Friday, December 19, 2003

After a busy semester, I'm back in the blog world.

I find myself in Brentwood, MO more often than I'd like these days. Not that I have anything particular against this city founded in 1919, of only 2.5 square miles and about 7,700 residents.

Despite its small size, the "City of Warmth" is a full-service suburb, with its own police and fire departments, an independent public library, and a parks and recreation system including 15-acre Memorial Park, 13-acre Brentwood Park, four smaller parks, a parkway on a former streetcar right-of-way, and a flagship recreation center complete with an indoor ice arena. Brentwood even has its own zip code, 63144.

All these great services are paid for by tax revenues no doubt enhanced by folks like me, from outside Brentwood, who spend our disposable income there at a variety of retailers.

Many of these retailers have no locations in the City of St. Louis, so Brentwood gets our dollars. Brentwood is home to the big box stores that Clayton doesn't want or need and that came along after Richmond Heights' Westroads Shopping Center morphed into the big fancy St. Louis Galleria, "Where the Best Stores Put Their Best Store."

It helps that Brentwood is adjacent to one of the most congested highway junctions in the St. Louis region, at Highway 40 and I-170 (the Innerbelt).

Brentwood is home to some major chains where I find myself going because there's no equivalent in or near my neighborhood.

-- PetsMart
-- Borders Books & Music
-- Organized Living
-- Target Greatland
-- Dierbergs Supermarket
-- Romano's Macaroni Grill
-- Whole Foods Market
-- Cost Plus World Market
-- Gateway Country
-- Circuit City

Not to mention a number of other stores where I do not shop but which also do not have a St. Louis City location.

To make it worse, these stores are concentrated close together in three shopping centers along Eager Road, a highly congested outer road for Highway 40 and connector route between Brentwood Blvd., I-170 and Hanley Rd.

The centers are all named for their location: Brentwood Square, Brentwood Pointe, and Brentwood Promenade. The three centers are not connected to each other, so driving is essential to get from one to another.

The Pointe and the Promenade are actually next to each other, but the Pointe is about 30 feet higher in elevation, separated from the Promenade by a concrete retaining wall. At least both of them have a back exit to Hanley Industrial Court, but for the uninitiated, that's a recipe for getting lost quickly.

The Promenade even has a Brentwood Blvd. entrance via Rose Ave. that also provides a direct connection to the Square, avoiding Eager entirely. But that route is also not well-known. So the traffic snarls along Eager, a not-so-eager arterial road.

And yes Target does have a Hampton Ave. at Chippewa St. store, but it has degraded in quality over the past year or two, partly because a new Target Greatland is supposed to be built on the site.

Also I sometimes go to the Home Depot on Hanley Rd. in Brentwood when the S. Kingshighway store in the City is out of stock on something, which seems to happen pretty often lately.

Yes, I know there are alternatives to the big box chain stores, but sometimes the big boxes do have better prices and longer hours, even if they are not all that convenient to access.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Although a lot can happen between now and November 2004, Missouri Democrat women appear poised to take a number of high-level positions.

Robin Carnahan is running for Secretary of State. The name certainly can't hurt, and she's arguably the most visible and talented of the Carnahan children. The family of course is from Rolla, but the children now live in St. Louis, Russ a state representative and Tom a real estate developer.

In the wake of a citizen draft campaign, State Auditor Claire McCaskill has announced her candidacy for Governor. Although some might argue that this is a foolish challenge to fellow Democrat, Governor Bob Holden, the reality is that the distinctly uncharismatic Holden is very vulnerable to any challenger. Claire would be way more effective in taking on the Republican candidate, Matt Blunt, the current Secretary of State and son of Roy Blunt, US Representative from the GOP stronghold of Missouri, the Bible-belt southwest region including Springfield and Branson.

Claire McCaskill has been very politically astute, in running for (and winning) offices that tend to be popular with the citizenry. She was Jackson County prosecutor, then State Auditor. Both are positions that most people see as fighting to protect their interests, whether it's fighting crime or fighting government waste. She is from a political family as well, primarily based in the Columbia, MO area.

And State Treasurer Nancy Farmer, one-time state representative, and executive director of the Skinker-DeBaliviere Community Council, is making a bid for U.S. Senate, running against Kit Bond.

Interesting times, with the potential to greatly raise the profile of women in Missouri's Democratic Party.

So, maybe we can get a better candidate for the 3rd District US Representative seat?

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

What a day -

California Recall election - I won't predict the results, but it's scary to think Arnold Schwarzenegger might just win - assuming Gray Davis is recalled. Quite an interesting ride ahead for that state, whatever happens.

Meanwhile, there was also a vote to strike by UFCW Local 655 in St. Louis. This means dramatically reduced hours at Schnucks, Shop N Save and Dierbergs markets.

UFCW Local 655 has a list of other union grocers in St. Louis where you can shop. They include Straub's and Foodland Warehouse Foods, at Jefferson and Lafayette and 6155 S. Grand at Iron St.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Some fast facts about the City of Saint Louis, MO.


Census 2000 Population: 348,189

American Community Survey 2002 Estimated Population: 327,820.
(estimate excludes "institutions, college dormitories, and other group quarters". Those groups accounted for 10,632 St. Louisans in Census 2000).

So, to compare apples to apples:

Census 2000 Population in Households: 337,557

ACS 2002 Estimated Population: 327,820 (repeated for clarity)

That suggests a decline of about 10 thousand people living in households, or just under 3%.

This is only an estimate, and estimates are often way off. But it does remind us that the City population is probably still declining.

More data about the City (this again from Census 2000):

Racial composition:

51% African-American
44% Caucasian
2% Hispanic-Latino (although not a 'race' in Census terms)
2% Asian-American
2% Two-or-more races


25% of the population lives in poverty.

According to the 2002 ACS, the percent of the population could now be between 20% and 28%. Of course, this is a crude calculation I made, based on the 'high' and 'low' estimates of total population and total population in poverty.

But to be sure, there are at least 60,000, and perhaps as many as 90,000, St. Louisans living in poverty by Census estimates. Other sources may be more exact.


Census 2000 also shows a large number of City residents live with disabilities.

25% of the population lives with at least one disabling condition.
In the population aged 65-and-up, that proportion jumps to 49%.


83% of all housing units are occupied.

80% of all housing units were built prior to 1960.

49% of all housing units were built prior to 1940.

