Resist bullying: Vote NO on Props 1 & 2

The Unablogger

Voters in the City of St. Louis (but not the suburbs) are being asked to pass Propositions 1 and 2 on April 4, which would raise both the sales and use taxes in the city, primarily to provide $60 million in public funding towards a new Major League Soccer stadium. The sleazy campaign supporting the propositions is reason enough to oppose them.

First, stadium supporters are taking immoral advantage of a city recently jilted by the National Football League, much like a guy at a bar taking advantage of a recently dumped woman on the rebound. The ownership group is devoting $1 million that could have been spent on the stadium to a campaign committee called AspireSTL, which is using misleading emotional appeals to the pride of the city, suggesting that these proposals are the city’s only chance to avoid a death spiral. St. Louis is falling behind, they say, claiming MLS will help us get untracked. They claim (without substantiation) that a professional soccer team will “help keep St. Louis vibrant and relevant, bringing in younger and international fans to watch the game.” SC STL’s Paul Edgerley tried to shame city voters into backing the propositions. “We also think that the community that’s going to get some benefit wants to be part of this. If the community doesn’t feel like it’s the right priority for the community, I think that probably says something as well.”

Proposition 1, a sales tax increase ostensibly tied to MetroLink expansion, is being used as bait, to lure low income voters (who suffer the most from a regressive sales tax) into supporting the stadium funding package.

Meanwhile, the predominantly suburban (and wealthy) fan base for professional soccer is not being asked to contribute, other than their incidental payment of sales tax while slumming in the city. This corporate welfare scheme is redistribution of the wealth – from poor to rich.

After St. Louis’ terrible experience with the NFL, would MLS really be an improvement? I think both professional leagues are cut out of the same Machiavellian cloth. Most visibly, MLS, which has never turned a profit, is demanding an outrageous $150 million franchise fee to join. Can you say “Ponzi scheme?” One might also question whether the perpetually unprofitable league will even survive long enough for its franchise to honor a 30-year lease commitment.

MLS has also shown its heavy hand by directing the location of the new stadium. The league’s ownership is fixated on a downtown location, both here and elsewhere. In Miami, it downplayed soccer great David Beckham’s bid because his stadium wasn’t downtown. Here, the MLS rejected a rival proposal of Foundry St Louis to own a franchise in a privately funded stadium near St. Louis University, just two miles west of the SC STL’s site in Downtown West. The Foundry site would have been closer to the millennial fan base it seeks, at college soccer institution St. Louis University, nearby trendy neighborhoods like The Grove and the Central West End, and millennial-friendly entertainment districts in Midtown and along South Grand. Nope, the inflexible know-it-alls at the unprofitable MLS want downtown. I suspect that they don’t even realize that their preferred site is actually well west of downtown. Shhh!

Why not raise $60 million privately, among new investors? If this stadium is the sure thing financially that supporters claim it to be, getting new investors should be a snap. SC STL just needs to expand the pool of investors beyond their private little circle of cronies. It turns out that Foundry St. Louis actually offered to provide the rest of the funds so that public financing could be avoided, but SC STL declined. Why continue to gouge taxpayers? My guess is that SC STL wants to use tax funds to leverage their investment and not have to share their profits with other investors. So, beneath the veneer of selfless civic leaders lies a core of greed.

Frankly, the city has higher priorities. We have a violent crime problem that discourages tourists and locals alike from going downtown, and our police department is understaffed, underpaid and demoralized. St. Louis Public Radio quoted Glenn Burleigh of the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council: “If you talk to the people about why they’re leaving the city, never heard people say it’s because we do not have a MLS team. I’ve heard lots of people say because we don’t have enough police officers. I’ve heard lots of people say there’s not enough jobs.” Opponents of the propositions justifiably question whether a soccer team is going to provide much benefit to residents in struggling neighborhoods.

