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Some of This Year's Low-Key Municipal Elections Will Have Big Consequences

Proposition B asks to voters to allow their local city or county to continue collecting sales tax on cars bought out of state
File photo | St. Louis Public Radio
Those headed to the polls in St. Louis in 2012 will be voting in an election run by a different St. Louis Board of Elections. Three new members were named today by Gov. Jay Nixon. (via Flickr/ Daniel Morrison)

Municipal elections are when the public elects local leaders, school board members and approves tax and bond issues. They often have important races but rarely inspire great public turnout.

But this year several school board races are expected to be particularly consequential.

In Normandy, a school district whose very existence is up in the air, three seats on the school board are being contested. At issue is whether the incumbents should have handled the transfer situation differently. One of the incumbent board members actually took the unusual step in February of urging voters to turn the current board members out and vote for any of the challengers instead.

In Ferguson-Florissant, the school board races have been influenced by the controversy over the popular but now departed superintendent, Art McCoy. In part, the discussion about McCoy has been about race. He is African American, as is a majority of the Ferguson-Florissant student body, but no members of the current school board are black. All three members of the slate in the race are black.

Dale Singer has reported extensively on these races.

Still, overall turnout is expected to be low on April 8, as it has been in past April elections.

For context, turnout is generally between 12 and 15 percent in St. Louis County.

"I will tell you, if we get to 20 percent, I'll be extremely happy," said Rita Days, the Democratic director of the St. Louis County Election Board. "We have to make the same preparations if 90 percent of the people show up or if 10 percent of the people come out, so I hope that people will come out."

In the Kirkwood City Council race, at least one name has recognition. Jayson Thornton, the nephew of "Cookie" Thornton, is hoping for a spot on the council. In 2008, "Cookie" Thornton killed five people in a shooting rampage at Kirkwood City Hall before being shot and killed.

In an interview with the Post-Dispatch, Jayson Thornton said he didn't want his uncle to define him.

“It doesn’t matter what my name is,” said Jayson Thornton, who is one of five to file for the three Kirkwood council spots on the April ballot. “This is where I’m from, this is where my father is from, this is where my uncles are from. It’s the beauty of living in America.”

Meanwhile in University City, there are a few contested ward races. Jo Mannies has reported on the "rivalries" that are on display.

In University City, the firefighters and the regional Fraternal Order of Police have endorsed Jeff Hales in the First Ward, against incumbent Stephen Kraft, and Dennis Fuller in the Second Ward, against incumbent L. Michael Glickert. City officials and Hales tangled in court after the city declined to certify him for the ballot because of a dispute over his residency; a judge ordered that Hales be restored to the ballot.

"I'm not sure why people don't think it's important," Days said. "Because this is when you elect those closest to the people. It's extremely important for those who are in those municipalities."

Supporters of a controversial "Take Back St. Louis" ballot initiativebarring the city from offering incentives to companies that extract non-renewable resources had hoped it would it be on the April 8 ballot. But a  judge has temporarily halted the measure over concerns of its constitutionality.

What you need to know

Follow Chris McDaniel on Twitter@csmcdaniel