While many of us think of historic housing as our greatest asset, it may be distressing to realize that 31% of the City's housing units, nearly 54,000 units, were built in the 1940s and 1950s. These are the same kinds of houses that are slowly decaying in many inner-ring suburbs; is the same true here? Unquestionably, we need to preserve as much of our historic fabric as possible. But one must wonder what we will do about aging housing stock that doesn't qualify as historic, such as those tiny bungalows spread around South St. Louis. They are to the point they need new roofs, plumbing, electrical, etc.

40% of all housing units are single-family, detached houses.

47% of all housing units are owner-occupied. (So, there are still at least

63% of owner-occupied houses have mortgages.

21% of those mortgaged, owner-occupied houses have 'owner costs' (mainly the mortgage payment) of over 30% of monthly income.

We tend to think of City housing as affordable, but this data suggests that at least 10,000 homeowners pay more than they should (by HUD standards) on a monthly basis for their homes.

Of course, this is not as bad as renters' situations, where 40%, more than 40,000 households, pay more than 30% of their monthly income in rent. Nevertheless, it does show that even in a comparatively affordable housing market like the City of St. Louis, some homeowners will struggle to pay for other needs in addition to housing.

Friday, September 19, 2003

I hate to say this - but downtown Clayton, MO is actually functional.

Since I'm now a PhD student in the Department of Political Science at Washington University, I have occasion to head to Clayton more often than in my past lives.

I just hop on the Wash U Shuttle to the "West Campus" (better known as the old Clayton Famous-Barr store) on Forsyth. At the West Campus one will find the West Campus Library and Archives, which house a plethora of obscure publications, for me the most significant being dissertations of WU Phd graduates.

Then I can walk from the West Campus complex a few blocks west to the core of Clayton, around the County Government Center.

Just today, I walked to the US Post Office on Maryland, then a block down to the Mid-County Branch of St. Louis County Library, then another block to the First Bank on Meramec.

Sure, there are districts in St. Louis City where a similar pattern - library, post office, bank within three blocks - exists. South Grand is one example, although there the bank is Commerce, which is not a favorite.

Anyway, Clayton is still somewhat walkable, although with so many SUVs scurrying across the landscape, one must be observant. While I was at the post office, two SUVs nearly backed into each other while leaving spaces on the parking lot.

But perhaps this points out that maybe the inner-ring suburbs aren't all that different from the City in the design of their commercial districts. Clayton, University City, Maplewood, even to some extent Richmond Heights near Big Bend and Clayton Rd., have pedestrian-scale business districts. Areas like Lemay, Wellston, Pine Lawn, and Jennings used to have such districts, but they have been eviscerated by years of neglect and demolition. Ferguson and Florissant both have old town districts of some interest. And of course there's Kirkwood, and Webster Groves with three shopping strips (Old Webster, Old Orchard, and the smaller Webster Crossing district on Big Bend between Elm and Gore).

In any event, this is just to say that many of the issues that concern urban business districts also concern some suburbs. And that some suburbs can be convenient for pedestrians.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Why do I love the City of St. Louis?

1) On Monday, my fiancee' and I heard "Peace Tonight" by the Indigo Girls.

Do you know where?

In the menswear department at the JC Penney in Hampton Village.

Although it's not the biggest Penney's around, it is still a pretty decent store. We found nice argyle socks marked down to $3.99 a pair. I love argyle socks.

According to the City's official history of the neighborhood, the JC Penney store was built in 1950, making it one year older than the late lamented Southtown Famous-Barr store.

2) St. Frances Cabrini Academy is the new name for the Roman Catholic elementary school at 3022 Oregon Ave and Arsenal St, which I pass by almost daily on my way to the bus stop. It serves six South St. Louis parishes now, and is perhaps one of the most diverse Catholic schools around. On the playground I've seen white, black, Asian, and Hispanic children, which is indeed reflective of the surrounding neighborhoods. Now that Garfield School on Wyoming St. at S. Jefferson Ave. is closing, St. Frances Cabrini is the closest thing to a 'neighborhood school' by my house.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

New on the web:

City of St. Louis FY2004 Budget

City of St. Louis Sex Offender Registry

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Just how much of St. Louis do the Roberts Brothers - Mike and Steve - own?

Well, there's:
- Roberts-Roberts & Associates, a consulting firm hired by the St. Louis Cardinals to help them find minority contractors for the new ballpark.

- Roberts Old School House L.P., the corporation developing the old St. Louis Public Schools main administrative offices at 911 Locust into high-end lofts.

- Lots of property along North Kingshighway, both at Delmar and at Page/Martin Luther King. The latter corner is the site of the old Northside Sears store at 1408 N. Kingshighway Blvd., now in their ownership and named the Victor Roberts Building in honor of their father. Adjacent to the Victor Roberts Building is a shopping center called Roberts Village. These properties are in the hands of Roberts Brothers Properties LLC and a number of sequels (i.e., Roberts Brothers Properties IV LLC). Much of the property the Roberts own at N Kingshighway and Delmar is part of the shopping center area developed initially in the late 1970s and early 1980s by Union Sarah Economic Development Corporation (USEDC). That's called Roberts Plaza LLC.

- Mike's home on Lindell facing Forest Park, and Steve's home on Westmoreland Place, both million-dollar houses.

- Roberts Broadcasting Company, which includes the local UPN affiliate channel 46 as well as TV stations in Utah, New Mexico and South Carolina.

A rumor in today's Jerry Berger column has the Roberts brothers interested in buying the St. Louis Argus, the oldest African-American weekly newspaper in St. Louis. Multimedia potential, hm?

There's probably other investments as well. An article from three years ago in a US Department of Transportation newsletter profiles the companies' then senior vice-president,
Kay Gabbert.

It's no wonder their operations received Mayor Slay's Spirit of St. Louis Award.

Of course not everybody in the St. Louis political world loves them. After all, Mike Roberts, ran for president of the Board of Aldermen in 1983, when he was 19th ward alderman. Lana Stein, in St. Louis Politics: the Triumph of Tradition, described Mike Roberts as a protege' of JB "Jet" Banks, 19th ward committeeman and state senator. Mike ran again for that slot in 1987, losing by sixty votes (this, again from Lana's book). In '83, Mike had lukewarm support from Congressman William L Clay, then ultimate powerbroker in St. Louis African-American politics. In '87, Clay did not support him at all. Nevertheless, Mike Roberts ran for mayor in 1989 against Vince Schoemehl.

