Friday, September 30, 2005

Fighting Terrorists with (Tiny) Flashlights

Fighting Terrorists with (Tiny) Flashlights

Today I went to the MetroRide Store to buy a monthly bus pass for October. That's priced at $55 now.

To soothe my frustration at the relatively recent price increase, I was happy to get a free keyring flashlight. It's one of the $1.25 type promos that are given away by various companies. This one is bright yellow, and has both the Metro transit corporate logo, and the TransitWatch campaign logo.

TransitWatch was developed about two years ago by the Federal Transit Administration, modeled on Neighborhood Watch programs. Metro has only recently - in the past month or so - begun actively promoting the program, partially in response to the London attacks.

So, this flashlight will certainly make me feel much safer. If I see a package with suspicious-looking wires and batteries attached, I'll just shine a light on it. That'll help. ;-)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Strolling Along Lindell

Strolling Along Lindell

While it may not be the most human-scale street in town, a leisurely stroll along Lindell from Grand to Kingshighway is most appealing. That's what I did today, after a visit to the seemingly stuck in the 1950s Pius XII Memorial Library at Saint Louis University, where they always get confused looking up my record - am I at UMSL, or WashU?

With all the improvements made in recent years on the SLU campus, it's past time to fix up that library, especially its incredibly dreary front entryway. Nevertheless, they do have much better collections of books in certain areas than WashU Olin Library does. As great as the Internet is for many purposes, sometimes you still have to dig into the actual bound material for scholarly research.

As one prof has noted, the WashU Olin Library, with its fancy new Whispers Cafe, can be summed up by stating: "Great Coffee - No Books!"

In any event, I stopped for a quick lunch on Lindell after departing the Pius library, then continued my way west, noting a number of changes I've seen in the past 10 years or so of walking this street.

Although the section between Vandeventer and Boyle still seems a little rough in places, it nevertheless is clear that this is one of the major corridors of institutional power in St. Louis. You've got a curious mix of large institutional facilities, like the American Red Cross Blood Services Center and the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge; with large-scale and small-scale retailers, and even some residential apartments thrown in.

Of particular note is the shift in retail to this area, away from Grand and Olive. Probably 10 years ago, Mercantile Bank closed its Grand and Lindell location, which was bought by SLU, demolished, and replaced with the fountain there today. The branch was relocated to the NW corner of Lindell and Boyle. Likewise, sometime in the early 1990s, Walgreens closed its longtime store at the NE corner of Grand and Olive. They built a new, much less attractive store on the south side of Lindell at Whittier. In 2002 or so, Walgreens replaced that store with a new store next door, on the site of the former Cinerama - which itself had been used, for a time, by the infamous Moorish Science Temple organization.

Further west, of course, we find the seat of power of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, clustered mostly near Lindell and Newstead. Among the buildings are the Catholic Center, the Cathedral Basilica, and Rosati-Kain High School. The Archbishop's official residence is one block west, at Lindell and Taylor. Other smaller nearby buildings also are occupied by church-related agencies, although perhaps not as many as used to be. Some of the administrative offices of the Church have relocated to the former Kenrick Seminary campus in Shrewsbury off Laclede Station Road; now re-named the Cardinal Rigali Center.

Even near the Cathedral, though, other businesses still thrive. For example, a former funeral home has been transformed into a new (expensive) restaurant called Savor. The Fur Source recently relocated to this block, from Forest Park Southeast.

While there are a fair number of unattractive, suburban-style developments on this strip of Lindell that detract from its appeal, for the most part it is an extremely varied, urban corridor. Indeed, the fact that I could walk from the SLU Library westward to Euclid to catch the WashU shuttle makes the two schools seem not very far apart at all.

I just wish it wasn't such a long, uphill walk from the Grand MetroLink stop to the Pius Library. As a result, I took the Grand bus instead.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Change to Win?

Change to Win?

Yesterday, the Change to Win coalition had its first delegate convention, at the Renaissance Grand Hotel in downtown St. Louis.

I noticed this yesterday, and wondered: are the employees at the Renaissance Grand unionized? I think maybe they are, but I'm not sure whether they are members of an AFL-CIO union or a Change to Win union. I do recall the financing package required a living wage and somehow promoted the idea of unionization.

In any event, I have mixed feelings about this movement. While I support the idea of more organizing and less emphasis on supporting the Democratic party, I wonder whether this could have been accomplished better by changing the AFL-CIO. Hopefully, Change to Win won't be a long-term coalition. Instead, it should cause the AFL-CIO to change more quickly than it might otherwise.

At least, that's what I hope. I'm still somewhat loyal to the AFL-CIO - I'm a member of CWA, my mother-in-law is AFT, and my father-in-law is UAW. Many other family members and friends are union members, too.

The one thing that really perplexes me about Change to Win is the membership of the Teamsters. Under both Hoffas, the Teamsters have had strong ties to the Republican party, from Nixon to G.W.Bush. There's even evidence that the SEIU, whose membership is heavily African-American, may have some Republican-leaning members.

Maybe this flexibility is a good thing. But it scares me.

I am pretty much a leftist, in a lot of ways, but not in everything. Hence, I believe in:

  • Workers' rights
  • The class struggle
  • Protecting the environment
  • Reproductive choice and family planning

    Are these mutually exclusive? I didn't think they were, but sometimes I wonder whether it is possible to support both labor unions and progressive causes like the environment and women's right to choose.

    Overall, I think the Change to Win coalition is a positive force. But if it means a broad-based alliance of labor with Republicans, it is doomed in my eyes.
  • ArchPundit on Brownie

    ArchPundit on Brownie

    ArchPundit has an excellent rundown of the incredible stupidity of the Congressional testimony of former FEMA director Michael D. Brown.

    The best part? Brown is now under contract as a consultant to FEMA.

    Sickening. Simply sickening. But not surprising coming from this administration.

    Tuesday, September 27, 2005

    Whatever Happened to Biddle Street?

    Whatever Happened to Biddle Street?

    Biddle Street, on the near Northside of St. Louis, was in days of yore well known as the heart of the Kerry Patch and later ethnic communities. Also, it was part of the earliest infrastructure development of the City: the Biddle Street Sewer, started in 1850.

    However, it's quite evident that Biddle Street no longer exists as a true street, and hasn't for quite some time.

    Walking eastward from lunch today, I noted the following blockages along Biddle from Tucker east:

  • Closed immediately east of Tucker, partly because of the decaying viaduct on which Tucker runs;
  • After being open from Hadley to 11th, disappears again for the plaza in front of the Shrine of St. Joseph, and Father Filipiac Park just east of the shrine; this covers the entire block from 11th to 10th.
  • In the block from 10th to 9th, Biddle is a very overgrown pedestrian mall, adjacent to Patrick Henry Elementary School and some very decrepit looking tennis courts.
  • Although I didn't follow it, the next block (from 9th to 8th) is non-existent, having long ago been consolidated into the superblock of the high-rise Cochran Gardens public housing complex. Perhaps the redevelopment planned would include restoring this street?
  • Biddle makes a brief reappearance adjacent to the historic Neighborhood Gardens Apartments between 8th and 7th.
  • From 7th to N. Broadway, Biddle is still a street - but not for long. The Bottle District plan seems to suggest - without actually labeling any streets! - that 6th at Biddle will be the epicenter of the proposed pedestrian mall.

