Monday, October 31, 2005

Walgreens Round-Up

Walgreens Round-Up

Currently, Walgreens Pharmacies has fourteen stores located within the City of St. Louis. Most were built within the past ten years.

Here's the list, in order of closest to my house, sort of:

1) 4140 S. Broadway, 63118
(S. Broadway at Gasconade)
Drive-Thru, 24 Hours
Freestanding, built 1996, renovated 2001
Used to be there: VFW Hall
Replaced Location at: Chariton Square Shopping Center, 4252 S. Broadway (built 1971; now occupied by Blockbuster Video and Family Dollar)

2) 3631 Gravois Ave.,63116
(Grand at Gravois)
Drive-Thru, 24 Hours
Freestanding, built 2003
Used to be there: 7 houses, 4 commercial buildings.
Replaced Location at: Gravois Plaza, 3845 Gravois Ave. (built c. 1969; demolished 2002)

3) 5550 S. Grand Blvd., 63111
(Grand at Bates)
No Drive-Thru, Not 24 Hours
Freestanding, built 1966, renovated 2001
Building built as supermarket.

4) 2933 S. Kingshighway Blvd., 63139
(Kingshighway at Arsenal)
Drive-Thru, Not 24 Hours
Freestanding, built 1999
Used to be there: Carriage Bowl; Shell station.

5) 3822 S. Kingshighway Blvd., 63109
(Kingshighway at Chippewa)
Drive-Thru, Not 24 Hours
Freestanding, built 2005
Used to be there: Southtown Famous-Barr
Replaced Location at: 4610 Chippewa St. (built 1986), just across the street.

6) 4925 Southwest Ave., 63110
(Kingshighway at Southwest)
No Drive-Thru, Not 24 Hours
In Small Strip Center, built 1987, renovated 2001
Used to be there: 1 story commercial building.

7) 6411 Gravois Ave., 63116
(Gravois at Holly Hills)
No Drive-Thru, Not 24 Hours
In Small Strip Center, built 1986, renovated 1998
Used to be there: Witt Funeral Home.

8) 515 N. 6th St., 63101
(St. Louis Centre 4th Floor)
No Drive-Thru, Not 24 Hours
Indoor Shopping Mall, built 1985
Used to be there: Woolworths and other shops
This is their last remaining downtown store. There was also one for many years in the Century Building at 9th and Olive, which closed in 2002 and was demolished in 2004.

9) 4200 Lindell Blvd., 63108
(Lindell at Whittier)
Drive-Thru, 24 Hours
Freestanding, built 2002, renovated 2005
Used to be there: Cinerama movie theater. Demolished 1997 to allow adding of drive-thru and more parking to previous Walgreens store next door.
Replaced Location: Right next door (built 1990?; renovated 1997; demolished 2002). That store had itself replaced the historic location at the NE corner of Grand and Olive on the ground floor of the Metropolitan Building (built 1907). "Walgreens operated a store at the site for more than a half-century until the 1980s." (St. Louis Business Journal July 2005)

10) 3920 Hampton Ave., 63109
(Hampton at Chippewa)
Drive-Thru, 24 Hours
Freestanding, built 2005
Used to be there: Dobbs Auto Center; Catholic Supply; St. Louis Cat Clinic; Art Deco apartment building on Lindenwood Court.
Replaced Location at: #4 Hampton Village Plaza (built 1950), just across the street. Project also involved building a new facility for Dobbs Tire & Auto Center, behind the new store.

11) 7339 Gravois Ave., 63116
(Gravois at Hampton)
Drive-Thru, 24 Hours
Freestanding, built 1996
Used to be there: Red Bird Lanes; Sno-cone stand
Replaced Location at: Strip shopping center, SW corner Loughborough and Morganford (built 1957; renovated 1998 into Save-A-Lot after Walgreens left).

12) 2310 McCausland Ave., 63143
(McCausland at Manchester)
Drive-Thru, Not 24 Hours
Freestanding, built 1968, renovated 1998.

13) 1225 Union Blvd., 63113
(Union at Page)
Drive-Thru, Not 24 Hours
Freestanding, built 1998
Used to be there: Funeral home, laundromat, park.

14) 3720 N. Kingshighway Blvd., 63115
(Kingshighway at Natural Bridge)
Drive-Thru, Not 24 Hours
Freestanding, built 2005
Used to be there: vacant gas station; title loan office.

For good measure, here's the one store in East St. Louis, IL:

2510 State St., 62205
(25th at State, East St. Louis, IL)
Drive-Thru, Not 24 Hours
Freestanding, built 1999
Used to be there: probably a few houses or commercial buildings, but I'm not sure.
Replaced Location at: Collinsville Ave. in downtown ESL, closed in 1997. The store's claim to fame is that President Bill Clinton visited for the grand opening, in summer 1999, to talk about his New Markets Initiative.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

On the Post-Dispatch, and Our City's Demographics

On the Post-Dispatch, and Our City's Demographics

This week marks the early retirement of dozens of long-time staffers at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Among them is Betty Cuniberti, who reflects on the changing environment of the newspaper biz in her final column today.

Many of the folks retiring have written good stuff, and many have decades of experience there. It's a shame, but I can't blame them for taking such a lucrative offer.

I suspect union-busting is the aim of Lee Enterprises in making these cuts. Once the old-timers are gone, it'll be easier to kill the St. Louis Newspaper Guild. Suburban Journals reporters are still not union-represented.

Anyway, a prominently-placed article in today's P-D annoyed me a little bit.

"Blacks in three ZIP codes have poorest health, worst care" notes that, not surprisingly, low-income mostly African-American areas like the 63106, 63107 and 63113 ZIP codes on the near Northside have poor access to health care and poor health.

Then, it briefly notes that "[City of St. Louis Health Department, Bureau of Family, School & Community Health chief Bill] Dotson said that among other ZIP codes showing poor health rankings is 63118, an area generally east and southeast of Tower Grove Park, which has a growing immigrant population."

Huh? It may be what Mr. Dotson said, I don't know. While that simplistic analysis may have been accurate 15 or 20 years ago, it's not so accurate today.

It would be way more accurate to say 63118 is a majority African-American area. 52.1% according to 2000 Census figures. The area also has a large, constantly changing immigrant population. 63118 has a high incidence of childhood lead poisoning, among other indicators.

While the P-D article does not identify the document referenced, it is most likely the update to "Public Health: Understanding Our Needs" produced by Louise Quesada and her staff at the Health Department in November 2004 - almost a year ago.

I agree that our high-poverty, heavily African-American neighborhoods need special attention in improving health care delivery and outcomes.

However, I also recognize that such communities now exist both in North St. Louis and South St. Louis.

If you want to find an area with a growing immigrant population, try 63123 - Affton - or even 63129 - Oakville. Bosnian families are moving to those areas in droves, exiting the Bevo neighborhood and environs.

At the same time, newer immigrant groups are moving into Bevo, Dutchtown, Tower Grove, etc. - Hispanics, African refugees, Afghanis, etc. While some may take up residence in 63118 for a while at first, many move on to 63116 (called a mostly white, healthy area in the article), or even out to the county or at least west of Kingshighway.

63118 ZIP code has many of the same problems as North St. Louis neighborhoods. The difference is the population density is higher in 63118 than in most of the Northside, which has experienced dramatic population decline over the past 20 years. And 63118 is experiencing something of a gentrification squeeze, which seems to be pushing poor people out of parts of Tower Grove East and Benton Park, mostly into Benton Park West and Gravois Park, already pretty high-poverty areas.

Thus, some might argue that public health and social services are needed even more in 63118, and some of the nearby areas of 63111, 63116 and 63104, than in North City.

But, I would argue that every area that has concentrated poverty needs better services.

No matter what the mayor says, a rising tide does not lift all boats.

Maybe, just maybe, last week's shift in control of the four public health centers in the City from ConnectCare to Grace Hill and Myrtle Hilliard Davis Comprehensive will be a good thing. I sure hope so.