Even more recently, Steve Roberts ran for mayor in 1993. He got the endorsement of only one alderman at the time, Paul Beckerle, of the white Southside 25th ward. Neither Mike nor Steve had much success in getting African-American ward organization backing in their citywide races.

Yet, it seems they've done quite well in the business world.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Some contractors I do recommend and have had good luck with:

Southwestern Electric - Tom Frisella, (314) 776-5252.

St. Louis City Roofing - George Turner, (314) 865-1985.

Miller Plumbing - Tom Winker, (314) 352-0000.

I used Ryan Heating & Cooling last week, but only for an emergency. Have not heard good things about them in general. (314) 352-1111.
Since I've been burned by bad contractors lately, here's some consumer tips.

With any contractor, be sure to check out the following:

Better Business Bureau complaint records (also find out if they're a
BBB member)

Secretary of State business entities (does the business really exist?)

Plumbing and electrical - do they have a City of St. Louis license?
They are supposed to say so in their advertising. But confirm by
calling (314) 622-3325 (City Building Div Electrical Section) or
(314) 622-4356 (City Building Div Plumbing Section).

Do a Google search for their name (+city, if
necessary) to see if anything comes up. You never know what you might

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

School closings are coming, and numerous properties will be sold off by the St. Louis Public Schools.

In some ways, this is probably a good thing. Many of the buildings are not used much, if at all. Some could likely fetch a decent price; others might not. For example, the St. Louis Public Schools greenhouse complex at 3808 Blow St. and the former Lindenwood Elementary School at 3815 McCausland Ave., are both in relatively high land-value locations. Lindenwood might not be a bad candidate for condominium conversion. The Greenhouse site could be retained as a public open space and perhaps upgraded by an interested group, or perhaps it could be a site for new construction housing development.

But it does seem silly to close schools like Garfield Elementary at 2612 Wyoming and Jefferson. It is in the heart of the South St. Louis areas where many public school students live. It is 70% occupied, has a decent capacity of 270, albeit below the 300 student capacity target set by the new management team. It is only 66 years old, a school building from the 1930s like numerous others.

The new management team of Alvarez and Marsal seems to be very short-sighted. They are focusing on cutting costs now, with little thought to future needs given the thousands of students who will be returning to city schools as the desegregation program winds down.

Complex issues, to be sure. I just wonder - is the former CEO of Brooks Brothers, Bill Roberti, the best person to be making decisions that will affect the lives of our children and the image of our neighborhoods for decades to come?

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Well, pretty soon, both Vince Schoemehl and Carl Officer will be back in elected office.

And George Bush is president, during a war.

Next thing you know I'll be going back to fourth grade in Ms. D'Amato's class at Mallinckrodt ABI.


Friday, April 04, 2003

More April 8th Ballot Items:

Also on the April 8th ballot in the City of St. Louis are:

General Election for Board of Aldermen.

Jim Shrewsbury (Democrat) faces Don DeVivo (Green) for President of the Board of Aldermen. I've met Don DeVivo - he's involved with Forest Park Southeast, where he lives, as well as being a real estate developer of sorts in the Wellston and Northwest City areas. He's an interesting character, and his main issue is the City's not redeveloping vacant property fast enough. Perhaps he has some valid points, but I still like Jim.

Most ward races are uncontested. However, in Ward 4 incumbent Peggy Ryan is facing an independent, Norma Leggette. I don't know anything about Ms. Leggette. I assume she is not related to Ronald A. Leggett, Collector of Revenue, although it's unfortunate their names are similar. Mr. Leggett, who is white, ran several ads in the South Side Journal during the November 2002 campaign, that were quite racist, against his opponent, Howard Hayes. Hayes, chair of the Land Reutilization Authority board and a St. Louis Public Schools employee, is African-American and lives in Soulard.

In Ward 24, incumbent Tom Bauer faces a Green Party opponent, Bud Deraps.

And in Ward 16, Jim Shrewsbury's turf, Democrat Donna Baringer faces Republican Carol Wilson. This race may be competitive - the 16th used to be Republican before young Shrewsbury was elected in 1983. He has backed Baringer, but Carol Wilson has plenty of friends in St. Louis Hills and Southampton, since she helped establish and coordinate one of the more popular events in the area, the annual Francis Park "Run for the Hills." Southampton Neighborhood Association president Phil Klevorn has endorsed her, but that's probably because of the bad blood between him and Jim Shrewsbury over the Southtown Famous-Barr site. Klevorn was a leader in the Southtown Coalition which pushed for development of multiple, pedestrian-friendly shops on the site. Their proposal was similar to what is actually to be developed on the site. Shrewsbury backed a K-Mart, because it would mean jobs and sales tax revenue quickly. Shrewsbury endorsed Donna Baringer, rather than Steve Malle, who got the 16th Ward Democratic Organization endorsement, but placed 3rd in the Democratic primary in March 2003.

Perhaps the most exciting ward race is in Ward 21, where a recall was held in March, and Melinda Long was ousted. Not to be deterred, Melinda is running for the seat again, as an independent. Two other independent candidates also filed - Bennice Jones King, who Melinda beat four years ago, and the leader of the recall petition drive; and Linda Primer, one of the leaders of the O'Fallon neighborhood group. She maintains the O'Fallon website, and works with The Neighborhood Council, which is a block grant funded development organization in the 3rd Ward. The Democratic nominee for the special election is Fernandel French, part of the French family that includes his mother 21st Ward committeewoman Myrtle French, and his brother, school board candidate Antonio French. Along North Newstead in the 21st, signs have sprouted which simply say "Vote French". (Next thing you know, Jacques Chirac will be running for alderman).

Then there are the Bond Issues. Although no tax increases are proposed citywide, the proposals are:

$2 Billion in bonds for Lambert Airport expansion. A lot of money. All City employees received a letter from the members of the Board of Estimate and Apportionment (Shrewsbury, Mayor Slay, and Comptroller Darlene Green) asking for support.