    Other portions of Biddle are a little more street-like; for example, it's landscaped and wide east of I-70 all the way to Lenor K. Sullivan Blvd. However, this relatively recent improvement seems rather odd, given that there are no buildings on that section. It's pretty much just an attractive parking lot entryway.

    Perhaps the Pinnacle casino will relate to this street, but I'm not sure it will.

    West of Tucker, Biddle does somehow resemble a street, albeit with vast expanses of vacant land on several stretches, until about 20th St., when it disappears almost completely into the halfway-redeveloped southern end of the famous Pruitt-Igoe site. There are athletic fields there now, serving both Pruitt Military Middle School (the online picture of which looks like it should be on the edge of some suburban area with the amount of empty space in the background) and the Gateway schools complex, known officially as the Samuel Shepard Jr. Gateway Educational Park.
  • Update On 3740 Marine Ave.

    Update on 3740 Marine Ave.

    Last week I commented on a number of South St. Louis institutional properties being for sale.

    I found out in a mailed notice about last night's Marine Villa neighborhood meeting (which I did not attend) that the 3740 Marine Ave. property, formerly the Salvation Army Hope Center for Children (and the Edgewood Soulard School), may be acquired by an agency with a similar mission:
    Boys and Girls Town of Missouri.

    This sounds, generally, like good news. Boys and Girls Town of Missouri, historically based for decades on its St. James campus, has developed over the past several years significant outreach programs in St. Louis City.

    Boys and Girls Town of Missouri (BGTM) currently operates two facilities in the City:

  • St. Louis Center, a residential treatment facility at 4485 Westminster Place, a former Roman Catholic convent built in 1968 at the NE corner of Taylor and Westminster. BGTM owns this building, and has operated there since 1996 or so.

  • Academy at Boys and Girls Town, a school for children with behavioral and emotional disorders, briefly known as St. Louis Academy and located in the former location of St. Joseph's Home for Boys at 4753 S. Grand Blvd. on the campus of St. Mary's High School at Grand and Delor. This property is leased from the Archdiocese. St. Joseph's closed its residential facility in 2001, and now operates from the 20 Archbishop May Dr. campus in Shrewsbury as " St. Joseph’s Home & Family Support Services."

    Anyway, I'm not clear whether the 3740 Marine property would be used to expand the residential treatment program, or to expand the school. It might be a replacement site for the Academy, since it is located in leased space that the Archdiocese is unlikely to sell, given its location immediately adjacent to an Archdiocesan high school.

    In any event, this seems like a pretty positive development. While it will not get the property back on the tax rolls like a residential redevelopment could, it seems this facility is almost ideally suited to the needs of an agency like BGTM.
  • Monday, September 26, 2005

    Less Notice of Construction Coming

    Less Notice of Construction Coming

    KWMU reports that the Governor's Government Review Commission has proposed changing the requirement that publicly-financed construction projects be advertised to the public.

    One could argue the current law is antiquated. The law currently states any project over $25,000 must be advertised both in:

  • a newspaper in the county where the project is located; and
  • two newspapers in Missouri that have a circulation of at least 50,000.

    Sometimes, these requirements result in fairly small projects in outstate Missouri being advertised in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Kansas City Star.

    Given the format of most of these ads, they usually don't make it into online classified ads.

    However, the Governor's claim that the requirement adds to the cost of construction projects is a little ridiculous. How much do these ads cost, per project? Maybe $500 total? Probably less than that, given the limited circulation of many of the outstate community newspapers means their ad rates are relatively low.

    It seems reasonable to me to raise the threshold to $100,000, as proposed. However, I believe all projects with public funds involved that cost at least $100,000 should retain the notification requirement.

    If the ads in the statewide papers are dropped, as proposed, local governments must be required to post them on a web site! This would be a long overdue change in the law, which would make the info more accessible to prospective contractors across the country.

    The commission's proposal, however, does not do that. Instead, it seems to me an attempt to permit more no-bid contracting to political cronies of the governor, particularly in outstate counties, many of which are controlled by Republicans.

    After all, in (largely Democratic) StL and KC, the cost is halved anyway, because the local paper of the "county" in which the project is located already is one of the largest papers in the state. The main beneficiaries of this relaxation of the public notice requirement would be in outstate Missouri.

    As a result, many contracts in those counties could be done without a formal bidding process, because if the larger, big city contractors never found out about the projects, they would be more likely to go to friends of the county judges, for example. This would ultimately result in much more expensive public works projects.

    Meanwhile, the Post and the Star would be out significant amounts of ad revenue. Why wouldn't they put some pressure on the governor to reconsider this idea? Granted, their editorial boards lean more left than right; but hey, ad revenue is ad revenue, no matter who provides it.
  • Friday, September 23, 2005

    A Wild Evening

    A Wild Evening

    Last night was pretty bizarre for me. Here's what happened:

    - The WashU Shuttle (Gold Line eastbound) was 30 minutes late; in other words, the 8:45 never showed, so everybody waited for the 9:15.

    - While we waited, we got to watch Chris Regnier from Fox 2 KTVI-TV News and his cameraman prepare for a stand-up just a few feet away from us, at the foot of Brookings Hall.

    A pretty good sized crowd - i.e., the people waiting for the 8:45 Gold bus and later for the 9:15 Gold bus - got to watch the action, and watch the 9:00 news too, on a tiny little monitor next to the camera guy. They were doing a story about a guy who was a student at Tulane but is now a visiting student at WashU and has family in Houston. Wild. (I didn't catch that particular student's name, but I'm sure there are plenty of others in that same boat. I have an uncle who lives in Houston, as does my wife. It's a huge city, after all.)

    - Later, when the shuttle did finally come, it passed by the corner of Des Peres and Waterman. Des Peres north of Waterman was blocked off with yellow tape, numerous police cars and a SWAT van in plain sight, because of the hostage situation on the 5900 block of McPherson. A number of WashU students live on that block. I wonder if they ever made it home after getting off the shuttle?

    - After boarding MetroLink, I picked up a copy of the new TransitWatch brochure, part of the campaign by transit agencies to increase awareness of safety and security issues among passengers.

    Among the tips: watch out for excessive sweating, baggy clothes, and of course the ever-popular packages with unusual attached wires or batteries. While I will not discount the seriousness of what happened in July in London, I question the seriousness of this campaign.

    - As I finally made it home, a few minutes after 10 PM, I noticed several police cars at Wyoming and Nebraska, about a block from my house. They were blocking the street, too, although it may have been just not wanting to move their cars, rather than for any particular safety reason. After all, we have cops in our neighborhood all the time, especially on summer nights. Unlike in Skinker-DeBaliviere, it's not unusual in Benton Park West.

    Thursday, September 22, 2005

    Another Bizarre Blunt Release

    Another Bizarre Blunt Release

    Yet another bizarre press release today from Governor Blunt's office regarding pseudonymous posters on Fired Up! Missouri.

    And Roy Temple responds.

    News from JMO

    News from JMO

    Just received this special session email update from State Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford. Very illuminating.


