By Jamala Rogers
Proposition R passed with nearly 70% of approval by St. Louis voters. Proposition B received 61% of county voters. Both reform measures could be heard as screams of voters being sick and tired of being sick and tired; sick and tired of the indifference, incompetence, and alleged corruption of people who they pay to represent their interests.
In the wake of Prop R results, St. Louis Alderwoman Sarah Martin resigned. She’s also a paid lobbyist, a secondary job that could pose a conflict of interests with her duties as an elected official.
As the scrutiny increases, more elected officials may bite the dust.
Prop B forced St. Louis County Executive Sam Page to end working his secondary job as an anesthesiologist. Prop B was aimed specifically at Page, and he said he will willingly comply. Apparently, county voters believed they were being short-changed on time and attention of their top elected official.
County voters also approved a charter change that means a county executive would have to pay for all appointed employees out of their budget instead of splitting the cost across county departments.
In the city, several issues were bundled into Prop R. The most important were that the Board of Alderpersons will no longer draw a redistricting map after the 2030 U.S. Census. Voters have seen absurd boundaries drawn that have little to do with equitable representation.
One year, an alderman used his power to draw a potential opponent out of the ward. Prop R was a vote of no confidence in that process.
Prop R requires alderpersons to publicly disclose their financial dealings. This takes into account the kind of privileged and unfettered access to information and resources they might have that could be unethical, and possibly, illegal.
Sadly, people don’t always see any moral or ethical distinction among the Board of Alderman. They see a bunch of lazy, inept politicians getting a paycheck and not doing the people’s work. Taxation without representation.
When the reduction of the Board of Aldermen finally began to sink in, I tried to get a pulse on whether an offensive could be mounted. There was little appetite for such a fight among voters or community groups.
I heard many responses. It all boiled down to it wouldn’t make a difference if there are 28 members of the Board of Aldermen or 14. The responses got harsher when I asked if they were willing to sacrifice Black political empowerment because of a few bad apples.
That argument truly fell on deaf ears.
The concept of a “woke voter” is in the process of beginning. It is a reality that far too many politicians have ignored. Community organizations have taken up the responsibility of engaging and educating to build political power. Woke voters are demanding representation, transparency, and tangible reforms that improve their quality of life.
The neighborhood in your ward or municipality is what you wake up to each morning. Residents know better than anyone if conditions around them have improved or worsened over time. A new face in a high place, or a reform passed at the ballot box, doesn’t always mean change. It’s a challenge to keep hope alive in these situations.
The region hangs on to the past, fighting against transformative change and the people are responding. Listen carefully, and you’ll hear voters demanding a government for the people.