The expected litigation never materialized, and so the Take Back St. Louis ballot initiative appears set for an April 8 Citywide vote. As I've written before, the initiative has a snowball's chance of 60% approval by City voters. Still, the initiative should be taken seriously by City pols who are opposed to it. Take Back St. Louis has some potential to be troublesome for a Room 200 that enjoys close relationships with Peabody Coal and Laclede Gas. Right now, though, Take Back St. Louis is like a housefly buzzing annoyingly near Room 200's ear. Going at the housefly with a sledgehammer will only draw attention to the issues that Take Back St. Louis aims to raise. The best strategy for Room 200 is to bring sufficient force to soundly defeat Take Back St. Louis, but no more force than what is necessary. A flyswatter will do fine.
The strategic problem to be solved (the swatting of the fly) comes down to solving the problem of April 8 voter turnout. The pro-Take Back St. Louis vote is small, but it's organized and motivated and it most certainly will turn out on April 8. Soundly defeating this pro vote requires an organized and motivated anti vote roughly twice as large as the pro vote. In what quite likely will be a very low-turnout election day, this twice-as-large anti vote won't need to be numerically huge. We're talking a flyswatter strategy here ... not a sledgehammer strategy.
One useful tactic in support of a flyswatter strategy is to try to foster a contested down-ballot aldermanic election in friendly territory on the same day as the April 8 Take Back St. Louis vote. This past December, Mayor Slay announced the appointment of 13th Ward Alderman Fred Wessels as Director of the City's Community Development Administration. Wessels won't officially vacate the 13th Ward Aldermanic seat until February, thereby scheduling the 13th Ward Aldermanic vacancy election on April 8, the same day as the Take Back St. Louis vote. The 13th Ward Democratic Committeewoman, Beth Murphy, is practically certain to get the Democratic nomination from the City's Central Democratic Committee. There is a not insignificant chance that the Republican Central Committee will nominate a candidate for 13th Ward Alderman. An independent or Green could take a shot at it as well.
Of course, this tactic is most successful if the 13th Ward Aldermanic race is actually contested. It would then be a mere matter of generating a list of likely 13th Ward voters in the aldermanic race based on past turnout history, and directly communicating with these likely voters to vote NO on the Take Back St. Louis initiative. If there's a contested aldermanic race in the 13th Ward, then the total votes cast in the 13th Ward could dwarf the total votes of several wards put together. This effect would be somewhat similar to a "reverse coattails" effect.
Another useful tactic in support of a flyswatter strategy is to generate a list of voters with a certain policy affinity that could perceive the Take Back St. Louis initiative as a threat to that policy affinity. The most exploitable and effective policy affinity would be one associated with progressives, because self-described "progressives" constitute the middle between the Take Back St. Louis boosters on the "progressives'" left and the anti-Take Back St. Louis moderate pro-business Democrats on the "progressives'" right. With a list of such "progressive" voters, they can be communicated-with directly to vote NO on Take Back St. Louis in order to protect their policy affinity.
Generating a policy affinity voter list is a different task than is generating a likely voter list. First, you need to identify the policy affinity (ideally associated with voters aligned in the "middle" of the Take Back St. Louis issue) that you can argue will be threatened. Second, you need to identify the voters (ideally aligned in the "middle" of the Take Back St. Louis issue) who share the policy affinity that you can argue is threatened by the initiative. Okay, let's break it down:
First, identify the policy affinity that you can argue will be threatened by the Take Back St. Louis initiative.
@mattfredstl @TomLeb @ward24stl @stlzoo @STLMetro Metro buys 1 mil $ of gas from an “unsustainable energy producer” making Metro (con’t)Second, identify and generate a list of City voters who share the policy affinity that you can argue is threatened by the Take Back St. Louis initiative.
— Jane Dueker (@JaneDueker) August 3, 2013
We sailed past 1,000 signatures in under a week. Add your name to the list of people who want state transit funding: https://t.co/ygmdSZSwyzVoila.
— Scott Ogilvie (@ward24stl) January 22, 2014
With a list of likely voters in the 13th Ward PLUS a list of motivated STL public transit boosters whom you can scare with claims about Metro's demise should the Take Back St. Louis initiative become law, you have the flyswatter to smash the fly. There's no need for a sledgehammer.