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Absentee Voting Begins Tomorrow For August 5th Primary

Former offices of the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners
Former offices of the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners. Photo from my personal collection

Absentee voting in Missouri’s August 5th primary begins tomorrow. In the city there are six different sample ballots:

  1. Libertarian Party
  2. Constitution Party
  3. Non-Partisan
  4.  Green Party
  5. Republican Party
  6. Democratic Party

Let’s look at each:

The Libertarian Party ballot includes:

  • Five ballot questions
  • One candidate for state auditor
  • One candidate for U.S. Rep Dist 1
  • One candidate in each of the following state rep districts: 81 & 83

The Constitution Party ballot includes:

  • Five ballot questions
  • One candidate for state auditor

The Non-Partisan ballot includes:

  • Five ballot questions

The Green Party ballot includes:

  • Five ballot questions
  • One candidate for St. Louis license collector

The Republican Party ballot includes:

  • Five ballot questions
  • One candidate for state auditor
  • Three candidates for U.S. Rep Dist 1
  • One candidate in each of the following State Rep districts: 66, 78, 79, 80, 82, 83, 91, & 93
  • One candidate for St. Louis recorder of deeds

The Democratic Party ballot includes:

  • Five ballot questions
  • One candidate for U.S. Rep Dist 1
  • Two candidates for State Sen Dist 4
  • One candidate in each of the following State Rep districts: 66, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 91, & 93
  • Two candidates in each of the following State Rep districts: 76, 77
  • One candidate for St. Louis collector of revenue
  • Two candidates for St. Louis license collector
  • Three candidates for St. Louis recorder of deeds

The St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners has sample ballots of all 6 here.  However, two of the six are wrong due to last minute certifications from Secretary of State Jason Kander:

  1. Courtney Blunt will be on the August 5th Republican ballot as a candidate for State Sen Dist 4
  2. Natalie A. Vowell will be on the August 5th Democratic ballot as a candidate for State Rep in the 78th district, making the 78th a challenged district

Lots of different party ballots, very few seats challenged within the respective party. I count 41 candidates total, all but 9 will win the nomination of their party on August 5th if they manage to get just one vote. This means in November we’ll see quite a few contested races.

The 5 ballot questions are:

  • Constitutional Amendment 1 (Agriculture & ranching)
  • Constitutional Amendment 5 (right to bear arms)
  • Constitutional Amendment 7 (sales tax for transportation)
  • Constitutional Amendment 8 (Veterans lottery ticket)
  • Constitutional Amendment 9 (electronic search & seizure)

Tomorrow I’ll be voting against the first three, at this point I’m still unsure about the last two. I’ll take a Democratic ballot so I can vote in the two challenged citywide races (license collector, recorder of deeds), though I’m still undecided on both.

Voters in St. Louis County can review a 47-page PDF of ballet content. If you’re not registered to vote, you can do so through July 9th.

— Steve Patterson

 

Melvin Price Locks & Dam Dedicated Twenty Years Ago Today

June 18, 2014 Featured, History/Preservation, Metro East, Missouri Comments Off on Melvin Price Locks & Dam Dedicated Twenty Years Ago Today

Two decades ago, on Saturday June 18, 1994, the Melvin Price Locks & Dam was officially dedicated, replacing Lock & Dam 26.

The structure is very large
The structure is very large, free tours daily at 10am, 1pm & 3pm.
Looking down river from up top as a barge leaves the auxiliary lock. The main lock has been out of service since November.
Looking down river from up top as a barge leaves the smaller auxiliary lock. The main lock has been out of service since November.
The gate closing behind downstream barge as it entered the lock
The gate closing behind downstream barge as it entered the lock
Looking upstream toward Alton and the Clark Bridge
Looking upstream toward Alton and the Clark Bridge
The flood of 1993 flooded the open, but incomplete, facility before the dedication. .
The flood of 1993 flooded the open, but incomplete, facility before the dedication. the high water mark is on the left was recorded on August 1st.

Some facts about the Melvin Price Locks & Dam:

  • Also known as #26, the number of the old lock & dam it replaced
  • Named for the Illinois congressman that championed the project, Charles Melvin Price (January 1905 – April 1988)
  • Construction began in 1979, the main lock opened in 1990, and the full structure was completed in 1994.

