A post on the 15th Ward blog of my friend Steve Wilke-Shapiro got my attention. It was a guest piece written by Jan Clinite, President of the 15th Ward Democrats. Basically this group was started in 2001 when Jennifer Florida didn’t or wasn’t going to get the endorsement of the other 15th Ward group — a “closed” organization whereby the members don’t vote. In closed wards, only the Committeeman and Committeewoman determine the endorsements.
The committee people are elected every four years in the August Democratic Presidential primary. Seldom are these posts challenged. Some, myself included, have questioned the need for such positions as well as the organizations themselves. The mission of these are typically to do the ‘get out the vote’ and to educate voters. My experience, albeit limited, has been that of a small social group. In the 25th Ward in 2005 the committee only had something like 20 paid members, if even that.
So, I set out to learn as much as I could about ward committees operating in St. Louis. I started my search at the St. Louis City Democratic Central Committee website and the Republican counterpart. Wow, stark contrast. One gives you lots of information on who represents each ward and the other tells you almost nothing. If you think the Democratic site is the open and informative site you must be new to St. Louis!
Next I searched through the Missouri Ethics Commission website for the word “ward.” This turned up results for every ward except the 17th which I was able to find by searching for “17.” I’ve listed all these organizations below in order by ward and then in order listed on the Ethics website. Where known, I’ve included a link to their website.
First Ward Regular Independent Democratic Organization
1st Ward Democratic Organization
2nd Ward Regular Democratic Club
2nd Ward Independent Democratic Organization
3rd Ward Regular Democratic Organization
4th Ward Democratic Organization
4th Ward Original Democratic Organization
The New 5th Ward Democratic Organization
5th Ward Democratic Organization
6th Ward Democratic Association
St. Louis 7th Ward Democrats
8th Ward Democratic Association
8th Ward Independent Democratic Association
8th Ward Democratic Committee
9th Ward Democratic Organization
10th Ward Republican Organization
11th Ward Regular Democratic Organization
11th Ward Democratic Organization (NEW! Thomas A Villa, Treasurer)
12th Ward Regular Democratic Organization
13th Ward Regular Republican Club
13th Ward Regular Democratic Club
Leonore K. Sullivan 14th Ward Democratic Organization
14th Ward Neighbors for Community Action
Democrats of the 15th Ward
15th Ward Democrats
16th Ward Democratic Organization
17th FDR Club Democratic Organization
18th Ward Regular Democratic Organization (MECID# C000890; Maria Hill, Treasurer)
18th Ward Regular Democratic Organization (MECID# C031046; Ellen Todd, Treasurer)
Jordan W. Chambers 19th Ward Reg Demo Organization
20th Ward Democratic Organization
21st Ward Regular Democratic Organization
Original Twenty First Ward Democratic Organization
22nd Ward Democratic Organization
22nd Ward Democratic League
23rd Ward Regular Democratic Organization
24th Ward Regular Democratic Club-2
24th Ward Regular Democratic Organization
Friends of the 24th Ward
24th Ward Republican Club
25th Ward Regular Democratic Club
26th Ward Regular Democratic Organization
27th Ward Regular Democratic Organization Inc
28th Ward Democrats Campaign Committee
28th Ward Leadership Committee
As you can see, factions seem to have split many of the wards. Not only have we divided up a city of under 62 square miles into 28 wards we’ve managed to further divide that not just between Democrats and Republicans but within the Democratic party. Just recently Thomas Villa created a new 11th Ward organization. Interestingly, it is the other 11th Ward organization that has the best website of any ward in the city and it is far superior to the overall City Democratic site. In the 18th Ward they have two organizations with the same name as listed by the state.
But the real issue is the secretive mode in which the City Democrats appear to operate based on their website. I read they have a new office on Manchester Road in the failed St. Louis Marketplace but you’d never know it from their website. I also know the Chairman is Brian Wahby and a few of the committee people. I have more questions than answers: When do the wards meet? Where? How often? Which wards are open membership wards and which are closed? Who are the various committee people and the other officers?
If someone wants to get involved at the local grassroots level in this city it is clearly hard to find information on how to do so. This is not an accident. They don’t want lots of new energetic people getting involved. You see, the committee people are patiently waiting in line so they can one day become Alderman. Growing local ward groups is counterproductive to their goal of moving up the political food chain because someone more interesting just might cut in line.
The Missouri Ethics Commission lists both the St. Louis Metropolitan Democrats and Democratic Campaign Committee of St. Louis City. Brian Wahby seems to be involved with both — one focusing on the city and the first more of a regional group. But the City Dems’ website lists on the bottom; “Democratic Federal Campaign Committee of St. Louis City, Joseph Keaveny, Treasurer.” Funny, that name doesn’t exist in the Missouri Ethics database. Looking up the treasurer, I found the organization mentioned above, the Democratic Campaign Committee of St. Louis City. Granted, it is only one word — Federal — that distinguishes them. You’d think an organization with over $10,000 in the bank that is in the business of educating voters and getting out the vote might actually have a website geared toward that?
The City Dems link to the Missouri Democratic party but the state party doesn’t link to the city central committee. Ouch. The state party only links to the 11th and 8th ward groups plus a Stonewall Democratic group (GLBT). It is no wonder the state level democratic organization doesn’t want to link to the city democrats — the site is an embarrassment of closed politics. It does, however, exemplify how city politics are run in this city.
Update 9/25/06 @ 11:15am – I received an email from Brian Wahby that clarifies one point: “Steve – the Federal Campaign Committee is a Federal PAC and as such would not appear with the Missouri Ethics Commission.”