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

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New Bond Issue Initiative Petition is not Rex Sinquefield-sponsored but…

huxleyThere are initiative petition signature gathers out at events and stores working on a new petition relating to a bond issue to raise funds to address the problem of vacant buildings. The good news is that this has nothing to do with Billionaire Rex Sinquefield. The bad news is…

It’s a tax hike that doesn’t say tax hike. It’s a ballot issue set for low turnout April election. It’s a revenue-related ballot issue that, while it will have a hearing at the Board of Aldermen, our aldermen cannot revise it even if there are flaws, like not saying the words “tax increase.”

The initiative petition language is found here.

How can there be a property tax increase without the words “tax increase” or similar on the ballot? It’s in the initiative petition by reference. I know that Article VI, Section 26, Missouri Constitution, when mentioned in a ballot issue, means tax increase per Section 26(f), most voters do not.

There was a meeting back in August on this ballot issue supported by BOA President Lewis Reed but the thread posted on Nextdoor (subscription required) was shut down shortly after questions were raised. Perhaps if the discussion had continued, the petition could have been improved before being circulated for signatures.

A solution to vacant buildings is, obviously, a good thing. But it seems to me these matters really should be hashed out by our elected representatives before going to the voters and changes made to improve the ordinance. BOA President Reed could have sponsored this proposal as a board bill but chose not to.

Subsequently, voters will be bombarded with not only candidate and ward poll workers handing out literature on November 8th, but there will also be at least two initiative petitions being worked for signature gathering on election day. More later on the other initiative petition I am aware of.

The ballot issue committee- Neighbors for a Stable St. Louis- filed its first campaign finance report in October. Among the contributions received: $2,000 from Stephen Smith (mega-developer and future Hall of Fame Corporate Welfare Recipient Lawrence Group) and $2,000 from Kenneth Kranzburg (container manufacturer TricorBraun); $100 from former Mayor, former School Board Member Vincent Schoemehl.

In expenditures, a total of $2,500 had gone to Vibrant Communities Consulting (Sean Thomas, former Executive Director for Old North St. Louis Restoration Group).

I have no information on whether any of the people collecting signatures on this petition are paid to do so.

I have not yet really reviewed the petition language for the actual program it seeks to fund.

I would like to see the Board of Aldermen send voters a charter amendment to remove city bond and tax issues from the local initiative petition process. This would also stop Rex Sinquefield’s consultants from spending his money on new, local anti-earnings tax initiatives. Because of Rex Sinquefield, we are already required to reauthorize it every four years.

I would also like to see the Board of Aldermen send voters a charter amendment to require disclosure in voter-friendly language that a ballot issue is a tax increase.

Vote No On Proposition 1

Take a stand against the unethical campaign by St. Louis Public School District’s Special Administrative Board. Vote No on Proposition 1.

Don’t Support Taxation Without Representation. Vote No on Proposition 1.

Don’t Trust the St. Louis Public School District’s Special Administrative Board to spend more of your tax dollars. Vote No on Proposition 1.


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Numerous complaints have been filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission (by 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman Marie Ceselski, 15th Ward Democratic Committeewoman Missy Pinkerton McDaniel, possibly others) regarding violations of campaign finance and election laws by the St. Louis Public Schools District and its Special Administrative Board.

  • SLPS/SAB has used school district funds and resources to support the property tax increase campaign.
  • SLPS/SAB has failed to properly report expenditures made on behalf of the campaign and properly report who paid for campaign expenditures.

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Even after the SAB was informed of those two complaints and more, it continues to spend public funds on the campaign. Voters received several mailers identified as paid for by the SLPS but “for informational and educational purposes” and “not intended to advocate, support, or oppose Proposition 1.” In reality, they were advocacy pieces. If it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, it’s a duck.

SLPS continues to use staff and resources, including its website to push for passage of Proposition 1.

Under normal circumstances, MEC would have already rendered a judgment against SLPS/SAB. Unfortunately for taxpayers and voters across Missouri, the terms of three of six members of MEC expired March 15 and there is no quorum to conduct business.

“Tuesday’s municipal elections across Missouri are being conducted in an ethics-free zone,” wrote Tony Messenger in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

A vote against Proposition 1 is a vote against an unethical campaign that may never be held accountable because of a massive system failure.


The voters of St. Louis City elect a Board of Education to govern the St. Louis Public Schools (SLPS). Our elected school board, however, has no power over policy or budget of the SLPS.

Instead, SLPS is currently governed by a three member Special Administrative Board appointed by the Governor, St. Louis City Mayor, and City Board of Aldermen President. The SAB is not accountable to voters. Voters had no say in the change and cannot undo it.

This year the SLPS qualified for full accreditation, the first step toward returning control of our schools back to our elected board. The Missouri School Board, however, trusts the SAB more than an elected board to run things and in January extended the stay of the SAB by at least three years.

Your vote against Proposition 1 is a vote against taxation without representation.


The ballot issue says the proposed new revenue would be spent, in part, on “competitive salaries” for “teachers and staff.” Staff could very well mean administrators, more people with fancy titles. Staff could mean hiring someone to run another unethical campaign, maybe next time a slate of candidates for school board.

Your vote against Proposition 1 is a No Confidence Vote against the Special Administrative Board.


Do our public schools need more money? Yes.

Are there people we respect that support Proposition 1? Yes.

Are either reason enough to vote for it. No.

Please join 7th Ward Independent Democrats and 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman Marie Ceselski and Vote No on Proposition 1 this Tuesday, April 5th.