$120 Million in bonds for air conditioning in selected St.Louis Public Schools. Seems like bad timing, with a big school board election as well. And frequent City voters received full color large format postcards about the bond issue asking "Do Our Children Deserve to Learn in a Healthy Environment?", and asserting, among other things, that air conditioning helps prevent asthma attacks. Guess they've never heard of Sick Building Syndrome. And the kicker: In tiny type at the bottom, the mailer claims to "neither support, advocate, nor oppose" the bond issue. This despite the obviously leading question, and the big checkmark next to the word "YES."

Also there's a City charter amendment to increase the maximum purchasing amount without competitive bids from $250 to $5,000. It's a big jump, but only because it hasn't been changed, I think, since the charter was adopted in 1914. So it's a change long overdue, but it's failed several times before. I would vote yes, but in these financially tough times, others may not.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Additions and Corrections to my previous post:

It's PETER Downs running for school board, not Anthony Downs. Anthony Downs, of course, is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington who wrote such volumes as Racism in America (1970) and Stuck in Traffic (1992). He has no significant connections to St.Louis, as far as I know.

Also the Peter Downs - Antonio French - Mary Ann McGivern slate has a web site at
This blog is NOT dead! And I'm still alive too. I just have gotten really busy in my personal life, and with the War in Iraq, decided not to pay attention to the news as much, for the sake of my own sanity.

However, I do wish to comment on the upcoming St. Louis Board of Education campaign.

See the Board of Elections web site for the list of candidates.

There are 17 or 18 people running for Board of Education. The discrepancy comes because it appears Yolanda Brown - formerly on the slate backed by Amy Hilgemann - has not only dropped from the slate, but may have dropped out of the race. However, her name is still on the published ballot.

Of the 17 candidates, 8 are running for a three-year term. There are two slots for the three-year term.

The other 9 candidates (with Brown it would be 10) are running for a four-year term. Also two slots open.

The South Side Journal today ran pics and profiles of each candidate, so I can tell that of the 17 candidates:

- Only 6 are African-American (in a district with 80%-plus African-American student body).
- Only 3 live in North St. Louis (that is, north of Delmar Blvd.), where the largest percentage of the students are still concentrated.
- The youngest candidate is Antonio French at age 25 (a 1995 graduate of CBC high school) - he is running on the Hilgemann slate called "Coalition for Excellence in Education."

Other candidates in their 20s and 30s are: Elizabeth Crowley, 28, who was the candidate initially back by the unions until the mayor's slate was finalized; Curtis Royston III, who I believe is in his mid-30s, and is a confidante of Greg Carter, 27th Ward Alderman; and David DeVore, 36, one of two 'neighborhood schools' advocates running. The other anti-busing candidate is Bob Volz. Neither DeVore nor Volz - at age 77, the oldest candidate running - will get my vote. That race-baiting position is about 15 years out of date in this race.

I really want to like Antonio French. He's smart, he's politically experienced, a downtown dweller, and about my age. But the Public Defender newspaper he started, as promising as it sounded, only lasted four issues, with no explanation of why. This was particularly vexing to the subscribers who had paid up front at a charter member bash at Rue 13 last year. And Mr. French is politically connected already - his mother is Myrtle French, 21st Ward committeewoman. Another relative, Fernandel French, is the endorsed Democratic candidate for Ward 21 alderman, in the special election in the wake of the recall of Melinda Long.

It is hard to decide who to elect in the three-year term race. Remember there are two slots open. The candidates are:

-- John Oleski - the first person to file, an administrator at MICDS, fully Mary Institute St. Louis Country Day School, the elite private school in Ladue. He's a smart guy clearly, and a Central West End resident. But I'm not entirely sure he understands the depth of the problems facing the St. Louis Public Schools.

-- Anthony Downs - a member of the Hilgemann slate, and a parent in the public schools, lives in Soulard. From what I know so far, he sounds like a good person for the board. Ken Parker, one of my neighbors in Marine Villa, hosted a coffee for him several weeks ago.

-- Antonio French. He is also on the Amy Hilgemann-backed Coalition for Excellence in Education slate.

-- John Kintree. One of the few candidates with his own web site. Kintree has been a progressive activist for many years, and has very interesting ideas about how to use computers and the Internet for social change and empowerment. He has volunteered over the years in the St. Louis Public Schools, teaching computer classes to students and to adults in the evenings. I know him well enough to believe he is much more thoughtful than most other commentators are giving him credit. He lives in the Bevo neighborhood.

-- Tom Simpson. Don't know much about him, except that he's a teacher at Vianney High School, a Catholic all-boys school, and a Dogtown resident. One of his talking points is "slashing bureaucracy" - sounds good, but not usually possible. A Catholic educator may not quite understand - a lot of the administrative functions that the church or the order handles for a Catholic school, have to be done by the school district in a public system.

-- Elizabeth Crowley. She lives in the Tilles Park/Northampton neighborhood, and works with young people at the Evangelical Children's Home in North County. She seems experienced, although not in running for public office. That's sometimes a good thing. Although her early labor endorsement makes me wonder who her relatives are.

-- Vince Schoemehl. The most well-known name in the race, by far. Mayor from 1981-1993. On Mayor Slay's Four For Our Future slate. Lots of friends, lots of enemies. Currently executive director of Grand Center, Inc., and certainly a very effective advocate for that district's revival. But can he represent the whole City?

-- Darnetta Clinkscale. Also on the Four For Our Future slate. Lives in the Tiffany neighborhood, a manager at BJC Health Systems, and a member of the Black Leadership Roundtable. She seems intelligent and managerially skilled. So I wouldn't hold the mayoral endorsement against her necessarily.

The 9 candidates for the four-year term are a mixed bag. Also two positions to elect.

-- Alice Bell. I don't know much about her, but I believe she's the one candidate who has had the most children (12 in total), most of whom went through the public schools. She is also the only African-American female candidate from the Northside (she lives in College Hill). She also has some teaching experience. Although she has never run for office before, that's probably a good thing. At least she must have some savvy advisors though, since she got the first slot on the ballot for the four-year term.

-- Eleanor C. Gower. She is an African-American Southsider, living only a few blocks from Elizabeth Crowley in the Tilles Park section of the Northampton neighborhood. She is a retired teacher and SLPS administrator. I think she's too connected to the system to effectively advocate for change.

-- Curtis Royston III. Lives in Walnut Park, and as I mentioned, he's closely tied with Greg Carter and the Carter family political operation. I still believe he's an intelligent guy who cares about the school system, and believes schools can play a role in neighborhood revitalization, but I don't know if he can be independent.

