Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Proposition endorsements with free Obama cartoon

Fellow Missouri voters (no one else will want to read this!), you don't have to vote with The St. Louis American and myself on the ballot amendments on Nov. 4, though I wish you would. Above all, I beg that you educate yourself on them (and beg others to educate themselves on them) and know how you are going to vote (and beg others to know how they are going to vote) before you (or they) get your chance to vote.

The less time each of us spends voting, the more likely we will all get a chance to vote on what will likely be the election day with the highest voter turnout on record.

These endorsements will be in tomorrow's paper. Vote with us - or vote against us - but however you are going to vote, decide before Nov. 4 and take a cheat sheet with you into the polls.

Vote early - vote speedily - vote on paper.

Since there is no interesting way to illustrate a bunch of brain-busting ballot amendments, I have topped this screed with tomorrow's editorial cartoon by Kevin Belford. Is there a T-shirt entrepreneur in the house?



Missouri voters will have the opportunity to vote on two constitutional amendments and three statutory amendments during the Nov. 4 general election. Some of these initiatives are of critical importance to the sustainability and future of the region and its workforce.
Proposition A would remove Missouri’s individual $500 loss limit for casinos, limit the number of casinos built in Missouri, raise the gambling tax from 20 percent to 21 percent, and establish a restricted education fund from those additional gambling tax funds.
While the American shares the view of those who oppose unfettered legal gambling as a matter of principle, the widely proclaimed fears about rampant crime and other problems have not materialized since gambling was legalized. Now the choice being offered to the voters of Missouri – a choice that state legislators have been unwilling to make themselves, even as they covet additional revenue from the gaming industry – is whether Missouri-based casinos, particularly those located next to states with casinos, will have the same loss-limit exclusion as their competitors in those neighboring states. Notwithstanding the disagreement about the specifics about the allocations of funds for educational purposes, the State will gain more than $100 million in additional revenue if this amendment is passed.
The complaints that this proposition will take more dollars from Missouri patrons have less resonance in this area, where higher-stakes gamblers have long merely driven a short distance to casinos in Illinois that have no limits. Since some individual casinos have become significant employers of African Americans who hold jobs with good benefits, at all levels, our community has a significant stake in the enhanced competitiveness of an industry that is already established in Missouri.
Moreover, there would be increased patronage of the new Downtown casino juxtaposed to two hotels (one a high-end, non-gaming Four Seasons destination property) from patrons outside this metropolitan area. Greater success for the Downtown casino could lead to a fresh impetus for further development of the additional real estate near its existing property on the riverfront. We want to bring existing and Missouri casinos being built into line with its competitors in nearby states, which means more State revenues, expanded employment, more construction and procurement spending, and an opportunity for developing languishing land on St. Louis’ underdeveloped Downtown riverfront area. We strongly endorse a vote of YES ON PROPOSITION A.


For the St. Louis region to continue to develop, investment in its infrastructure is a must. Regardless of past mistakes and some warranted public mistrust, Metro transit agency must be a part of this critical investment.
Proposition M would enact a half-cent sales tax for MetroLink expansion and operations. The sales tax will cost the average family $50 a year – or about $4 a month. While the timing of Proposition M is poor, following massive cost overruns and an ill-advised lawsuit against the original firms involved in MetroLink Cross County Extension, the area is out of time when it comes to supporting the agency.
If Proposition M does not pass, the impact will be felt throughout the region. Say goodbye to MetroLink expansion. Say hello to system-wide contraction and an almost certain spike in transit fares. Bus routes, lifelines for thousands of African-American and elderly residents in particular, will face severe cuts.
Todd Plesko, Metro planning and system development director, estimates that more than 25 percent of its riders could be forced to find another form of transportation if Proposition M fails. More than 20 bus routes could be eliminated. By law, the cuts have to be distributed equally, meaning all parts of the region – including its poorest – will lose service. Bus service could be eliminated outside of Interstate 270, MetroLink service could end at 8 p.m., and the Call-A-Ride paratransit system could be cut back.
All of these options are unacceptable for a region struggling to compete better in a global economy. St. Louis County invests more in Metro than the City of St. Louis and State of Missouri combined – millions of dollars more. But the County can’t afford to put up a stop sign. That’s why we strongly endorse a vote YES ON PROPOSITION M.


Proposition B would amend the Missouri Constitution to create the Missouri Quality Homecare Council, which would recruit, train, tabulate and ultimately stabilize the home care workforce. The council would consist of 11 members appointed by the governor, subject to Senate confirmation. Importantly, council members would include a majority (six) of current or former recipients of home care services. Proposition B also would organize all home care workers into a single, statewide collective bargaining unit, which helps to explain why the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is fighting for it. SEIU – one of the most inclusive and progressive unions – points out that Missouri’s 8,000 home care attendants currently earn low wages, with no sick time and no benefits, and are classified as "self-employed" contractors. As a result, many consumers have lost home services because of funding cuts and high turnover. Proposition B will establish statewide standards for workers, provide training and maintain a registry for qualified workers. This will reduce worker turnover in the field, which ranges from 40 percent to 60 percent. The Missouri Quality Home Care Council – with a majority of its members current or past consumers of home care services – will provide consumers a critical voice in addressing problems with the system. It also will empower a group of workers who provide critical direct care to some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens. We strongly endorse a vote of YES ON PROPOSITION B.



Proposition C would amend the Missouri Constitution to require investor-owned electric utilities, such as AmerenUE, to generate or purchase electricity from renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, biomass and hydropower, with the renewable energy sources equaling at least 2 percent of retail sales by 2011, increasing incrementally to at least 15 percent by 2021, including at least 2 percent from solar energy; it would limit to no more than 1 percent any rate increase for this renewable energy. Proposition C will gradually reduce Missouri’s reliance on fossil fuels and ultimately could lower energy costs. The initiative also will reduce pollution, since only financial penalties for noncompliance will encourage utilities to commit to renewable energy sources. It also should promote new economic development and job creation in the state, as new energy sources will require new construction and manufacturing. Renewable energy is the future, and this amendment would ensure we are moving toward that future. We strongly endorse a vote of YES ON PROPOSITION C.


Constitutional Amendment 1 would amend the Missouri Constitution to mandate that English be the language of all governmental meetings at which any public business is discussed or public policy is formulated. This amendment is the latest pointless slash at immigrants by the right wing of the Missouri Republican Party. There is no indication that English is being edged out of official use in this state, and no reason to amend the state constitution to make people who speak other languages feel less at home here. Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City said Amendment 1 seems to be "a prejudicial reaction against even legal immigrants and workers." We agree. Passage of this amendment would do nothing but pander to the most reactionary and divisive elements in Missouri. We strongly endorse a vote of NO ON AMENDMENT 1.

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