For fun, I took a look at how well I myself represent 63118. Needless to say, I'm kind of an outlier. (Please note that during Census 2000, I did not live here; I took the Census while living in an UMSL dorm in the Village of Bel-Nor. But I have lived in 63118 since early 2001.)

My personal characteristics in relation to 63118:

Basic Demographics:

Speak English only: 87.7%
Moved in last 5 years: 65%
Male: 47.2%
White: 38.4%
Married: 29%
Age 25-34: 16.1%
Married Couple w/no kids: 11.5%
Lived in Same State, Different County in 1995: 9.7%

Education and Work:

In Labor Force and Employed: 48.3%
Management, professional and related occupations: 21.8%
HH Income $25,000 - $35,000: 15.9%
Public Transportation to work: 15.1%
Employed in Education: 5.5%
Ed. Attainment - Masters: 2.5%


Built Before 1940: 67.9%
2 to 4 Family Building: 59.9%
Owner Occupied: 37.3%
Value $50,000 - $99,999: 34.9%

While I'm certainly not the only married white male 25-34 year old with no kids, who works in education and has a master's degree, takes public transit to work, and owns a 2-family home priced just over $50,000, in 63118, there probably aren't a lot of others like me. And that's just fine with me!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Meta-Blogging; Roveing

Meta-Blogging; Roveing

My recent postings about metropolitan fragmentation and urban hiking may seem, well, kind of irrelevant giving the current world and national news.

This blog has one point of view - mine! Of course, comments are more than welcome, too.

I'm gonna try to cut down the length of my posts, both for the sake of my wrists and the eyes of my readers. I just get really enthusiastic about these hikes, especially when the weather is sure to turn soon - so I won't be able to enjoy it much longer!


Scooter Libby is out. Hoo-rah!

But, we all know he's not really going away.

And we also know who the real prize is.

I also have a theory about Karl:

According to his Wikipedia profile, he has an ex-wife named Valerie Wainwright.

So, maybe he just doesn't like Valeries?

I guess Valerie Harper and Valerie Bertinelli better watch out...

Finally, something Eddie Van Halen and Karl Rove have in common: they both have ex-wives named Valerie.

Likewise, NBC might have something in common with Rove, since they famously retitled a sitcom twice because of a dispute with Harper in the late 1980s.

The name Valerie, by the way, is generally considered of French origin. It means "strong," "fierce," or simply "valor."

Not a bad name for a CIA agent. (Hey, her name is public knowledge now, after all.)

Also, check out the hilarious online game - that does kind of require a speedy internet connection - "Brewster Jennings Saves America."

More Urban Hiking

More Urban Hiking

Tonight, after working at WashU, I decided to walk towards home, and see if I could make it. I pretty much did, albeit with a couple brief stopovers on the way. It took just under 2 1/2 hours (5:00 to almost 7:30 pm).

I didn't use my electronic compass, although I could have. I didn't use a GPS, although I have one at home. According to my GPS software, a straight-line route from WashU Eliot Hall to my house would be 5.65 miles. Of course, that route would involve a great deal of trespassing on private property, given the nature of our rather irregular street grid.

My route was about 7.5 miles. So, while not quite a straight line, it was about as close as you'd expect me to get, with no navigational aides and while trying to avoid trespassing.

So, I started off, of course, strolling in a southeasterly direction through the campus, toward Forsyth and Skinker. After crossing Skinker, I headed southeast along Lagoon Drive in Forest Park, through the golf course, until the traffic island at the wedge where Fine Arts Drive intersects Lagoon. Then, I took a footpath and then a direct walk through the grass, along the ridge near the end of what used to be called Fairview Drive, and then back to the footpath along the base of Art Hill and the edge of the Grand Basin.

Here, there were a lot of people just hanging out, strolling picnicking or whatever. Some were affiliated with a wedding taking photos nearby, but certainly not all. It's a testament to the effectiveness of the Forest Park Master Plan. People do indeed congregate around the Grand Basin, even when there may not be a scheduled event there. Thank goodness that area was removed from the golf course.

I continued along the footpath, following the perimeter of that lagoon that connects the Grand Basin with Post-Dispatch Lake. I saw, for the first time I can recall, the Friedrich Jahn / Turnverein monument, which overlooks P-D Lake just north of Government Drive. The footpath in that section used to be part of Washington Drive, I believe; but it was closed to traffic years ago.

At about Washington Drive and Government Drive, I crossed over onto the grand terraces that lead up to the World's Fair Pavilion. Eschewing the traditional stairways, I cut diagonally across the grassy knolls, upward and onward, reaching Concourse Drive a bit north of the pavilion area. Then I cut diagonally, at a slightly different angle, across the picnic areas and toward the comfort station on Carr Lane Drive.

I discovered, also for the first time, a foot path through the gully just to the east of Carr Lane Drive! I'm not entirely sure it's supposed to be used by the public, but it had a broken-down little bridge with railings, just off Carr Lane Drive across from the comfort station. So I took this winding, uphill dirt path through the trees... and emerged immediately across McKinley Drive from the Jewel Box! Quite impressive.

I crossed over McKinley, stopped and admired the Jewel Box a moment, then went south by the traffic circle and the edge of Triple A Golf Club, to Clayton Road. I followed the bike path on the south side of Clayton Road for a while, then got antsy and just cut diagonally across Boeing Aviation Fields.

I stopped for a potty break at the very, very nice comfort station on Boeing Aviation Fields. It was actually open, unlocked at 5:30 on a Saturday; and best of all, heated! The toilet worked, the sink worked, and there were even paper towels in the dispensers. Forest Park management is really setting a higher standard for public restroom maintenance.

From there, I continued across the fields, to access my favorite secret passageway, the Macklind tunnel under Highway 40, just steps from the Mounted Police stables.

But wait - it's not so secret, after all. Two bicyclists were coming into the park that way. Darn, my secret is out. Of course, I don't think the tunnel will be around much longer - the New I-64 plan calls for it to be closed and relocated a bit further east. Too bad.

This was the end of the Forest Park leg of my trip, about 2.7 miles total.

From there, I headed due east along Oakland Avenue, all the way to the alley between St. Louis University High School and Lawn Place. I took the alley down to Berthold, backtracked down Berthold a bit to recently-vacated Brother Thornton Way, then caught the alley behind Wise Avenue through to Kingshighway.

I have to say, I would not be happy if I lived on the 4900 blocks of Wise or Berthold. SLUH has closed off Brother Thornton, the connector street between those two residential streets, and owns much of the property toward the back end of both blocks. They had already closed Berthold and Wise several years ago, for their performing arts center and parking expansions. Actually the pavement for Berthold still exists, but it is fenced off with chain link, and all gates are usually locked - no pedestrian or vehicular access allowed.

At that moment I passed there, the gate from the Science Center side, near East Road, was open; but not the side facing the neighborhood. Indeed, behind the mud-caked dead-end of Wise, the SLUH parking lot fence is topped by rings of barbed wire. Very neighbor-friendly.

Once I reached Kingshighway at Manchester, I dashed across Manchester and decided to go under the fancy-looking viaduct. The sidewalks really aren't very wide on the viaduct, so you're always kind of worried a truck mirror could hit you. Going under the viaduct is a surreal experience, but it is pretty much legal. There's even a grade crossing for both sets of railroad tracks; and the added benefit is that you can cross under Kingshighway, too. I did that, coming out somewhere near the northeast corner of Kingshighway and McRee.

I kept going south on Kingshighway, although I suppose I could have turned. From McRee southward, there are no cross-streets until Shaw, because there are no I-44 ramps on the east side of Kingshighway.

Now, that other, lesser-known South Kingshighway viaduct, which passes over a single railroad track between Shaw and Vandeventer, is quite decrepit. The right lanes are too narrow, it's really steep on both sides, and best of all, the walkways are closed. Some enterprising person has removed the boards from some of the access points to the walkways on the east side of the street, I noticed. However, I wasn't adventurous enough to go inside.

After all, they might still be boarded when I get to the top, where cars pass by. And, it looks really creepy in there - there's a really rusty handrail, with similarly rusty chain-link fencing topping it, all the way up to the rusty metal ceilings of these corridors. They are actually not stairways but ramps, rather unusual for the time when they were built. However, they are probably way, way too steep to be considered safe for a wheelchair user.