-- Bob Volz. Wouldn't touch him.

-- David DeVore. Probably not him either - haven't heard much good. He works for Alberici Construction, one of the largest contractors in St. Louis, so how could he possibly avoid conflicts of interest in contracting?

-- John Patrick Mahoney, PhD. He was on the board for 18 years already. His ads are really annoying, festooned with shamrocks to highlight his Irish heritage, and one of his points calls him an "Apologist for urban public education." Um, maybe that's not the way to get elected.

-- Ronald L. Jackson. Also a member of the Black Leadership Roundtable and on the Mayor's Four for Our Future slate. A long-time employee of the Danforths, through the InterACT mentoring agency, and more recently through the 2004 initiative St. Louis for Kids. He surely sounds qualified. Also remember though, his wife is Hattie Jackson, former school board president. I respect her a lot, and she was less divisive than her successors. But I would like to try new ideas - Ron Jackson, while qualified, is very much tied to the existing power structure.

-- Robert Archibald. Executive Director of the Missouri Historical Society. Rounds out the Four for Our Future slate. Sure he's a smart, pretty well-known local figure, but can a historian really direct a school district? Like Schoemehl, he seems like he would be too distracted to focus on this position - indeed, he has not participated in the campaign or the candidate forums very much. Even when selected for the mayor's slate back in January, he was not present for the interview, but did it over the phone.

-- Sister Mary Ann McGivern. She's the only white candidate who lives in North St. Louis - specifically St. Louis Place neighborhood just north of downtown. But more importantly, she is a well-known social activist, whose commentaries you may hear on KWMU radio occasionally. She is on the Coalition for Excellence in Education (Amy Hilgemann's slate), and has many thoughts about improving the schools. Although like Schoemehl and Archibald, she is a very busy person, she clearly has a long-standing interest in education issues.

So, here's how I plan to vote as of right now:

Three-year term (vote for two):
- Anthony Downs
- John Kintree

Four-year term (vote for two):
- Alice Bell
- Sister Mary Ann McGivern

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Here's Part Two of Joe Frank's unofficial Voters' Guide for the City of St. Louis Board of Aldermen March 4th 2003 primaries.


Alderman Ward 8 - incumbent Stephen J. Conway is unopposed.

Alderman Conway is one of the more entrenched members of the board. His father Jim Conway was mayor from 1977 to 1981, a one-termer defeated by Vince Schoemehl. Steve Conway is an accountant - so he ran for comptroller in 1989 against Virvus Jones, and for State Auditor against Claire McCaskill in 1998. He lost both times.

Conway lives on the upscale Flora Place in the Shaw neighborhood. After 2000 redistricting, his ward lost a portion of the troubled McRee Town neighborhood, and gained areas east of Grand in the Tower Grove East neighborhood, especially the burgeoning Grand South Grand business district. Ward 8 also takes in about half of the Southwest Garden neighborhood, and a tiny tiny corner of Tower Grove South.

While Shaw consists of the bulk of Conway's ward, he is not universally popular there. He is supported by the Flora Place set, who dominate the St. Margaret's Housing Corporation funded through block grants. Some other folks active in the Shaw Neighborhood Improvement Association (SNIA) are critical of Conway though, because St. Margaret's is not always cooperative with the neighborhood association. Also, the installation of cobblestones on Thurman Ave. at selected intersections, a traffic calming measure, wasn't popular with everybody.

In general, though, Alderman Conway has done enough to help stabilize Shaw and Southwest Garden (part of which recently instituted a special taxing district for security enhancements), so that there is no viable opposition this time around.

Alderman Ward 10 - The 10th Ward is effectively an open seat. This ward was relocated after 2000 redistricting, from the southeast city area now coverd by the 20th Ward.

For now, Craig Schmid is still Ward 10 alderman. However, he is running for election in the new 20th Ward, where he lives. He is not interested in moving to the 10th ward, which covers effectively all of The Hill, St. Louis's traditional Italian neighborhood, as well as the western half of the Southwest Garden neighborhood, the Kingshighway Hills portion of the Northampton neighborhood, and the Morganford area of Tower Grove South.

The new Ward 10 also includes part of the tiny, tiny Kings Oak neighborhood located next to St. Louis University High School. Kings Oak is the neighborhood from which aldermanic candidate Chris Thomas hails. He is one of a new crop of youthful candidates, brought into politics by their frustration with entrenched politicos who they see as the forces who have kept St. Louis City from thriving. This trend is somewhat analogous to the "young turks" of the early 70s who included Dick Gephardt, John Roach and Milt Svetanics.

Thomas is former president of Metropolis Saint Louis, and has been active in neighborhood organizations. But in this race, his biggest liability is that he is not from The Hill.

Most commentators believe ward 10 was carved out to satisfy the residents of the Hill, who had been in the 24th Ward along with the Dogtown area. Robert Ruggeri was that ward's longtime alderman, but once he was replaced by Tom Bauer (clearly not an Italian-American fellow), Hill-ers were not so pleased. The Hill remains the strongest ethnic enclave in St. Louis; meanwhile Dogtown still has something of an Irish feel, although that's faded somewhat over the years.

On the Hill, Derio Gambaro was assumed to be the logical candidate for the new aldermanic slot. But he is not running, at least not in the Democratic primary. So the two candidates from the Hill are both named Joe - so how can I not like them :-) ?

Joe Vollmer and Joe Ferrario are the two Hill candidates. Both have run for alderman before - Ferrario 15 years ago, Vollmer four years ago. Vollmer owns a tavern, so he could follow in a long line of tavern owner aldermen, like the late great Albert "Red" Villa of the 11th Ward in Carondelet (his nephew Matt Villa is current alderman there), or the current 9th Ward alderman Ken Ortmann, who owns a place called The Cat's Meow in Soulard.

Ferrario is an ex-cop, and has some baggage: in 1984 he was acquitted of manslaughter in the shooting death of a 20 year old woman named Marilyn Banks, hit by a stray bullet on her front porch in the 5000 block of Geraldine in Mark Twain, on a hot summer night in 1983. According to news reports, Ferrario was exchanging fire with a 16-year-old girl who had been involved in a stabbing earlier that night.

Yes this was 20 years ago, but the media still remembers. According to an article by Bill McClellan at the time, Ferrario had fired his weapon in 11 separate incidents prior to that. Many members of the community were outraged by this incident.