    Sept. 21, 2005

    Friends and allies,

    I was very active in the recent Extraordinary Session called by Gov. Blunt in that I sit on the Children and Families Committee that heard both House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 1. These so called "pro-life" bills focused on making it possible to file a lawsuit against any one who assists a minor in crossing a state line to have an abortion without parental consent. The bills also prohibited doctors from performing abortions unless they have clinical privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their practice.

    Rep. Beth Low and I are the only pro-choice members of the Children and Families Committee so ours were the only no votes against HB1 and SB1 as they came out of committee. In the hearing on SB1, I offered a strike and replace amendment in order to try to substitute in the language of Rep. Robin Wright-Jones' House Bill 6. HB 6 focused on improving sex ed, offering care to rape victims, protecting the right to birth control, and offering family planning services. The amendment was ruled out of order.

    During floor debate on the bill, Democratic representatives and one Republican representative tried to make a number of improvements, but all amendments failed. Rep. Connie Johnson attempted to tighten the language of SB1 so that the vague "cause, aid, or assist" was changed to "transport" since Sen. Louden claimed the bill was about helping minors cross state lines, not private counseling by a social worker, mentor, or clergyperson. When Johnson's amendment failed, I offered a Religious Freedom Amendment to exempt pastors and other clergy from prosecution under the bill. I spoke as persuasively as I could about the need to honor the the freedom of religion language of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Unfortunately only 37 representatives voted Aye with me, so the Amendment failed.

    In the end, SB1 was truly agreed to and finally passed by the MO House by a vote of 115-35. Gov. Blunt quickly signed SB1 into law, but a federal judge blocked the new law's implementation the next day. I believe SB1 will be found unconstitutional on several grounds. I will continue to stress that the best way to reduce abortions is through education, family planning, and respect of women.

    I voted to override Gov. Blunt's line item vetos on many important items including Alzheimer's Research and restoring funds to the Office of Public Counsel which represents consumers agsint the powerful utility companies. Unfortunately there were not enough votes to overturn any of his unwise cuts to key programs. (Gov. Blunt's approval rating currently stands at about 36% according to a poll from last week.)

    I have written an editorial called "Learning the Lessons of Hurricane Katrina," and I have attached it here as a Word document. I hope you are able to download it successfully.

    Two important special elections are being held this fall. Democrats can pick up a seat in the 94th District where Jane Bogeto is running for the seat that had been held by Rep. Richard Byrd who died in May. To help Jane win, call 314-909-6676 to volunteer or mail checks to:

    Friends of Bogeto
    417 Gill Avenue
    Kirkwood, MO 63122

    Bobby Simpson is running for the seat vacated by Frank Barnitz who won the special election to become Senator when Sarah Steelman became state treasurer. To support Simpson, call 573-729-6583 or mail checks to:

    Citizens for Bobby Simpson
    Route 5, Box 443
    Salem, MO 65560

    Today newspapers throughout the state reported that Missouri is now 50th in the nation in terms of eligibility guidelines for childcare subsidies. See for example:

    This is an issue that I tried to address by having HB 683 drafted this spring. (See I had the bill drafted and then asked Rep. Cathy Jolly to be sponsor of the bill because I recognize that as a freshman Democrat from the most progressive wing of the party, I do not have much clout at present, and I wanted this bill to move. Unfortunately it did not receive a hearing. I guess the chair of Children and Families was much more interested in abortion bills this year. Rep. Jolly and I will bring this legislation back in 2006 and will press hard for its passage.

    Finally, if you are interested in buying a house, learn how to do so with no down payment, closing costs, or fees at a workshop hosted by Rep. Wright-Jones on Saturday, October 1, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at Salvation Army Dining Room, 2740 Arsenal (at California).


    Jeanette Mott Oxford
    State Representative - 59th MO House District
    Jeff City Phone: 573-751-4567; E-mail:
    "Citizens to Elect Oxford," P. O. Box 19112, St. Louis, MO 63118


    And here's the aforementioned Commentary on Hurricane Katrina:


    September 16, 2005 For more information: 314-772-0301

    Learning the Lessons of Hurricane Katrina

    In the first weeks after 9-11, media commentators constantly talked about how the USA had been forever changed by that terrible tragedy. They said our nation had grown up, sobered up, was weaned from its fascination with celebrities and frivolous preoccupations. Yet within a few months we returned to a steady diet of vulgar television shows and over hyped sporting events.
    Now as we weep at the suffering and death, destruction and chaos left behind by Hurricane Katrina, we again face a crucial moment of decision. A new conversation has started about how racism and poverty impacted on who survived and who did not as well as the life circumstances of hurricane victims before the flood.
    It is essential that we not fall into the mistakes that followed the collapse of the Twin Towers. Following 9-11 Pres. Bush called for vigilance, but not mutual sacrifice, instead giving hefty tax cuts to the wealthiest among us, while tightening the eligibility guidelines on safety net programs for our most vulnerable citizens. Likewise in Missouri, Gov. Blunt slashed Medicaid, adoption subsidies, and many other helping programs, saying this was our only alternative if we were to live within our means.
    Hopefully now, after Katrina, our eyes have been opened. Let us take on the shared moral responsibility to act for the common good and address poverty with justice, not just charity

    Low-wage workers do some of the most important tasks in our nation ---- bathing sick bodies, laundering nursing home sheets, tending our children while we are at work, seeing that food is stored, prepared, and served in sanitary conditions, and so much more. Yet neighbors in these low-wage jobs constantly struggle with eviction and utility disconnection notices, even if working full-time and more than one job.

    Let us make the public policy changes needed to see that no worker lives in poverty. All workers should have the simple dignity of decent housing, access to healthcare, safe and affordable childcare, and a high quality public education for their children.

    These goals are not pie in the sky dreams. Other industrialized nations have instituted public policies to achieve these aims. If we focus on the common good, we could achieve these goals in the U.S. as well.

    Yes, that may mean sacrifice. Remember sacrifice? It was something our government called upon us to do in the Depression and World War II, and it is often the key to survival for the most vulnerable among us. It is the underlying value behind Social Security and progressive tax systems where those most able to pay bear the largest burden instead of the smallest as is current policy.

    Another needed response is to tell the truth with the numbers we use. The federal poverty level that is the basis for eligibility guidelines for many helping programs is out-dated and undercounts the poor by as much as half. Instead of 37 million Americans living in poverty, the true number of neighbors who cannot afford the basic necessities of life exceeds 70 million. But using current eligibility guidelines, families in poverty lose needed supports long before they can afford shelter, clothing, heat, food, medicine, or a doctor’s care.

    Wouldn’t it be great if Missouri played a leading role in honoring the victims of Hurricane Katrina by winning this step toward justice? What if we ask Sen. Bond, Sen. Talent, and the Missouri Congressional delegation to lead a national movement to correct the inaccuracy of the federal poverty level? They could seek legislation to base this important measurement on the true cost of living instead of spending patterns from the 1950’s that no longer hold true.

    A strong house depends on a foundation of truth. Hurricane Katrina shows us that we can no longer afford to keep skewing the numbers to hold down social service caseloads or poverty counts. When we fail to provide services to those who need help, we simply shift costs to other places. For example, when our neighbors cannot access mental health, they wind up in emergency rooms, police cars, and courtrooms. That increases the cost of private insurance, law enforcement, and prisons.