So, I just crossed those railroad tracks at-grade, on an unofficial but evidently well-used pathway. The sidewalk behind Don Brown Chevrolet is quite overgrown here, but nobody seems to care. I somehow managed to cross Vandeventer, although it's not an easy task given the way the signals are (not) synchronized for pedestrians on this side of the intersection.

I was getting tired of Kingshighway already, so at Tower Grove Place I turned east. This section of the Southwest Garden neighborhood has some simply beautiful homes. While I'm sure they are priced accordingly, it seems like a very quiet, tranquil street in a very central location. I took Tower Grove Place east to Maury, then jogged south to the alley
behind the Place. I think, probably, there used to be a staircase leading to this alley from the dead-end of Heger Court, a bungalow-court private street accessed only via Magnolia Avenue. But it's all fenced off now.

I picked up Alfred for a block, then headed east on Magnolia along the back of the Missouri Botanical Garden. By now the sun had set, so it was incredibly dark, quiet and tranquil along this route. Although Magnolia is something of a major street, there was very little traffic at the time. So, it seemed especially peaceful, passing between the garden and Tower Grove Park.

Somewhere near Tower Grove Avenue (aka Center Cross Drive) I entered Tower Grove Park, for an extended diagonal romp through one of the more appealing public spaces in the city.

Naturally, I cut through the area of the lilly ponds, fountain and Victorian "ruins" near the Piper Palm House - busy, too, because of a wedding reception I suspected. From that vicinity, I headed southeastwardly through the park, getting out my little flashlight (compliments of Metro Transit) to look out for muddy spots and other obstacles. Off the pathways, it can get pretty dark in the park at night.

Gradually, and carefully, I made my way through TGP, crossing Arsenal at the ridge between Gustine and Spring.

When I reached Grand and Arsenal (about 3.8 miles traveled from Oakland at the Science Center to there), I took note of a few things:

MoKaBe's seems to use Earth Circle Recycling. Good for them. I wonder how much business recycling pick-up costs, relative to residential?

KaBloom has closed. I probably shouldn't be excited about this, but I'm not especially upset, either. Not sure why; the signs in the windows were kinda vague. But the displays are clearly all gone. A win for small local businesses like Botanicals on the Park - I hope.

I was hungry. It was already 7:00 or so. Thus, I stopped off at Qdoba. Yeah, I know, it's even more evil than KaBloom. The food was, well, adequate. The ambience - not my thing, really. I don't quite get serving alcohol at a place that's basically fast food. I guess it's a notch above fast food, sort of, but I'll take Chimichanga or Tomatillo over Qdoba any day.

So, I sat down and munched on my cheese quesadilla, then headed out toward home. I routinely walk home from Grand and Arsenal - maybe a mile - so the rest of the trip was no big deal. Just cut across the parking lot behind BreadCo, cut across the ridiculously huge Commerce parking lot, to Juniata. Then down Arkansas, past the side of the Drebes homestead, and over Connecticut by the ridiculously named "Tower Grove Village" 1950s 2-story, 1-bedroom apartments.

I took note of a property on Connecticut for sale that would be a fairly affordable way to get into Tower Grove East: a 2-bedroom bungalow at 3410 Connecticut listed for $85,000 by Vintage Realty. Didn't seem to have major problems, and appeared to be currently occupied.

While it looked pretty small, it probably wouldn't require major rehab. The flyer even claims the house has a 3-season porch and a detached 1-car garage; and "newer roof, windows, plumbing." No dining room, but central air. It's clearly out of my price range at the present time, but might be a good buy for the right person - very easy walk to the restaurants and shops along Grand, as well as bus lines on Grand, Gravois, or Arsenal. Also just a few hundred feet from Roosevelt High School - although that's not much of a selling point, regrettably.

From there, I headed south on Louisiana, to east on Wyoming, dashing across Gravois at the rather hazardous Wyoming/Compton/Gravois confluence, then five more blocks east to Oregon, and then... home!

While this trip was not planned out in advance, and it did take more than twice as long as it would be public transit, I think it was interesting and worthwhile.

It does not, however, even match my own personal record for urban/suburban hiking. I believe my longest trip on foot in St. Louis was on a Saturday afternoon during high school, probably in 1995 or '96. I walked from Crossroads School on DeBaliviere at a Model UN discussion forum led by Arthur Lieber (and ending about 11 am), via the Delmar Loop, Big Bend, Laclede Station, Rock Hill, Tesson Ferry, Grant's Trail, Reavis Barracks, and Telegraph, to my parents' house, ending about 5 pm. I think I stopped for lunch at the White Castle on Big Bend and Manchester in Maplewood. That was probably about a 17 mile hike.

Urban Hiking, mostly on the Southside

Urban Hiking, mostly on the Southside

Great weather like we've had lately is an excellent time for urban hiking.

When you can integrate that hike into your commute to/from work, so much the better.

So, last night I walked from the downtown area to my house. Rather than heading down the more direct Tucker Blvd. viaduct, I decided to give the Busch Stadiums (both "old" and new) a look before the landscape changes forever. At least one security guard was patrolling the sidewalk across 7th, which I used. I guess after the Jack Buck bust was vandalized, they're a little antsy.

I continued down 7th, now relocated to where 8th Street should really be, under Highway 40 and around the bend through the vast wasteland of parking lots that is the south end of downtown. After passing under the railroad overpasses, I took a slightly illicit shortcut via the former MacArthur Bridge on-ramp - now used by Purina for parking - to cross Chouteau at roughly where 8th Street used to be.

After one block on Chouteau, I headed south on the bizarrely wide South 9th Street into the LaSalle Park neighborhood. This gateway is decidedly non-urban, thanks to the 1970s urban renewal efforts championed by (Ralston) Purina. One corner is marked by a Purina day care center in a very suburban-looking building; next to it is the rather brutalist Security Armed Car offices. Across the way is the back end of St Raymond's Maronite Catholic Cathedral.

Continuing down 9th we pass the infamous Lohr Distributing Company, where "On Strike" signs are still posted, and the back end of the LaSalle Park Village public housing complex. At Hickory, I cut through a rather sad looking little park, with no playground equipment and only a small little stage of sorts, probably rarely used; to the unkempt-looking S. 10th St. Pedestrian Mall, which forms the border between the rehabbed historic houses to the east and the public housing complex to the west.

The historic house blocks are, of course, quite attractive. For a detour, since the pedestrian mall is not particularly appealing, I went back over Morrison to 9th, then 9th to Park.

At the 10th St Mall and Park, is the meeting hall of the St. Louis Quakers. The address is currently 1001 Park Avenue. However, the building where they meet is a very old church at what was originally 1000 Rutger Street; this section of street, of course, no longer exists. Public records claim the church was built in 1860; it has been variously used as a Presbyterian church, a Presbyterian mission, and then as a Lutheran chapel. Presumably, the Society of Friends has occupied the building since sometime in the 1970s, with the 1001 Park address coming when a parking lot was added along Park, next door to the St Raymonds Apartments for senior citizens.

From Park, I headed south-by-southwest on 10th, Julia, Menard, Lafayette, 11th, and (unmarked by any street sign and with no houses remaining) Emmet St., roughly paralleling I-55, until Tucker at Emmet.

The rest of my walk home was via the decidedly less interesting and more industrial Gravois Avenue corridor, at least until my street, Oregon Ave. Ok, sure, there are a number of interesting buildings; but the traffic is so heavy and there are lots of turning movements, so when it's dark you can't really safely stop and look at the architecture very much. Nevertheless, I love the old Jefferson-Gravois Bank building (although Bank of America has filled-in the original name carved into the stone and closed off the old drive-thru inside the building); and of course St Francis de Sales Catholic Church.

This morning, meanwhile, I walked a very different route, from my house to the Grand MetroLink station. I took a very zig-zagging route from my house, via Oregon, Wyoming, Nebraska, Juniata, Pennsylvania, then diagonally across Gravois at the Penn/Arsenal/Gravois junction, and up Minnesota into Tower Grove East.