Even the yoked investment in MetroLink expansion is questionable. MetroLink has become best known recently as a magnet for violent crime. Nationally, light rail’s popularity has peaked. The big urban fad of the 1990s is no longer hip. People are beginning to realize that public transportation needs are better served by buses, whose routes can be changed as needed, without expensive, high maintenance infrastructure.

St. Louis shouldn’t be afraid to call MLS’ bluff. We are in a stronger negotiating position than supporters let on. The fact is, MLS really wants St Louis. MLS Commissioner Don Garber admitted to SI.com earlier this year, “St. Louis has been on our radar screen as long as the league’s been in existence.” We are a city rich in sports tradition and (by U.S. standards) soccer tradition, and we are ideally situated for natural rivalries with existing teams in Chicago and Kansas City. MLS needs St. Louis more than St. Louis needs MLS.

City voters should stay tough, stand tall, refuse to be bullied, and vote No on Propositions 1 and 2.

McCaskill tows party line on Trump’s immigration order

The Unablogger

The Unablogger

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is following Democrat talking points in opposing President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily halting travel to the United States from seven countries with ties to terrorists. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, McCaskill expressed outrage over temporary delays in travel for certain cherry-picked Muslim travelers and Trump’s direction to give priority to Christians for allowing entrance into the U.S.

The referenced delayed traveler, Hameed Darweesh, is an Iraqi man who had reportedly helped the U.S. as an engineer, interpreter and contractor and who possessed a valid visa. Darweesh was then vetted pursuant to the government’s new vetting process and was allowed to proceed into the U.S. less than 24 hours after arrival. According to the Post, McCaskill said that made her “want to throw up.”

McCaskill’s Republican colleague, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), explained the situation in more measured tones. While noting his own opposition to a blanket travel ban on Muslims, Blunt explained that Trump’s order increased vetting of people traveling from countries with extensive terrorist ties or activity. He properly prioritized keeping Americans safe.

Democrats have falsely claimed that the countries selected by Trump to be subject to the restrictions were selected because of their Muslim majorities, and that Trump had excluded Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and other Muslim countries with Trump business ties. Trump selected the seven countries because people traveling from those countries provide the greatest risk to the security of the U.S. They were the same seven countries that the Obama Administration singled out for exception under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015. The Muslim nations with Trump business ties were also not excepted by the Obama Administration under the visa law.

The Post also referred to a McCaskill statement criticizing Trump’s willingness to give Christians facing persecution preferential consideration for refugee resettlement. Apparently McCaskill either didn’t notice or didn’t care that Christians in those nations were disproportionately the victims of Islamic terrorist violence. When ISIS refers to “infidels,” they mostly mean Christians. That is exactly who should be allowed to enter as refugees. Trump’s order was in direct contrast to the Obama Administration’s admission of Muslim “refugees” while leaving most Christians refugees behind to die. The Clinton Administration policy of allowing Bosnian Muslim refugees in the 1990s was consistent with the fact that Muslims were the ones then being persecuted. Priority should be given to identified groups who are at risk of genocide and pose no ascertainable risk to the U.S. It is appropriate to single out specific religions when religion is the motivation of the persecution.

McCaskill is following the Democratic Party line. Her fellow Democrat senators, including those who, like her, are facing tough reelection campaigns next year, followed the same script as McCaskill. Democrats want to characterize everything Trump does as racist or xenophobic, regardless of their merits. Embarrassed by losing an election they expected to win, Democrats are trashing the new president at every opportunity. McCaskill is piling on.

A national electorate of snowflakes?

The Unablogger

The Unablogger

Close presidential elections often turn on small seminal moments that matter. The moments that decided the two most recent presidential elections were not important matters of policy or qualifications, but emotional reactions to off-the-cuff remarks by the losing candidate. My friend and blogger extraordinaire Bill Hennessy has pointed out repeatedly that people make decisions on emotion, not facts; then they marshal together whatever facts support their decisions. This includes decisions on how to vote. This dynamic of human nature reelected Barack Obama and made Donald Trump his successor.