    So many are opening their hearts to others and pitching in to rebuild New Orleans and other Gulf communities. Let us do even more. Now is the time to right old wrongs, build a more inclusive community, and knit ourselves into a stronger and safer nation where liberty and justice for all is a reality.

    Wednesday, September 21, 2005

    Bye, Bye Bauer

    Bye, Bye Bauer

    Looks like Tom Bauer is out as 24th ward alderman.

    Now the question is: will he run in the special election, most likely on November 8th?

    If John Corbett runs and wins, meanwhile, November 8th could be a double win for the firefighters - that is to say, both local 73 of the IAFF, the (mostly white) union for firefighters in the St. Louis Fire Department; and the Missouri State Council of Fire Fighters, which Corbett formerly headed.

    Why? Because also on the November 8th ballot will be Proposition One, a $13 million bond issue proposed by the City of St. Louis to improve the police/fire radio system.

    See my earlier post on this topic. (The enabling legislation, BB #153, is now found as Ordinance 66766.)

    Of course, it's not just white firefighters who want better radio systems. Presumably, since BB #153 was sponsored by Terry Kennedy - chair of the Public Safety committee - there's a good chance the Firefighters Institute for Racial Equality (F.I.R.E.), the union representing most African-American firefighters, would support the Proposition as well.

    Some things, like radio systems, are not a question of race. Others - like captains' tests - are.

    South Side Institutions for Sale?

    South Side Institutions for Sale?

    While the sale of numerous Catholic churches and public schools is certainly not news, I was shocked to discover several other institutions in South St. Louis listed for sale on the Hilliker Real Estate web site.

    --Taproots School of the Arts - 4021 Iowa Ave. (next to Laclede Park) is listed for sale by Hilliker. Taproots has provided eclectic, creative educational programs for the past 15 years at this site. The non-profit itself is the owner of record for this building, which is the former St. Thomas of Aquin Catholic School.

    It happens that the historic St. Thomas of Aquin Catholic Church complex a 1/2 block north at Iowa and Osage is also for sale. (The Vietnamese Catholic Church formerly located there has relocated to the former Resurrection Catholic Church.)

    Could these sales be somehow related? Did the Archdiocese finance the Taproots purchase/renovation, and now decide to call in the mortgage?

    --Hosea House - 2631 Gravois (at Texas) is for sale as a "retail/residential redevelopment" opportunity. Hosea House, a long-time social service agency on the South Side, but since 2001 a subsidiary of Guardian Angel Settlement Association.

    This sale is surprising, given that the Dec. 2004 Vincentian newsletter quoted the director of social services at Guardian Angel, Rev. Jerry Morales, as saying "We are refocusing our resources in the area of Hosea House because that is where the poor have moved." It also stated that Guardian Angel planned to sell its headquarters building located at 14th and LaSalle in the Peabodys - which happens to also be a former Catholic church and school complex by the similar name of Holy Guardian Angels Parish (closed 1991). Did they just figure they could get more money for a commercial property on high-traffic Gravois? This is also a Catholic Church affiliated agency, so perhaps they are feeling the financial pressures, too.

    Of course, this area of the Southside has been impacted by the closure of a number of other institutions in recent years. Several of those are also listed for sale by Hilliker:

    --Salvation Army St. Louis Hope Center for Children, 3740 Marine Ave. - closed in 2004. This huge complex - part of which was originally built in 1929 as the Salvation Army Booth Memorial Hospital - is listed for sale by Hilliker. Possibilities include conversion to residential or office use.

    Hope Center also served until 2004 as the Edgewood Children's Center "Soulard" special school campus. That program, ironically, has been renamed the Edgewood "South Campus" and relocated in 2005 to the former St. George parish school, 4970 Heege Rd. in Affton, where my parents attended school in the 1950s. The school closed in 2003; St. George parish children now attend St. Dominic Savio School.

    The name Booth, meanwhile, lives on in connection with the Salvation Army's Booth Manor Apartments, located at 3131 Iowa, about two blocks from my own house. Also, just last week, the Salvation Army St. Louis announced it has found a new home for its FamilyHaven program, until now located at 3744 Lindell, now completely surrounded by St. Louis University. Obviously, SLU wants that building, and in spite of Jesuit teachings, has no interest in maintaining it as a shelter for homeless families.

    So guess what? Salvation Army St. Louis is moving FamilyHaven to the former West Page Corps Community Center, at 10740 West Page Ave. in Overland. This building was also supposed to be sold, along with Hope Center, in 2004; but I guess they got more money out of SLU than they could have gotten for that North County property.

    But tell me - which location is more convenient for people using public transportation? Page & Ashby is served only by the #94 Page bus, and not all that often. Grand & Lindell is, of course, deep in the heart of the city's bus network.

    And meanwhile, despite their supposed financial difficulties, the Salvation Army St. Louis is expanding in the Affton area, onto a site that is gut-wrenching for me. Their Carondelet Corps, currently in the City at 3601 Weber, has "exceeded capacity" so they need to expand. The new site is the former St. Timothy parish at 824 Union Rd.

    Of course, before it was St. Timothy (opened 1958; closed 2004), that property was the farm of my staunchly German Catholic great-grandfather Henry B. Kremer. I am sure he wouldn't be pleased! I'm pretty sure he donated that property to the Catholic church in the mid-1950s; the back half of his property had been taken several years earlier by the state of Missouri to build I-55. He passed away in 1975, just a few years before I was born, and is buried at historic Mt. Olive Cemetery near Lemay - just a mile or so across Gravois Creek from his former home.

    --Three other Catholic parish properties east of Grand on the South Side are also for sale: the magnificent Immaculate Conception / St. Henry complex at 3120 Lafayette; and the Modernist St. Hedwig parish church and its much older associated buildings, at 3202 Pulaski, which was the real South St. Louis Polish parish (not St Agatha). St. Hedwig was very quietly sacrified amidst the St. Stanislaus debate; fortunately, St. Cecelia is quite close by the former St. Hedwig, for the remaining resident parishioners.

    Third on the sale list is St. Boniface, down in Carondelet at 7620 Michigan. Although its school building is currently leased to St. Louis Charter Academies, they haven't been doing so well, so one wonders how much longer that arrangement will remain. St. Boniface neighbors have to travel a good deal further to their new parish, St. Stephen Protomartyr in Holly Hills. So now, the historic Carondelet neighborhood no longer has a Catholic church of its own. Sts. Mary & Joseph is maintained by St. Stephen as a chapel.

    As you can probably tell, I'm still annoyed by how the Catholic church in St. Louis is running things. Sure, I'm a little hypocritical: I've never been to a regular mass nor was I confirmed. I was only baptised (at St. George, although my parents at that time lived in the St. Margaret Mary Alacoque parish boundaries). I attended public schools; and I didn't go to SLU for college (I went to UMSL).

    Nevertheless, I feel like the Church has turned its back in a horrific way on the people like my grandmother and her father (my great-grandfather) who may not have had much money, education, or material possessions, but supported their parish loyally with whatever they could give. (My grandmother was the same way with the American Legion Auxiliary, and now the Gardenville-Affton Memorial Post 300, of which she was a longtime member, closed down several months ago.)