This section of TGE is a great example of the block-by-block nature of many St. Louis neighborhoods. Several blocks are quite rough indeed, including the section of Minnesota behind the long-closed Grant School (currently being renovated into senior citizen apartments). Other blocks are much, much more attractive and pleasant.

Thus I continued my zig-zagging, from Minnesota to Pestalozzi (past the Buying Group of St. Louis food co-op building), to Michigan, Halliday, Compton, Magnolia, Virginia, Sidney, and Louisiana, reaching Shenandoah next to Shenandoah Elementary School.

At Shenandoah, the zig-zagging ends, because Compton Heights very deliberately interrupts the street grid. So I just headed west along the north side of Shenandoah to Grand. Unfortunately, there is no marked crosswalk at Shenandoah and Grand on the north side of the intersection. The only crosswalk is on the other side of Shenandoah. Nevertheless, the new medians make it pretty easy to cross Grand there, when there's a break in the traffic anyway.

Remarkably, walking up the west side of Grand from Shenandoah to Shaw is pretty easy, because there are basically no cross streets! Sure, Russell still goes into the Shaw neighborhood for a block, but otherwise, they're all closed just slightly west of Grand. Shaw Blvd., of course, is open to traffic, but it's not particularly heavy.

The hard crossings come later, at the I-44 off ramp (AKA DeTonty Street) and on ramp (AKA Lafayette Avenue). Lafayette is probably the worst, with drivers turning left from NB Grand, right from SB Grand, or coming straight across from WB Lafayette itself. I'm really surprised there aren't more accidents there. But, eventually, you can dash across there.

After that, it's pretty easy. The next two streets, McRee and Blaine, are closed off in the Tiffany neighborhood. 'New' Park Avenue is not really high-traffic, and of course 'Sunshine Way' is not a street; nor even an entrance to Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital. That facility has turned its doors away from Grand entirely, towards its internal parking areas instead.

Meanwhile, where no hospital visitors coming by car would ever see it, in a small courtyard next to Grand close to Vista on the back side of Cardinal Glennon, is the statue of Christopher Harris, the 9-year-old boy killed in a gun battle between two drug dealers when used as a human shield by one of them, in the 4400 block of Gibson Avenue in Forest Park Southeast, during the bloody summer of 1991.

That statue, created from guns melted down that were sold to the Police Department during the early 1990s gun buyback program, was controversial. Originally, it was to have been placed in "Rainbow Park", a small playground on the same block where the shooting happened, at South Taylor and Gibson. Neighbors protested, so the Cardinal Glennon site was picked instead. It was dedicated, finally, in 1997 by then newly-elected Mayor Clarence Harmon.

Anyway, after noting that reminder of mortality, I continued north on Grand, past St Louis University Hospital which, also, has no entrance on Grand. The same is true of the SLU Anheuser-Busch Eye Institute further south. The entryways are only from side streets - Vista and Shaw, respectively. This despite both buildings clearly used to have grand entryways facing Grand, pun intended.

After crossing the one last treacherous intersection of Chouteau, and hiking along the never-ending and never-pleasant Grand viaduct, I reached the MetroLink station.

I rode MetroLink for only 6 minutes, then disembarked at Forest Park station. Again, I thought - the weather's nice, I'll just walk to my destination. That was even more pleasant, of course, because I got to stroll past all the big fancy houses on Lindell. I highly recommend strolling on the sidewalk by the houses; the dual-path system inside Forest Park paralleling Lindell is just too hectic for me. Besides, I'm not going in a circle; I'm trying to use walking as a means of transportation rather than purely just exercise.

Looks like the gargantuan mansion at Lindell and (what's left of) Des Peres that Mike Roberts spent most of the 1990s building, is up for sale by the current owner.

Address: 6023 Lindell Blvd.
Price: $2.5 Million

The place apparently cost $1.5 Million to build, give or take. Must be nice.

Anyway, then I headed across Skinker at the always-busy 'temporary' traffic signal, and across the sea of parking at WashU. Once I got into the core of the campus, I found the place surprisingly active for a Saturday noontime. I guess nice weather really brings people out - especially since it might not last much longer.

Meanwhile, I get to spend my afternoon in a computer lab. At least I get paid $10.50/hour to do it - and I can still blog and/or write papers at the same time. Not a bad gig really.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Closing 40

Closing 40

According to the Post-Dispatch, MODOT is considering closing I-64/US Highway 40 entirely during the reconstruction project.

My first reaction to this idea was, "Are they nuts?!" But now I'm starting to think it might be a reasonable idea.

However, I would not recommend closing the entire stretch from Kingshighway to I-270 for several months. That seems quite excessive.

Instead, MODOT could try closing 2-3 mile segments at a time. It would still be problematic, but would at least limit the congestion on local roads a little bit.

For example, they could close I-64 from Kingshighway to Clayton Road, first, for several months. In the city, there are a lot of alternate routes. Ideally, Forest Park Parkway would be reopened in coordination with this, at least from Euclid to Skinker. Other alternatives include Manchester, Oakland, and the ever popular cutting-through-the-park via Clayton Road and Wells Drive. And you could even use I-44, from Kingshighway to Arsenal/Jamieson, anyway.

Then, they could close 40 from Clayton Road to I-170. This, of course, would be a huge problem if Forest Park Parkway from Skinker to I-170 remains closed. But, if that reopening can be coordinated, then maybe it would be workable. Other alternate routes in this stretch would include Clayton Road, Manchester, and maybe Dale/Eager. A little farther afield, you could use Delmar or Olive Blvd. Or maybe even Forsyth Blvd., picking up Ladue Rd. for the last few blocks to I-170. I-44 here is a little further away, but you could pick it up at Arsenal/Jamieson and head out all the way to I-270; I-170, of course, ends at 40.

The western segments, though, have fewer alternate routes. This, of course, is by design; they're really suburbs, and upscale suburbs at that. So, you could close the segment from I-170 to Lindbergh, but traffic would have to go to Clayton Road, or perhaps Manchester. Or, you could just go all the way up to Olive Blvd. - pretty out-of-the-way, but a possibility I guess. Ladue Road might be an option, albeit not one that can handle high-volumes very well. Litzsinger only goes westbound from Warson to Lindbergh; and I suspect it would be closed completely in the event of such a closure.

The last segment, from Lindbergh Blvd. to I-270, is paralleled closely by Conway Road on the north and Clayton Road on the south. However, neither can handle very much traffic volume; and I guarantee that Frontenac or Westwood would close off Conway to through traffic immediately. So, that leaves Ladue Road, Manchester, and Olive. There just aren't any other east-west through routes out there. Probably taking I-44 would be the best option.

The single-occupancy auto-based world does not adapt well to losing interstate highways. I don't know of any way to make this easier for those drivers; this rebuild has to be done. Perhaps drivers will just have to get to know their neighbors a little better, and consider carpooling. There's so little bus service out west of I-170, it's not really a viable option for most.

Of course, what might just happen is that businesses currently headquartered in downtown or Clayton might move out further west, like Chesterfield or Maryville Centre. Or even Winghaven - once the construction on that stretch of 40 is complete.

What's also kind of scary is it looks like this rebuild will occur at the same time as the replacement of the Market Street / Forest Park Parkway exits and Compton Avenue overpass in Midtown. Compton will be closed there; Market will be closed too, with no access to I-64 for quite a while. I'm not clear whether the ramp from westbound 40 to westbound Forest Park Parkway would remain open; given that it tunnels under the intersection of Compton and Market, it seems likely that passageway would need to be rebuilt, too.

Meanwhile, the Chouteau Bridge Replacement is ongoing now. The new Chouteau Avenue viaduct will not inclulde direct access to 40, as had been the case for over 50 years - this was where the old Express Highway/Red Feather Highway started. Instead, the existing ramps will end at Vandeventer; the rusty old bridge over Vandeventer is going away and will not be replaced.