These emotional seminal moments produced a backlash of voters who felt the candidate was disrespecting them. The 2012 moment was Mitt Romney’s remark at his own fundraiser (secretly taped by Democrat operatives who had infiltrated the event) that people receiving government benefits (47% of all voters) were too dependent on government to vote for Republicans. Those 47%ers felt targeted and disrespected, any many of them who were considering Romney either stayed with Obama or (more likely) became discouraged and didn’t vote.

The 2016 seminal moment was supposed to be the release of the 11-year-old Access Hollywood tape of Donald Trump making lewd remarks about women. It actually was the seminal moment for politically correct suburban voters (especially the country club set) who either felt personally violated by Trump’s remarks or who didn’t want their friends and business colleagues to associate them with Trump.

Other voters got over it when concerns surfaced over the reopening of the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton. Many now conclude that the FBI caper was 2016’s real seminal moment.

While all of those matters impacted the 2016 election, I believe the real seminal moment for most voters had already occurred in early September with the release of Hillary’s off-the-cuff characterization of some Trump supporters as a “basket of deplorables.” Voters who even thought about supporting Trump felt that Hillary had called them “deplorable.” That’s not what Hillary literally said, but the impression stuck. Voter resentment was reinforced by Hillary’s media sycophants who doubled down on the idea that anyone who helps Trump advance what they called his “racial, religious and ethnic bigotry” is part of that bigotry. Tired of being maligned by a society that retroactively shamed old attitudes, equated matters of sincere religious faith with bigotry and otherwise demanded political correctness, voters rebelled against elites by voting for Trump.

I don’t doubt the accuracy of Hennessy’s observation about people making decisions based on emotion, but I do lament it. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the political outcomes of Obama’s reelection and Trump’s coming presidency, there should be serious concerns about momentous national elections turning on hurt feelings instead of issues. Maybe those collegiate “snowflakes” demanding “safe zones” to protect them from contrary opinions are just following the inadvertent mentorship of parents or other older acquaintances that they see making important decisions based on who did or didn’t hurt their feelings.

We gotta grow up!

Quick observations of 2016 election returns

The Unablogger

The Unablogger

Outsiders win (mostly). The upset wins by President-elect Donald Trump, Governor-elect Eric Greitens and Attorney General-elect Josh Hawley demonstrated that the attraction of political outsiders did not end with the primaries. Voters wanted change, and they’ll get it, although both Trump and Greitens will be tested by their legislatures, including those from their own party.

Things were different in congressional races. In spite of Congress’ historically low approval ratings, only seven incumbent U.S. House members and two senators lost their seats last month. In Missouri, Sen. Roy Blunt won re-election in a race he was expected to lose, and all eight congressmen won re-election easily, albeit against underfunded challengers. All but one of the Missouri congressional contests produced a greater share for the Republican candidate (whether incumbent or challenger) than in the last presidential election in 2012 (including Jason Smith, whose 2012 total was earned by his popular predecessor, Jo Ann Emerson). The exception was Republican Ann Wagner, who trailed her 2012 share even though she didn’t have the benefit of incumbency back then, when she was first elected. Wagner generated resentment from Trump loyalists when she unendorsed Trump after the release of the Billy Bush video, but her congressional district was also the one Missouri district where Trump ran behind Mitt Romney’s 2012 pace.

Robin Smith’s candidacy was a dud. Well-known former television news anchor Robin Smith, a Democrat, was expected to run a decent campaign for Missouri Secretary of State. Democratic party leaders, paying homage to identity politics, had discouraging all but token primary opposition so she could be in a position to become the first African American elected to statewide office. While her general election opponent, Republican Jay Ashcroft, enjoyed the good will attached to his namesake father, popular former Gov. and Sen. John Ashcroft, the younger Ashcroft’s own electoral record was not good. His only prior stab at elective office was in 2014, a very Republican year, when he lost an open St. Louis County state senate seat then held by a Republican. Smith’s candidacy was actively publicized by the St. Louis American, St. Louis’ leading weekly newspaper primarily serving the African American community. While 2016 turned out to be a difficult year for Missouri Democrats, that fails to explain how poorly she fared compared to other Democrats on the ticket. Among the seven statewide Democratic candidates, Smith’s vote percentage was next to last, not only statewide but also in both St. Louis City and County, where Smith was best known.