    I feel my ancestors have been betrayed; so I feel justified in being unhappy. Particularly about the sale of that property on Union Road in (what used to be called) Gardenville to the Salvation Army, an organization whose policies are arguably even worse than those of the Roman Catholic Church!

    Tuesday, September 20, 2005

    Isn't That Special

    Isn't That Special

    Today is the special election for the 24th ward recall.

    Whatever you think of the idiosyncratic 24th ward alderman, this recall is worth noting. It marks the first attempt at recalling a Southside alderman in the City of St. Louis.

    Also, since it's only one ward, that makes it pretty easy to organize the advocates for either side. Ward 24 has only 9 precincts, and of those, only 7 have polling places. Several of those precincts vote at the same place, so there's really only 6 different places where people vote in the 24th ward:

    Carpenters Hall
    Wilkinson School
    Mason School
    Roe School (closed, but used as a temporary site for various schools at various times)
    Dewey School
    St. James School

    Of course, this is quite a lot of polling places, compared with some wards. In my own ward, the 20th, where voter turnout is quite low, there are only 5 precincts. We vote at a total of two locations:

    Lutheran Church Of Our Redeemer - conveniently located 1/2 a block from my house
    Froebel School

    In any event, this is an election to watch closely.

    Monday, September 19, 2005

    Ode to the HOV

    Ode to the HOV

    Yesterday, my mother-in-law introduced to a fascinating progressive magazine called Ode. It's originally written mostly in Dutch, then translated to English, so sometimes the writing is a little stilted. But generally, it has lots of interesting articles about developments around the world, particularly in the area of social entrepreneurship.

    One article in the October '05 issue, entitled "Unjamming the future" was all about how to deal with the dramatic expansion of car ownership in the developing world, but in a realistic way. Among the strategies was the development of dedicated busways and bus lanes, as a much cheaper alternative to light rail or subway development.

    I think it's high time to (re)consider busways and high-occupancy vehicle lanes in St. Louis.

    I say reconsider because in the 1980s, when the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the current MetroLink line was prepared, a "Locust Street Transit Mall" extending from 4th St. to Tucker Blvd., a dedicated busway, was proposed. It was strongly opposed by downtown merchants and Mayor Schoemehl, who favored light rail.

    St. Louis does already have one dedicated busway, of sorts: the Hodiamont right-of-way, which I discussed last month. It serves a relatively small area of the west side of the city.

    Also yesterday, I noticed MoDOT repaving the express lanes on I-70 from Union Blvd. to downtown. Whether that was a necessary project or not, it got me thinking: Why couldn't the I-70 express lanes be converted to an HOV/busway lane? Seems to me it would only require posting signs on the entry points indicating it's for "Car Pools / Buses Only." There are some problems with this idea, of course:

    --Many single-occupancy drivers love the express lanes. It's a much faster way to get through a part of town where, quite honestly, they don't want to stop anyway.

    --Those single-occupancy drivers would cheat, and the design of the express lanes would make it difficult for police to enforce the rules. This could be remedied with traffic cameras at the entrances. If they catch somebody with only one person in the vehicle - not sure how that would work, but it seems doable - the system would mail the driver a ticket.

    --The bus couldn't really stop anywhere in that stretch. I think there used to be exits from the express lanes onto Kingshighway, but didn't they remove those during the rebuild of I-70 a couple years ago? So you'd have to get on the bus on Riverview or Goodfellow, and ride all the way into downtown. Some express buses on I-70 currently stop at East Grand Ave. on passenger signal. That's not possible if you're riding down the express lanes.

    --If the current scheduling was kept, it would only serve traditional commutes: into downtown before noon, out of downtown after noon.

    --MetroLink already serves a good chunk of commuters who might otherwise use this stretch of I-70. They park at North Hanley and ride downtown; a bus using the express lanes wouldn't be much more convenient for them.

    --Traffic exiting the express lanes still has to enter the main roadway well in advance of the Poplar Street Bridge complex -- the region's primary traffic bottleneck.

    However, I still think dedicated busways and HOV lanes are worth considering in St. Louis. Maybe I-270 would be a good place to try this.

    Currently, there's no bus service along the I-270 corridor; the closest parallel is the #49 Lindbergh bus, but it usually operates on Lindbergh (of course!), several miles east. A bus running from, perhaps, St. Louis Mills to DePaul Hospital, West Port Plaza, Olive Blvd., St. John's Mercy, Missouri Baptist, Ballas Road MetroBus Center, West County Center, SLCC-Meramec, and Sunset Hills Shopping Center could be a very useful addition to the bus system, connecting several major trunk line reverse commute routes. Perhaps it could even branch off to Fenton, or St. Anthony's Hospital and South County Center. However, for it to make sense at all, there would need to be dedicated bus lanes on I-270. Otherwise, those buses would be caught in heavy traffic just like the cars.

    Saturday, September 17, 2005

    River Views

    River Views

    Although at the present time, I'm in no position to consider moving to a different house, I can still dream. So today, I was thinking: how many areas are there in the City of St. Louis where you could actually buy a house with a view of the Mississippi River?

    Using some basic GPS software and my own recollections from having explored some of these areas, this is what I've got:

    --Coal Bank Rd and Riverview Dr: This is the northernmost part of the City, north of I-270 in fact. There are still a handful of private residences clustered here, although most of the vicinity is owned by government agencies.

    --10100 Block of Lookaway Dr: A little further south, you can find what's basically a private street of mostly 1930s houses, off Riverview Dr (via Spring Garden Dr) and just west of Chain of Rocks Park. Between I-270 and here are the Hidden Park Apartments, and the Lookaway Drive Public Housing complex, neither of which you could buy, but which probably have decent views as well.

    --Lookout Dr at Lookout Ct: Still further south along the bluffs overlooking Riverview Dr, are these cul-de-sacs of 1930s homes accessed via Bluff Dr off Riverview. There are several houses in this area located within the City limits.

    South of that area, it gets a little sketchy. I don't know if anyplace in Baden has particularly interesting views, given the fairly gentle rise from the river in that section. I think the part of Baden east of Broadway may be in the floodplain.

    Then there's the cemeteries, which are definitely magnificent, but not opportunities for residential living - at least, not for the living!

    --Southeast of O'Fallon Park, another public space with nice views (regrettably interrupted by I-70), there are residential areas. For example, the now closed Lowell School is on a pretty high spot. There are probably houses around there on Von Phul, Linton, and DeSoto with some decent views across the industrial area to Mosenthein Island.

    --Bissell Mansion, and the surrounding block of Randall Place, certainly have decent views too. I'm not sure, but some of the buildings closer to East Grand might, too.

    --Clay Elementary School and the surrounding area are high up enough to have decent views across I-70, although the McKinley Bridge approaches obscure that view somewhat. South of Salisbury, I-70 and its ramps, along with the largely abandoned elevated railway/streetcar tracks leading from the bridge into downtown, prevent most views eastward.

    Likewise, although several apartment buildings downtown have stunning views, those aren't really homebuying options. And the elevated I-55 prevents you from seeing much south of there.

