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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

Board Bill 198 Would Improve ‘Complete Streets’ Law

An incomplete street: The ramp is on the other side of the traffic signal base, opposite of the button. No crosswalk.
An incomplete street, Gravois @ McNair: The ramp is on the other side of the traffic signal base, opposite of the button. No crosswalk.

This morning I will testify before the Board of Aldermen’s Streets, Traffic and Refuse committee in favor of Board Bill 198:

BOARD BILL NO. 198 INTRODUCED BY ALDERMAN SCOTT OGILVIE, ALDERWOMAN LYDA KEWSON, ALDERWOMAN MEGAN GREEN, ALDERMAN SHANE COHN, ALDERWOMAN CHRISTINE INGRASSIA, ALDERWOMAN CAROL HOWARD An ordinance repealing Ordinance 68663, codified as Chapter 3.110.120 of the Revised Code of the City of St. Louis and in lieu thereof enacting a new ordinance relating to a “complete streets” policy for the City of St. Louis, stating guiding principles and practices so that transportation improvements are planned, designed and constructed to encourage walking, bicycling and transit use while promoting safe operations for all users.

The first reading of the bill was in November, this will be the first hearing on it. The full Bill, as introduced, can be viewed here (5 page PDF).  As noted in the summary above, it repeals & replaces Ordinance 68663 — a “Complete Streets” law adopted a few years ago.  This new bill is more — complete.

The best part is the creation of a Complete Streets Steering Committee, comprised of:

Directors or their designees from the Departments of Streets, Planning and Urban Design, Board of Public Service, Health Department, Department of Parks, Recreation, and Forestry, and the Office of the Disabled.

This committee would meet quarterly and:

  • Develop short-term and long-term steps and planning necessary to create a comprehensive and integrated transportation network serving the needs of all users;
  • Assess potential obstacles to implementing Complete Streets practices;
  • Develop an action plan to more fully integrate complete streets principles into appropriate policy documents, plans, project selection processes, design manuals and  maintenance procedures;
  • Provide an annual written report and presentation to the Board of Aldermen showing progress made in implementing this policy.

We can do better, I’m glad some aldermen are trying. For more information see the National Complete Streets Coalition.

— Steve Patterson

A Decade Since Steve Patterson Filed To Run For The St. Louis Board Of Alderman

A decade ago today I decided I wasn’t going to let an incumbent win four years in office because of a lack of a challenger.  If she, Dorothy Kirner, wanted a four-year term she was going to have to work for it. Two months later I lost the primary, receiving 44.1% of the vote.  Not bad considering I started putting together my campaign after filing on the very last day, instead of months earlier.

Here I was a candidate but I had no team, no money, no plan.   My check for the filing fee didn’t even clear, thankfully then-Democratric party chair Brian Wahby allowed me to replace it rather than disqualify me from the race. At this point I was an unknown, this blog had only been around a little over two months.

I had been paying attention though, the day before filing I posted:

Carl Coats, a former city building inspector, had filed to challenge Dorothy Kirner for the 25th Ward aldermanic seat. On 1/4/05 he withdrew himself as a candidate. Unless someone files tomorrow Dorothy Kirner will win by default. This is my ward – I was hoping someone would mount a good challenge to Kirner. (See 25th Ward Challenger Carl Coats Has Withdrawn from Race).

That night I realized nobody else was going to run, but why not me? I was 37 and self-employed, so I had the time. I owned three properties in the ward, one co-owned with a friend, so I was invested. I had ideas I wanted to become part of the conversation during the election. I called a few people that night and the next day I went down to the Board of Election Commissioners to file.

People I know & people I just met stepped up to offer help, money, advice, etc. — too many to thank them all individually.

Steve Patterson speaking at a gathering at Gallery Urbis Orbis downtown, February 2005
Candidate Steve Patterson speaking at a gathering at Gallery Urbis Orbis downtown, February 2005
Patterson yard signs in the 25th Ward
Patterson yard signs in the 25th Ward
The yard sign graphic
The yard sign graphic with my campaign website prominently displayed
Kirner reused signs from the prior year, before the 25th Ward Regular Democratic Club had endorsed her in the current race
Kirner reused signs from the prior year, before the 25th Ward Regular Democratic Club had endorsed her in the current race
This rink in Mt. Pleasant Park was one issue during the campaign, none of us in the immediate area asked for this in the park -- it just appeared,
This rink in Mt. Pleasant Park was one issue during the campaign, none of us in the immediate area asked for this in the park — it just appeared

Early press was discouraging, such as the story ‘Incumbent aldermen assured of re-election’  in the South Suburban Journal five days after filling closed:

Incumbent Alderman Dorothy Kirner, 70, of the 3700 block of Taft Avenue, faces challenger Steven L. Patterson, 37, a real estate agent living in the 3100
block of Mount Pleasant Street. The primary is March 8.

