Home » Board of Aldermen » Recent Articles:

City Cars For Elected Officials — Part 1

A recent item in the Post-Dispatch las caused a lot of online debate:

Carpenter’s budgetary concern comes as she seeks a new city vehicle or a $700 monthly vehicle allowance. In her previous term as collector, she had a city car. She turned it in after leaving office.

In March, Carpenter wrote a letter to the city’s capital committee asking for authorization to purchase “a new vehicle for my use.”

“As I understand it,” Carpenter wrote, “The License Collector receives $700.00 per month for auto expense in lieu of a vehicle. This would be amenable for me.”

Carpenter, 73, is also requesting the $700 monthly vehicle expense retroactive to January.

Paul Payne, the city’s budget director, said Carpenter will get a car. (St. Louis recorder of deeds to get new city car, lays off one person)

Really!?!

Carpenter drove a city-issued Buick Lucerne before she resigned. Was this it?
Carpenter drove a city-issued Buick Lucerne before she resigned. Was this it?
This Buick Lucerne isn't on the city's most recent assignment list.  The Buick Lucerne was sold in the 2006-2011 model years, click image for the Wikipedia article.
This Buick Lucerne isn’t on the city’s most recent assignment list.
The Buick Lucerne was sold in the 2006-2011 model years, click image for the Wikipedia article.

The $4,200/mo pension and $97,000 annual salary isn’t enough? As many said, why does the Recorder of Deeds need a city car? For that matter, why does the License Collector?

Autotrader has an article on 7 Great Luxury Sedans You Can Lease for $500 per Month:

  1. Acura RLX
  2. BMW 528i
  3. Cadillac CTS
  4. Hyundai Genesis
  5. Jaguar XF
  6. Lexus GS 350
  7. Volvo S60 T6

Ok, these lease deals don’t include insurance and require a down payment. Still, a new BMW 528i, for example, starts at $49,950.

I began wondering where it was authorized that elected officials would get cars, or a hefty allowance. I made some inquiries and was directed to an ordinance, the following quotes are from St. Louis City Ordinance 68716 from 2010.

First an exemption for personal licensing or use:

4.13.020 Personal licensing or use–Exemptions.

The prohibitions on the use of Missouri state license plates contained in Section 4.13.010 shall not apply to passenger automobiles assigned to and used by officials or employees of the Metropolitan St. Louis Police Department. The following passenger automobiles are exempted from the prohibitions on the use of Missouri state license plates contained in

Section 4.13.010:

A. One automobile assigned to the mayor of the city for his personal use;

B. One automobile assigned to the comptroller of the city for his personal use;

C. One automobile assigned to the president of the board of aldermen for his personal use; and

D. Such other automobiles as may be specifically designated by the board of aldermen by resolution upon the recommendation of the board of estimate and apportionment.

Any such resolution shall clearly identify the automobile or automobiles for which Missouri state license plates are sought, the person or persons who will use such automobile or automobiles and the conditions of such use and shall justify the need for Missouri state license plates for each such automobile.

So the above means the three listed in A-C, and any added via resolution in D, can be used personally and may have a regular “Missouri” rather than “City of St. Louis” license plate. One other exemption:

4.13.040 Identification of city automobiles–Exemptions.

The requirement of the clear identification of city-owned automobiles contained in Section 4.13.030 shall not apply to passenger automobiles assigned to and used by officials or employees of the Metropolitan St. Louis Police Department. The following passenger automobiles are exempted from the requirement of clear identification of city-owned automobiles contained in Section 4.13.030:

A. One automobile assigned to the mayor of the city for his personal use;

B. One automobile assigned to the comptroller of the city for his personal use;

C. One automobile assigned to the president of the board of aldermen of the city for his personal use; and

D. Such other automobiles as may be specifically designated by the board of aldermen by resolution upon the recommendation of the board of estimate and apportionment.

Any such resolution shall clearly identify the automobile or automobiles for which an exemption from this requirement is sought, the person or persons who will use such automobile or automobiles and the conditions of such use and shall justify the need for the requested exemption.

The same three are exempt from being identified as City of St. Louis vehicles, plus any added by resolution, don’t need to have “City of St. Louis” in letters on the side of the vehicle.