    Does Soulard have a view? I'm not entirely sure. Again, I think there isn't a well-defined bluff line in that area. While the residences are not in the flood plain, the area east of Broadway probably is.

    --9th & Utah, the "St Agatha District" or "South Soulard" has a bit of a slope, so some of those houses might have decent views.

    --Kosciusko St in Marine Villa has nice views, although across I-55. Still, there are some pretty cool, big old houses there.

    The areas further south with river views are a little better known: River Bluff Place, the house on the Mound off I-55 near S. Broadway, and the nursing home district. Here, the houses are actually prized for their river views, so it's not easy to find something on the market very often; although it happens occasionally.

    --Minnesota Ave in Carondelet near the Sisters of St. Joseph motherhouse might have decent views, too, but I don't really know. It does seem high up enough.

    --Likewise, I wonder if any of the houses along Water Street in the Patch area are high up enough? I think some of them are. There could be some potentially stunning views in that area, of the river and the vast agricultural bottomlands across the way.

    End of dream sequence...

    Friday, September 16, 2005

    Transit Woes

    Transit Woes

    Ok, I know Metro Transit has bigger battles to fight right now regarding the Cross County line, but I just can't figure out why they have so many unannounced bus route detours.

    If we're talking about a real emergency, it's understandable. But Olive Street near the 9th Street Garage construction site has been closed for at least a week. As a result, the Southside express bus inbound trips in the morning are detoured two blocks south, onto Chestnut.

    A little notice about this would be helpful - especially since Metro does have a Rider Alerts page on their website which currently has only one, highly inaccurate posting about "#80 Shaw/Southampton - Elevator at East Riverfront Out of Order." Of course, the #80 Shaw/Southampton does not stop anywhere near the East Riverfront station; it serves downtown and a wide swath of the Southside.

    Likewise, a few nights ago I was trying to catch the #30 Soulard near the Stadium MetroLink station. I missed it due to a variety of factors:
    1) I got off the MetroLink only a few minutes before the scheduled bus arrival time. Normally, this I can handle;
    2) The crushing crowd of people headed toward the stadium made it very difficult for me to navigate the sidewalks on 7th Street in the opposite direction;
    3) For some crazy reason, on game nights the staircase leading from the eastbound MetroLink platform to Spruce St. is closed off with yellow tape by Metro security. This forced me to join the horde headed for the ballgame up that excruciatingly long ramp that points you toward Clark Ave.;
    4) Finally, I headed south on 7th, but I stopped and waited at a rather creepy location, a bus stop on S. 7th near Gratiot, under a railroad bridge; and
    5) And then I realized - hey, this bus hasn't come yet! So I walked a little further south, and just as I got to 7th and Chouteau, it came through turning left from westbound Chouteau onto southbound 7th! It swung right by, and I missed it. I guess they had decided to detour to Broadway because of traffic congestion around the ballpark; but how was I to know that?

    Sometimes, a little advance notice can go a long way.

    Thursday, September 15, 2005

    A Bigger ZMD?

    A Bigger ZMD?

    According to and Jo Mannies Political Fix, four African-American history and culture groups may be added to the Zoo-Museum District, as a new "African American History Museum and Cultural sub-district" if voters approve in April 2006.

    This is long overdue. Kansas City celebrates its black heritage in many ways; and while other cities like New York and Chicago have much more famous representations, St. Louis is still a crucial part of the African-American experience, as one of the destinations illustrated in Jacob Lawrence's "The First Wave of the Great Migration (1916-1919) - part I".

    The four organizations proposed to benefit are:
    –The Black World History Museum on St. Louis Avenue;
    –Better Family Life Inc., an already pretty well-funded agency (but with no web site?) that has long talked about developing a cultural center at Union and Cabanne;
    – The Juneteenth Heritage and Jazz Festival;
    — the Harambee Institute, which teaches jewelry-making and various performing arts.

    Here are my concerns:

    - How will the funds be distributed? Lois Conley has, over the past decade or so, struggled to developed the Black World History Museum into an interesting attraction. I think she deserves some help. However, would Better Family Life, with their greater organizational capacity and weight to throw around, end up getting the lion's share of the funding? Would the Juneteenth Festival only get funding for the annual weekend festival, or would they be able to do more educational programming?

    - If this is on the April '06 ballot, what's the turnout likely to be? I expect if there's nothing else major on that election ballot in the City or the County, it'll probably pass easily because of low turnout. However, if there's a tax increase in, say, Mehlville or Lindbergh, a lot of racist, anti-tax white voters might come out and vote "no" on everything that involves a tax increase.

    - How will African-Americans who live in North St. Louis County or South St. Louis City be served by these organizations? They all seem to be pretty much based in the near north and west sides of the city. And to the extent this can promote redevelopment of those communities, it's great. But the entire community needs to be considered as well, if their support is to be garnered in the election.

    Two related issues that might cause concern are:

    - The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra eventually may want to hook into the ZMD, too. They've failed at it once before, but perhaps this is a better time for it. Or perhaps not.
    - There's been talk of expanding the ZMD to surrounding counties, particularly St. Charles and possibly even Illinois. Would voters in those jurisdictions - who, let's face it, include a lot of pretty racist people - be disinclined to support a ZMD that included an African-American cultural center?

    Overall, I think this is a great idea; I just am concerned that campaign logistics and strategy need to be developed more thoroughly.

    Wednesday, September 14, 2005

    STL Helps

    STL Helps

    In case you haven't seen it yet, Sue Beckwith and others around town have set up STL Helps, a blog "featuring news and links to activities in St. Louis, Missouri, that are meant to help the survivors of Hurricane Katrina." They have some useful critiques of the efforts as they have transpired.

    As Channel 5 reports, many evacuees here are frustrated by their inability to access needed help.

    Even though the "Welcome Center" (AKA the Boeing hangar at Lambert) is shutting down and the "Regional Assistance Center" (AKA the St. Louis County Adult Correctional Institute in Chesterfield) has very few people - at least as of yesterday - there are still thousands of people here staying with family, friends, and host families.

    Meanwhile, Washington University - criticized for its enrolling evacuee students as visiting rather than full-time - has an extensive web site for information on student and community efforts to help.

    One bone to pick I have is that, according to St. Louis County's web site, offers of employment to evacuees are supposed to go through the Salvation Army St. Louis.

    This makes no sense to me! Aside from the many things that bother me about the way the Salvation Army operates, why is employment assistance part of their purview? Isn't that something that SLATE and the Department of Economic Development should handle, to make sure people can get access to decent jobs?

    Anyway, it appears that at this time the American Red Cross - St. Louis chapter is the coordinator for all help requests by evacuees. FEMA reps are also located there, so evacuees can register for help through FEMA. The Red Cross local office is located at:

    10195 Corporate Square (at Lindbergh)
    St. Louis, MO 63132
    Call toll free:

    To get there by MetroBus:

    -- #49 Lindbergh northbound stops practically at the front door (about 1/2 mile north of the Olive Blvd. overpass). #49 Lindbergh;

    -- But from #49 Lindbergh southbound it is nearly impossible to get across the road. This stretch of Lindbergh is pretty much a high-speed expressway. It's much safer to get off the #49 Lindbergh southbound 1/2 mile north, at Schuetz Road/Baur Blvd., cross Lindbergh at the signal, then walk south alongside the northbound lanes until you hit the Red Cross building.