Nearby that location on 40 is the segment of the "New I-64" that nobody seems to be considering: the new exits at Tower Grove/Boyle, and replacement of the four overpasses at Boyle, Tower Grove, Newstead and Taylor. I wonder whether the Boyle and Tower Grove overpasses could potentially be combined; but I suspect the volume of traffic going to BJC parking facilities at shift change warrants retaining both overpasses there.

And finally, at some point the City will start its redo of the Grand Boulevard viaduct extending from I-64 to Chouteau.

I predict major traffic snarls in the Midtown area. It doesn't help that the SLU Arena development - whenever that happens - has led to the permanent closure of Laclede from Compton to Grand. So, while Compton at Market and the ramps to 40 are closed, I guess traffic in that vicinity will have to detour all the way to Jefferson or Grand. Or, maybe, if you're coming north on Compton you could sneak down Spruce to Ewing, and access Market Street and points north that way.

In any event, it's going to be a big mess. At least Cross County MetroLink will be open by the time all this starts ... right? ;-)

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Why Care About Fragmentation?

Why Care About Fragmentation?

Over the past three days, I've discussed the relative level of local government fragmentation in the Metro East, St. Louis County, and St. Charles County.

I deliberately skipped over the City of St. Louis, partly because it is actually a simpler case - in some ways.

Most taxation bodies service the entire city, with the notable exception of the special business districts.

The St. Louis Public Library is an independent taxing district, yes, but it serves the entire city. Ditto for St. Louis Public Schools, the MR/DD Office, and the Mental Health Board. So, they don't really represent fragmentation, per se - just layering of special purpose government atop general purpose government.

The other special districts that service the city represent attempts at regional solutions - i.e., MSD, Bi-State, the Community College, Great Rivers Greenway, RAC, CVC, and the Zoo-Museum District.

However, even though all city residents pay their taxes at City Hall, they don't all have the same political allegiances nor identities, to be sure. With 28 wards and 79 neighborhoods, there is most definitely fragmentation in the urban core - it's just not as well-defined as in the 'burbs.

One of the many challenges in the city is that ward boundaries usually don't match up neatly with neighborhood boundaries. For example, Benton Park West is sliced up between three different wards. Ward 9 takes in basically the northern half, and some southern parts. Ward 20 takes in the remaining southern-central section; and Ward 15 has a little corner near Gravois and Cherokee.

So - back to my question - why should I care? Well, fragmentation of local government means many things.

1) Power is diffused rather than concentrated. This has pros and cons.
2) There are more points for the average citizen to access the government, so it could in theory be more responsive to the people.
3) Fixed overhead costs like payroll and office space are probably higher, which results in a larger tax burden for the average taxpayer (resident or business).
4) Service delivery is very, very inconsistent from one jurisdiction to the next. This is true even within the City of St. Louis - and indeed, even within any given neighborhood of the city.

A great example of this is leaf pickup.

In the City of St. Louis, leaf pickup is conducted in selected neighborhoods, and on selected blocks in other neighborhoods. Often, these are rather upscale areas.

For example, in the Shaw neighborhood, leaf pickup is conducted only on Flora Place - not on any of the other streets. In Tower Grove South, leaf pickup is conducted only on Utah Place. Arguably, this is because these streets have a lot of large trees - but so do surrounding blocks.

Ultimately, fragmentation is all about power and control. Whether the issue is zoning, eminent domain, or basic service delivery, when services are fragmented, it is complicated to do anything. What's interesting for me is the degree to which fragmentation may be a 'natural' phenomenon, versus something imposed by those with very specific vested interests at stake.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

St. Charles County: Less Fragmented?

St. Charles County: Less Fragmented?

Put simply, St. Charles County MO has a lot fewer governments than St. Louis County MO. There is currently talk of merging some fire districts there, although it seems highly unlikely a single countywide fire protection district would be created. A commission was created to discuss these issues about one year ago.

St. Charles County (2004 estimated population 320,734) has 17 cities, towns, and villages - but most of the population lives in just three: the City of St. Charles (est. pop. 61,253), the City of St. Peters (est. pop. 53,397), and the City of O'Fallon (est. pop. 63,677). There are, however, large heavily-developed unincorporated areas, particularly south of Highway 94; and of course even larger mostly rural unincorporated areas in the northern and western parts of the county.

The most consolidation, arguably, is evident in St. Charles County school districts. Whereas St. Louis County has 23 school districts, plus part of Meramec Valley (Pacific) and the countywide Special School District, St. Chuck has only five:

1) Orchard Farm School District (officially known as St. Charles County R-5), which serves the largely rural bottomlands in the northeast part of the county, but also includes New Town at St. Charles within its boundaries. Until now, the district had one high school, one middle school, and one elementary school.

2) City of St. Charles R-6 School District, which is now considering closing one or more of its seven elementary schools because of budgetary constraints. The smallest district in the county geographically, it is more-or-less contiguous with St. Charles city itself, but not perfectly so - after all, the New Town is located within a recently annexed part of the city. The district also has two middle schools and two high schools (St Charles High and St Charles West).

3) Francis Howell R-3 School District, which encompasses basically the southern part of the "Golden Triangle" between I-70, Highway 40 and the Missouri River, as well as the August A. Busch Wildlife Preserve and the New Melle area in the western, rural part of the county. The original high school is located right next to the wildlife preserve, pretty far from the current population concentration; hence two other high schools have been opened, rather prosaically named Francis Howell North and Francis Howell Central. Francis Howell also has five middle schools and ten elementary schools.

4) Fort Zumwalt R-2 School District has been one of the fastest growing districts recently, since it serves much of O'Fallon and part of St. Peters. They now have three high schools, also prosaically named FZ North, FZ South and FZ West. They have four middle schools and twelve elementary schools, too. Probably more to come, too.

5) Wentzville R-4 School District is now absorbing some of the most recent growth in Dardenne Prairie and the outskirts of Lake St. Louis/Wentzville. They now have two high schools - Holt and Timberland - plus three middle schools and five elementary schools. Definitely more to come, and no lack of controversy surrounding the siting of the new schools.

(Augusta, MO and vicinity in far southwestern St. Charles County is located in the Washington MO School District.)

So, while there may be fewer units of government in St. Charles County, whether they are truly more efficient than in other places is debatable. The very randomness of development patterns and municipal annexation patterns places major strains on school district planners.

On the other hand, St. Louis Public Schools has arguably not kept pace with its internal population shifts, and school closing/opening decisions have not necessarily been made in a logical way. For example, in the entire Second Police District - area bounded by Highway 40, South Kingshighway, Gravois, and the city limits - there are only two regular elementary schools - Buder on Lansdowne at Macklind, and Mason on Southwest at Sulphur. In this same area, there are zero regular middle schools and zero regular high schools.

However, many of the magnet schools are clustered within this area. Of the 25 true magnet schools, 10 are located within the 2nd police district: two high schools (Gateway and Central); three middle schools (Busch, Bunche, and Compton/Drew); and five elementary schools (Dewey, Kennard, Mallinckrodt, Shaw and Wilkinson).

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Overlapping Jurisdictions in St Louis County

Overlapping Jurisdictions in St Louis County

Continuing with the local government balkanization theme...

It's just crazy how many overlapping jurisdictions result in St. Louis County municipalities being divided up into multiple layers of other service providers, particularly fire protection districts and school districts.

For example:

The industrial/office park area south of I-270 and McDonnell Blvd., sometimes called the Brown Campus, is in
The City of Hazelwood, but serviced by
The Robertson Fire Protection District (not the Hazelwood city fire department); and by
The Ferguson-Florissant School District (not the Hazelwood School District).

In this case, much of this industrial area was annexed by Hazelwood in the 1990s, so there was an agreement with the already existing Robertson FPD to not switch over the fire protection; especially since the RFPD is headquartered in the annexation area - albeit in the residential part just north of I-270.

Some other parts of the 1990s Hazelwood annexation areas are served by Florissant Valley Fire Protection District.

The school district boundaries, meanwhile, are a relic of the fact that in 1975, Ferguson-Florissant was required to merge with Berkeley and Kinloch school districts in order to desegregate the three districts. Berkeley had already merged (probably in the late 1950s) with the Scudder School District, the school that served the African-American community called Robertson.

