Monday, August 28, 2006


By Tony Brockmeyer

In April of 2007 the government of St. Charles will change. Sevral Councilman voiced their concern that the new system will become exactly like the City of St. Louis which has been plagued with political cronyism and lacks professional expertise. “Unqualified personnel ultimately leads to unproductive workeras and higher taxes, said Councilman Mark Brown. With the charter change that become effective in April St. Charles will go from being a system where the City Administrator has the power and the Mayor is part-time, with a strong City Council government - to one that will be controlled by a strong, full-time Mayor. When this matter was placed on the ballot it passed by a slight margin. The City Council recently voted to have this matter revisited by the voters. The Council felt voters did not fully understand the matter they were voting on. The Council thinks voters believed they were voting for either a full-time Mayor or a part-time Mayor and did know the position of the City Administrator would be eliminated. A majority of the Council feel the voters should be aware of what the change would mean and be given another opportunity to vote on it. The Council approved placing the issue on the November ballot.

The Mayor has other ideas. She vetoed the ordinance and sent it back to the Council where it would have needed seven votes to be placed on the November ballot. Councilmen Riddler, Gieseke, Brown, Koester, Reese and Greer voted to override the Mayor’s veto. Councilmen Muench, Weller, Kneemiller and Hoepfner voted to sustain the Mayor’s veto. Because of their votes, the veto was not overridden and the residents of St. Charles will be unable to vote on the issue again.

Councilman John Gieseke told the First Capitol News, “Who can honestly argue about making it clear what is being voted on and letting the people express their feelings through the ballot box? The issue could have been on the ballot at the general election in November and would not have been an expense to the taxpayers.”

In her veto message to the Council the Mayor wrote, “I ask, what percentage of a win does it take for government to listen to its people? Our nation is a democracy where each person has a vote and the majority decides. While we may not like the outcome, we listen to the people and follow their decisions through the voting process. This attempt to revote on the same issue precludes the people’s decision and says their original vote just isn’t good enough. Win, lose or draw, I respect election results and the will of the people.”

Councilman Mark Brown said, “This is the same Mayor who refused to respect the election results and the will of the people when she was one of the leaders of the effort to recall myself and Councilwoman Greer. Once again she is talking out of both sides of her mouth. When she gets caught in a lie she just tells more lies. I believe she must think the people are stupid.”

Councilman Mike Weller told the Council members that since the Council did not allow a vote on fireworks he was not going to allow a vote on a City Administrator or strong Mayor type of government.

A resident in attendance at the meting remarked. “Weller has an uncanny ability to demonstrate what an idiot he really is. Our residents would be well served if he continued to stay away from Council meetings and let the City do without his input. He’s ridiculous and an embarrassment to the people who voted for him.”

Councilman Larry Muench, Ward 2, appeared to have difficulty in announcing his vote, but he did vote against allowing the residents to vote on the issue. One of our sources at City Hall told the FCN, “The Mayor was really putting pressure on him. He lets Kneemiller, Weller, Hoepfner and the Mayor push him around, but then they do nothing for him. If it wasn’t for Riddler, Muench would get nothing done in his ward.”

During the April 2004 election when this matter was first brought to the voters in Ward 2, the Ward represented by Muench, the voters voted NO - not to change to a full-time, strong Mayor. The voters also voted NO - not to change to a full-time, strong Mayor in Ward 1, represented by Rory Riddler, Ward 7 represented by Dottie Greer, Ward 8 represented by John Gieseke, Ward 9 represented by Joe Koester and Ward 10 represented by Bob Hoepfner. Voters in Wards 3, 4, 5, and 6 approved the charter change.

The Charter change was approved with a 302-vote margin by a vote of 5,746 Yes votes and 5,444 No votes. However there were 623 under votes. People who had voted for other items on the ballot but did not vote on the charter change. Council members supporting allowing the residents to vote again believe these under votes were because people did not understand the change and therefore chose not to vote either for or against.

Councilman Gieseke said, “I am not one of the Council people who are saying this is the right thing or the wrong thing to do. I still agree with the people the way they voted. But, what I don’t agree with is the fact that just because they voted that way we are not going to ask them to vote again. I don’t think it is demeaning to them at all to ask them if that is really what they meant because the campaign was run on full time part-time. It was very misleading instead of a strong or weak Mayor system. We were just embroiled in a couple of recall elections where people were saying they didn’t respect the majority or respect the people who voted for two of my fellow Council members. I think it is disingenuous to sit here and say that asking the voters if they understood the issue is that bad when we are talking about changing our charter. I for one will be out saying that a strong Mayor system is not a bad thing but I also think that allowing the people to vote again is not in anyway demeaning. It is not in any way wrong. It is one of the times where we have a chance to ask them if we actually got it right. We sit here and say let’s put this to a vote of the people, let’s put that to a vote of the people, issues that don’t even rise to this level and we want the people to vote on it. This is a pretty important issue.”

Councilman Joe Koester said, “There were over 600 under votes in this election. That tells me that a lot of people who came out for this election didn’t know how to vote. They just didn’t know enough about the matter. This was an election that was vague and some people didn’t understand it. The Mayor mentions great debate. It was not an issue. It wasn’t debated in the community. It is not insulting to go back and say here’s the issue. If it passes then we know for sure we have a mandate.”

Councilman Rory Riddler said, “In November we should have more than double the number of the people go to the polls. Most people felt they were voting for a full-time Mayor and didn’t understand they were voting to get rid of the City Administrator. A lot of people feel our system of government is very professional because we have that layer in there. It helps to insulate the department directors and city employees form undue political pressure. I just want to make sure that the voters have all the facts and then what they decide is fine with me.”

Councilman Mark Brown said, “It’s ironic about this veto and what is really almost unbelievable is this veto is coming from the same person who stated that even though the signatures were fraudulently gathered in a recall, the people should have a right to have their input. Now all of a sudden when something effects the Mayor’s office she believes people shouldn’t have a right to have input anymore because if they didn’t understand what was going on, too bad, let it be. I think this is a really important issue that is facing the City of St. Charles. This issue is asking the people, do they want a patronage system? Do they want jobs to go to the highest bidder who gets involved the most in campaigns? Right now we have a professional form of government. The politicians can’t really get involved in who gets hired. You have a professional City Administrator. They run the City and they are in charge of the employees. Now we are saying we are going like the City of St. Louis where they have so many problems, where they have so much corruption, where they have indictments and where friends get all the contracts because it becomes strictly a political system. I don’t mind having a full-time Mayor. I believe there is plenty for a Mayor to due full-time. I think we need to keep the professionalism in our government. Some of my colleagues up here during the recall attempts said the people have a right to vote. Even when I said there was fraud involved they said no, no, no the people have a right to vote but now all of a sudden they don’t want the people to vote. The people should have a right to say what they want. This is obviously something that was misconstrued. It was misinterpreted. The election had a very small percentage turn out. We should present the issue during a general election when the majority of the people vote and give the people the right to vote. My colleagues who are sitting up here right now and who will vote the opposite way are the same ones who said let the people vote on the recall but now they don’t want to allow them to vote when there is something to do with the Mayor’s office.”