    #49 Lindbergh operates every 30 minutes on weekdays, 5 AM to 7:30 PM; every 60 minutes on Saturdays, 5:30 AM to 7:30 PM; and does not service the Lindbergh corridor on Sundays. #49 Lindbergh connects with the following other routes:

    North of Red Cross (i.e., you'd be riding southbound, so get off at Schuetz):
    --MetroLink, #04 Natural Bridge, #34 Earth City, #45 Hazelwood-Ferguson, #47 Cross County, #61 Chambers Road, all at North Hanley MetroLink Station;
    --Greyhound and #66 Clayton-Airport at the Lambert Airport Bus Port (located at the entrance to airport intermediate parking);
    --#32 Wellston-Martin Luther King and #60 Midland at Northwest Plaza;
    --#33 Dorsett-Lackland at Midland Blvd. overpass (hazardous walking area);
    --#94 Page at Page Ave. overpass (hazardous walking area);

    South of Red Cross (i.e., you'd be riding northbound, so you can get off right at the Red Cross):

    --#91 Olive on Olive Blvd. or Old Olive Street Rd. (or, could just walk 1/2 mile from Olive overpass; hazardous walking area);
    --#93 Lindell (selected trips) between Ladue Rd. and Conway Rd.;
    --#57 Manchester, #58 Clayton-Ballas, and the Chesterfield Connectors (one of which serves Chesterfield Airport Road near the "Regional Assistance Center"), all at the Ballas Road MetroBus Center;
    --#92 Lindenwood at Adams Ave. in Kirkwood;
    --#47 Cross County (selected trips) at Big Bend Blvd. in Kirkwood;
    --#10 Gravois (selected trips) and #11 Chippewa at Sunset Hills Plaza (Watson Rd.);
    --#10 Gravois (selected trips) at Gravois Rd.;
    --#47 Cross County (selected trips) at Tesson Ferry Rd.;
    --#40 Broadway and #52 Clayton-South County at South County Center.

    -- Other options sometimes available are the #91 Olive branch via JCCA which runs on Schuetz/Baur, and stops at Lindbergh, about 1/2 mile north of the Red Cross; and the #94 Page branch via Schuetz. Check both schedules to find out when they run via JCCA/Schuetz.

    By the way, Metro operators themselves are making a huge contribution to the relief effort.

    Tuesday, September 13, 2005

    Benton Park West Walking Tours

    Benton Park West Walking Tours

    Edna Gravenhorst, author of a new short book about the history of the Benton Park West neighborhood; and St. Louis Walking Tours have teamed up to offer a series of walking tours of Benton Park West, starting Sept. 24th and running every other weekend through Nov. 5th.

    Each tour covers a different section of the neighborhood. Tours are $10 ($8 for residents) and last about 2 hours each.

    While folks like me take a self-guided 'walking tour' of BPW every morning, this would be a great way to get a little exercise, meet new people, and get an introduction to this up-and-coming neighborhood!

    Also, on Friday, Sept. 16th from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM, Gravenhorst will sign copies of her book at Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts, 3151 Cherokee Street (it's a small storefront building on Cherokee, about three doors east of Compton).

    So even if you can't participate in the formally organized walking tours, you can buy the book as a guide to creating your own, self-guided tour.

    Monday, September 12, 2005

    Streets of the South Side

    Streets of the South Side

    Well, I was hoping to post something longer about this really cool book I found on Sunday at the library:

    St. Louis: The Evolution of An American Urban Landscape by Eric Sandweiss (Temple University Press, August 2001).

    Anyway, it's a really cool, well-written, detailed narrative of the historical development of the South Side (focused on the area bounded by Lafayette on the north, Broadway on the east, Chippewa on the south, and Grand on the west). The pre-development and early development of the area is covered, from about the 1840s to 1920, with the final chapter broadening the context to citywide and extending the time period through the 1947 comprehensive plan.

    It provides a great deal of interesting context for current redevelopment and historic preservation efforts. And the history, for a fourth-generation Southsider (albeit removed for much of my childhood to the suburbs) like me, is interesting in and of itself.

    Although it wasn't my plan, I could justify reading it as academic research, since the story it tells has broad, enduring political implications.

    Too bad Sandweiss left MoHist; but I'm sure he's doing well at Indiana.

    Maybe I'll check out his dissertation next:
    Construction and Community in South St. Louis, 1850-1910 from UC-Berkeley, 1991. Wash U Archives has a reference copy.

    Saturday, September 10, 2005

    Crackdown on Jaywalkers

    Crackdown on Jaywalkers

    It sounds like a joke, but St. Louis Police have started issuing warnings and tickets to jaywalkers.

    To be fair, they're also cracking down on drivers who disobey crosswalks and nearly hit pedestrians. Under this East-West Gateway-sponsored initiative, a grant was obtained for St. Louis City, St. Charles and University City police overtime to more effectively enforce traffic laws, and hopefully cut down on the number of pedestrian fatalities. They don't always issue fines; sometimes they just give out warnings or "educational notices."

    Sure, this is a laudable goal, but the timing of the article seems odd. Between the stories about crime "memos" for rape, assualt, etc. and the ongoing rash of car thefts and even car license tag thefts, not to mention the huge disparity in call for service among the different St. Louis police districts, aren't there more significant concerns for St. Louis police?

    And no, I have not received a jaywalking ticket, yet. I admit, I don't always cross at corners; and sometimes, I don't use the mid-block crosswalks because they are poorly placed. I still try to be careful crossing streets, even if I'm doing so legally, since I realize I have no chance against a 4,000 pound hunk of metal traveling even at 25 mph.

    But regarding enforcement, it comes down to this: if an allegation of rape does not warrant a full police report, why does jaywalking warrant a $10 fine?

    Friday, September 09, 2005

    Bye Bye, Brownie

    Bye Bye, Brownie

    FEMA Director and Undersecretary of Homeland Security Michael Brown has been relieved of his on-the-ground duties in the Katrina relief effort.

    What other significant duties he has, I'm not sure. In any event, a Coast Guard admiral will be taking over the recovery efforts.

    Meanwhile, Mardi Gras Inc. in St. Louis is having a benefit for the relief effort this Sunday, September 11th. Called the Bourbon Street Benefit, it's $20 at the door, at the Casa Loma Ballroom, Cherokee and Iowa in beautiful Benton Park West!

    Thursday, September 08, 2005

    UMSL Lands Express Scripts

    UMSL Lands Express Scripts

    Express Scripts, the Maryland Heights (Riverport)-based mail-order prescription management firm, announced today its intentions to relocate its corporate headquarters to the business park at the University of Missouri Saint Louis.

    This is a pretty big deal on several levels:

    -- Blanche Touhill is vindicated, in some ways, for her expansionary visions over the years. I still feel the criticisms against some of her strategies for UMSL were valid; nevertheless, she's probably pretty happy she advocated for the dramatic expansion of the campus northward that makes this possible.

