Thursday, December 16, 2004

Mike Jones is Everywhere!

Michael W. Jones, Exec Dir of the Greater St. Louis Regional Empowerment Zone Management Corporation, former deputy mayor for development and chief of staff for former Mayor Clarence Harmon, former lead convenor and then leading critic of Advance Saint Louis, and rumored soon-to-be executive assistant to County Exec Charlie Dooley ... is asking African-American UMSL alumni to contribute to the chapter scholarship fund. You can even give online.

Now, the question is...will his name show up here?

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Only In America

Quoth State Sen. Jon Dolan:

"She's a hottie, and she's a smarty," so Miss USA 2004 Shandi Finnessey gets her name on the Welcome to Missouri signs...

I'm not sure what's worse: this, or the renaming of I-70 in St Louis City to "Mark McGwire Highway" sponsored by John Scott in 1999.

In 20 years, will anybody remember why?

Of course, the same could probably be said about the 1960s controversy over the Poplar Street Bridge naming. St. Louis City called it the Bernard F. Dickmann, East St. Louis called it the Adlai Stevenson.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Darlene on the SLPS

Here's what Comptroller Darlene Green has to say about the situation with the St. Louis Public Schools.

Curiously, it was dated November 23rd, but not emailed out until December 3rd.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Syndicate Trust

The City is accepting proposals for redevelopment of the Syndicate Trust Building.

No comment.

Monday, October 25, 2004

NO on Amendment 3 News Conference

Thursday, October 28
11:00 AM
Central Reform Congregation
5020 Waterman (at Kingshighway)

Representatives from the legislative, education, healthcare and faith communities will be speaking out against Amendment 3.

People, Not Pavement!

For more information call:
Amy Blouin 314-518-8867,
Jennifer Hill 636-448-6478 or
Lise Bernstein 314-542-2269
(Missouri Budget Project)

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Ballot Mnemonic

Here's an easy way to remember how you might consider voting on the propositions in the City of St. Louis:

YES: B-E-C-K

NO: A-D-3

That is, YES on charter amendments B (make the civil service system more flexible), E (increase the maximum fine to $1000 - it's on the ballot again!), and C (make all those silly county offices appointive); and proposition K (children's services property tax levy - makes sense to me).

And, NO on charter amendments A (financial authority to the mayor alone), and D (reduction in Board of Aldermen size); and on state constitution amendment 3 (all gas tax $$ for roads only).

Friday, October 15, 2004

TARGETing St. Louis

The Hampton Avenue at Chippewa Street Target store will close in January 2005 to be demolished and replaced with a new, larger, modern store to open in October 2005, my old friend Tavia Evans reports in today's Post-Dispatch.

This is great news, not just for the St. Louis Hills neighborhood, but for the entire City of St. Louis. Here's why:

1) No tax abatement - unlike almost every new single family house built in the city since 1980.
2) No TIF - unlike most of the loft developments downtown.
3) No eminent domain, after all - instead, a Federal court decision helped things along.
4) A new, bigger store at an existing location, rather than a relocation.

Target came to an undisclosed agreement (i.e., big $$$ buyout) with the New York speculators who owned the property, which I believe was a Zayres before Target moved in around 1975.

Locally, most new Target stores in the past ten years or so have been built on new sites. This will be first I can recall built on the exact site where there was already an existing Target store.

South County Target (I-55 at I-270): Replaced a store several miles north on Lindbergh next to Ronnies Plaza.

Kirkwood Target (I-44 at Kirkwood Road): Replaced a store in downtown Kirkwood, whose site has since been redeveloped with high-end, high-density housing.

Brentwood Greatland Target (Highway 40 at I-170): Possibly the most visible retailing location in the entire St. Louis region, this store was not a replacement for a previous location, but an apparently very successful effort at entering a growing market. Hey, even the WashU shuttle stops there!

Florissant Target (North 67 about halfway between New Halls Ferry and New Florissant Road): I'm not sure of the timing on this one, but I think this store opened and the old one on "Target Drive" near New Halls Ferry at I-270 (right by Chuck E Cheese) closed.

I'm not sure about the Ballwin or Bridgeton stores since I've never shopped at either one.

Anyway, given the paucity of good quality retail in the City of St. Louis and inner-ring South County, this is a great development. The parking situation might be a little awkward, with a garage beneath and some surface parking on all three sides, but it's the only way to shoehorn a big box store into a relatively compact existing site surrounded by fairly expensive housing and other active retailers.

The only possible way to expand the site maybe would be to close off Bancroft Ave to through traffic and purchase the Bank of America across the way, which has a fairly deep lot with parking in front and back. But closing off that street wouldn't be popular with neighbors, and maybe Target and BoA can work out some kind of joint parking space usage deal, since that lot is usually empty. In addition to the site of the existing Target, the small corner site where the Fox Photo - and, back aways, White Castle - were located, is also included.

Yes, the City of St. Louis will take a sales tax hit because of this temporary closure, a double whammy with Sam's Club moving out of St. Louis Marketplace to Maplewood Commons on Hanley Road. However, it'll be worth it long-term -- especially compared to the Marketplace, where because the TIF is the only one where the city is on the hook to pay off the bonds, the Comptroller will have to dip into general revenue.

The existing Hampton Ave. Target - because everybody knows it will eventually close - has certainly declined in selection and quality over the past 18 months or so. My most recent shopping experiences there haven't been the greatest, and the snack bar seems a little dingy lately. So, yes, the Brentwood Greatland and on occasion South County stores have seen my credit card more lately. Also, on Target.com we have our wedding registry. (hint, hint ;-)

Anyway, this Target will certainly have a lock on the highly profitable southwest city market once it opens. Think about it -- what are the alternatives?

- St. Louis Marketplace K-Mart: Maybe it'll be open another 18 months, but don't count on it. The Marketplace is dead, I don't care what Tom Bauer says about those crazy Saaman Corporation townhouse developments.