Robertson, now entirely bought out by the city of St. Louis for expansion and noise mitigation for Lambert Airport, was located off North Lindbergh adjacent to the railroad overpass. It is also the namesake for the Robertson FPD. Now, of course, there are no Ferguson-Florissant schools anywhere near this area, as there is basically no population there. Indeed - although the school map does not accurately reflect it - since the Berkeley High School has been renamed McCluer South-Berkeley and moved out of Berkeley entirely to South Florissant Road in January 2004, there is only one school in the entire district located west of I-170: Holman Elementary, on Harold Dr. near Brown Rd. in the far southwestern part of the City of Berkeley. Kinloch, of course, no longer has any schools. There are fewer than 500 residents left there.

Similarly, in the industrial area of Berkeley, north of Boeing and southeast of Ford, the area along Latty Avenue is in the City of Berkeley, served by the Berkeley Fire Department, but in the Hazelwood School District.

And, meanwhile, the section of the City of Ferguson located east of West Florissant Avenue, such as the Canfield Green Apartments is located in the Riverview Gardens School District, not Ferguson-Florissant. Too, the Harneywold subdivision in extreme northeast Ferguson, as well as the Crossings at Halls Ferry shopping center in Ferguson, are in the Hazelwood School District. At least both areas are served by the Ferguson Fire Department.

Most parts of the City of Florissant - which does not have its own fire department - are in the aforementioned Florissant Valley FPD. However, the portions of Florissant city located east of New Halls Ferry Road are in the Black Jack Fire Protection District. On the other hand, large sections of Florissant city - the newer areas, north and west of Coldwater Creek - are in the Hazelwood School District, not Ferguson-Florissant. Further, parts of "unincorporated Florissant" located east of New Halls Ferry Road near Parker Road are in the Ferguson-Florissant schools, Black Jack FPD, and no city at all.

And, finally, there's the City of Dellwood. Centered roughly on the intersection of West Florissant and Chambers, Dellwood is divided into three different school districts: the far north part of Dellwood is in Hazelwood schools; the remaining portion east of West Florissant is in Riverview Gardens schools; and the part west of West Florissant is in Ferguson-Florissant. Further, that far north part is also served by Black Jack FPD; the remainder of Dellwood is in the Metro North Fire Protection District (formerly known as Moline FPD).

Is it any wonder the St. Louis County Tax Rates book is 11 pages long? And I think there used to be a version, even more detailed, closer to 100 pages. When you overlay munis, school districts and fire districts plus library districts, MSD and its various subdistricts, special business districts, and street lighting districts, the system gets quite complex and granular indeed.

Fortunately, in the City of St. Louis we only have one municipality - which runs its own excellent fire department, one school district, one library district, and a handful of special business districts. There might be a few MSD subdistricts, too, but I'm not entirely sure. All the major taxing bodies have very simple, easy-to-understand names: they start with "St. Louis."

Local Government Proliferation: Illinois vs Missouri

Local Government Proliferation: Illinois vs Missouri

According to the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, there are nearly 800 units of local government in the St. Louis region.

While most people think of the 91 municipalities in St. Louis County when they think local government balkanization, the picture is really more complicated than just that.

In southwestern Illinois, for example, municipalities are not the only relevant local government players. For better or for worse, most of us on the Missouri side think first of the City of East St. Louis when we think about local government in Illinois. There are also a number of other large cities and villages - in Illinois, some villages are large enough to be cities (such as the Village of Cahokia), but they just never made the switch.

Meanwhile, there are several layers of local government in much of Illinois. Township governments have a variety of duties, and service both unincorporated territories as well as the areas contained within municipalities. Some townships do road-building, some maintain cemeteries, some administer welfare programs.

In St. Clair County there are 22 townships today. Originally, these townships were pretty much square, with boundaries designated 150 or so years ago.

At some point, several new townships were created, as areas developed. Today, Stites Township is pretty much just Brooklyn IL; meanwhile, East St. Louis Township takes in the entire City of East St. Louis.

Centreville Township includes the villages of Centreville, Cahokia, Sauget, and some unincorporated areas in between them. Canteen Township includes Fairmont City, Washington Park, some unincorporated areas, and in an island unto itself, most of Alorton and the Golden Gardens neighborhood.

These townships are often major centers of patronage jobs and nepotism. For example, the Touchette family has controlled the Centreville township government for decades - hence the Touchette Regional Hospital (opened in 1958 originally as Centreville Township Hospital; now operated by Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation).

Then there's the school districts. In southern Illinois, some areas have what are called "Community Unit School Districts (CUSDs)" - for example, Cahokia CUSD 187 or East St. Louis 189. This simply means, as best I can tell, that the elementary schools and high school are all operated by the same school district.

Meanwhile, many areas - mostly rural, but also recently developing suburbs - still have two different layers of school districts: an elementary district and a high school district. For example, if you live in downtown Belleville, you're in both the Belleville (elementary) District 118, and the Belleville Township High School District 201 which overlaps with several different elementary districts.

Also, in cases where a district is called a "Community Consolidated School District (CCSD)", that just means that several old elementary one-room schoolhouse districts were consolidated to create a larger elementary school district. They still operate separately from the overlapping high school districts.

The CUSD/CCSD phenomena are related to the "R-7", "R-9", etc. designations familiar in St. Louis County school districts. The R means "Reorganized", reflecting the merger of several small one-room schoolhouse districts to create a larger district, to cope with the massive population explosions of the 1950s in St. Louis County. The numbers, like the 3-digit Illinois numbers, were just assigned pretty randomly. For example, there's Mehlville R-9 School District, Lindbergh R-8, Kirkwood R-7, etc.

These consolidations were controversial at the time, as the Parkway (C-2) School District 50th Anniversary web page notes.

In any event, it is fair to say that the Illinois portion of the region has about as much balkanization as St. Louis County does. While the political and legal frameworks may be different, it is no more likely in Illinois that major consolidations will happen now, than it is in Missouri.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Running Hot and Cold

Running Hot and Cold

Yesterday, we turned on the furnace at home. I'm nervous about it, since the unit itself is over 20 years old, and combined with our leaky, warped 100+ year old doors and windows, it does cost a lot to run. Meanwhile, at present there is no way we could afford to replace the entire unit. It doesn't help that its tied in with a pretty much non-functional 20 year old central air conditioning unit. We get by ok in summer with room units, though.

Meanwhile, in 1970s-era Eliot Hall at WashU, many offices (including mine, of course!) are freezing cold with no heat at all. The management promises it will be warmer in a couple hours, since they've finally turned on the heat today. In the computer lab where I am now it is a good deal warmer, since of course the concentration of heat-generating machines makes it often a very warm place, indeed. Last week, I had to turn on the three room a/c units there, because the room was too warm under the afternoon sun. We don't want those expensive machines (or their users) to bake, after all.

While I can understand the need to cut down on energy costs, even for a big wealthy institution, it still sucks to be that cold while you're trying to grade exams.

With a $4 billion endowment, you'd think we could at least get some heat! ;-)

Friday, October 21, 2005

From New Orleans: Tulane Announces Layoffs

From New Orleans: Tulane Announces Layoffs

Today, Tulane University publicly announced the "pay status" for its employees.

243 full-time employees will be laid off. As well, most of the part-time workforce will be laid off, or has already been terminated. Tulane lists the following groups of part-timers laid off, but does not indicate total numbers of people affected:

"Those who were terminated effective September 30, 2005 and August 29, 2005:

* All part-time faculty;
* Part-time staff who are not benefits-eligible;
* Part-time staff who are benefits eligible and were hired after May 1, 2005.
* Adjunct faculty who are not benefits-eligible;
* All-but-dissertation (ABD) graduate students who teach courses on an adjunct basis;
* Temporary employees (will be paid for services performed prior to August 29, 2005);
* Student employees (will be paid for services performed prior to August 29, 2005);
* All special pays."

Effective October 31, 2005, most "Part-time staff who are benefits-eligible and were hired before May 1, 2005" will be laid off.

