We know that some local control advocates who have for many years fought and failed to change St. Louis city’s Civil War-era form of police governance are campaigning against Proposition A, a statewide ballot initiative that would dissolve the current Board of Police Commissioners appointed by the governor and effectively put the police department under the control of the mayor. We agree that these activists should be offended that Rex Sinquefield, who funded the initiative, crafted it with the mayor and the police union without input from the grass roots. We too are concerned with language in the initiative that could be viewed as attempting to seal records of internal police investigation and forestall a citizen’s review board. However, the intensified accountability of the police department to the voters who elect the mayor under local control, and considerable savings to the city, still make even this compromised form of local control better than the unwieldy and outmoded system we have had since the Civil War – and which the Legislature has proven unwilling to overturn for more than 100 years, though it would save the state money. Voters should pass the initiative and then concentrate on organizing to assure it leads to improvement in accountability to the public, which is sorely lacking under the present state-controlled system. We endorse a vote of YES ON PROPOSITION A.
Missouri has the lowest cigarette tax and the 11th highest smoking rate in the United States. More than 9,000 Missourians die annually from tobacco-related diseases, costing taxpayers millions of dollars in health care costs. A higher cigarette tax would be a win-win proposition, giving the state more revenue to fund needed services and discouraging everyone, but especially teens and pregnant women, from indulging in this costly and deadly habit. The statewide Proposition B on the Nov. 6 ballot would increase the tax on a pack of cigarettes from 17 cents to 90 cents and stipulate usage of the resulting revenues, with 50 percent going to public school programs, 30 percent to higher education and 20 percent to smoking cessation programs. A better educated and healthier Missouri that consumed fewer tobacco products would be a better Missouri. Voters who have to hold their nose and vote with Rex Sinquefield on Proposition A should know his Show-Me Institute opposes Proposition B. We strongly endorse a vote of YES ON PROPOSITION B.
Missouri Republicans have been in lockstep with the relentless nationwide GOP attacks on President Barack Obama and his historic passage of health care reform. Obama’s Affordable Care Act is a complex piece of legislation that mixes very popular policy changes – such as preventing insurers from denying coverage due to a preexisting condition – with more controversial ones, such as mandating that individuals purchase health insurance and setting up health care insurance exchanges at the state level, both of which are necessary to increase the pool of the insured in an effort to control costs. The statewide Proposition E would prohibit the governor or any state agency from setting up these insurance exchanges without approval of voters or the Legislature. Like the previous ballot initiative in Missouri to rebuke the individual mandate to purchase health insurance, this initiative is pure Republican politics meant to antagonize the incumbent president and attack his signature legislation in an election year. Federal law mandates that all states must have fully certified and operational health insurance exchanges by January 1, 2014, whether or not this pointless initiative passes. But we should support the president and his progressive health reform and defeat it anyway. We strongly endorse a vote of NO ON PROPOSITION E.
The so-called Missouri Nonpartisan Court Plan does not apply to all of the state, but rather to six circuit jurisdictions (Clay, Greene, Jackson, Platte and St. Louis counties and St. Louis city), the Court of Appeals and the Missouri Supreme Court. But it bears our state’s name because it has been adopted by other states and hailed as a national model for pushing electoral politics aside in the selection of judges. The statewide Constitutional Amendment 3 would tinker with the composition of the Appellate Judicial Commission that recommends nominees to the governor for the Court of Appeals and the Missouri Supreme Court. It would give the governor more nominating power and remove the current requirement that the governor’s appointees to the commission be non-lawyers. Missouri, which has no end of problems, currently has a fair, balanced and creative method for selecting at least some of its judges. This initiative would empower the governor to appoint a majority of commission members, which upsets this delicate balance of power. It is a bad idea, and the voters should reject it. We strongly endorse a vote of NO ON CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT 3.
St. Louis County voters will have an opportunity in Proposition L to marginally increase the tax allotment to the Library District – from 20 cents per hundred dollars assessed to 26 cents per hundred dollars assessed – to fund renovation and replacement of aging facilities, enhancing library spaces and generally constructing, improving, operating and maintaining library facilities and acquiring necessary property. Our public libraries are a great civic asset and deserve this marginal increase in funding. We endorse a vote of YES ON PROPOSITION L IN ST. LOUIS COUNTY.
St. Louis city voters will entertain an altogether more politically controversial ballot initiative in Proposition R, which would amend the City Charter over time to reduce the number of wards and aldermen in the city from 28, the present number, to 14 (which would take effect on January 1, 2022, after the next census). We understand that many city voters are fond of their respective aldermen, the elected official with which they are most likely to have direct access and rapport. But the dwindled population of the city – with less than half the population of when the city was chartered with 28 wards – has rendered a 28-ward city and a 28-member Board of Aldermen outsized, too costly and redundant. Any reduction in citizen access to their aldermen would be more than compensated for with a more efficient legislative process, which is essential to creating a more competitive environment for broader-based economic development. We strongly endorse a vote of YES ON PROPOSITION R IN ST. LOUIS CITY.
U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, who has long represented Illinois’ 12th Congressional District, which includes East St. Louis and much of the Metro East, left Illinois Democrats in a lurch when he decided not to seek reelection. The Democrats’ hurried choice to replace Costello, Bill Enyart, is an attorney who has been commander of the Illinois National Guard since 2007 and a military man since 1976. He faces a typical Republican from the Tea Party generation who would not have the best interests of the neediest citizens in the Metro East at heart. Enyart, however, has the experience and perspective to represent this Democratic stronghold. We strongly endorse BILL ENYART FOR U.S. CONGRESS.