- Hampton Village JCPenney: A good option for slightly better quality clothing than at Target, but even this store is showing its age (c. 1951), albeit pretty gracefully. It'll probably pick up some business during the Target closure.

- Maplewood Commons Wal-Mart: If you really want to fight the traffic on Hanley, be my guest. The same goes for the Brentwood Greatland Target -- the more crap that Richmond Heights, Maplewood, and Brentwood try to cram into view of Highway 40, I-170 and Hanley Road, the worse the traffic congestion gets, not just during rush hours but at lunch hour too. Yes, I still go there, but it's becoming less and less desirable. And the MetroLink - if it ever opens - will only really be convenient to Dierbergs and Best Buy, given the pedestrian un-friendly nature of these developments in inner-ring suburbia.

Even in Shrewsbury, Webster Groves, and Affton, there isn't a major department store. Yes Value City on Watson Road is sometimes identified as the Webster Groves store, and is frequented especially by many African-Americans from south city, but it's actually in Crestwood, whose city government tried and failed (so far) to get that site redeveloped as something fancier.

So, I predict a bright future for this new Target. Let's hope it comes off without a hitch so we can all start shopping there next Christmas.

Note: I do not hold any stock in Target Corporation, nor in any other corporation for that matter.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

City Ballot Now Available

The November 2nd Ballot for the City of St. Louis is now available for online perusal.

Also, take a look at a few fun electoral vote calculator maps online:

ElectoralVote.com
270ToWin.com

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Something Stinks Around Here...

Could this be the real reason that Michael Moore and Sean Hannity both cancelled their appearances (tonight and tomorrow, respectively) at The Pageant. Yeah, I know, pneumonia is Moore's reason, and Hannity I guess didn't like his travel arrangements.

But, hey, sewer gas isn't enough to keep away Chris Matthews!

Meanwhile, that PD story has a hilarious quote from STLFD Public Info Officer Kim Bacon. She says: "St. Louis seems to be a city filled with odd odors from day to day."

New St. Louis slogan: Justifiably Proud - of our odor.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Benton Park: 3rd Party Hotbed?

I love how the Missouri Secretary of State's candidate listing includes mailing addresses. Although most well-funded candidates list a campaign office or PO Box, many third-party candidates list home addresses.

The up-and-coming, relatively progressive South St. Louis neighborhood of Benton Park is home to three state-level candidates this November:

David Fry - Constitution Party candidate for Missouri Attorney General
32xx block of Missouri

Kevin Babcock - Libertarian Party candiate for US Congress, 3rd District
19xx block of Withnell

Jeanette Mott Oxford - Democratic Party candidate for State Representative, 59th District
29xx block of Lemp

While Jeanette is of course not a 3rd-party candidate, her election (she faces a Libertarian named Robert Christophel from Mount Pleasant in the far south end of the 59th) is very important since she is openly a lesbian and a tremendous left-wing community activist. If third-parties were actually viable in the United States, no doubt she'd be a Green or even a Democratic Socialist.

The other two Benton Parkers are from less-than-leftist third parties, but maybe voting for either Fry or Babcock would send a message in support of the concept of multiparty democracy. And since both Jay Nixon and Russ Carnahan seem to be pretty safe in their elections, it wouldn't really hurt them.
Every Five Years...

Every five years, the City of St. Louis is required to send to HUD a strategic plan of sorts, called the Consolidated Plan Five-Year Strategy, for how to spend about $30 million a year in four formula grant programs: Community Development Block Grant, HOME Investment Partnership, Emergency Shelter Grant, and Housing Opportunities for People with HIV/AIDS.

At 3:00 PM today there is a public meeting at 1015 Locust, Ste. 1200 to discuss amendments to the current plan, and the plan for the next five years. Here's your chance to get your opinion on record about how CDBG and these related grant funds are spent.

If you can't make it to the meeting, take their online survey.

More information here.

By the way, I was one of the authors of the 1999 plan, but I'm not involved this time around.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Closing Up - For Now

The Commonspace will close its doors at 615 N. Grand Blvd. for good at the end of September after a two-year run. The web 'zine will continue to exist and be published more regularly again, and there are plans for 'real life' events to continue at other venues. Keeping up with the rent and utilities of the former Crown Optical space became very difficult once People's Coffee moved out, focusing on its more profitable operation at the Mel Carnahan Courthouse 7th floor.

From an email to members by Brian Marston and Amanda Doyle on Monday:

"It has been an incredible two years on North Grand: we've held many
events that brought thousands of people together to experience
grassroots civics and culture at The Commonspace...and that's not even including
the countless meetings, book groups, Meetups and other informal gatherings
that it's been our pleasure to host. We've been lucky to get connected
to some amazing groups doing amazing work for our city and our community,
and to spend time getting to know many of you....

It has been our privilege to offer two years of our time and energy, on a
completely volunteer basis, as our gift to St. Louis. However, the character flaw
known as "lack of moderation" has meant that we've been single-mindedly
focused on this project and have put some important personal priorities
on indefinite hold during that time; now we're feeling the need to
return some of them to the top of the life list."

Several events will be held between now and the end of the month.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Amendment 3 - November 2: Highway-only gas tax -> Big cuts to social services

From Amy Blouin, Missouri Budget Project:

If passed, this ballot would cost general revenue $187 million by fiscal year 2009. Clearly, this funding would need to be cut from another area like health care, mental health, education, or many of the other critical services the state offers.

The proponents of this amendment are the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and highway construction industries. So far there has been little vocal opposition to the amendment.

We must work to generate this opposition, or see more cuts in our programs. Missourians for Tax Justice has established a committee to work to fight Amendment 3. However, in the absence of funding to create a large scale media campaign, it will take a good deal of "people power" to prevent the passage of Amendment 3.

Therefore, in our role at the MBP we would like to distribute the attached information through the MCBPP coalition members. Please distribute as widely as possible - to your staff, clients, board members, etc. We can beat this thing if we work together. We will be creating a "free" media campaign - op-eds, letters to the editor, etc. We will also be creating some brief talking points that everyone can use to succinctly describe why it's bad for Missouri. We'll get these out to you ASAP.