The Marilyn Banks incident became a rallying cry for African-Americans to stand up - at least for a while - against police brutality. Some of the players then in the African-American political community are still around - for example, 3rd Ward Alderman Freeman Bosley Sr.

Although residents of The Hill - still 95 percent white - may not think about this, it would not bode well for race relations to have somebody who was such an symbol of police brutality elected to the Board of Aldermen. Also it is worth noting the new Ward 10 does have some African-American residents - almost 15 percent - but they don't have a significant role in the political life there.

In short, the 10th ward race is one to watch.

Alderman Ward 12 - In this bastion of City Republicanism, no Democrat filed.

Alderman Ward 14 - Here's another hot one. It's a classic struggle - between the entrenched politician and the neighborhood activist, and a tale of two neighborhoods at that.

Stephen Gregali is the incumbent, a business representative for a labor union (UAW I think), and has the backing of the Mayor. He has big signs along Chippewa, Gravois, Kingshighway - clearly he has the money edge in this race.
Gregali is from the Southampton neighborhood.

Kevin Brock is the opponent, president of the Chippewa Park neighborhood association in the Bevo Mill neighborhood. He has something of an organization going, based on loose connections between neighborhood groups.

Ward 14 consists of about half the Southampton neighborhood (the older part, east of Macklind), and the northern half of the Bevo Mill neighborhood, and a tiny sliver of Princeton Heights neighborhood, mostly a park.

But ultimately this race will come down to the fate of a piece of ground, technically located in Tower Grove South, but identified with South Kingshighway - the Southtown Famous-Barr department store site. Of course, the store has been long gone - so the question was what will replace it? Finally, today Mayor Slay and Alderman Gregali announced at a City Hall press conference, that Southtown Centre is coming. It will feature PetsMart, Walgreens, and a number of specialty stores.

This development will help strengthen the tax base of this portion of the City, and help ensure the re-election of Alderman Gregali next month. And it sure won't hurt Mayor Slay's reelection chances in 2005 (when it is slated to open).

Alderman Ward 16 - another interesting race. This is one of the most affluent areas in the City, covering most of the St. Louis Hills neighborhood, plus the western portions of Southampton and Princeton Heights, as well as a corner of the Lindenwood Park neighborhood.

This is a true open seat, as it was Aldermanic President Jim Shrewsbury's seat from 1983 until 2002. Three Democrats are vying for the slot - Donna Baringer, president of the Magdalen Community Improvement Corporation and the winner of Shrewsbury's endorsement; Steve Malle, endorsed by the 16th Ward Democratic Organization; and Jim O'Toole, former state representative. The race is primarily between Baringer and Malle.

St. Louis Hills dominates this race - and Ward 16 is heavily populated by police officers, firefighters, and other professional bureaucrats. The middle-class nature of this ward is fairly unique in the city, so a fiscal conservative is what you'd expect, whether Republican or Democrat.

Alderman Ward 18 - Incumbent Terry Kennedy is unopposed.

Terry Kennedy is a young alderman, but the son of the late Sam Kennedy, who was a longtime fixture on the Board of Aldermen.

Terry Kennedy is a progressive political figure, generally pretty astute, a potential leader within the African-American political community. He is among the leaders in fighting for a civilian review board for the St. Louis Police Department. So he probably would not be a big fan of Joe Ferrario either.

Kennedy's ward covers a fairly large area in the north central part of the City - the historic but somewhat dilapidated Fountain Park, Lewis Place and Academy neighborhoods, slices of Kingsway East, Kingsway West and Vandeventer neighborhoods, and a surprisingly large piece of the Central West End, near the St. Louis Cathedral.

Alderman Ward 20 - This race is not as interesting as it might have been. I've already written extensively about it in the Arch City Chronicle, a local broadsheet. I encourage you to subscribe to it - although I've never made a penny from what I wrote for that publication, it is always worth a read.

In any event, the latest news is that incumbent Sharon Tyus has been removed from the ballot, because she does not live in the new boundaries of the 20th ward. In case you haven't heard, the 20th ward moved from North City to South City, still to a majority African-American area, but to an area where African-Americans have yet to achieve political clout. Alderman Tyus did not move to this new area, but filed for this year's race there anyway. The Board of Elections removed her name soon afterwards.

So now the only candidate is current ward 10 alderman Craig Schmid. He lives in the Marine Villa neighborhood (and is president of the neighborhood association there; I'm the secretary). The new ward 20 has the most bizarre boundaries of any ward, with boundary streets switching block by block. In general it covers about 1/3rd of Marine Villa, about 2/3rds of Gravois Park, the northeastern portion of Dutchtown, and some blocks in the southern part of Benton Park West. Schmid is assured of a win in this race - and was even before Sharon Tyus was removed from the ballot, since she knows very little about the territory of the new 20th ward.

Alderman Ward 22 - This is a re-match of last August's special election to fill the term of long-time alderman Kenny Jones, who now is director of the City's Civil Rights Enforcement Agency (CREA).

James "Jay" Ozier won that race, and is now the incumbent. He was backed by former alderman Jones. His opponent, again, is Jeff Boyd, an economic development specialist formerly employed by the Union West Community Corporation, until his ouster in a dispute with Alderman Jones. The August 2002 race was a 54-to-46 split, with a gap of only 105 votes. This could be an interesting race again.

The 22nd ward is huge in geography, but small in voting population. It is one of the parts of the City that has lost many residents during the 1990s. It covers most of the Wells/Goodfellow, Hamilton Heights, and Mark Twain/I-70 Industrial neighborhoods, as well as a small part of the West End neighborhood.

That's where I'll stop for tonight. Look for the remaining three Democratic races, plus the Republicans and Greens, in a few days.

Monday, February 03, 2003

And now, it's Part One of Joe Frank's unofficial Voters' Guide for the City of St. Louis Board of Aldermen March 4th 2003 primaries.

There are officially three primaries - Democrat, Republican, and Green - but as usual in the City of St. Louis, it is only in the Democratic races that there's any competition.

But a word about the Green Party: This is the first time there has been a Green Party primary in the City of St. Louis. Since License Collector candidate Jason Murphy won a respectable 15.3% of the vote against the incumbent, Slay-allied Gregory Francis Xavier Daly, the Greens now get to automatically run candidates for City offices.

Very cool.