According to the announcement, "Katrina has created challenges that are unmatched in the history of Tulane University and many difficult strategic decisions must be made to secure the university's future operations. As a result, Tulane University will be a smaller institution in terms of number of employees."

Full-time staff members being laid off will receive final paychecks on Nov. 15.

Even those who aren't laid off may not have that much job security, though.

"The following employees will continue to receive pay checks from Tulane University:

* Full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty at their base salary;
* Graduate students and post-doctoral fellows who are on stipends;
* Full-time staff not affected by the Nov. 15 separation.

"Those who will be paid for November and whose future pay status will be continually evaluated:

* Clinical full-time faculty in the School of Medicine and the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine; School of Medicine clinical full-time faculty will receive their base pay and incentive pay with the understanding that individuals must accept clinical duties as assigned, that the obligation to turn over all clinical revenues to the university remains in effect, and that if the clinical faculty member leaves the university, the institution will seek repayment for any money paid to the faculty member above and beyond base pay.
* VA professors who are on 3/8 time at Tulane University but without benefits;
* Medical residents;
* Research faculty;
* Visiting faculty."

Further, Tulane reminds its employees that things are certainly not back to normal yet:

"All faculty, staff and graduate students who remain on the university payroll may be called upon by the university to perform regular or special duties as needed. Refusal to perform these duties will result in termination of pay or recoupment of payments actually made. The university assumes that all faculty, staff and graduate students will be resuming work as soon as possible. Therefore, all conflict of interest and commitment policies remain in effect."

I can imagine a cadre of Tulane grad students being called into service by the university for cleaning duties. (But probably not tenured faculty) A company called Belfor has been hired by the university to rebuild the campus facilities in time for the planned reopening in January 2006.

While most displaced university employees probably had some idea these layoffs was coming, it nevertheless is a stark reminder of the costs of the hurricane recovery.

From JMO: Two Protest Opportunities

From JMO: Two Protest Opportunities

From: Jeanette Mott Oxford
Subject: please participate if you can
Date: Oct 21, 2005 0:12 AM, CDT

I wanted to share information with you about two important peace and justice opportunities, one today (Oct. 21) and one on Oct. 29. Please participate if you are able. (By the way, the music of Holly Near plays a significant role in why I am a justice activist today.)

Jeanette Mott Oxford
State Representative - 59th MO House District
District Office Phone: 314-772-0301

What: Protest Dick Cheney & Jim Talent's misguided priorities

Date: Friday, October 21st

Time: 4:30 to 5:30pm

Where: NW Corner of Clayton Road and Lindbergh -- We will walk 1/2 block to the Frontenac Hilton where the fundraiser is being held.
(Park at Plaza Frontenac or Schnucks or Schneithorts)


More than the Music, it's the Circle...

On Saturday October 29 at 8 PM, St. Louis Justice and Peace Shares ( will present a benefit concert, Singing For Our Lives: Holly Near in Concert. The concert is co-sponsored by the Music Department of St. Louis Community College, Forest Park and will be held in Mildred Bastian Theatre, St. Louis Community College at Forest Park(5600 Oakland) Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. Free tickets are available to St. Louis Community College students, faculty, and staff (present valid ID). Call 314-725-5303 for tickets or pick buy tickets at Left Bank Books (Central West End), Plowsharing Crafts (Delmar Loop), Mokabees (South Grand) and Music Folk (Old Orchard).

The Holly Near Concert on October 29 ( download flyer ) offers us an opportunity to hear exceptional music (sample at Through this concert the larger justice and peace community will help carry the costs of a new experiment in collaboration, Justice and Peace Shares ( The concert offers us an opportunity to invite our friends to enter the larger circle of social activism. (see below Holly's quote from an article that appeared in this week's Vital Voice, St. Louis).

Riddle's Holly New Concert Special: A special thank you to Andy and Paula Ayer's of Riddle's Penulitmate Resturant in the Delmar Loop who have offered a concert special. Arrive at Riddle's by 6 PM, show your concert tickets, and recieve a 20% discount on dinner. Andy and Paula are also providing dinner for Holly, John, the pianist, and the sound and stage crew. If you would like to make a reservation at Riddle's call 314-725-6985, but reservations are not required.

Holly Near quote in the Vital Voice (October 14 -27, 2005):

I am also very interested in demystifying activism. We need to see that our daily lives can be lived in the practice of activism. For example, the concert coming up. Going to a concert can be a great party, friends getting together, eating out and then a show. Or, one can pause and say, "Hmmm, Holly Near concert. This is an opportunity. Who do we know who has never been to an event like this? Let's invite them". Many of us remember a cultural event that we went to that changed our lives, opened our minds, altered our perspective. Oftentimes we were invited. So I would encourage everyone planning to come to this event to think of someone to bring into the circle."

Thursday, October 20, 2005

More Cross County Explorations

More Cross County Explorations

This morning I happened to be walking along the Cross County corridor in Maplewood, Brentwood, and Richmond Heights. I made a few observations of interest:

  • MLP, the same firm that did the controversial Station Plaza development in Kirkwood, has cleared two former light industrial properties at 1801 and 1819 South Hanley Road to develop the long-talked-about Hanley Station mixed-use, New Urbanism development. The signs claim a 2007 opening date. We'll see.

    It's a strange location, though. After all, everything around there is typical auto-oriented suburban development. There's a fairly old building just south of the site - some kind of pencil company? - but now that "Maplewood Commons Shopping Center" is across super-wide South Hanley, there are no houses nearby.

    Further, there is no MetroLink station being built there! The tracks in this section are elevated, in such a way it would be pretty expensive to add a new station. I hope they don't call it Hanley Station though; there's already a North Hanley Station on the original alignment, after all. Apparently, MLP and Brentwood (which authorized a TIF for this project) hope a station can be built after the development opens. It certainly won't be now.

    To me, this is a silly location for a station. It's not really that far south from the Brentwood I-64 station; you could almost make a walkway to it instead. It would make way more sense to have a [South] Hanley MetroLink station somewhere near the corner of Hanley Rd and Hanley Industrial Ct. There are a lot of retail jobs / shopping places within a very short walk of that location. A stop located atop the intersection could have stairways and elevators leading to both sides of Hanley, avoiding the need for pedestrians to try and cross the ridiculously wide, busy roadway.

  • There does indeed appear to be a walkway leading to the north end of Hanley Industrial Court near Dierbergs Brentwood Pointe at the Brentwood I-64 Station. (Aerial photo of the vicinity).

    I suspect the reasoning for this design is that it allows the walkway to access a public street. The portion of the Dierbergs parking lot that is signed as Hanley Industrial Court is not really a public street. The official street Hanley Industrial Court dead-ends at that funky 90-degree turn next to the MetroLink right-of-way near the Ice Cream Specialties plant/offices.

    All in all, the new Cross County route runs through two distinctly different kinds of development patterns, which probably has a significant impact on the design of the stations - or at least it should.

  • The Forest Park Parkway corridor (Forest Park, Skinker, University City-Big Bend, Forsyth, and Clayton CBD Stations) has a fairly high-density, upscale urban quality to it. There's a lot of stuff within walking distance of most of those stations.

    I still think the Clayton station could have a much more friendly design, but at least you could walk to most of the high-rises and the courthouse within a few minutes. The other three new stations will be reasonably easy to access from WashU facilities, and a little less easy to access from surrounding neighborhoods - but I guess that's what the neighbors wanted. Most of them probably will not use it very often, but it certainly won't hurt their property values.

  • The "Virtual Innerbelt" corridor (Richmond Heights, Brentwood I-64, Manchester-Maplewood, Sunnen, and Shrewsbury Lansdowne I-44 stations) is pretty much typical suburbia. Yes, there are some historical houses near the Richmond Heights station, but they are deliberately disconnected from the station. Likewise, there are a few houses near Sunnen station, but they probably won't be there much longer.

    For the most part, the major retail, light industrial, and office park destinations in the vicinity of these stops are very very suburban and auto-oriented. Retro-fitting them for pedestrians is not really happening.