In the meantime, we are contacting as many diverse groups as possible, including education and higher education contacts, unions, and others. If you have any groups that you think should know about this, please forward the information to them.

As many groups who can state publicly that they oppose Amendment 3 would obviously greatly help!

Please let me know what your organization is comfortable with. If you want to join the official campaign against this, please contact Pat Martin at Missourians for Tax Justice at martinps@earthlink.net

Thanks so much for your work on these critical fiscal issues! Amy

September 16, 2004

Amendment 3: Deciding Missouri's Priority-Is it Roads or Kids?

Brief

On November 2, 2004, Missouri voters will be asked to vote on Amendment 3. The amendment modifies the current distribution of the State's motor vehicle sales tax collections by diverting the majority of these funds to a new State Road Bond Fund. If passed, the amendment would cost state general revenue $187 million by Fiscal Year 2009. The following details the major points of the amendment:

How is the motor vehicle sales tax currently used?

Before 1979, all of the state's motor vehicle sales tax directly benefited state general revenue. In 1979 a constitutional amendment passed that required half of the tax collections to be earmarked for transportation functions including the state road fund. The other half remains as a part of state general revenue today.

How does the amendment differ from what is currently done?

Amendment 3 would redirect the motor vehicle sales tax funds that currently go to state general revenue and place the majority into a new state road bond fund. The funds will be used to pay back state bonds for highway construction or reconstruction.

What is the impact on General Revenue?

Amendment 3 would be phased in over a four year period, consequently the cost to state general revenue increases over time. In fiscal year 2006, general revenue would lose $73.2 million increasing to a loss of $187 million by fiscal year 2009.

What is the impact on state services?

General Revenue funds the majority of the state's services, including elementary, secondary and higher education, health care for seniors, kids and working poor families, nursing home oversight, mental health care, foster care and other services for abused and neglected children, and local health departments. As a result of the states budget crisis, general revenue has been depleted, and is arguably not likely to absorb a $187 million cut in funds without cuts in other programs. The services mentioned here will face more cuts as a result of the diversion of general revenue to the State Road Bond Fund.?

Doesn't Transportation need the money?

While ensuring that transportation is funded appropriately is a laudable goal, there are more fiscally responsible policy options available. Diverting funding from current critical needs such as the education of Missouri children is not the way to meet transportation needs. Additionally, Missouri is 6th in the nation for the amount spent on roads per citizen.

What about public transportation?

Public transportation would benefit by only a minuscule increase in funding if Amendment 3 passes. Currently, the total budget for the state's multi-modal fund (public transportation fund) is about $18.5 million. Amendment 3 would increase public transportation funds by just 1% of the motor vehicle sales tax revenues, or about $1 million per year. Individuals and communities that rely on public transportation will not be helped by Amendment 3.

What about the state budget cuts - do we have enough money to do this?

The Fiscal Year 2002 - 2004 fiscal crisis in Missouri resulted in significant core cuts to vital programs, totaling more that $1.3 billion dollars. As a result, the state enters FY 2005 with a series of unmet needs and program deficits in need of restoration including:

Missouri's school foundation formula is underfunded by $600 million, according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Higher Education cuts of $70 million have resulted in a $1,700 average tuition increase for Missouri's four-year institutions, as well as class consolidations and limiting of course offerings. The cuts and tuition increases affect 88,000 Missouri students.

The Department of Mental Health has lost about $58.2 million in state general revenue as a result of the fiscal crisis. Nearly 600 jobs have been cut from the department, 4,000 developmentally disabled Missourians are on a waiting list for mental health care services, and 4,000 individuals lost mental health care services related to substance abuse.

Significant cuts to Medicaid eligibility resulted in at least 37,000 less Missourians having access to healthcare; at the same time health care costs are increasing, and more Missourians may be turning to publicly-funded health care for their families.

Furthermore, in the next decade, Missouri will start to see a dramatic increase in healthcare need for seniors entering retirement.

In addition, should the Transportation Ballot Issue be approved by voters in November, this will result in additional loss to the General Revenue fund of between $160 - $180 million beginning in FY 2006.


While legislators and the public may disagree regarding whether or not the full level of budget cuts should be restored, it is clear that education and health care are priorities for Missourians. At minimum, the state would need more than $900 million to restore these few basic services to their pre-fiscal crisis programming level. Clearly, the anticipated $147.8 million growth in general revenue in FY 2005 will not be enough to meet this need. An additional cut to general revenue resulting from Amendment 3 would cause further harm.

Given the fragile state of General Revenue, Missourians must decide when voting in November what their true priority is: Is it roads or education, health care and other critical services for Missouri's children?

*Data on the impact of Amendment 3 is compiled from information from Missourians for Tax Justice, and the State Office of Administration. Data on the state's fiscal crisis, and budget cuts was compiled from state department information by the Missouri Budget Project. For more information on the state fiscal crisis, see "Missouri's Revenue Situation: Is the Fiscal Crisis Really Over?" Missouri Budget Project, August 12, 2004 and "FEDERAL POLICIES ARE WORSENING MISSOURI'S BUDGET PROBLEMS" Center on Budget & Policy Priorities, September 15, 2004. Both documents are available on the Missouri Budget Project's website at www.mobudget.org

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Alan Keyes: Missouri Values?

The recent controversy over statements by Alan Keyes about Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter Mary, just shows how crazy Keyes is. While Cheney may not like his daughter's lifestyle much, that doesn't make it appropriate for Keyes to attack her. Cheney is a very powerful man in this country right now; pissing him off seems quite foolish for a Republican candidate for Federal office.

But then, Alan Keyes has never seemed all that sensible. Recall that he was the only candidate who accepted the Michael Moore mosh-pit challenge back in 2000.

The scary part is that over 70% of Missouri voters probably agree with Keyes. This included 47% of St. Louis City voters. Or, at least the ones who bothered to vote on August 3, 2004.