A possible lesson here is that St. Louis voters have not reacted well to former news personalities seeking public office. Former KSDK reporter Mike Owens won less than 33% in a 2012 Democratic primary for state representative in a contest in which he was the only white, with two black candidates splitting the rest of the vote, and running with the support of his wife, influential Alderman (and possible future mayor) Lyda Krewson and her effective ward organization. Also, back around 1980, former KSDK anchor Bob Chase, a Republican, lost twice running for Congress in St. Louis County.

Paying the price for guessing wrong on Trump. Before Trump’s surge following the announced reopening of the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton, establishment Republicans tried to distance themselves from a nominee they regarded as a sure loser. They portrayed their decisions not to endorse their party’s standard bearer as a matter of principle, but everyone knew they thought that’s what they needed to do to save their own hides. Well, they guessed wrong about Trump, and many of them paid the price they were trying to avoid. Both incumbent Republican U.S. Senators and four of the six incumbent Republican congressmen to lose re-election, as well as the losing Republican who had the best chance to win a Democrat-held senate seat, were candidates who at some point (after the primaries) publicly rejected Trump. Rep. Ann Wagner of St. Louis County, who, as noted above, retracted her endorsement of Trump (though later announced she would vote for him), easily won re-election to her safe Republican seat, but was Missouri’s only Republican congressional candidate to get a lower share of the vote this year than in 2012.

Vote NO on Judge Calea Stovall-Reid

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The Unablogger

Voters in the City of St. Louis should vote NO on the retention of Associate Circuit Judge Calea Stovall-Reid.

We constantly hear police, from Chief Sam Dotson on down, complain how frustrating and demoralizing it is to see their untiring work to capture and put together cases against violent criminals go largely to waste when a judge lets them off with minimal bonds. Poof! Back on the street. These include criminals who are charged with brutally assaulting police officers. The judge they complain about the most is Stovall-Reid.

When police in my neighborhood organized neighbors to appear in court for a bond hearing to make the court aware of the impact release would have on the neighborhood, Stovall-Reid got wind of it and moved the bond hearing up so that it was over before the neighbors arrived. She has no respect for victims and law abiding citizens.

Don’t be fooled by the Your Missouri Judges reviews by a so-called independent panel. It is really just a smokescreen whose purpose is to promote the judges. The 21 panel members rate each judge basically on a pass/fail basis, and the judge’s score is the percentage of the 21 who graded “Pass.”  Their legalese term for “pass” is “substantially meets overall judicial performance standards.” The judge doesn’t even have to meet all performance standards or meet them all the time, just “substantially.” Well, big surprise, Stovall-Reid’s rating for this low-bar test was 100%. In fact, every judge on the City ballot from the supreme court down to Stovall-Reid scored 100%. (One judge in St. Louis County failed this test, and I’d love to know the back story.)

Missouri’s nonpartisan court plan is broken. Since it was adopted in the 1940s, the number of St. Louis area judges rejected by voters is zero. Not one! Too many people vote yes automatically because they wouldn’t want to fire anybody.

St. Louis can and should make history this year by making Stovall-Reid the first to be rejected.

The Libertarian felon is no alternative to Roy Blunt

The Unablogger

This post is a bit of a throwback to a post about Missouri’s U.S. Senate race in 2012. There’s good reason for the similarity: the Libertarian candidate who drew votes away from the Republican nominee then and the Libertarian candidate likely drawing votes away from Republican Sen. Roy Blunt now are the same guy, Jonathan Dine.