And here’s an image of the old lock & dam 26:

AERIAL VIEW OF LOCK AND DAM, LOOKING SOUTHEAST Photocopy of photograph, ca. 1980. Original print is on file at St. Louis District Office, U.S. Engineer Office, St. Louis, Missouri. - Upper Mississippi River 9-Foot Channel Project, Lock & Dam 26, Alton, Madison County, IL
AERIAL VIEW OF LOCK AND DAM, LOOKING SOUTHEAST Photocopy of photograph, ca. 1980. Original print is on file at St. Louis District Office, U.S. Engineer Office, St. Louis, Missouri. – Upper Mississippi River 9-Foot Channel Project, Lock & Dam 26, Alton, Madison County, IL Click image to view more images at the Library of Congress

And finally, another metro east facility was dedicated on June 18th. Nine years ago (2005) the Malcolm Martin Memorial Park, where I got married recently, was dedicated.

— Steve Patterson

 

Poll: When Do You Think Same-Sex Marriage Will Be Recognized In All 50 States?

Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar

In May 2004 the first same-sex marriages in the United States began in Massachusetts, the result of a court ruling. That year many states, including Missouri, passed constitutional bans against recognizing same-sex marriages. Other states approved same-sex marriage.

A year ago the Supreme Court determined part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional. Since then states like Illinois & Hawaii has approved same-sex marriage through their legislatures while courts have found more than a dozen state bans are unconstitutional, including Wisconsin on Friday.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb struck down the ban, making Wisconsin the 27th state where same-sex couples can marry under law or where a judge has ruled they ought to be allowed to wed.

Every remaining state ban is now challenged in court.

Same-sex marriages in Illinois were to begin on June 1st but a court ruled in February there was no reason to wait. Some counties like Cook (Chicago) and St. Clair County have been issuing licenses since then. However, St. Clair County wasn’t issuing licenses to out of state couples that live in states with a ban. But on Wednesday of last week St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly determined they could issue licenses to couples from Missouri and other states, as Cook County had been doing.

The poll question this week asks when you think same-sex marriage will be recognized in all 50 states. The poll is in the right sidebar.

— Steve Patterson

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Why I’ll Be Voting Against the Sales Tax Increase in November

In November Missouri voters will be asked to raised the state sales tax by three-fouths of a cent, earmarked for transportation projects:

The tax increase would generate an estimated $534 million a year, with 90 percent of the money going to state projects and 10 percent to local projects. It would run for 10 years.

Critics say sales taxes are hardest on low-income people because a higher percentage of their income goes toward buying essential items. However, the 3 percent general fund portion of the current state sales tax of 4.225 percent is not applied to groceries or prescription drugs, and the increase would not be, either. (stltoday: Voters will decide whether to boost Missouri sales tax for highways, transportation)

Missouri’s current fuel taxes are below the national average, and the legislature squashed Gov Nixon’s veto of a state income tax cut measure.

In five annual steps beginning in 2017, the bill will cut the state’s top personal income tax rate to 5.5 percent from 6 percent and provide a new 25 percent deduction for business income reported on individual returns.

The cuts will be implemented only if state general revenue grows by at least $150 million a year compared with the high-water mark of the previous three years. (stltoday – Missouri Legislature overrides Nixon’s tax cut veto)

Back to our low fuel taxes:

Of all the states bordering Missouri, only Oklahoma has less fuel taxes…by just 3 cents.   Source: American Petroleum Institute, click image to view
Source: NAME, click image to view
Detail on Missouri’s fuel taxes   Source: American Petroleum Institute, click image to view

All over the state roads & bridges are crumbling, and I’m a huge fan of investing in infrastructure. So why am I voting no? Simple, the money has to come from somewhere, but sales taxes on necessities (groceries, clothing) is the worst way to fund transportation.   The better option is to start by increasing our very low gas & diesel tax:

The gasoline tax has a lot of virtues from an economic point of view. It matches costs and benefits, because drivers who buy the most fuel are also causing the most wear on our roads. It’s easy to collect and hard to evade.

The fuel tax tends to be unpopular with the trucking industry, which would rather have the rest of us pay for the infrastructure that it uses most intensively. And trucking lobbyists tend to have a lot of clout in state capitols, which may be why the Legislature is talking about raising the sales tax instead of the gasoline tax. (stltoday: Sales tax is wrong way to pay for Missouri roads)

What about Oklahoma, why is their gas tax is 3 cents less per gallon? We should do what they do to keep from raising our fuel taxes, you might say. Fine by me!

Oklahoma has 10 turnpikes, more than 600 miles of pavement, making the state second in the nation for miles of toll roads. (Oklahoma Doesn’t Make Profit On Turnpikes; Who Does?)

Tolls, like fuel taxes, makes those who use the infrastructure pay for the infrastructure. I’ve paid more to Oklahoma  in tolls than in fuel taxes the last 23+ years of driving back to visit family.

A common misconception is more fuel efficient cars, hybrids, & electric vehicles have significantly reduced revenues collected from fuel taxes. It’s true, cars are more efficient:

Cars and light trucks sold in the United States hit a new record for fuel efficiency last year — 23.6 miles per gallon, on average — in response to still-high oil prices and strict new fuel-economy standards.

