Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Snowball's Chance

With the requisite amount of signatures certified (and with 900 signatures to spare), the Take Back St. Louis initiative is one step away from appearing on a March or April '14 Citywide ballot. Opposition to the initiative has coalesced around a legal and political gravamen: that the signers of the petition were duped into signing it.

Should the Take Back St. Louis initiative survive the legal challenge(s) and make it to a Citywide vote, it most likely will fail at the polls. The initiative's well-healed opposition has and will present a parade of horribles that, should the initiative be passed, includes everything from the de-funding of everyone's dearly-beloved Zoo to the shutting-down of every "urbanist-progressive's" dearly-beloved Metro. Add to the parade of horribles claims about investment and, especially, JOBS leaving due to the "anti-business environment," and the chance of passage is the proverbial snowball's chance. (Personally, I would vote "no" on the proposition should we get the opportunity to vote on it.)

But the snowball's chance of the initiative's approval by Citywide voters has never been what should spook the initiative's opposition. What should spook the initiative's opposition is the Citywide election organization that the initiative would foster and develop if the initiative makes it on the ballot. The Citywide electoral calculation has been very stable since (it feels like) time immemorial: win your North/South Side of town + Central Corridor. If they're given some oxygen with a ballot initiative, the folks involved with Take Back St. Louis would develop specifically Citywide municipal electoral organizing skills. With lessons learned in '14, by '15 and/or '17 the Take Back St. Louis folks could, among other destabilizing things, help rouse that "Sleeping Dragon."

But if the initiative doesn't actually get on the ballot, then the folks with Take Back St. Louis don't get the electoral-political oxygen to grow and develop into a potentially destabilizing influence on the Citywide electoral calculus. So, "expect litigation" in an effort to kill the initiative before it gets that far. Material misrepresentations that induced petition signatures is the perfect gravamen because it's procedural rather than substantive; a court need not weigh-in on policy, constitutionality, et cetera and still kill the initiative. It's also a perfect political gravamen for basically the same reason; a politician can maintain her/his vaguely-professed sympathy for the substance of the cause while coming out against the cause on specifically-professed procedural grounds.    

PS - A lot of the folks involved with MORE, the group spearheading Take Back St. Louis, used to be involved with the local ACORN chapter. Fairly or not, ACORN is now pretty much a radioactive word in the political discourse. If the Take Back St. Louis initiative finds itself on the ballot, then I bet there'll be a whole lot more of this kind of ad hominem rhetoric from the initiative's opposition and concurrent targeted tribal appeals made to Southwest City.

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