Why Can't All Wards Be "Open" Wards?
In the City of St. Louis, Democratic ward committeemen and committeewomen still have a good deal of power. Besides providing access to the occasional patronage job - for white Southsiders, mostly in the Sheriff's Department, and for African-American Northsiders, mostly in Parking Violations - they also nominate candidates in special elections and, often, make candidate endorsements.
But in some cases there is a Democratic ward organization in which members pay dues, attend meetings, and thus get a chance to vote on ward endorsements. This is true of at least the 6th and 28th wards, and probably others as well.
I think now would be a good time for a movement to make increasingly diverse wards like the 20th and 25th open-endorsement wards. Of course, you'd have to pay your dues to the ward organization in order to participate in the vote; but at least you would have some role in the endorsement process. Also, there'd be an army of volunteer footsoldiers to try and do some get-out-the-vote and voter registration work in these wards, where turnout is relatively low and registration is also pretty low.
This kind of change can be accomplished with the current committeepeople, if they are willing. It would actually make them stronger, not weaker, because they could claim their endorsements are backed by more than just their personal preferences.
Open wards would be good for the politicians, good for the activists, and good for the voters. They would increase participation, registration and voter turnout. While demographic issues like high mobility of the low-income African-American population, and non-citizenship of many immigrants, cannot be overlooked, they can perhaps be overcome at least partially by a serious, concentrated voter registration and GOTV effort.
The time to start building up to 2006 and 2008 is now.