MDP Progressive Caucus

Many of us Progressives have felt adrift since we lost “our only hope”, Bernie Sanders.  The hardest blow came when Donald Trump took the presidency from Hillary Clinton.  But today in Jefferson City, with the formation of the Missouri Democratic Party’s Progressive Caucus, we were formally given a voice within the Democratic Party.  We are truly and officially empowered to begin shaping good policies for ALL Missourians.  This was a heart-warming and much-needed reunion.  My mind and spirit are re-ignited, and I’m honored to continue the revolution alongside so many passionate, hard-working, inspiring people!

MDPBernieReunionPhoto by Anne-Sophie Liberman, courtesy of Rae English

Get On The Bus Campaign Kick-Off

Come out and support Natalie Vowell for STL City School Board!  If you don’t already know Natalie, this is your chance to meet and learn more about the local activist who will turn our city’s schools around.  Together, we WILL change the future!

Thursday, January 26th
7pm – 10pm
Yaquis on Cherokee (click for map)
2728 Cherokee Street, 63118
FREE to attend – Donations appreciated!
RSVP on Facebook (optional)

Enjoy pizza, cocktails, and community conversations with us at Yaquis on Cherokee.   The Social Justice Bus will be on site.  Register to vote or update your voter information, and support a Black-owned northside business.  Ma’De Life will have locally made t-shirts on hand for sale.

Time to party with a purpose!   #VoteVowell

END the School-To-Prison Pipeline!

On January 1st, 2017, a Missouri new state statute took effect.  Under this new law, school officials will no longer treat schoolyard scuffles as minor offenses. Students may now be charged with a felony for assault, regardless of their age or grade.

This is a preposterous policy proposed by heartless, unrealistic, out-of-touch authoritarians; it only perpetuates and fortifies the #SchoolToPrisonPipeline.  And (newsflash) it would apply to low-income rural white kids just as it would urban African American kids.

So often, especially with young/adolescent kids, it’s hard to tell who actually initiated the fight or caused an injury. (Parents with multiple kids can attest to the difficulty of determining “who started it”. Imagine being a teacher with 20+ kids to keep an eye on, their guilt or innocence entirely in your hands.)

Some of these students are defending themselves against bullies; others are coping with stress-related behavioral problems caused by circumstances beyond their control, such as divorce or the death of a family member.

This policy seems to leave little room for due process, and even if a student manages to overcome their hurdles to graduate, he or she will leave high school with a felony?!
The point-fingers-and-penalize approach is administrative overreach far beyond the scope of our schools’ primary purpose: informing and uplifting our kids. Doling out felonies is NOT education.

If school administrators want to get more involved, they should offer counseling and conflict resolution, NOT stricter punishments that leave a lasting negative impact, effectively ruining the lives of the very children we trust them to protect.


#VoteVowell on April 4th.



For more information, please see the links below:
https://thinkprogress.org/missouri-school-felonies-d840e8ec7242#.vxw6307pi
http://www.moga.mo.gov/mostatutes/stathtml/55800000111.html

 



 

Natalie Elected as DNC Bernie Delegate

I am honored and humbled to represent Bernie Sanders alongside Alderwoman Megan Green at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia!  Tonight’s election proved that smart people with good hearts and cheap technology can defeat archaic institutions.  Thanks to everyone who came out to elect the right people!


Photo by Jason Rosenbaum, originally posted here:
http://news.stlpublicradio.org/post/trail-tying-loose-ends-missouris-congressional-caucuses#stream/0

Saving Mr. Fisher’s House

Natalie and the Project Raise The Roof team have been advocating for Mr. Fisher, a Navy Veteran who has fallen on hard times and recently lost his home to the Sheriff’s auction for back taxes.  We’re happy to announce the St. Louis Land Reutilization Authority has agreed to accept the money we raised allow Mr. Fisher to keep his home of 35 years.

More on this story from St. Louis Magazine.

 

SAB Seeks Disastrous Property Tax Increase

On April 5th, 2016, St. Louis citizens will have the chance to vote on a property tax increase.  The tax increase was proposed by the  St. Louis Public School District’s Special Administrative Board, and filed with the Board of Election Commissioners—without consulting the Elected School Board members.  As of today, the full ballot language was still unavailable from the Board of Elections website, and a phone call confirmed that the election was “too far away” for any further information to be made public.  (UPDATE: Full ballot language is still not published on the Board of Elections website, but IT CAN BE READ HERE.  It will be called “Proposition 1” and is going to ballot as-is, with NO clause to account for low income homeowners or low-value properties.)