One more quote:

Section 4.13.050 Use of City Motor Vehicles

No official or employee of the City shall possess or use any motor vehicle owned or leased by the City except for those officials or employees who are specifically designated by resolution of the Board of Aldermen, upon the recommendation of the Board of Estimate and Apportionment. Any such resolution shall clearly identify the person who will use such motor vehicle, their title, their job classification, the conditions of such use, and shall justify the need for such use.

So I found Resolution 259, adopted in December 2010. Here’s a quote:

WHEREAS, Ordinance 68716 requires that the Board of Aldermen approve a resolution adopting the City of St. Louis Vehicle Policy Manual (herein attached as Exhibit A) the following, which includes possession and use of City motor vehicles and reimbursement for personal motor vehicle usage; and

WHEREAS, ordinance 68716 further requires that the Board of Aldermen approve possession and use of City motor vehicles and reimbursement for personal motor vehicle usage, by title/job classification and nature and conditions of use (list attached as Evhibit B).”

Unfortunately the library has neither attachment. I contacted board clerk David Sweeney who located it and sent me a scanned copy.

Turns out Attachment B isn’t a list of any specific elected offices that get cars, as I expected. It was just a spreadsheet with people and the cars they were assigned. I reviewed the 2010 list and found only two elected officials:

  • Comptroller Darlene Green: 2009 Mercury Grand Marquis
  • Recorder of Deeds Sharon Carpenter: 2007 Buick Lucerne

The Vehicle Policy and most recent Assignment Survey are online here. maintains The current list is for FY2014, as of 10/14/2013 — long before Carpenter resigned last summer to avoid charges of nepotism. The only elected official on the list is Comptroller Darlene Green with the same 2009 Mercury.  The webpage notes:

This survey is conducted in accordance with paragraph 3.1 of the City Vehicle Policy. Vehicle listings and employee assignments are as of July-August of each year when appointing authorities complete the survey.  The new version is posted after acceptance by the Board of Estimate and Apportionment on or about October 1st and provision to the Board of Aldermen.

The Board of Estimate and Apportionment (aka E&A) is comprised of the Mayor, Comptroller, & President of the Board of Aldermen.

Ok, let’s dig into the Vehicle Policy to see if that sheds any light:

2.2. Specifications/Options

2.2.1. Individually Assigned

2.2.1.1. Elected Officials are typically provided new, well-equipped, full-sized sedans or advanced technology vehicles. These vehicles may include luxury packages and options at the discretion of the elected official.

2.2.1.2. Appointed Officials who require a vehicle to complete their duties are typically provided a mid-sized sedan or sport utility vehicle dependent upon job requirements. These vehicles are typically equipped with power windows and locks, tilt steering wheels and air conditioning. Luxury packages and options such as leather seats, automatic climate control systems, navigation systems and upgraded sound systems are prohibited even as part of an emergency purchase.

2.2.1.3. Civil Service employees are typically provided sedans, pickup trucks, vans or sport utility vehicles appropriate to the nature of their duties. New vehicles may be equipped with air conditioning, power windows and locks and tilt steering wheel for improved health and safety when necessary.

Ok, but which elected officials get cars? All of them? All 28 Aldermen?

3.3. Vehicle Allowance Criteria

  • 3.3.1.  Employees required to drive daily on official business but who are not assigned a City vehicle because one is not available shall keep a mileage log. Employees must also file a mileage reimbursement form on a monthly basis thru the accounts payable section in their Department.
  • 3.3.2.  In conjunction with the Budget Division the automobile allowance shall be established by the Comptroller annually in January for the next fiscal year. It shall be based on the IRS regulation, but not necessarily set at that rate.
  • 3.3.3.  Employees receiving the automobile allowance must sign a declaration annually that they possess a valid driver’s license, their vehicle is maintained in safe operating condition at all times and that they have the following minimum insurance coverage: $25,000 coverage bodily injury per person, $50,000 coverage bodily injury per occurrence and $10,000 coverage property damage or at the minimum levels required by State statute, whichever is greater.
  • 3.3.4.  Employees paid the automobile allowance may not use a City vehicle unless approved as part of a formal trip authorization.
  • 3.3.5.  Each year prior to October 1, the Comptroller will supply a report to the Board of Estimate and Apportionment and the Board of Alderman detailing payments made listing the employee’s name and payment history for the previous fiscal year.