“I have lived in the neighborhood for 48 years,” said Kirner, who was elected June 15, 2004 to succeed her husband, Alderman Dan Kirner, who died in office. Stressing her experience, she said, “I have been around longer than my husband was in the political field.”

But Patterson, who has lived in the neighborhood for 10 years, said he had a lot of experience in getting things done, in looking at development and managing people and projects.

“I think the fact that I haven’t spent many years in politics is actually a benefit to me. It’s time for a fresh approach to the ward,” he said.

As the campaign progressed the coverage did improve, from the Vital Voice, an LGBT publication, just days before the primary:

Steve Patterson is busy knocking on doors and talking to residents throughout the 25th Ward in hopes of becoming the first openly gay individual to serve in the 28-member St. Louis Board of Alderman.

Patterson, who turns 38 on Feb. 28, is mounting a serious challenge to unseat incumbent Alderwoman Dorothy Kirner in the March 8 primary. Kirner, 69, was elected last June to serve the remaining ten months of her late husband, Dan Kirner’s term.

“What brought me into politics is the desire to see change and realizing that I couldn’t sit here and complain that no one was taking charge without realizing that maybe that should be me,” said Patterson of his insurgent campaign. “The campaign experience is awesome. I’m really enjoying getting involved and being involved. It actually feels really good to be this civic minded.”

The 25th Ward, which includes neighborhoods around far South Grand is ethnically diverse with large Caucasian, African American, Bosnian and Vietnamese communities. The ward also has a representative gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community. Nevertheless, the heavily Democratic 25th is socially conservative and accordingly voted to approve Amendment 2 last August witch banned gay marriage in the Missouri Constitution.

Yes, only one of the city’s 28 wards voted in favor of Amendment 2 and I, an openly gay man, was running for alderman in that ward just 4 months later.  What was I thinking? I do remember knocking on one door, the woman who answered asked me if I supported gay rights or same-sex marriage. When I told her I was gay I turned a sceptic stranger into a voter, we remain friends today.

Although Kirner won a full 4-year term I have no regrets about running, one of the best decisions I ever made.  I do have some hindsight from my one and only political campaign:

  • Plan well ahead, don’t wait until the last day to file to start putting the campaign together.
  • Run to win, but know that becoming serious candidate makes you a winner even if you don’t win the election.
  • Video record your debate, I wish I’d done so!

This election was prior to social media — no Facebook or Twitter! Like I indicated in the photos above, I had a blog/website, one of the earliest aldermanic campaigns to have one. I raised & spent about $1,200m Kirner raised & spend about $12,000 — she  had to hire consultants to build a website.   She showed up for a debate on the issues, something she wouldn’t have had to do otherwise.

One issue raised during our campaign was a Citizen Review Board, I favored it while Kirner, whose late husband had been a police officer, opposed external review of the police. The Board of Aldermen passed a Civilian Review Board bill a year later — vetoed by Mayor Slay.

I received
I received 278 votes (51.5%) in the two precincts East of Grand, while Kirner received 292 votes (64.7%) from the two precincts West of Grand.  I lived East of Grand, Kirner West of Grand, her support was stronger than mine. Total votes was 437 vs 554.

After serving her one term, Dorothy Kirner didn’t seek a 2nd in 2009, setting up a 4-way race for the open seat. Openly gay Shane Cohn won the democratic primary with 487 votes (46.25%), this 4-way race had 1,053 votes vs 991 votes in my 2005 race.

Filing for the March 2015 primary has closed, though independent candidates can still get on the ballot in the April general by collecting signatures. Those of you in odd numbered wards who are considering running in 2017 should begin planning now.

Tomorrow I’ll look at the 2015 spring municipal races.

— Steve Patterson

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