Amendment 2 takes effect today.

So, perhaps instead of taking up residence at:
502 Garfield
Calumet City, IL 60409
(since it's already been challenged)

Keyes should try moving in with the highest-up African-American Republican in Missouri -- State Representative Sherman Parker, of
352 Mason Ridge
St. Peters MO 63304.

It would be a lovely birthday present for Rep. Parker, who according to his bio turned 33 this past Saturday.

Anyway, how exactly can the Hon. Ambassador Keyes call anybody a "selfish hedonist"? Please don't interpret this as a racist statement, but that's like the pot calling the kettle black!

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

This morning's Post-Dispatch reports the death of Carrie Lindsey, who wrote for the inaugural issue of theCommonspace, and was better known as the creator of the former NoisyPaper and the former noisemakers Yahoo group, catered to alternative musicians. Publications like Playback St. Louis carry on the tradition.

Her husband Mike Shelton, 54, and their 14-year-old daughter Emily, about to start school at Webster Groves High School, were also killed, along with the two occupants of the car that collided with theirs in a freak accident on I-55 near Troy, Illinois. Carrie Lindsey was 50.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Sheriff Jim

Now that he's been re-elected, Jim Murphy (AKA "a boob" according to ArchPundit) has for the first time, an official website.

Murphy, 68, a one-time state senator, long-time ward 12 committeeman, and flood of '93 sandbagger (his house is on Tesson Court off Carondelet Blvd.), must feel pretty confident that Don DeVivo will not unseat him in November.

This Jim Murphy is not to be confused with former State Representative Jim Murphy, a Republican from Crestwood.

Monday, August 09, 2004

License Collector Pay

Isn't it interesting that Alderman Ken Ortmann was the sponsor of a bill -- Board Bill #107 (Committee Substitute latest version but not online) -- of a bill to increase the pay of the staff of the License Collector?

It's interesting because among the License Collector's staff is Ald. Ortmann's wife (and Ward 9 committeewoman) Pat Ortmann.

According to the minutes of the July 23 Board of Aldermen session (published August 3rd), the bill has moved to the perfection calendar.

Of course, in his role on the Public Employees committee, Ald. Ortmann has sponsored similar legislation for the staffs of the Collector of Revenue and Recorder of Deeds.

However, Ald. Ortmann was not the sponsor of License Collector pay ordinances in 2002 nor 2000.

So, why now?

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Poor Green Party

Poor Green Party. In spite of apparent web site problems, the Missouri Greens have ballot status in the City of St. Louis. As a result, they were entitled to participate in the August 3rd primary.

The Greens had no contested races in this primary.

And, in fact, several candidates for ward committeeman and committeewoman got zero votes.

Green Party Results - City of St. Louis 8/3/04 Primary Election.

Continuing the Democratic Party traditions, several citywide candidates also ran for committee slots. They include:

Don DeVivo, a Forest Park Southeast resident and Wellston developer of sorts, who ran for both City Sheriff and Ward 17 Committeeman; and
Willie Marshall, who ran for both Public Administrator and Ward 21 Committeeman. Unfortunately, in the Ward 21 Committeeman race, he received no votes.

Likewise, Ward 20 Committeeman and Committeewoman candidates and Ward 26 Committeeman candidate received zero votes.

Well, at least they're not running Ralph for prez this time around.

Who are they running, anyway?

Monday, August 02, 2004

How I'm Voting

City of St. Louis August 3rd Ballot

In case anybody is interested:

Amendment One: NO

Amendment Two: NO

Proposition E: YES (see my previous comments)

US Senate: Nancy Farmer (Note 1: Kit Bond cannot change his website currently, per Senate rule)

Governor: Claire McCaskill (Note 2: Bob Holden has no such restrictions - and has used that space to his advantage)

Lt. Gov: Bekki Cook

SoS: Robin Carnahan

State Treasurer: Jason Klumb (hey, he's young)

Atty Gen: Jay Nixon (no campaign website; apparently he doesn't need one)

US Rep - District 3: Jo Ann Karll

(Karll is the last name on the ballot, and a fairly progressive woman. Yes, she's from JeffCo, and yes she has no chance of winning, but this time around, I want to go with the underdog. Also, she does have some experience in the state legislature - probably more substantive than Russ'. Remember, this district was represented by a woman from 1953 to 1977: Lenor K. Sullivan. Joan Barry, while she is a former colleague of my mom's, is just too conservative for my tastes. Curiously, both Karll and Barry have ties to the infamous Pipefitters union -- as does most of working-class St. Louis, it seems.)

State Senate - District 5: Maida Coleman (I forgot she was up for re-election until I looked at the ballot online!)

State Rep - District 59: Jeanette Mott Oxford (with a flourish - I've had a yard sign since June!)

Circuit Attorney: Jennifer Joyce (I built her official website, after all)

Sheriff: Johnnie M. Chester (Why not? Although I was surprised to see Ken Griffey is also running? :-) )

City Treasurer: Larry Williams

Public Administrator: Gerry Nester (anybody who does this job without drawing a salary deserves to be re-elected)

Committeeman Ward 20: Mark Rice (not for state rep, but for this, he's ok)

Committeewoman Ward 20: Lorraine Ura (such a sweet old lady; never seems like a political boss)



Monday, July 19, 2004

Arcane (But Entertaining) Procedural Change on August Ballot

The August 3, 2004 Primary Election will feature the important race for the 3rd Congressional District of Missouri, as well as Amendment One and Amendment Two to the Missouri Constitution.

However, there is also a proposed amendment to the City of St. Louis Charter which has nothing to do with Advance Saint Louis.

Under Proposition E, the date of municipal elections, held in April of odd-numbered years, would change slightly. This is Article II, Section One of the Charter.

The current language (not changed since the 1914 charter was adopted) reads:

"A general city election shall be held on the first Tuesday in April, 1915, and every two years thereafter."

