Saturday, November 18, 2006

CAse In Point By Joe Koester, Councilman Ward 9

In contrast to the many investigations the GOP launched of the Clinton administration, “when Bush came into power there wasn’t a scandal too big for them to ignore.” Congressman Henry Waxman

The midterm elections punctuated the feelings of the majority of Americans. Frankly, the election results have brought us hope in a system that most of us sense has grown more corrupt in the past twelve years rather than less corrupt as promised. The broken “Contract with America” has now made it through the electoral litigation system and the judgment rendered by voters from coast to coast is that the GOP is guilty of breaking its contract on all counts. The empty claims by the GOP that they held a monopoly on morals and ethics has ceased and hopefully, after so many years, the moral taglines that they have used to trump sound reasons to vote Democrat have waned too. Remember - Democrats don’t want to take your guns, kill babies, or revive the Soviet Union!

Locally, the Democrats did much better than the mainstream media gave credit for. Democrats ran competitive races on shoestring budgets. Imagine if we get election reform that allows real competition – debates about issues rather than endless mailers that convince by way of their sheer volume. Go ahead and check out the expenditures of both sides in St. Charles County – you will see that Democrats did very well on anemic budgets collected mainly from working people and local businesses. You will see that the GOP was flooded with special interest dollars that allowed them to send out more than three times the mailers, pay for polling and automated telephone calls, buy billboards, by news ads, - advertise their candidates ad nauseum; it was truly RC Cola versus Coca-Cola. It is true that we fell short in most local races; however, local Democrats did their part to help elect Democrats to higher office on a state and federal level.

My sincere thanks go out to everyone who supported my campaign including (but definitely not limited to): Sara Schneider and Eleanor and Larry McCune. Several volunteers helped put rubber bands on literature, walk door-to-door, or make telephone calls. Campaigns are bigger still and I thank each voter who placed his or her trust in me on Election Day. Furthermore, I want to thank those who allowed me to put up a campaign sign – I appreciate that this simple act takes a measure of courage.

For the most part, the campaign remained about issues. As the challenger, I kept my message simple – stop special interest legislation and help bring equity to our schools. Of course, I wanted to send out a host of other mailers about many issues such as Lindenwood and stopping predatory lenders, but neither money nor campaign advisors would allow tackling too much for a single campaign.

Of course, I wasn’t happy when a mailer stated that I was trying to “hurt seniors” when actually I was trying to use limited resources to help those seniors who may need help the most. Or when a weird mailer stated, “Top Secret – What Joe Koester and Rory Riddler don’t want you to know.” First, Mr. Riddler wasn’t running for office and second, what the mailer contained I wanted everyone to know! Our city’s interests were not represented when state legislation forced us to give away our sewer service without annexation by the recipients of that service. Furthermore, two more claims were bogus – the residents of St. Charles Hills were never in jeopardy of losing service as claimed, our focus was on new development and simply bringing 230 high-end homes into our city to help pay their fair share of taxes for the necessary upgrading of sewer treatment plants.

This leads to the other misrepresented issue, namely, that 230 homes paying a slightly higher sewer rate somehow is a win-win situation for our city. This “benefit” doesn’t come close to the real benefits that annexation would have brought including: added population to our town which can be helpful in obtaining federal grants and assistance; overall added value to our community for bonding issues; and the real estate and property taxes that would have more than made up for the 200 plus homes that Lindenwood’s acquisitions have removed from our books. Finally, a last-minute mailer called me a liar – no explanation, no examples, just name calling at its best or worst. Our campaign’s mailings focused on special interests and education. In other words about voting records and issues – never once did we question the honesty of the other candidate, nor did we simply call names.

Overall, I was happy with the elections - everyone has to admit, it is good to see challenges again in St. Charles County. The Two Party System works better with two parties. Our system will become stronger with campaign finance reform. That may be a long ways off, but you never know...remember when the Berlin Wall came down about fifty years before we thought it would?

City issues were interesting — the higher the pay for the mayor, the stronger the vote in opposition. Also, the community center received a majority vote, however, not the four-sevenths vote necessary to issue bonds. The charter amendments passed. St. Charles County had about 60% of registered voters go to the polls.