Trust Us

Six months after political heavyweights signed an agreement with the Cardinals, a deal is still up in the air

Jean Stussie isn't concerned with naming rights, lease terms or other particulars. She doesn't look it, but she may be the Cardinals' worst enemy.

Standing outside the Clifton Avenue post office a few days before Christmas, Stussie collects signatures at a furious pace. If she gets fewer than 50 an hour, she says, she moves elsewhere, and she's right on target this morning. People are hurrying to mail packages and get to work, but still they stop and sign. Fewer than five people outright refuse her in the space of 45 minutes. At one point, four people are signing petitions at the same time.

Stussie is trying to collect 10,000 or so signatures to put the city's contribution for a new stadium on the ballot in St. Louis. At this rate, she'll have enough signatures in 200 hours, if she works all by herself. But she's not alone. There are others out there just like her, and Stussie, without a trace of braggadocio, predicts that she and her comrades will have enough signatures within a month.

The Coalition Against Public Funding for Stadiums, an ad hoc group that includes Republicans, liberal Democrats and others, says it collected 1,100 signatures with volunteer help before hiring signature gatherers such as Stussie about a month ago. Fred Lindecke, a coalition member and retired Post-Dispatch reporter, calls this a David-and-Goliath battle. Then again, a Post poll last spring showed that 75 percent of the city's residents oppose public subsidies for a new ballpark.

Shrewsbury concedes that a public vote could be disastrous for the deal. "I think that has the potential for being a major roadblock," he says. "If the voters of St. Louis clearly say no, everybody, I think, would have to reassess their position."

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