So, who is Jonathan Dine? For starters, he’s a convicted felon whom Missouri law would bar from the ballot in any state or local contest. (State law may not add additional qualifications (like not being a felon) for candidates for federal office over and above the bare requirements provided in the U.S. Constitution.) In addition to convictions for possession of marijuana (kind of a badge of honor for a Libertarian) and driving while intoxicated, Dine also has a 2005 conviction for identity theft. He supports gay marriage and drug decriminalization, while opposing U.S. “interventionist” foreign policy.

I am guessing that most Dine backers don’t know about his criminal past or his controversial issue positions (except for pro-pot). As was the case in 2012, the Voters Guide of the St. Louis Post Dispatch makes no mention of Dine’s convictions.

This year’s senate contest virtually tied, so every vote counts. The Real Clear Politics polling average for the contest shows Blunt ahead by less than a point, with trend lines favoring Democrat Jason Kander. The only poll that specifically included Dine, the Monmouth University poll, showed Dine polling at 2%. Dine has a history of performing better, winning 6% in the 2012 contest. In a dead heat contest, he could tilt the balance.

There are two more third-party candidates in the race this year than in 2012, and one of them, Green Party candidate Johnathan McFarland, might be expected to even the playing field by doing to Kander what Dine may do to Blunt. But as indicated in an earlier post, the lamestream media are greasing the skids for Kander by actively concealing both McFarland’s candidacy and Dine’s criminal past.

Conservatives who are disappointed in Blunt’s record (Heritage Action score for support of conservative values = 49%) should realize that not voting for Blunt could easily result in victory for Kander, who would be at least as liberal as McCaskill (Heritage Action score = 5%). But more important, a Kander win could flip control of the U.S. Senate (and confirmation of Supreme Court justices) to Democrats.

We absolutely need a Republican Senate, regardless of who occupies the White House. We need Roy Blunt to be there for us.

Robin Smith is no political outsider

The Unablogger

The Unablogger

Democrat Robin Smith is portraying herself as a political outsider in her campaign for Missouri Secretary of State. She isn’t.

Both Ms. Smith and Republican challenger Jay Ashcroft are second-generation candidates of political families. While the Ashcroft patriarch, former Governor, U.S. Senator and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, is better known with greater accomplishments, Smith’s political pedigree is actually larger. She is preceded in politics by both her father, the late Wayman Smith, Sr., and brother, Wayman Smith, Jr. Both were St. Louis aldermen serving in the rigidly controlled political machine of the late legendary state senator J. B. “Jet” Banks. With the Banks machine’s reputation for shady election practices, it is no coincidence that Ms. Smith’s choice of offices to seek is the one that supervises Missouri elections. The office also certifies and disciplines notaries public, who certify the identity of voters casting absentee ballots, the abuse of which was the election fraud that overturned the results of a contest in this year’s Missouri Democratic primary.

Recent Ashcroft ads disclosed that Ms. Smith has been delinquent in paying taxes. Ironically, the political career of Sen. Banks ended shortly after his conviction on felony charges of filing false state income tax returns.

Ms. Smith has also been involved in local politics. She was reputedly a close personal friend of notorious former St. Louis school superintendent Jerome Jones, whose administration was tarnished in 1987 by a scathing state audit called resulting from a citizen petition. Criticized for extravagant poorly documented spending of taxpayer funds, he may be best known for his comment that it was hard to find lunch in St. Louis for under $100. (Remember, those were 1987 dollars he was talking about.)

Ms. Smith’s claim to independence is her tenure as a reporter and anchor for three national television network affiliates in St. Louis. Toiling for local mainstream media outlets is anything but politically independent.

In addition to supervising elections and notaries public, the secretary of state also supervises business formation and disclosure, securities regulation and investor protection and publishes state administrative rules and regulations. While Ashcroft’s training and experience as an attorney well prepares him for these duties, there is nothing in Ms. Smith’s background that qualifies her for the job.