Tuesday, March 7, 2017


The St. Louis School Board Campaign Update  (from St Louis Schools Watch, Susan Turk)

When we reported about the school board race in January all of the candidates had not yet filed.  There are now seven candidates with the addition of incumbent and Board Member Susan Jones filing for re-election. The others running are James Reece, Dorothy Rohde-Collins, Brian Wallner, Natalie Vowell, incumbent Board Member Bill Monroe, and former Board Member David Jackson. Tuesday, April 4, 2017 is election day.

Correction:  In the January 9th edition of the Watch we erroneously reported that Natalie Vowell,  “ran for state rep in the 78th district in 2014 but was removed from the ballot for not meeting a requirement for the office.”  Natalie was re-instated by court order.  She went on to lose the election however.

Vowell asked to be able to respond to what we reported in the January 9th Watch.  Her statement follows.
Thank you for including me in your latest post.  I have some follow up comments in regard to a couple of factual inaccuracies and circumstances that were mischaracterized or grossly blown out of proportion.

1. I ran for 78th District state rep in 2014 after traveling to Jefferson City numerous times since 2013 for environmental causes and cannabis reform, always unable to reach my state representative.  After searching for other candidates and finding none, it finally became apparent I would have to file myself because such a corrupt and unresponsive dynasty incumbent could not go unopposed.  Even if I had little experience or chance of winning, I am not one to sit down in the face of injustice and allow the Keepers Of The Status Quo to steamroll our most marginalized citizens.

2. With assistance from the ACLU of Missouri, David Roland—the same attorney who represented Bruce Franks in 2016—represented me in my lawsuit against Secretary of State Jason Kander in 2014.  Vowell v. Kander asserted that the Secretary of State had not followed the proper statutes to remove a candidate's name from the ballot.  The case was initially thrown out in Cole County, but the Missouri Western District Court of Appeals unanimously ruled in our favor, and the Missouri Supreme Court upheld that decision.  How fortunate that, in 2016, the 78th District had access to a legal superhero to finally take down the Hubbard Regime!  An event that may never have happened were it not for my involvement with Bruce Franks, Rasheen Aldridge, and David Roland.  Perhaps we should focus on happy outcomes and recent successes rather than belaboring old news.

3. I have been active in non-profit work since 2011.  In 2013, many people hoped I would run for City School Board, as the position was directly relevant to the mission statement of the organization I worked for at the time (WITS, Inc.), which provided free or low-cost recycled computers to low-income students and families.  Some friends and supporters even wanted to write my name in, but I chose instead to focus my efforts on my upcoming campaign against Penny Hubbard.  I am passionate about for municipal policy, but my "political ambitions" begin and end with putting the non-profit I founded, Project Raise The Roof, out of business completely—by eliminating the need for our services entirely.  Our city treats low-income homeowners as second-class citizens, and that directly impacts the quality of our public schools.  As an elected School Board member, I would like to see our city stop regarding the Northside as a wasteland full of expendable derelicts, and instead focus on funding the few remaining neighborhood schools here.

4. I do NOT support "supply side economics".  (In fact, I had to look up what that even meant.)  Perhaps you are confused about my stance on "lowering taxes".  When asked whether I would support an across-the-board property tax increase, I refused.  I firmly believe that taxing the wealthy—dare I say even raising taxes for the wealthy—without raising taxes for the poor will generate more revenue for our schools.  Lowering taxes across the board would not be effective for funding schools; nor would raising taxes across the board.  Rather, we should consider a lower tax rate for low-income homeowners, senior citizens and veterans on fixed incomes, and owners of low-value properties (many of whom inherited these generations-old family homes as their only asset).  St. Louis City's harsh penalty of taking away the homes of people who fall just 3 years behind (often only a few hundred dollars) on their property taxes should be closely re-examined.  The punishment does not fit the crime.  When those homes become property of the City, they are removed from the tax rolls entirely, and the Land Reutilization Authority actually pays Eagle Realty, owned by everyone’s favorite TIF-recipient Paul McKee, to "maintain" the properties; neighborhoods become increasingly deserted, dotted with dangerous, vacant eyesores; and it becomes unfeasible to keep neighborhood schools open due to lack of population density.  We need to keep as many properties as possible on the tax rolls, generating revenue for our schools, rather than converting those assets to City-owned burdens on taxpayers at the expense of our students.  You can find a very plain and clear statement on this topic here:

5. You state that I am "surrounded by a close circle of associates with political ambitions".  I would like to know what activist isn't?  My husband, Robert Vroman, and friend Erik Shelquist are hardly typical Republicans.  Due specifically to their involvement, the St. Louis City GOP had a booth at the Soulard Hispanic Festival in 2015 and 2016; they became the first ever county level Republican Party to have a booth at their local Pridefest in 2014 and again in 2015.  Robert and Erik have both lobbied at the State Capitol for various cannabis legalization bills, among other examples. The common enemy of a self-interested political establishment binds genuine activists of all parties together, including my fellow progressive Bernie supporters.  I am proud of what my “close associates” and I have accomplished together and separately.

Whether I earn your support or not, I hope you will take the time to share the above with your readers so that they may make their own informed decisions, based on accurate facts.  Thank you.

Natalie Vowell

The Editor again. The property tax increase for the city schools which city voters approved in 2016 exempted owners on fixed incomes.  In Vowell’s campaign literature she advocates for lower property taxes for senior citizens and veterans.  The tax is already lower.  Vowell does not specify how much lower she wants them to be and she does not differentiate between low income seniors and veterans and high income seniors and veterans.   Lowering property taxes for a broad class of owners would deprive the children in the SLPS of millions of dollars of revenue.  Vowel is pitting the needs of low income property owners against the needs of low income children.  This is a complex issue which our representatives are trying to address in an equitable way as evidenced by last year’s tax referendum. One would hope that the voters would choose to elect citizens to the board of education whose priority consideration is for the children in the SLPS.