    -- It provides a new, high-visibility tenant for the UMSL business park, which risks getting mixed up with the Missouri Research Park, located near Weldon Springs and managed primarily by UM-Columbia. It also helps justify the huge expenditures involved in rebuilding the I-70 at Florissant Road interchange (now rechristened "University Boulevard").

    -- It's a major corporate relocation to the inner-ring suburbs of North County - an area that hasn't had a major new corporation locate there in probably 20 years. (Part of me is really surprised Emerson didn't pack up and head for greener pastures in the 1990s, as Northland Shopping Center rapidly decayed.) As such, it's a big coup for Charlie Dooley -- although I guess he can't make too big a deal of it, since they relocated from somewhere else (barely) in St. Louis County.

    -- Matt Blunt gets to look really good (grrrr), as do all the legislators who supported the "Missouri Quality Jobs Act."

    The act, which went into effect on Aug. 28th, "allows withholding tax incentives to be used to target three vital economic development areas important to Missouri's future - small and expanding businesses, new technology companies, and high impact projects... The new law also requires qualifying businesses to create a minimum number of jobs at competitive wage levels, offer health insurance to these new employees, and pay at least half their premiums."

    Sounds pretty good - something that, not surprisingly, could get bipartisan support.

    -- The only person (maybe) unhappy about this? Eliot Spitzer. ;-)

    East Side Schnucking

    East Side Schnucking

    Schnucks Markets has announced its East St. Louis store will stay open.

    Apparently, Jim Koman of Koman Properties agreed to let Schnucks lease the space it occupies at 25th and State for $1 per year for 5 years.

    This "$1 per year" is usually a strategy employed between government and non-profits. For example, St. Louis Public Schools used to lease Gardenville School and Windsor School to community center groups. Of course, those were annual agreements, and when SLPS decided to take those buildings back - so they could sell them! - the community centers at both sites pretty much disbanded.

    Schnucks blames the Walgreens across the street for hurting its business. You may recall it opened with great fanfare in 1999, including a visit by President Bill Clinton to announce a new markets initiative.

    This claim by Schnucks is b.s. Many shopping centers around town have both a full-service grocery store and a drug store, mostly Walgreens. They are supposed to be co-located, from a marketing standpoint. It's convenient for shoppers, and both stores benefit.

    As for Save-A-Lot - well, personally, I think those stores are quite crappy. Some are maintained better than others, but even if Schnucks can't compete with them on price, they should be able to compete on quality.

    Unfortunately, like many urban Schnucks locations, the East St. Louis store doesn't have much better quality products or customer service than Save-A-Lot. Many urban Schnucks stores are definitely a step below suburban stores. There's no denying it - both in terms of produce freshness, meat cuts, frequency of stocking, and staffer friendliness. Then there's the security guards.

    In any event, I thought it really ironic that several years back, when I attended an early morning meeting in downtown ESL, the coordinator drove all the way to the Schnucks in Cahokia to buy donuts! And this was a meeting about financing redevelopment projects in ESL!

    Tuesday, September 06, 2005

    Opening Our Arms and Hearts

    Opening Our Arms and Hearts

    As the Channel 5 Noon News noted, today hundreds of evacuees from New Orleans began arriving in St. Louis, St. Louis County and the Metro East in large numbers as part of the planned exodus.

    Many will be housed, temporarily, at a Lambert Airport hangar (owned, I think, by Boeing), at the former Alton Mental Health Center in Alton IL, and at the former St. Louis County ACI (Adult Correctional Institution; later a juvenile offender boot camp) in the Chesterfield Valley (aka "Gumbo Flats").

    These locations are less than ideal, but apparently the volunteers and staffers involved in setting up these centers are enthusiastic, and are trying to brighten up the places with toys for kids, removal of barbed wire, etc.

    Hopefully, not too many folks in these areas will complain of a "New Orleans invasion" as some Baton Rouge residents supposedly have.

    It is too bad, though, that folks are being housed at such remote locations, and at least two of which certainly have negative connotions / histories in the eyes of nearby residents. And none of the three are especially convenient to public transportation. Since most are being airlifted or bused here, they probably don't have cars of their own anymore; many probably never did. So, it would be preferable for them to have a way to get around St. Louis and look for jobs.

    On this note, the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) Situation Reports, issued 2-3 times daily in this crisis period, are a must-read. The report from 5 PM today suggests, though, that displaced persons may not have started to arrive at STL yet, stating "We are still in a holding pattern at this time..."

    Nevertheless, whether they arrive today or over the course of the coming weeks, hopefully the evacuees will be treated well and warmly.

    Saturday, September 03, 2005

    Rehnquist Passes Away

    Rehnquist Passes Away

    Chief Justice William Rehnquist died this evening at age 80.

    Whatever you thought of his politics, he clearly had a pretty hard, painful battle against thyroid cancer over the past year or so.

    At least he was able to pass at home, with his family by his side.

    Friday, September 02, 2005

    Kudos to Craigslist

    Kudos to Craigslist

    Craigslist, the very simple-looking, but very useful network of community bulletin board web sites, is performing a crucial role in the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.

    Nearly 2,000 postings have been made TODAY, and even more earlier, on the New Orleans Lost/Found page by people searching for their loved ones; and about 1,500 postings in offer of temporary housing -- again just today -- from as far away as Seattle and Ecuador. Indeed, the entire New Orleans Craigslist is now permeated heavily by these types of postings.

    Craigslist proves that you don't need fancy, high-bandwidth graphics and video on your web site to make a difference. If just one person finds their loved ones or a place to stay as a result, Craigslist deserves a medal.

    I know it's a cliche, but sometimes technology works wonders.

    City Employees Help Out

    City Employees Help Out

    City of St. Louis employees are planning at least two fundraisers to assist the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

    Friday, September 9
    CDA/PDA/SLDC employees
    potluck luncheon for Katrina victims
    proceeds to American Red Cross

    Monday, September 12
    9 am
    City Hall Rotunda
    Bake Sale sponsored by License Collector Gregg Daly
    proceeds to American Red Cross

    Also, E&A has announced that city employees will be able to donate to the effort via a one-time payroll deduction.

    "Forms will be passed out to employees early next week. We request that you return the form to your payroll section by September 14, 2005. The deduction will come from your check on September 23, 2005. We are a very generous and compassionate City and we know you will do all you can. Thank you for your generosity.

    -Francis G. Slay, Mayor
    -Darlene Green, Comptroller
    -James Shrewsbury, Aldermanic President"

    Thursday, September 01, 2005

    Pricey Gases

    Pricey Gases

    Well, it was inevitable: gasoline is now up to $3.00 in St. Louis, apparently approaching $3.50 in SW Illinois.

    While I'm sure there's some collusion and price-fixing going on, I'm not sure Lacy Clay coming out and accusing Bush is particularly productive. I dislike Pres. Bush, but is this really the time for such grandstanding?

    After all, we have thousands and thousands of people killed, injured or left homeless in New Orleans.

    It just seems like a little perspective is in order.

    Meanwhile, Laclede Gas rates will probably be going up significantly this winter, too.

    I wonder if bus fares will increase again, even sooner than planned?

    It's all a big, crazy mess, that's what I say.