Now for the rundown of races by party, by ward:


President of the Board of Aldermen. Jim Shrewsbury is unopposed. A fiscally conservative, pro-Life Democrat from Southwest City's St. Louis Hills neighborhood, Jim was named acting President when Francis G. Slay was elected Mayor in April 2001.

In August 2002, he won the special election Democratic primary against 28th Ward Alderwoman Lyda Krewson, who got several progressive organization endorsements. Slay mostly stayed out of this race. Slay attended both election night parties - Krewson's at Humphrey's bar on Laclede near St. Louis University, and Shrewsbury's at the decidedly austere Council Plaza just around the corner on Grand and Highway 40.

Shrewsbury received support from groups both in his South St. Louis power base, and in North St. Louis. Krewson was strongest in the central corridor, but also garnered support from the 14th Ward in the Southampton neighborhood.

A note about my own connections to Jim Shrewsbury: Starting in 1997, I tutored Jim in basic computer skills, and worked on maintaining his campaign contributions database. I even house-sat for him a few times. He's been very good to me, in other words.

So naturally I supported him - not by volunteering, because as a City employee I have to be careful about such activities. But I did give money, and have a yard sign. I don't regret it.

Also the involvement of spouses in the Krewson-Shrewsbury campaign was interesting. Lyda Krewson is married to KSDK-TV Channel 5 reporter Mike Owens, a controversial figure at City Hall. His face was deliberately not shown on Channel 5's coverage of the election night party at Humphrey's.

Jim, in his victory speech, acknowledged the importance of two great women to his campaign -- Pam Ross, his longtime campaign treasurer and now a special assistant in his office; and his wife Dr. Mary Michael Shrewsbury, who has campaigned with him for years during his days as 16th Ward alderman and two attempts at the Comptroller's office.

Mary Michael formerly worked in the desegregation monitoring office of St. Louis Public Schools, and is now instructional coordinator (a sort of assistant principal - type position) at Sumner "Mega Magnet" High School in the Ville neighborhood of North St. Louis.

In any event, Krewson and any other Democratic challengers have been put off effectively by Jim Shrewsbury's solid 55% to 45% win in August, and he breezed through the November general election unopposed. This March, he is again unopposed, although there will be a Green party candidate in the April general election (more on him in a while).

Alderman Ward 2 - First-term incumbent Dionne Flowers is opposed by neighborhood activist Mattie Moore, in a re-match of the very close 1999 election (I can't find the results, but it was close I know). Alderwoman Flowers is the daughter of Eddie Flowers, 2nd Ward Democratic committeeman, and sometimes described as one of the last remnants of the Milt Svetanics organization.

Milton Svetanics, who passed away a couple years ago, was the last white alderman from the 27th Ward, which is adjacent to the 2nd Ward. Nancy Weber was the last white alderman of the 2nd Ward, until she decided to retire in 1999, even though after the 1991 redistricting it was a solidly African-American ward.

These farthest reaches of North City, centered on Baden but also including part of North Pointe and the narrow Riverview strip extending up to I-270, were still heavily white well into the 1970s. Certainly by 1990, that had changed.

This doesn't necessarily mean the area declined - indeed the North Pointe neighborhood, now mostly in Greg Carter's 27th Ward, is one of the most desirable among African-American City employees like firefighters and police officers. Baden, being much older, has more difficulties, but also has many committed residents. These neighborhoods share much of their fate with nearby communities in St. Louis County like Jennings and Bellefontaine Neighbors.

The 2nd Ward also includes a large portion of the North Riverfront business corridor area, which the City has targeted for redevelopment of many vacant properties and support for expansion of existing businesses. Many trucking companies and salvage yards are located there, as well as some manufacturing businesses and the City's Medium Security Institution (MSI), better known as the Workhouse. And although easy to forget, Ward 2 includes a portion of the College Hill neighborhood as well.

That north riverfront area includes one particularly controversial business - the Stericycle medical waste incinerator. This incinerator serves several major hospitals in St. Louis, and many nearby residents are concerned about potential health effects. Mattie Moore was a leader in the effort to bring these issues to public scrutiny; Dionne Flowers eventually came on board, taking much of the credit as well. No doubt this is a prominent issue in the race.

Alderman Ward 4 - The surprise of this race is that Sharon Tyus is not in it. Instead, one-term incumbent Peggy Ryan faces two opponents in this ward that covers basically the Ville and Greater Ville neighborhoods, an area with massive need for development and many vacant lots. I don't know much about the opponents - Cynthia L. Banks, and Edward Mc Fowland - but I think Ms. Banks may be related to former State Senator JB "Jet" Banks. If that's the case, she certainly has the edge in this race.

Alderman Ward 6 - Incumbent Lewis Reed, first elected in 1999, is unopposed. Until redistricting he was the only central corridor African-American alderman, and indeed his ward now reaches deep into near South St. Louis, taking in more than half the Tower Grove East neighborhood. Now Michael McMillan's Ward 19 stretches almost as far south, just dipping into the Shaw neighborhood.

McMillan's power base is decidedly the northern Midtown and JeffVanderLou areas - although he has connections citywide, and will likely be elected to a higher office before much longer. He is young, ambitious, well-funded, and well-connected, and has lots of development happening in his ward, whether it's new houses north of Delmar, redevelopment of the Blumeyer public housing, the new Cardinal Ritter High School, Pulitzer Center for the Arts, and Contemporary Art Museum in Grand Center, or the latest construction project at St. Louis University, Mike McMillan is a frequent guest at groundbreaking ceremonies.

But he's not up for re-election until 2005.

Now back to Reed - since he is the only African-American alderman residing south of Chouteau (he lives in Lafayette Square), he doesn't really fit into the African-American political establishment. Like former mayor Clarence Harmon, his wife is white. Indeed, Lewis Reed was one of Harmon's last allies, when everyone else by the 2001 election had lined up racially with either Slay or Bosley Jr.

Reed apparently is pretty popular in his sprawling, central city ward, at least among those who come out to vote. So he is unopposed.

To be continued....

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Here's something interesting I received from the periodic email sent out by Sustainable St. Louis:

Ever wondered how much "nature" your lifestyle requires? You're about to
find out.

This Ecological Footprint Quiz estimates how much productive land and water
you need to support what you use and what you discard. After answering 15
easy questions you'll be able to compare your Ecological Footprint to what
other people use and to what is available on this planet.


