

STL City Democratic Party Needs Open Meetings

365px-DemocratslogoOver the next months you may hear from some St. Louis City candidates for Democratic Party Committeewoman and Committeeman about opening up St. Louis Democratic City Central Committee meetings to the public, providing greater transparency on political party business, and making an effort to encourage more participation in party activities and elections.

Presently, to attend a Central Committee meeting, you must be an elected member of Central Committee or the invited guest of…, well…, I am unclear on exactly who is authorized to do the inviting. The rules are not written down and there are a number of opinions.

I have argued for open meetings since  I was elected the 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman four years ago.

Other county Central Committees have open meetings. I know they often have county Democratic Party clubs that they meet in concert with, usually monthly, and there’s often an inexpensive meal or snacks, and a keynote speaker. When needed, before or after the open event, the elected township committeewomen and committeemen meet briefly to conduct internal business. I know these open meetings take place because I have been to some. It provides transparency and encourages participation. I favor that format for St. Louis City Democrats.

And so does Alison Dreith, candidate for 6th Ward Democratic Committeewoman. Alison was Moderator at last week’s 6th & 7th Wards Circuit Attorney and Sheriff Candidates Forum. Alison told the audience that she had attended neighboring county Central Committee meetings- open meetings- and wanted that for St. Louis City. I have heard other candidates for committeewoman and committeeman voice their support as well.

Central Committee and County Democratic Club websites or Facebook pages provide information on open meetings for County Democratic organizations in 36 Missouri counties: Bates CountyBoone CountyCaldwell County, Callaway CountyCape Girardeau County, Cass County, Christian County, Clay County, Cole County, Cooper CountyFranklin County, Greene County, Howard County, Howell County, Jackson County, Jasper County, Jefferson County, Lafayette County, Lincoln County, Linn County, Miller County, Moniteau County, Morgan County, Newton CountyPhelps CountyPlatte County, Pulaski County, Randolph County, Ray County, St. Charles County, St. Francois County, St. Louis CountyScott County, Shelby CountyVernon CountyWayne Counties.

Online newspaper articles or online calendars provide information on open meetings for County Democratic organizations in another 15 counties: Cedar County, Dade County, Dallas County, Douglas County, Madison County, Maries County, Pettis County, Pike County, Polk County, Saline County, Stoddard County, Stone County, Washington County, Webster County, and Wright Counties.

I did not perform an exhaustive search and would not be surprised that I missed some.

Most counties in Missouri are small, under 25,000 population, and most of them do not appear to have Democratic Party Central Committees with an online presence. But neither does the St. Louis Democratic City Central Committee. There is a committee working on it. A committee.

According to longtime party leaders, St. Louis Democratic City Central Committee meets only in closed session because: 1) No county Central Committees in Missouri have open meetings; 2) This is the way it has always been done; and 3) Republicans might attend and hear our secrets.

Reason #1 is a myth. In fact, I have not found a single Central Committee in Missouri that only meets in closed session. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. Saying it’s rare.

Reason #2 is just plain sad.

Reason #3 is laughable. Even in the most Republican of counties in Missouri, Democrats meet at the steak house or courthouse in open session. And the Republican Party barely has a pulse in St. Louis City, in large part the State and National GOP’s doing. The Republican agenda is anti everything so many of us in St. Louis City hold dear.

The real reason Central Committee continues to meet only in closed session is there aren’t enough committeewoman and committeeman votes to dump the arcane policy/rule/tradition. That could change this August 2nd. I hope so.

A presidential election with so much candidate-driven volunteer energy is a great opportunity to add hands and hearts to the Democratic Party. Opening up Central Committee meetings will invite both participation and transparency. We need both.

Mo Democrats Delegate Selection Meetings Still A Secret

It is the Tuesday night before Thursday night Missouri Democratic Party Delegate Selection Ward/Township/County Meetings. MDP still has not published, as promised, the Meeting Locations and Sanders-Clinton Delegate Apportionment per ward/township/county.

Our St. Louis City Democratic Central Committee Chair emailed me a copy of the ward meeting locations.