That’s a big step up from the 22.4 miles per gallon average for new vehicles in 2011. And overall fuel economy is expected to increase to 24 miles per gallon in 2013, another record. (Washington Post: Cars in the U.S. are more fuel-efficient than ever. Here’s how it happened.)

But that’s not why fuel taxes don’t cover needed work, just look at the federal highway trust fund:

The Fund is paid for by the federal gas tax. The gas tax has not been raised in over twenty years. Many items have doubled or tripled their cost since 1993. For example, a new car cost $12,750 in 1993, yet in 2013 a new car cost $31,252. The easiest explanation is that we are trying to build a 2014 infrastructure system with 1993 dollars. This is obviously an untenable formula. (Highway Trust Fund 101: What You Need to Know

Yes, the cost to build & maintain our infrastructure have been increasing while the Missouri & federal rate has remained flat.  For years inflation was masked because gasoline sales and total vehicle miles driven increased year over year, the funds grew too.

Source: NAME, click image to view
Graph shows total vehicle miles driven increased until the last recession. Source: St. Louis Federal Reserve, click image to view
Source: NAME, click image to view
Total gallons of gas sold dropped off just as miles driven have. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, click image to view

Rising costs and a slight drop in gallons of fuel purchased doesn’t mean we should now start taxing every purchase to maintain roads & bridges. But yes, the number of hybrids and others has increased, but the percentage is small relative to the big picture:

The number of alternative-energy vehicles on the road grew to almost 3.1 million in 2013, compared with 2.5 million in 2012, according to the study. In 2013, nearly 72,000 vehicles were pure electrics and three million were hybrids, compared with 21,000 pure electrics and 2.5 million hybrids in 2012.

Data for the analysis comes from Experian Automotive’s database, which includes information on nearly 700 million vehicles in operation. (New York Times – Experian Study Highlights Differences Between Hybrid and E.V. Owners). I encourage you to contact your elected officials in Jefferson City and Washington D.C to tell them to increase  the fuel taxes, not the sales taxes on goods. In November, please vote no on this sales take hike.

— Steve Patterson

 

Missouri’s August Primary

April 10, 2014 Featured, Missouri, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Missouri’s August Primary

Two days ago many voters in the region went to the polls to vote on local measures, such as bond issues. Those of us in the City of St. Louis didn’t have an election, our next time voting will be the Missouri primary on Tuesday August 5, 2014. However, voters in the 13th ward will vote at a special election on April 29th.  Fred Wessels resigned as alderman on December 31st to become the head of the Community Development Administration (CDA):

The CDA, among other things, administers federal funds for housing, community and economic development programs. It’s also responsible for administering the city’s share of federal community development block grants.

Wessels will replace Jill Claybour, who is retiring. (Beacon)

The 13th ward candidates are Beth Murphy (D) and Conan Predergast (R), see official list here.  Phyllis Young of the 7th ward is now the most senior alderman, her and Wessels were both sworn into office in April 1985.

Click image for information on becoming a poll worker.
Click image for information on becoming a poll worker.

IMPORTANT PRIMARY DATES:

  • Absentee balloting begins: Tuesday June 24, 2014
  • Last Day to Register to Vote: Wednesday July 9, 2014
  • Primary Election Day:  Tuesday August 5, 2014

In the city the primary will include three county-level offices: Collector of Revenue, License Collector, and Recorder of Deeds. Let’s take a look at the candidates seeking the nomination of their party:

Collector of Revenue

  • Democratic
    • Gregory F.X. Daly (Incumbent)
    • John P. Parhomski
  • Republican
    • Dylan M. Farrell
  • Green
    • None

License Collector

  • Democratic
    • Mavis “Tesssa” Thompson (Incumbent)
    • Jeffrey L. Boyd
    • Francis Horton
  • Republican
    • None
  • Green
    • Don DeVivo

Recorder of Deeds

  • Democratic
    • Jimmie Matthews
    • Sharon Quigley Carpenter (Incumbent)
    • Edward McFowland
  • Republican
    • Erik Shequist
  • Green
    • None

What do we know from this list? All three incumbents are Democrats, no surprise. What’s surprising and refreshing is all three are being challenged in the primary.  We also know the two Republicans, and the one Green, will represent their respective parties in the November general election.

The most interesting of the races is the Democratic primary for License Collector. Thompson was appointed by Gov. Nixon last year to replace Michael McMillan, who became President of the Urban League of St. Louis.  Alderman Jeffrey Boyd ran unsuccessfully for Treasurer in 2012, coming in 3rd in the 4-way Democratic primary, just after Fred Wessels.

— Steve Patterson

 

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