My score was 12, about 1/2 that of the average US resident. Still, that means if everyone lived like I do, we'd need 2.7 planets.

Looks like I have some work to do.
Lately I've been looking at houses - I'm planning to sell the tiny house I own in South St. Louis's Marine Villa neighborhood, hopefully to somebody who will do a little better job of actually rehabbing it. My carpentry and general construction skills are quite limited, like my motor skills.

My plan is to buy a two-family "flat", as we call duplexes in the local vernacular, and rent out part of it, living in the other unit. Seems feasible, especially if the rent payment I get is more than the mortgage payment.

In this process, I've noticed a few things:

-Many of the local financial institutions have their mortgage division offices in St. Louis County or other suburban locations. So it's tough if you don't own a car, to be able to get access to capital to buy a house in the City of St. Louis.

- Urban insurance agents seem to focus on marketing car insurance, much more than suburban agents, who seem interested in homeowners insurance as much as car insurance. That's not always true for either group of course - but I guess that reflects the higher percentage of renters in urban locations.

- There sure are a lot of properties available throughout the City. However, they ain't always in real great shape.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

This week, I understand St. Louis Mayor Francis G. Slay's official slate of candidates for the St Louis School Board was announced.

I don't know who they are though, and can't find an article nor a mayoral press release about it.

I have heard the slate includes former Mayor Vince Schoemehl, now CEO of Grand Center Inc., and Bob Archibald, head of the Missouri Historical Society. Also Ron Jackson, who I believe is the husband of former school board president Hattie Jackson.

According to Jo Mannies' column in the St Louis Post-Dispatch, current board member Amy Hilgemann is backing a 4-member slate consisting of Yolanda Brown, Mark Harrington, Peter Downs and Antonio French.

Mr. French is a controversial character, publisher of the Public Defender indie newspaper, which has not appeared for a few months, despite his taking subscriptions. I've never met him, but on the StLouisT e-mail list, he is the source of often challenging debate.

Another candidate I know of is John Kintree, who has been active in promoting community-based technology efforts for many years, including as a volunteer in the St. Louis Public Schools.

On the Missouri School Boards Association website there is a pamphlet for school board candidate training. It lists the qualifications for school board membership. Bizarrely, St. Louis School Board members' qualifications are different from those in the rest of the state.

Friday, January 10, 2003

Haven't posted in a couple days.

One interesting thing to happen lately is St Louis Public Schools Superintendent Cleveland Hammonds announced his retirement.

(Unfortunately the SLPS web site is down and has been for weeks, inexplicably, so I can't link to any info about him on the web. And of course if I tried to link to anything on the St Louis Post Dispatch web site, the link would be broken within 24 hrs - you'd get a "Lotus Notes" exception since they move articles pretty quickly into the fee-charged archives.

And they even, with the latest redesign, got rid of the last seven days' free archives. Aaack!

Enough complaining about the P-D. How about Danforth Foundation? Instead of spending the big $$ they certainly made from the sale of Ralston Purina to Nestle on investing in neighborhoods and downtown St. Louis, two of their current focuses, they decided the big bucks should go to biotech research.

$100 million, to be precise. And this is not even for basic research at WashU, or UMSL. No, this is for research into commercial applications of biotech - or, as they call it in the positive-spin world, "plant and life sciences".

This seems foolish - believing that the BioBelt will drive the St. Louis economy for the next 20 years. Why not invest in IT instead? At least, there's not likely to be a backlash against computers and the Internet in Europe, yuppie America, or the agricultural developing world. However, all three of these communities are resisting biotech foods.

Just something to ponder. So, how much further down the wrong path can the St Louis region go?

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

I'm still trying to figure out exactly how it is this big tax cut will stimulate the economy.

Meanwhile, I see war in Iraq is imminent - but I pray not in North Korea.

Here in St. Louis, the former St. Louis Economic Conversion Project -
now known as the Peace Economy Project - has unveiled its new website.

Check out

Peace and love

"I'm from the Lou' and I'm proud" - Nelly & the St Lunatics, "Country Grammar" from Country Grammar
Today most of my time at work focused on trying to update the Census tract profiles on the City of St. Louis Community Information Network web site.

Hopefully I'll get it done by the end of the week. It's juicy stuff, sort of - levels of education, household income and unemployment, which are often used as proxies for race and class distinctions.

Today was a big day in the world of elections and nominations in the US:

Eddie Murray and Gary Carter were elected for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown NY.

Dennis Hastert was reelected and sworn in as Speaker of the House.

Bill Frist, the only medical doctor in the US Senate, was elected Senate majority leader.

Both of course are Republicans.

On the Democrat side, Senator Tom Daschle announced he will not run for President.

Meanwhile Dick Gephardt is still running for President - but not for his long-held 3rd Congressional District seat in St. Louis, MO.

Who might run, I wonder?

State Senator Steve Stoll of Jefferson County
City of St. Louis Mayor Francis G. Slay
City of St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce?

Interesting times in the political world, to be sure.

Also, Grammy award nominees were announced. Album of the Year nominees include:

St. Louis's own Nelly

Canadian teen rocker Avril Lavigne

The jazzy Norah Jones

Obviously I'm sending my love to Nelly...

You can even vote for Nelly on the American Music Awards web site - the "Fan's Choice Award" will be given to the winner of the poll on the awards show January 13th.

That's all for now.

Monday, January 06, 2003

Why is it so hard to get people interested in IT related public policy?

At the GlobalCN Congress in Montreal in October '02, which I attended, there was considerable discussion on the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

The WSIS will, I predict, be manipulated by the multinational corporations, and their cohorts in Washington, to make the Internet a less free place over the next five years.

What can we do about it?

There is a fascinating web site called TakingITGlobal which provides a forum for youth from across the world to discuss all kinds of issues. One of its initiatives is a youth caucus for the WSIS.

Check it out.
HI! - this is the start of my blog.

My name is Joe Frank and I live in the City of St. Louis, Missouri USA.

Hopefully I will find time to post interesting stuff here soon.

For now, let me just link you to this very scary speech by President George W. Bush
from Friday, made at Fort Hood in Texas:

President Rallies Troops at Fort Hood

Yes, he did just say the 1st Calvary and 4th Infantry divisions of the US Army are "The key ingredients to the home of America's hammer."

And yes, the audience response was: "Hooah!"