Those of us who attended a Delegate Selection Training Meeting were finally emailed a list of the per ward delegate apportionment by MDP on Monday. As in, yesterday

7th Ward Independent Democrats has published the St. Louis City Democratic Party Ward Delegate Selection Meeting Locations, delegate apportionment, and other delegate selection information on our blog. I do not believe there is anywhere else you can find this information online. That’s absurd. Both MDP and every county Central Committee should have it posted on a website or blog or Facebook page.

Previous post on this issue.

— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman

Do You Properly Report Sample Ballot Expenses To MEC?

Early Friday morning, I read my daily subscription feed on Missouri Scout.  Under “Bits,” I read that St. Louis City Alderman Antonio French had been fined $45 by Missouri Ethics Commission. I clicked on the link to the MEC Consent Order and Findings of Fact and nearly had a heart attack.

In 2013, French’s campaign committee paid poll workers to distribute sample ballots paid for by someone else. He reported the poll worker payments to MEC but did not report the payments as Direct Expenditures to support or oppose the candidates or ballot issues on the distributed sample ballots.

Are we (ward/township/county political party committees), as well as other PACs and candidate committees, required to report all the candidates and ballot issues supported or opposed on sample ballots in addition to reporting the payment to the printer? Even if it’s under $100?

I called MEC to find out. It turns out many of us, if not most of us, with political party-related committees in St. Louis and some current/former candidate committees, are in violation of the law, have been for years, and need to amend many reports from 2012 to present, with regards to expenditures for sample ballots, mailings, poll workers, etcetera. The requirement is found at…

130.041.1(7) RSMo: The amount of expenditures for or against a candidate or ballot measure during the period covered and the cumulative amount of expenditures for or against that candidate or ballot measure, with each candidate being listed by name, mailing address and office sought. For the purpose of disclosure reports, expenditures made in support of more than one candidate or ballot measure or both shall be apportioned reasonably among the candidates or ballot measure or both. In apportioning expenditures to each candidate or ballot measure, political party committees and political action committees need not include expenditures for maintaining a permanent office, such as expenditures for salaries of regular staff, office facilities and equipment or other expenditures not designed to support or oppose any particular candidates or ballot measures; however, all such expenditures shall be listed pursuant to subdivision (4) of this subsection;

If you are/were a Candidate between 2012 to Present that reported paying for sample ballots, mailings, or lit drops supporting more than your candidacy, or campaign workers to deliver/distribute same, and you did not declare Direct Expenditures made to support or oppose other candidates or ballot issues, you need to amend your reports.

If you are/were a Political Party Committee or Party-Related Political Action Committee between 2012 to Present that paid for sample ballots, mailings, or lit drops supporting or opposing candidates or ballot issues, or campaign workers to deliver/distribute same, and you did not declare those payments as Direct Expenditures made to support or oppose candidates or ballot issues, you need to amend your reports.

In the case of a printing bill paid for by a Party Central Committee- such as ward sample ballots for a General Election– the Central Committee should have reported the Direct Expenditures.

We cannot merely report these payments as Itemized Expenditures. This is where a lot of us screwed up. We reported but on one form instead of the required two forms.

We cannot merely report these payments as Non-Itemized Expenditures. This is where others screwed up. The form says you can report expenditures under $100 by category without itemization. In reality, you have to itemize payments for campaign workers AND election-related printing as Direct Expenditures for or against candidates and ballot issues.

We cannot file Limited Activity Reports if we made a Direct Expenditure of any amount. From my conversation with MEC Staff, I get the impression that MEC is very unhappy with all the Limited Activity Reports being filed.

We cannot report Direct Expenditures as a lump sum for “sample ballots” or “our candidates.” We have to report all the names, addresses, and apportioned amounts for each candidate or ballot issue.

032015ballot382310_378855845554977_1271693563_nPersonally, I am confused about apportioning a printing expenditure among the candidates and ballot issues supported or opposed. MEC says if your sample ballot supports 10 candidates and costs $100, then you have made a Direct Expenditure of $10 per candidate, each to be listed by name, address and dollar amount.

The law does not take into account that the printed material may have content unrelated to those candidates or ballot issues. 7th Ward Independent Democrats sample ballots contain information on upcoming events and membership. We’re not the only ward organization that uses sample ballots for more than Election Day information.

