Monday, February 28, 2005

Famous Pool

Now that May Department Stores has been bought out by Federated, any bets on when the Downtown Famous-Barr will close for good?

My guess: August 21st, 2005.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Parish Consolidations and Ethnicities

The final South City Deanery Consolidation Plan has been announced by St. Louis Roman Catholic Archbishop Raymond Burke.

There are some things that puzzle me about the ethnic representations slated for the various churches.

1) St. Agatha in south Soulard will be the new home of Polish masses sponsored by the Archdiocese, which had been at St. John the Apostle and Evangelist in Plaza Square downtown. What this means for the St. Stanislaus debacle, I'm not sure.

2) Latin mass will be celebrated at St. Francis de Sales; currently, it's at St. Agatha. This seems pretty appropriate; hopefully the funds will be raised to restore de Sales to its glory as the "Cathedral of South St. Louis." However, St. Agatha's been doing this for a while; it's odd to change it now.

3) St. Joseph Croatian Church in Soulard will now be home to outreach efforts to Bosnians. This is very odd. Currently, the Southside Bosnian Services Collaborative is based at Resurrection of Our Lord on Meramec Street. Both school and church will close at Resurrection, a magnificent example of modern church architecture built in 1952. The parish will be consolidated primarily with St. John the Baptist on Delor in the Bevo area.

Wouldn't it make more sense for Bosnian outreach to be conducted at St. John, if Resurrection must close? St. John is located in the heart of the Bosnian community in Bevo. While admittedly a migration to South County is in full swing, the cultural milieu still permeates Bevo with various Bosnian-owned shops and restaurants along Morganford and Gravois. St. John has one of the last remaining parish high schools, as well as an elementary school. It just seems like a more sensible place where Bosnian services would be based. After all, my guess is that St. Joseph Croatian serves mostly suburbanites of Croatian descent. Although the languages are closely related, they are different and distinct cultures here. Particularly most Bosnians are Muslim. Resurrection has worked hard to bring them into the community there. Why move the Bosnian "outreach" to a neighborhood to which they have no connections?

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

In Honor of Black History Month

Did you know?

Ralph Bunche (1903-1971) was:

Orphaned in his teens and moved to Los Angeles to live with his grandmother, who changed his last name from "Bunch" to "Bunche."

The first African-American to receive a PhD in Political Science (Harvard, 1934). His dissertation was a comparative study of the protectorate and mandate systems in Dahomey (now Benin) and Togo.

Founder of the Howard University political science department - in 1929, even before he finished his PhD at Harvard.

The first head of the United Nations Trusteeship Division created as part of the global decolonization process.

The first person of color to receive a Nobel Peace Prize, in 1950. It was awarded in honor of his work to bring peace in the Middle East and establish the protectorate and later the state of Israel.

The namesake for many schools and institutes across the country, including two New York City public schools - one in Harlem (PS 125) and one in Queens (PS 132) where Chinese is taught to all students. Not to mention St. Louis's own Bunche Middle School, a magnet school now located in the former Southwest High School building which offers six languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Russian and Spanish.

Also, a grandson by the same name is currently at law student at Columbia University in NYC, although is a native of London.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Crime is Down -> Fewer Cops

The St. Louis Police Department - still without a real web site - is proposing cutting 40 to 50 officers through attrition in the next fiscal year.

Hey, after all, crime is down! And, crimes are never covered up! We can handle a reduction in force, right?

And yet, somehow the Police budget still would increase by several million dollars, mostly due to higher salaries and health insurance costs.

Funny though - it seems like there's more and more random gunfire in my neighborhood lately.

See what the Gendarme are saying about it. (I think this is the current link - maybe).

Friday, February 11, 2005

The Population Boogie

Yesterday's Post-Dispatch reported on a forum held at UMSL about the St. Louis region losing population based on IRS data.

The lead investigator on this report was Dave Laslo, of the UMSL Public Policy Research Centers demographic arm. Meanwhile, among those attending and critiquing the report was Rollin Stanley, the director of the City's Planning & Urban Design Agency.

What's funny here is that Dave used to work for the very agency that Rollin heads, albeit several years ago, before Rollin came to town from Toronto. Anyway, the IRS data - generally considered a pretty good indicator of where people live - showed a slight decrease in the metro area's population, and of course an even stronger decline in the City of St. Louis.

Basically, the IRS data is pretty good, but as Rollin argues, doesn't capture the very low-income, transient and recent immigrant populations who may not be required to file tax returns.

However, the City's method used to challenge the Census estimate, building permits, certainly ain't perfect either.

1) The usual method of the City planning agency is to say that any building permit over $20,000 implies a major renovation of a housing unit. But, that doesn't necessarily mean the unit is unoccupied prior to the permit issuance.

2) Sometimes, permits are issued and the work doesn't actually happen.

3) Permit dollar values are self-reported: basically, the person getting the building permit can say their project costs whatever they want to say. Admittedly, there is an incentive to say a project will cost less than it really does, which may cancel out the $20,000+ problem.

4) Building permit data is the City's proprietary data, and as such, has the potential to be manipulated internally. I have no evidence this has occurred, but certainly, it is possible.

5) Even if we accept $20,000 as a reasonable standard for a housing unit rehab minimum cost, there's really no good way of knowing how many people will live in a building that's been rehabbed.

In fact, oftentimes we see that in gentrifying areas of South City, a project cost of $60,000 can result in a former two-family with two bedrooms per unit that housed four to six people, being converted into a single-family with only two people living there. Sure, their incomes will be probably be higher, but it's hard to really claim that more building permits necessarily means more people. In some cases, gut rehab may mean fewer people.

All in all, there is no perfect way of estimating out the population in any given geographic area. Even the Census itself is far from a complete count.

It seems safe to say, in any event, that the St. Louis region has a stagnant population. Whether the decline is significant on its own terms, is hard to say. However, we are clearly not growing. Even if the City of St. Louis may have stabilized its 50+ years of declining population - which is hopefully the case - it is not accurate to say the City is growing by leaps and bounds. It is not. Instead, there are positive signs of higher-income, socially and geographically mobile people moving into certain pockets of the City.

However, there are still working-class and working poor people moving out, and some of that can be attributed to frustration with a seemingly non-responsive Police Department and with the poor quality of education in many of the St. Louis Public Schools. This is certainly true of immigrants - many Bosnians with children have left the Bevo neighborhood and moved to the Bayless and Mehlville school districts in South County.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

(Dis)Information Age

Sorry about the extended Holiday season break.

Have you ever heard of Kenneth Y. Tomlinson?

Maybe you should.

He's the Chairman of the Boards of both the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (which funds and supports both PBS and NPR) and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (which runs Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and numerous other outlets broadcasting the official US position abroad, particularly in the Arab world and Cuba).

He's also the former editor of Reader's Digest, which itself is published in more than 30 countries around the world.

He also has been a significant campaign contributor to Sen. John Warner (R-VA - Senate Armed Services Chair and Homeland Security & Government Affairs Chair), Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA - Chair, Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee), and Pres. Bush. Not to mention Steve Forbes.

So, arguably Mr. Tomlinson is the most powerful leader of public broadcasting in the US and abroad. These could be very powerful tools for propaganda efforts abroad and at home. Although there's nothing to suggest he's an unethical person, he is certainly a supporter of powerful Republican candidates.

Anyway, it's worth noting that the same person is chair of two quasi-public entities which have ultimate responsibility for a lot of broadcast air time around the world.