The proposed language under Proposition E reads:

"A general municipal election shall be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in April, 2005, and every two years thereafter."

This is noteworthy only because it would prevent an election from happening on April Fools Day.

Curiously, though, the 2003 Municipal General Election was held on April 8, 2003, which was the first Tuesday after the first Monday, rather than the first Tuesday of April (which was in fact April 1st).

This suggests perhaps that election was held on the wrong date. By the charter, it should have been held on April 1st. Nevertheless, the results were certified and most the winners of that election still hold office -- including four members of the Board of Education.

This charter amendment requires 60% of the voters to approve it for passage, and was proposed by ordinance earlier this year. Ordinance 66192 was approved March 10, 2004. It was proposed initially as 2003 session Board Bill 366, by Board of Aldermen President Jim Shrewsbury, and Ward 14 Alderman Stephen Gregali.

Both were most recently re-elected at that same April 8, 2003 election. Neither is a big fan of the current Advance Saint Louis proposals.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Costco Vs. Wal-Mart

Austin, Texas-based liberal commentator Jim Hightower notes in yesterday's radio commentary that Costco Warehouse stores pay employees much better than Wal-Mart and Sams Club, to the disappointment of some Wall Street commentators. Nevertheless, Costco is a big money-maker.

(Note: Jim Hightower will be speaking and signing copies of his new, perfectly timed book "Let's Stop Beating Around the Bush", next Thursday, July 22nd, at 7:00 PM at the Webster University Winifred Moore Auditorium. Tickets are $10. Sponsored by FM 88.1 KDHX St. Louis Community Radio and Left Bank Books.)

Costco currently has two locations in the St. Louis metro area - in St. Peters and South St. Louis County.

With Sams Club abandoning St. Louis Marketplace and the City of St. Louis for the greener pastures of the new Maplewood development, maybe Costco could be persuaded to locate in the City proper?

Two potential sites might be:

  • Hampton at I-44, current site of MSD equipment storage and the City Street Department.

  • SLAAP, the former St. Louis Army Ammunition Plant at I-70 and Goodfellow.

  • Monday, July 12, 2004

    RiverSplash!

    Although I've been generally skeptical of St. Louis 2004 and was somewhat glad I missed the crush of people in Forest Park on New Year's Eve, I'm duly impressed by the free concert lineup scheduled for this summer on the riverfront. The schedule is being widely distributed - the Sunday Post-Dispatch had both a glossy insert and the A&E section was devoted largely to it.

    The fun begins this Thursday and continues through August 21st (one week shorter than initially advertised, but who's counting?).
    Performers include The B-52s, Liz Phair, Wyclef Jean, Lyle Lovett, B.B. King, and many more.

    And since many of the big shows will be on Saturday nights, you can get the whole family there by public transit with the Zip2 pass from Metro transit. Only $25 for two adults and four children, all weekend, every weekend for the rest of the summer anyway (It was not valid on July 4th).

    Those of us who bought monthly transit passes in June eventually got a Zip2 pass in the mail for free - although it did take until last week for mine to arrive! Nevertheless, it's a pretty good deal, considering that gasoline prices are inching towards $2.00 per gallon again.




    Friday, July 09, 2004

    Room 200 Revolving Door

    Dionne Garrett-Castor formerly Director of Communications for Mayor Francis Slay, is now doing PR at Grace Hill Neighborhood Services.

    Chris Dornfeld formerly Chief Information Officer/Director of Technology in the Mayor's Office, is now the principal of a consulting firm called Dornfeld Management Group LLC.

    Thursday, June 24, 2004

    City Arsons

    According to crime statistics on the Ninth District Business Association web site, arson is up dramatically in both McRee Town in South St. Louis and JeffVanderLou in North St. Louis.

    Arson is up 1700% in the McRee Town neighborhood, from this time last year. In 2003, there were four arsons the entire year. In 2004, there have already been 18.

    Arson is up 700% in the JeffVanderLou neighborhood, from this time last year. In 2003, there were 10 arsons the entire year. In 2004, there have already been eight.

    A quick search on the Safe City web site and a Channel 11 news report from January suggest the arson wave may be expanding across I-44 into the Shaw neighborhood.

    According to the four-month snapshot of data available on Safe City, these are not the only areas in which a large number of arson cases have occurred:

    McRee Town
    April 26 - 3900 blk Folsom and 4000 blk McRee
    May 19 - 4100 blk McRee

    Shaw
    May 17 - 3900 blk Castleman
    June 2 - 3800 blk Shaw

    JeffVanderLou
    Mar 28 - 3700 blk Lincoln
    June 2 - 3100 blk N Grand
    June 10 - 2400 blk Bacon

    The Greater Ville
    Feb 28 - 4100 blk E Lexington
    Mar 18 - 4100 blk W Lexington
    Apr 11 - 4200 blk W Lexington
    Apr 28 - 3900 blk Greer

    Mark Twain
    Mar 30 - 5000 blk Claxton
    Apr 18 - 4900 blk Harney
    Apr 28 - 5300 blk Union
    Apr 28 - 4900 blk Arlington
    May 16 - 4900 blk Rosalie
    May 28 - 5300 blk Arlington
    May 31 - 5300 blk Arlington

    Although these figures may pale in comparison to the number of burglaries happening in the City, they are still an indicator of blight and distress in many neighborhoods.

    McRee Town has gotten much of the attention given the suspicious nature of these fires in a proposed redevelopment area. One wonders if arsons will start to break out at the new houses under construction, or if instead, there is a more nefarious plot with tacit approval of the developer and its supporters.


    Monday, June 14, 2004

    "Required Reading"

    The final draft of "Raising Student Achievement in the St Louis Public Schools" was posted on the SLPS web site on Thursday, June 10th.

    In a press release dated May 5th, Mayor Slay called this very report "required reading for anyone who cares about the education of children."

    Funny how long it takes for such an important document to reach the reading public.

    Also worth a look is the SLPS MAPattack web site set up for the priority schools that need the most improvement in test scores. Oddly the web pages for each school are not linked from the main list of schools. Indeed, many of the priority schools have only very basic information on their regular web pages.

    Also very interesting:
  • School Report Cards for SLPS and St. Louis charter schools;

  • GreatSchools.net, a national site including parent reviews of some SLPS and charter schools.
  • Thursday, June 10, 2004

    Olympic Torch Route Longer, More Diverse This Time

    On Thursday, June 17th, 2004, the Olympic Torch visits St. Louis.

    In 2002, the Olympic Torch came through St. Louis on its way to the Winter Games in Salt Lake City. The Torch Relay Route then did not reach North St. Louis City.

    The 2004 Olympic Torch Relay global route is noteworthy because - for the first time - it will pass through Africa and South America, thus visiting all five of the continents symbolized by the Olympic logo. Australia also gets a visit, since it has hosted the Summer Games twice. Likewise, all cities that have hosted the Summer Games are included, in commemoration of the return of the Olympics to Athens, Greece.

    In St. Louis, the Olympic Torch will pass through or next to dozens of city neighborhoods and suburban communities, traveling from the Arch to Art Hill in Forest Park:

    1. Downtown

    2. Downtown West

    3. Lafayette Square

    4. King Louis Square

    5. LaSalle Park

    6. Soulard

    7. Benton Park

    8. Benton Park West

    9. Tower Grove East

    10. Gravois Park (just barely, at an edge)

    11. Tower Grove South

    12. Shaw

    13. Compton Heights

    14. Tiffany

    15. The Gate District

    16. Midtown (with a stop at St. Louis University)

    17. Grand Center

    18. JeffVanderLou

    19. Fairgrounds (just at a corner)

    20. The Greater Ville

    21. O'Fallon

    22. Penrose

    23. Kingsway East

    24. Mark Twain/I-70 Industrial (also, just at a corner)

    25. Kingsway West

    26. Fountain Park

    27. Academy

    28. Central West End (with a stop at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church)

    29. Forest Park Southeast

    30. Kings Oak

    31. The Hill

    32. Southwest Garden

    33. Clifton Heights

    34. Lindenwood Park

    35. Ellendale

    36. Maplewood

    37. Shrewsbury

    38. Webster Groves (with a stop at City Hall)

    39. Rock Hill

    40. Brentwood

    41. Richmond Heights

    42. Clayton (with a stop at Washington University Francis Field, site of the 1904 Olympic Games, and a stop for both the 1996 and 2002 Olympic Torch Relays)

    43. University City

    44. West End (just at an edge)

    45. Skinker-DeBaliviere

    46. Wydown-Skinker (at a corner)


    This extensive route should provide great opportunities for St. Louisans from all around to show their support for the Olympic spirit, and celebrate the centennial of the St. Louis games.

    Friday, June 04, 2004

    Aldermanic Car Wash

    From Jim Shrewsbury:

    **ALDERMANIC CAR WASH**

    City aldermen are rolling up their sleeves tomorrow (Saturday) to raise money for cancer patients living in St. Louis.

    As you know, two of our colleagues, Colleen Sondermann and Dan Kirner, battled cancer earlier this year and their deaths have touched all of us at the Board.

    Money raised from our car wash benefits the Peregrine Society, which provides much-needed assistance to thousands of other St. Louisans fighting cancer.

    I hope to see you tomorrow in supporting this important cause.

    CAR WASH (Minimum $7 donation please)
    SATURDAY, JUNE 5th
    11 am to 1 pm
    CARPENTERS’ UNION PARKING LOT
    (1419 Hampton Ave., between highways 40 & 44)

    Thanks
    -Jim

    (Editor's Note: It's worth noting that Alderwoman Phyllis Young fought off cancer two years ago, and is sponsoring a team called Phyllis' Pacers during next weekend's Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. Also the Peregrine Society's executive director is Alderman Fred Wessels. So this is sort of a family event for the aldermen.)

    Wednesday, June 02, 2004

    Police Matters

    Given the recent flap over the creation of a civilian police review board in the City of St. Louis, it is worth noting the info about the next Board of Police Commissioners meeting.

    Wednesday June 23rd
    7 pm
    North Patrol
    4014 Union Blvd.
    Details

    Friday, May 21, 2004

    An interesting lunch hour

    Just came from the CWA rally outside One Bell Center.

    Several hundred people were there, in bright red t-shirts that read in part "HEALTH INSURANCE CUTS - A SICK IDEA" with the CWA logo in the center. Many also wore stickers depicting the infamous Calvin peeing - but instead of on Ford or Chevy, he's peeing on "SCABS". The rally spilled out into Chestnut Street, but nobody seemed to mind much. Many passing drivers honked, presumably in support.

    Steelworkers and American Postal Workers Union members were also present. Somebody from the Corey Mohn campaign was across the street in the Gateway Mall.

    Later I walked further down the Mall and at Kiener Plaza got a small flyer from a young woman with information on "what's happening in the Gaza Strip", presumably sponsored by Amnesty International since their URL was on it, as well as a very sophisticated-looking web site called Electronic Intifada.

    All in all, a very interesting lunch hour for a progressive person!

    Thursday, May 20, 2004

    You Go Girl!..And the SBC Strike

    My old friend Tavia Evans (Missouri Scholars Academy class of '95; Crossroads School class of '97; Northwestern J-School class of '01) has switched bylines from the St. Louis American to the Post-Dispatch.

    Her byline is on today's story "Union workers at SBC plan 4-day strike."

    Oh - and speaking of that strike. The Communications Workers of America is organizing anybody who wants to sign up to switch local phone service - in the event of a strike - from SBC to AT&T.

    Go to http://www.fairnessatsbc.com to sign the pledge; you just might get a call from AT&T tonight.

    The issues? Health insurance premiums, and outsourcing of jobs in the high-tech sector like VoIP, Wi-Fi and DSL to companies like Accenture (formerly Andersen Consulting...), many of which then are offshored to India, China and the Philippines.

    Wednesday, May 19, 2004

    "Decency"

    Did you know the City of St. Louis has an official Decent Literature Council? Its powers are designated according to Chapter 15.32, City of St. Louis Revised Code.

    As best I can tell, this is a body that was very active in the 1960s - indeed, St. Louis County had a similar body chaired by Bill Webster.

    The seven-member commission in the City seems to have been totally inactive for at least fifteen years. The members are appointed by the mayor.

    Tuesday, May 18, 2004

    Working Paper

    As you may know, I am a graduate student at Washington University in St. Louis. I have just finished my first year of pursuing a PhD in political science.

    My research is pretty basic so far: I've shown that there's a pretty high correlation between concentrations of minority population and childhood lead poisoning. Not too surprising. Anyway, if you're interested take a look at my paper:

    PDF Icon http://artsci.wustl.edu/~jgfrank/docs/MetroServices.pdf
    (Note: This is a 30 page, 500k PDF which requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

    Any comments are appreciated. I've just enabled the Blogger.com Comment feature on this blog, so I'd appreciate if you'd try it out. You don't have to leave your name, but if you have any thoughts, I would appreciate if you did.

    Thanks!

    Thursday, May 13, 2004

    This Weekend...

    The wide range of events happening this weekend in the City of St. Louis represent the incredible diversity of the community as a whole, despite the problems and fragmentations we suffer.

    The "May Fiesta" is a slightly delayed Cinco de Mayo scheduled for this Friday May 14 at Kiener Plaza. It is a prelude to the Greater St. Louis Hispanic Festival scheduled for August 13 to 15 at Memorial Plaza.

    Also in downtown St. Louis is the ACT II Street Festival and Downtown Housing Tour, which will be on 10th Street between Olive and Locust, adjacent to the chain-link fencing around the Syndicate Trust Building. The tour is a self-guided tour with tickets priced at $10; the music festival is free. Both are ongoing Saturday and Sunday.

    Just north of downtown, the Old North St. Louis House Tour starts off 10 am Saturday, across the street from Crown Candy Kitchen, and offers a self-guided tour of 10 houses in the up-and-coming but still affordable neighborhood north of downtown. Tickets are also $10.

    On Sunday, you can travel a little further north to Natural Bridge between Union and Vandeventer, to watch the Annie Malone May Day Parade an annual celebration of pride for this institution and for North St. Louis.

    Also on Sunday, is the Windermere Place House Tour, a peek into the homes on one of St. Louis' less prominent private streets, just off Union Blvd. in the Visitation Park neighborhood. The tour goes from 2 to 5, starting from West End Community Center. Tickets are $10.

    Finally, as we get to the western reaches of the city, the Delmar Loop Street Fest "East Meets West" concludes this weekend, a celebration of the continuing growth of the success of the Delmar strip eastward.

    Friday, April 30, 2004

    From Across the Mighty Mississippi...

    The Post-Dispatch Illinois edition reported on Thursday the closure of the Collinsville Convention and Visitors Bureau, effective June 30th.

    Collinsvile, Illinois (about 10 miles east of Downtown St. Louis via I-55/70) is home to Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Missouri or Illinois and largest archaeological site in the United States. Cahokia Mounds is the only World Heritage Site in the U.S. maintained by a state agency; most others are national parks.

    Cited reasons for the closure of the Collinsville CVB are a 50 percent cut in Illinois state tourism funding, costs of the expansion of Gateway Center, a small convention hall located at Eastport Plaza in Collinsville (off Illinois 157 at the junction of I-255 and I-55/70), and revenue to be lost when a TIF-funded redevelopment on Illinois 157 results in the demolition of three of the eleven hotels/motels located in Collinsville.

    CCVB duties will now be handled by the Gateway Center and the Collinsville Chamber of Commerce; two of the three CCVB staff will be transferred to Gateway Center.

    I overheard today that the Illinois Republican Party will be holding their State Convention at the Gateway Center on May 14-15. There's only one staff person whose job it is to coordinate all the logistics of this event, especially a rather complicated hotel reservation request system. Essentially, IL GOP delegates (a preponderance of whom are from the Chicago metro area), get to choose what hotel and other room specs they want - reservation forms are due to the party office today; then the party staff reassigns them based on status within the party. Several hundred people have to be coordinated by this one person.

    Of course, you notice this is happening before the June 30th closure of the CCVB. One can only imagine how much harder this coordination problem will become then. Those Republicans always make sure to take care of their own - before a leaner, meaner government takes effect. ;-)

    Wednesday, April 28, 2004

    Dueling Press Releases

    It seems that, for the past year or so, if the Mayor's office puts out a press release about any mildly controversial topic, the Comptroller's office does as well.

    The political context is that for a while now, the two offices - arguably the most powerful within St. Louis City government - have been feuding, using the media (primarily the Jerry Berger column in the Post-Dispatch and the "Political Eye" column in the St. Louis American) as outlets.

    Conflicts between these two offices are nothing new, but are heightened by the politics of race and power: Comptroller Green is African-American and was appointed to her position originally by St. Louis's first African-American mayor, Freeman Bosley Jr.; she is the City's first African-American female comptroller, although two African-American men had previously been comptroller: Virvus Jones, in the 1990s, and John Bass, in the 1970s.

    Mayor Slay, who is white, currently supports the Advance Saint Louis plan which would provide a variant of the strong-mayor form of government, and under which the duties currently handled by the Comptroller and a variety of elected "county offices" would be shifted into a Department of Finance whose director would report to a Chief Administrative Officer, much like a city manager.

    Under the current city charter (that's the one approved by the voters June 30, 1914, just two days after Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, starting World War I), there is already a Department of Finance headed by - guess who? - the Comptroller.

    However, it is not a true department because two component units (the Supply Division and the Assessor) are headed by mayoral appointees, and two other components (the Treasurer and the Collector of Revenue) are independently-elected "county offices."