In some cases, non-candidate and non-ballot issue content takes up 2/3 of the sample ballot. The law, however, does not acknowledge such a variable.

Amend Reports. Itemize everything. Declare the Direct Expenditures no matter how absurd the dollar figure. Never again file a Limited Activity Report. That’s my plan.

— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman

7th Ward Alderman Vacancy

I am deeply sad for the ward that 7th Ward Alderwoman Phyllis Young is retiring, but happy for her. It was not actually news. I have known she wanted to retire for years and, yet, it was hard to hear the words. She wanted to retire and finally did.

No one can replace Phyllis. There will be a primary and general election. Someone will be elected the new 7th Ward Alderman or Alderwoman. But no one can replace her. Her legacy is overwhelming. I do not think most people will truly appreciate how much she did for the 7th Ward and the City of St. Louis until after December 12th when she is no longer the alderwoman.

Alderwoman Young and 7th Ward Committeeman Brian Wahby have endorsed a candidate for the position.

As 7th Ward Committeewoman, I have made no endorsement in the 7th Ward or President of Board of Aldermen race. Neither has 7th Ward Independent Democrats.  We look forward to robust debate.

I am 1,000,000,000,000,000% sure that I am not running for 7th Ward Alderman. You may quote me on that.

7th Ward Independent Democrats will hold a Spring Election Democratic Primary Candidate Forum at 7 pm Monday, January 19 at Lafayette Park United Methodist Church, 2300 Lafayette Avenue. We will hear from Democratic candidates for 7th Ward Alderman as well as candidates for President of the Board of Aldermen. The event is open to the public. Format for this event will be determined by the number of candidates who file.

Candidates who file in the Democratic Primary but we determine are not really Democrats will not be invited to participate. I have already heard from one Republican wanting to run as a Democrat. Consider this the warning.

Alderman Qualifications…
Registered Voter: Yes
Age: At least 25 years
Citizenship: At least 5 years
St. Louis City Residency: At least 3 years
Ward Residency: At least 1 year

To run in the Democratic Primary for 7th Ward Alderman…

Membership in 7th Ward Independent Democrats is open to Democrats registered to vote in the 7th Ward. Voting rights are weighted/proportional. You must have participated in two 7th Ward Independent Democrat events before voting rights are activated.  The more active you are, the more votes you get.

We also offer a 7th Ward Neighbor Membership to Democrats registered to vote outside the 7th Ward but within Benton Park, Downtown/Downtown West, and Fox Park. Neighbor members may not vote on 7th Ward specific endorsements- such as alderman- but may vote on other endorsements.

7th Ward Independent Democrats Membership Information

Enter your address here to find out which ward you live in.

Click here to download a Voter Registration Application.

7th Ward Independent Democrats events for December-January include:

  • 7 pm Monday, December 15 – Free – 7th Ward Marijuana Legalization Debate, Lafayette Park United Methodist Church, 2300 Lafayette (Lafayette Square).
  • 7 pm Wednesday, December 17 – Free/Cash Bar-Food – STL Birthday Trivia Happy Hour (STL political and colonial history), Sassy JAC’s, 1730 S 8th (Soulard). This is also a Drinking Liberally St. Louis event.
  • 7 pm Monday, January 19 – Free – 7th Ward Spring Elections Forum, Lafayette Park United Methodist Church, 2300 Lafayette (Lafayette Square).
  • January 20 or 27th – Free/Cash Bar-Food & Purchase Raffle Tickets – 3rd Annual State of the Union Watch Party & Raffle to Benefit The Bridge, Sassy JAC’s, 1730 S 8th (Soulard).

Coming up in February, 7th Ward Independent Democrats will 1) vote on endorsements (if we didn’t do that in January) for- alderman, Board President, and probably also whether we’re endorsing, opposing, or taking no position on the Show Me Cannabis initiative petition; 2) participate in the Mardi Gras Barkus Parade with our 2nd Annual 7th Ward Krewe of Mr. Pony Float and Party; and 3) canvas the ward for our endorsed candidates.

If you have any questions, call me at 436-5311.

-Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman