Proposition Pain (aka Prop P) passed last week with nearly 60 percent of the vote. It was an overall low voter turnout, but the South Side carried the day, especially wards 12, 16 and 23. The sales tax is expected to generate about $20 million annually. Although most of it will go to the police department, some coins were thrown towards the circuit attorney.
For Prop P opponents, there was no coordinated ground strategy to educate voters on the issue or a Get Out the Vote campaign. When there are few funds in the mobilizing pot, one must successfully organize people around a simple, yet effective message.
Black elected officials stood down or talked out both sides of their mouths regarding Prop P. There were no sample ballots. Mayor Krewson was invited to come to North Side ward meetings with a message of fear if the proposition failed to pass. For the older residents most likely to come out on election day, it resonated with their most basic instincts. No North Side ward defeated the proposition; the narrowest margin was in the 18th Ward, where Terry Kennedy is alderperson.
The St. Louis Central Labor Council voted to support Prop P. A chunk of the $375,000 raised for the passage of P came from unions. When the Organization for Black Struggle sent its “No on Prop P” literature to its usual union printer, the print job was refused because the printer also gets business from the St. Louis Police Officers Association (SLPOA) and affiliated law enforcement groups. The black community and black union members are getting weary of this fair-weather relationship with labor. We stand with labor, but it’s not always reciprocated when we need genuine solidarity.
The braggart police association (“whose streets?”) and its notorious bully business agent Jeff Roorda think this is a mandate for more of the same in our neighborhoods. Mayor Krewson is so uninformed as to think that black folks of any intelligence voted for the measure as a demonstration of their confidence in police. It’s much more complicated than that.
Krewson’s collusion with the SLPOA is blatant but unacceptable. She cow-towed to a backroom deal to get the support of police for the measure by assuring them they would get the bulk of the funds. She has implicitly supported the gestapo tactics of the police on non-violent protestors in the aftermath of the Jason Stockley verdict.
Krewson claimed she finds Roorda’s behavior disgusting – even chiding him for his attack on Tishaura O. Jones, her opponent during the 2016 mayoral campaign. Krewson has called for his firing. Yet, there she was on the night of Prop P, celebrating with Roorda, despite his history of corruption and intimidation.
That’s why Prop P was a line in the sand. It’s about whether this city moves forward with a new vision of public safety for its black citizens, or whether the police association continues to be the puppeteers of city government. The association keeps making it crystal clear: It’s their way or the highway.
Opponents of Prop Pain are not backing down. We are organizing for more accountability and transparency at the budget level, at the policy level, at the street level. Those with backbone and political clarity are welcomed to join us. Those who voted for Prop P – and who will inevitably be angered by the broken promises of safety and security – will be welcomed into our ranks with open arms.