Proposition1

As an across-the-board property tax increase, this will backfire.  It will only serve to push low income homeowners into the danger zone of tax auction forfeiture, and further devour our already-dwindling population.   The Post-Dispatch article states, “the 75-cent tax increase would raise property taxes an additional $142.50 a year for the owner of a $100,000 home”.  While $142 may be a mere inconvenience to St. Louis’s more affluent homeowners, amounts as small as $25 are already dire straits for the poor.  Current property tax rates are already forcing homeowners in our poorest neighborhoods—those who rely most on our public schools—into delinquency, and they face the very real risk of losing their homes.  Low income families (or houses appraised at under $35,000) should be exempt from this real estate tax increase.  Otherwise, what seems like a reasonable goal will be fraught with unintended consequences.

Numerous studies have shown that kids with stable home environments—those who don’t move around from house to house or school to school—perform higher not just on standardized tests, but are overall better learners in class.  Education is important, but not when comes at the cost of a family losing their fully-paid-off home and becoming perpetually transient.
The SAB is out of control and out of touch.  Please join me in asking the Special Administrative Board to reconsider this by calling them 314-345-2230.  If they don’t listen, please vote NO on Proposition 1 when you cast your ballot on April 5th.  Voting NO does not mean you don’t support education. Voting NO means you oppose perpetuating cyclical poverty in St. Louis.

Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com

Read the St. Louis Post-Dispatch article here:
http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/st-louis-school-officials-go-for-a-property-tax-increase/article_b9d64be3-4d77-57cb-bb66-98ad3b6debf4.html

Hop On The Social Justice Bus!

Yesterday, I attended an outdoor industrial vehicle/heavy equipment auction in rural Missouri with my husband, who was looking to purchase a work truck.  When we arrived at the auction lot, a school bus caught my eye…and my mind ran wild with all kinds of grand community-oriented uses for it.

None of the guys on the lot were able to get the bus’s engine to turn over.  So I called my grandmother, who has owned several school buses over the years, to ask for advice.  Over the phone, Nanny gave me a couple tricks to try, and it started right up.  (That’s right, a sweet little old lady knew how to do what none of the men at the auction could figure out.  But let’s not gloat too much about Girl Power here, ladies.)  I placed a bid, and no other bidders—believing this big yellow junk heap would never run—offered any competition.

For $1,200 (even less than I’ve paid for any regular car I’ve ever purchased), I became the owner of a 1994 International school bus with only 100K miles on it!  I could get people to the polls, use it as a mobile campaign headquarters for voter registration, or take even more people with me on trips to Jefferson City to meet their legislators.  The possibilities are endless.  I’m ecstatic, and can’t wait for you all to hop on the bus with me as we drive St. Louis forward!


This was the sign I held at the Ferguson protests.  What better place for it than on the Social Justice Bus?

 


Prepare for takeoff!  The Social Justice Bus was driven to its state inspection appointment by educator, licensed CDL driver, and fellow female Progressive—my friend Sarah.



First mission accomplished!  Can’t wait for more activism with this big, beautiful, yellow bargain on wheels…  Stay tuned! 

School Board Candidate Forum

This evening, the AFT Local 420 and the League of Women Voters hosted a forum for School Board Candidates at Carr Lane Visual Performing Arts Middle School.  It was a pleasure answering voters’ questions.  These events are essential to informing and empowering citizens to choose the right candidates.

“The problem with our schools is not just policies or test scores.  The root of our problems runs much deeper, and that is what we must work to heal.  I’m on the front lines of poverty and education issues every day.  Whether I’m knee-deep in vacant northside buildings, removing dead animals and debris to help a low-income family become homeowners, or loading unwanted electronics onto a truck and building recycled computers for kids who lack technology access, I do whatever it takes.  I never quit.  I’m available 24 hours per day.  I want to bring my passion and energy for these issues to elected office to empower our youth and parents in poverty.  I encourage you all to get to know me one-on-one.  I’m a full-time volunteer, eager to take your calls–day or night.  Thank you for having me, and I hope I have earned your vote this evening.”
– Natalie A. Vowell (Closing Statement)

natalie-signature-small

forumThank you to all who helped organize this event and everyone who attended.

forum 2A very special thanks to C-Sharp and the
#VoteVowell team members who came out to support me!

Photos courtesy of Will Leeway.

Twitter snagThanks also to Jacob McDaniel for the realtime Twitter coverage.

You may read the STL Today article here:
http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/candidates-for-st-louis-school-board-discuss-how-to-make/article_d4747e0a-6a2e-5efa-850b-e2f805aae4a8.html