Now that I’ve gotten the background out of the way, the next part will get into more specifics. I hope get answers to the following questions:

  1. Which elected officials, if any, currently have city vehicles? What kind? Are they issued a 1099?
  2. Which elected officials, if any, currently receive a car allowance? How much? Are they issued a 1099?
  3. Who has city gas cards? What measures are in place to ensure these aren’t used to refill personal vehicles?
  4. Why isn’t the Buick Lucerne used by the Board of Elections listed on the most recent assignment sheet?

A 1099 you ask? Yes, vehicles for personal use are taxable income that must be reported to the IRS! See fringe benefits communing rule.

I have a feeling the deeper I dig into city vehicles and their oversight I’m going to find a lot that many would like to keep hidden in the trunk.

— Steve Patterson

 

First Time All 28 Aldermen Are Democrats

St. Louis City Hall
St. Louis City Hall

History was made last month — for the first time in the history of St. Louis every alderman is a Democrat.  Yes, we all know the City of St. Louis is a Democrat city — to get elected you need to be a Democrat — at least a DINO. But up until last month at least one member wasn’t a Democrat.

In 1949 Democrats took majority control of the Board of Aldermen but Republicans continued to have multiple members, dropping to one in 1977 but up again to two in 1979 when Fred Heitert was sworn in. The number was back to one after Jim Shrewsbury defeated the GOP incumbent in the 16th Ward.  Republican Fred Heitert was an alderman from April 17, 1979 t0 April 19, 2011 — when his successor Larry Arnowitz, a Democrat, was sworn in. But that same day in 2011 an Independent, Scott Ogilvie, was sworn in representing the 24th Ward. Last month Ogilvie was sworn in to a 2nd term — this time as a Democrat.

So last month, on April 21, 2015, became the first time in St. Louis’ history that every Alderman was a Democrat. UPDATE 5/19 7:45am: Current seniority list.

How long will this last? If this is broken will it be by a Republican, an Independent, or a Green?

— Steve Patterson

 

20th Ward Candidate Debate Thursday March 26th

St. Louis City Hall
St. Louis City Hall

One thing is certain, no matter which of the three candidates in the 20th Ward General Election wins the race on April 7th: the 20th Ward will have new representation at the Board of Aldermen.   Ald. Craig Schmid, first elected in 1995, had his ward # changed on him once, and frequently faced primary & general challengers. He always came out on top — until the recent primary.  Thank you Craig for your service & loyalty, but I’m glad you lost the election. It has been time to move on but you kept running anyway.

Voters in the 20th Ward should plan to attend Thursday night’s debate among to hear the three candidates, via Facebook:

Please join your South City neighbors for a 20th Ward Aldermanic Debate. A non-partisan question and answer forum will be moderated by The League of Women Voters. Attendees may ask questions submitted in writing the day of the forum.

All candidates have been invited to participate:
Cara Spencer (Dem)
Stephen Jehle (Ind)
Vicky Ingram (Grn)

The debate begins promptly at 6:45 and will end by 8:15, please feel free to arrive early at 6 for Cherokee Neighborhoods Happy Hour and to be seated. Guests are also welcome to stay for after hours.

This event is hosted by The Chippewa Broadway Business District in partnership with The South City Business Collaborative (Dt2, Carondelet, CSBA, CBBA)

Please share this event with your friends and neighbors, and don’t forget to VOTE on April 7th.

Thursday’s debate will be held at 2720 Cherokee.

— Steve Patterson

 

Turnout In Tuesday’s Primary Varied Widely

ivotedLess than 10% of the city’s 181,967 registered voters actually voted in Tuesday’s partisan primary, but to get the bigger picture we need to delve deeper into the numbers. A total of  17,291 ballots were cast among the three parties selecting their candidates for the general election next month. As expected, the overwhelming majority selected a Democratic ballot:

  • Democrat: 16,520  — 96%
  • Republican: 651 — 4%
  • Green: 120 — 1%

The purpose of holding a partisan primary is so each party can select their candidate to compete in the general election, yet in St. Louis the Democratic primary is largely the entire election — win the Democratic primary and you’re basically the winner of the seat — the general is just a formality. Why do we continue to do this?

We’ll have three people running in the same ward — a Green, a Republican, and a Democrat. Each runs unopposed in the March primary only to face each other in the April general. We need to eliminate the March primary and just have a nonpartisan primary in April. It’ll save money, voters only need to go to the polls once, and each candidate will need to present themselves to voters to get elected.