    Curiously, the License Collector function is not part of the Department of Finance and has maintained a high degree of operational autonomy. Both the License Collector and the Collector of Revenue are basically off-budget functions, because they are fee offices: they are not subject to annual appropriations, but get their revenue by keeping a commission from the funds they generate for the City through their day-to-day function of collecting property and earnings taxes, water bills, and business license fees.

    Under the Advance Saint Louis plan, the Board of Estimate & Apportionment as well as the Comptroller's Office itself would disappear, although an Auditor would be elected separately from the Mayor. The fee offices along with the on-budget county offices (Recorder of Deeds, Treasurer) would be absorbed into the new Department of Finance.

    So, anyway: that political debate is why you'll sometimes see press releases from both offices on the same damn topic. For example:

    Larry Rice vs. Don Breckenridge - the fight over future use of the federal office building named after an FBI agent killed in the line of duty, L. Douglas Abram.

    4/26/04: Mayor Slay's Statement on the Abram Federal Building Decision (Mayor's Office)
    4/27/04: $100 Million Kiel Development Set to Move Forward (Comptroller's Office)

    New Casino Development on the Riverfront

    1/15/04: City Selects Pinnacle Entertainment for Downtown Gaming Development (Comptroller's Office)
    1/15/04: City Development Commissions Rank Pinnacle Entertainment as First Preference for New Riverfront Casino and Mixed-Use Development (St. Louis Development Corporation - a quasi-governmental non-profit whose executive director is appointed by the mayor)

    Funding for Lambert Airport

    12/05/03: Mayor Slay Announces Additional FAA Funding for Lambert (Mayor's Office)
    12/05/03: City Announces Lambert Airport Gets $85 Million in FAA Grants (Comptroller's Office)

    Interesting, isn't it?

    Friday, April 23, 2004

    East-West Gateway Council of Governments, the St. Louis metropolitan regional planning agency, has come out with a new logo, new name, and new digs at One Memorial Drive overlooking the Arch, in the past six months or so.

    The staff leadership is still pretty much the same - Les Sterman, is still executive director as he has been for nearly 20 years now. Of course, the board of directors is seeing some reshuffling, as longtime Madison County board chair Rudy Papa was replaced by Alan Dunstan; with the passing of Buzz Westfall, St. Louis County has new representation by Charlie Dooley; and with both St. Clair County executive John Baricevic and St. Charles County executive Joe Ortwerth slated to leave office soon, Baricevic to seek a judgeship and Ortwerth to continue his evangelical pursuits (as he once said in response to questioning by infamous local TV reporter Elliott Davis, "Jesus loves you, Elliott").

    Although transportation planning is the traditional bailiwick of EWG, they have tried to branch out into regional planning for issues such as workforce development.

    However, when you click on the link for Economic and Fiscal Policy, you get:

    "The page cannot be found"

    Hmmm... meanwhile, EWG does tell us in periodic updates to its magnum opus document Where We Stand, that St. Louis ranks worst of 35 "peer metros" in asthma, and fourth worst in springtime allergies.

    Hey, my nose could've told me that! But at least we're not Atlanta: that southern metropolis scores a full 100 points on a 100 point scale for allergy suffers. St. Louis only gets 91 points.

    I guess all those danged peach trees must put out an awful lot of pollen... :-)

    Thursday, April 22, 2004

    There sure is a lot of construction going on in St. Louis these days.

    From the Delmar and Oakland streetscape enhancement projects, to the Forest Park improvements, to the MetroLink Cross-County extension, the western part of the City is just covered in dump trucks.

    Of course, until a court intervened, the residents of the gigantic houses on Lindell near Washington University made sure no trucks passed in front of their houses, citing a nearly 100-year-old covenant.

    Ah, how the wealthy can use their money to stymie progress...

    Remember that slogan "The Future's on 40" - an ad campaign several years ago dreamed up by a group called something like "Citizens for Historic Neighborhoods"?

    That was the group opposed to the Cross-County MetroLink extension going along Forest Park Parkway. I guess they're still fighting the battle every inch they can.

    Wednesday, March 24, 2004

    The recent passing of Ward 23 Alderwoman Colleen Sondermann and Ward 25 Alderman Dan Kirner - officemates, in fact - gives one pause.

    Although of course politicians are not immortal by any stretch of the imagination, it is a reminder that just as families are impacted significantly by the death of several family members in a short sequence, legislative bodies lose something when several members die suddenly.

    Also they remind us of the enormous impact cancer has on the United States. Ms. Sondermann died on February 19th, of a blood clot apparently caused by complications from chemotherapy treatment for ovarian cancer; Mr. Kirner died on March 19th - just one month later - from stomach cancer. Sondermann was 46; Kirner was 69.

    Monday, March 08, 2004

    The City of St. Louis Community Information Network (St. Louis CIN) is working to build an easy-to-use official web site of the City of St. Louis.

    We need your input!

    Please take a few minutes to fill out a brief online survey.

    http://stlcin.missouri.org/survey/Survey.cfm?SurveyID=1

    Please respond by March 19, 2004.

    Forward this message to anyone interested in helping to build an easy-to-use City of St. Louis CIN web site.

    (If you lose this message, you can also find the survey from the St. Louis CIN home page, http://stlouis.missouri.org/)

    Thank you for your time and participation. Your input will ensure the survey results to be meaningful.

    Wednesday, January 14, 2004

    Happy New Year! Here's my all-too-infrequent posting on this sounding board of mine.

    Is Governor Holden grasping at straws in his re-election bid? Three press releases from his office today make one wonder.

    "Holden Establishes Missouri Automotive Partnership" - KC version and StL version. How does one sign the same executive order in two places at once, I wonder?

    Also today:
    "Holden Calls for Tougher Identity Theft Laws." No risk of alienating voters with that one, right? Those white-collar criminals probably vote Republican anyway!

    Of course, it may be he's concerned about HIS identity being stolen.

    http://www.clairemccaskill.com/

    :-)