In addition to eliminating the unnecessary primary, we need Ranked Choice/Instant Run-Off Voting:

 Ranked choice voting (RCV) describes voting systems that allow voters to rank candidates in order of preference, and then uses those rankings to elect candidates able to combine strong first choice support with the ability to earn second and third choice support. RCV is an “instant runoff” when electing one candidate and is a form of fair representation voting when used in multi-winner elections.

More on this later, back to the numbers from Tuesday’s election. Ok, so we know 9.5% of registered voters bothered to vote. Apathy, right? Wrong!

Aldermen were elected in 17 of 28 wards, those of us in the other 11 wards knew the only race for us to vote on was President of the Board of Aldermen — Lewis Reed would get the Democratic nomination over Jimmie Matthews, the Green & Republican candidates were challenged for their party nomination. Six of the 17 wards had unchallenged incumbents — no reason to vote. Only 11 of the city’s 28 wards had challengers. Apathy wasn’t responsible for the dismal turnout — it was our system that was set up when our population was growing and the two main parties fielded viable candidates in every race

  • In the six unchallenged wards the turnout ranged from a low of 4.5% (13th) to a high of 7.4% (6th) — an average of 6%
  • In the eleven contested wards the turnout ranged from a low of 8.7% (22nd) to 21.9% (8th) — an average of 15%

Clearly a contested election increases voter turnout!

The number of votes in a ward election is also telling:

  • The low was the uncontested 14th ward — only 242 of the 297 who voted selected the unchallenged incumbent — 55 voters (18.5%) knew their vote wouldn’t matter.
  • The high was the hotly contested 8th ward — 1,587 voted in the race — only 6 voters went to the polls but didn’t vote in the race for alderman.The winner, incumbent Stephen Conway, received 843 votes in the 2-way race — that’s more votes than in 9 .

The ranked voting mentioned above is important when you have three or more candidates.

  • In the 2nd ward none of the four candidates received more than 50% of the vote — only 5 votes separated the top two. Ranked voting may have selected a different winner.
  • In the 3-way race in the 7th ward Jack Coatar received over 50% of the votes — ranked voting wouldn’t have mattered because he received a plurality.
  • The 20th ward also had a 3-way race — Cara Spencer defeating 20-year incumbent Craig Schmid with 48% — not a plurality.
  • The only other 3-way race was the 22nd where incumbent Boyd received 77%!

When I went to bed Tuesday night the early returns had Ogilvie & Bauer tied 50/50.  In the end incumbent Ogilvie received 74.5% to win a second term.

In a related note here are the results of the Sunday Poll:

Q: Which of the following best describes your political views?

  1. Mostly liberal 18 [33.33%]
  2. Consistently liberal 16 [29.63%]
  3. Mixed 13 [24.07%]
  4. Mostly conservative 4 [7.41%]
  5. Consistently conservative 3 [5.56%]

Not really a surprise that self-described liberals made up nearly 63% of the responses, conservatives just 13%, with the balance (24%) in the middle.

Those with down-the-line conservative and liberal views do share some common ground; they are much more likely than others to closely follow government and political news. This carries over to their discussions of politics and government. Nearly four-in-ten consistent conservatives (39%) and 30% of consistent liberals tend to drive political discussions – that is, they talk about politics often, say others tend to turn to them for information rather than the reverse, and describe themselves as leaders rather than listeners in these kinds of conversations. Among those with mixed ideological views, just 12% play a similar role. (Pew: Political Polarization & Media Habits)

I’d like to see St. Louis eliminate the unnecessary primary and go to ranked choice voting at the same time we reduce the number of aldermen from 28 to 14 — after the results of the 2020 census are known in 2021. You can download my spreadsheet here (xlsx) and the election results here.

— Steve Patterson

Endorsements In Four Contested Primary Races

Vintage photo of the former offices of the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners. From my collection
Vintage photo of the former offices of the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners. From my collection.

Today I have endorsements in four contested races in the Democratic primary a week from today — March 3rd:

These four are the most progressive candidates in their respective races. One is running for an open seat, two are challenging incumbents, and one is an incumbent.

— Steve Patterson

YOUR SUPPORT IS GREATLY APPRECIATED

SUNDAY POLL (8AM-8PM SUNDAYS)


The Sunday Poll is now within the body of the post.

Advertisement



Advertisement


Recent Comments

Archives

Categories

Transportation for America Coalition