    While The Boulevard-St Louis is an impressive development, it still has a huge parking garage attached. More to the point, it is not a Transit-Oriented Development, because it is located across I-170 from the Richmond Heights MetroLink station. (Aerial view)

    Unless somebody pays for a major upgrade of the lighting and general attractiveness of the sidewalks along Galleria Parkway under I-170, this will be a major detraction from the appeal and usefulness of this particular MetroLink station. And even once you pass under I-170, you still have to walk across Brentwood Blvd. somehow - no small task, at any time of day.

    Likewise, while there will at least be some limited access to the Brentwood I-64 station from the west, that doesn't mean you can easily access the nearby shopping centers. For example, if you want to get to Target in Brentwood Promenade, you'll need to either backtrack north by northwest across the Dierbergs Brentwood Pointe parking lots, to get to Eager Road.; or go the back way, west along another of the tentacles of Hanley Industrial Court. Not a real pleasant strolling experience there.
  • Wednesday, October 19, 2005

    Trinity - Throop Crossover

    Trinity - Throop Crossover

    Some time back, I was concerned the only pedestrian crossing route between Big Bend and Skinker on the new Cross County MetroLink route along Forest Park Parkway (formerly Millbrook Boulevard) would be the high-line pedestrian/bicycle bridge near Melville Avenue.

    Happily, there is an at-grade crossover a bit further west, near Trinity Ave. and University Drive.

    This is the point at which the tracks running in open-cut at-grade suddenly descend into a tunnel to enter the University City-Big Bend Station.

    There's a little concrete walk there, which connects to a sidewalk running eastbound next to the westbound lanes of the Parkway. Down at the Parkway and Throop Drive, there's an official crosswalk at the signalized intersection for crossing the parkway at grade.

    Although this is somewhat less convenient than my old direct route from the east end of the Millbrook Parking Garage right onto the foot Kingsland Ave., it's probably the best they could do given engineering constraints.

    Thanks Metro!

    Bypassing Downtown by Bus

    Bypassing Downtown by Bus

    Today, I tried what others have suggested: riding the #30 Soulard and transferring to the #16 City Limits for my commute from Benton Park West to WashU.

    This worked reasonably well, although mainly because I had left the house about 20 minutes earlier than usual.

    I got out the door about 7:27 AM, and headed up to Gravois and Arsenal. I may have just missed the 7:35 AM #10 Gravois; so I thought I try this alternate route via Arsenal. I walked back east one block to Arsenal and Nebraska; I saw the eastbound #30 Soulard pass, so I headed to the westbound stop, figuring it would be coming through pretty soon. Indeed, as I walked east on Arsenal I could already see the westbound bus coming toward me, at about Jefferson and Arsenal.

    The bus arrived at my stop about 7:40; I rode it straight down Arsenal, hitting a little traffic congestion at Arsenal and McCausland, and on McCausland from Arsenal to Southwest, where the bus turns again to head into Maplewood.

    I got off at Southwest and Bellevue about 8:02 - the very time the northbound #16 City Limits was scheduled to leave Sutton Loop, several blocks west. So, I had plenty of time to walk up Bellevue 1 block, cross Manchester, and get to the bus stop. I had so much time, I decided to walk up another short block on Bellevue, to the northbound stop at Bellevue and Lyndover.

    I ended up waiting about 8 minutes, since the bus was running late. Meanwhile, a whole crew of kids waiting for a Maplewood-Richmond Heights school bus came to the same corner; their bus showed up at the exact same time as the #16, which made things a little congested. Anyway, the #16 City Limits zipped on up Bellevue, except for some minor congestion near the westbound I-64/US 40 onramp, to Clayton. Then it turned onto Clayton, still running about 6 minutes behind, and onto Skinker. I got off on Skinker just north of Forsyth about 8:22.

    So, I made it onto the periphery of campus with plenty of time to spare. It still took probably 15 minutes to get all the way to my destination, far into the interior of campus and closer to the Big Bend side of Hilltop.

    However, if I was running my usual schedule, I would probably have not gotten to that location until about 8:52, or maybe 8:45 if the #16 was actually on schedule.

    In my experience, the #16 is often quite late, in both directions. Meanwhile, both the #16 and the #30 only run about every 30 minutes; not exactly ideal if you miss one and then end up being 30 minutes or more late to your destination.

    All in all, this worked ok, but I still prefer riding MetroLink every chance I get.

    Tuesday, October 18, 2005

    Payroll Dissonance

    Payroll Dissonance

    City of St. Louis Living Wage

    Effective April 1, 2005

    $10.05 / hour when health insurance benefits are provided

    $12.64 / hour when health insurance benefits are not provided

    Hourly rate for Lifeguard position

    / per hour
    ($9.75 / per hour if have Water Safety Instructor certification)

    (no health benefits are provided)

    Hourly rate for paid city internship positions, with a Master's Degree or higher

    Effective July 1, 2005
    $12.10 / hour

    (no health benefits are provided)

    Approximate minimum base rate for a Clerical Aide position in the city Classified Service

    $7.97 / hour

    (health benefits are, usually, provided for full-time positions)

    So, a number of part-time or perhaps even full-time City jobs do seem to pay less than the Living Wage required of certain contractors. Some such positions require no particular training; others require a specific certification or graduate degree.

    In such cases, would outsourcing really reduce costs very much? Perhaps not, especially when such employees do not receive health nor pension benefits. Thus, it makes sense for the city to hire lifeguards directly, rather than, say, through a temporary agency.

    Monday, October 17, 2005

    Remembering the #96 Walnut Park Bus

    Remembering the #96 Walnut Park Bus

    Back in 2001, Bi-State Development Agency (now DBA Metro) eliminated a whole bunch of bus routes, many of which I mentioned in a previous post.

    One of those I remember in particular was the #96 Walnut Park, which ran about every 45 minutes - and often late - through a variety of neighborhoods in north St. Louis City.

    It was actually a pretty old bus line; according to one history, the #96 Walnut Park started out as the People's Motorbus Company #15 route, on November 30, 1924. The route number was changed to 96 on February 18, 1934 after St. Louis Public Service Company, the main streetcar and bus company in the city, bought out People's.

    After 77 years, the #96 Walnut Park disappeared on October 1, 2001. Because of community protest, a small portion of the route was retained as the #195 Carter Shuttle.

    When I used it occasionally in the 1995 to 1997 period, the #96 Walnut Park was still a pretty busy route, especially during the 3 PM to 6 PM weekday time frame. Its outer terminus was Northland Shopping Center. Within Jennings, the route then traveled southeast on West Florissant Avenue, then south on Jennings Station Road. Both those major streets still have much more frequent bus service via the #74 Florissant and #16 City Limits routes.

    The #96 then made a rather hazardous turn east onto Lillian Avenue, a residential street 1/2 block north of I-70 in Jennings and Walnut Park West. At Riverview Blvd., the route turned south, to pass under I-70 (on eastbound trips) and onto eastbound Bircher Blvd.

    Bircher, however, is pretty much an I-70 frontage road, so the only way to access the eastbound #96 from the Walnut Park East and Mark Twain neighborhoods was via the pedestrian overpass near Thrush Avenue, or via the Union Blvd. and Kingshighway Blvd. overpasses. The #41 Lee provided and still provides much more convenient service to the interior of the neighborhoods, currently via Lillian, Emerson, and Thekla.

    At Kingshighway, the #96 turned south across the viaduct on Kingshighway, then turned east onto Lee Avenue, entering the Penrose neighborhood. This is where the current, very limited service #195 Carter Shuttle route begins. From there, it followed Lee (where the #41 Lee, of course, also operates) one block to Euclid, heading north on Euclid until its terminus at Bircher Avenue.

    It turned east again onto this eastern section of Bircher, but only for one block; then jogging via Shreve to eastbound Carter Avenue. It provided service along Carter in the rather hilly northern portion of the Penrose neighborhood, with a major stop at North Newstead Avenue, the Prince Hall Family Support Center.

    That's where I usually caught the #96 eastbound. I was a member of the City of St. Louis Mayor's Youth Advisory Board from November 1995 to May 1997. At that time, the (now defunct) City of St. Louis Office of Youth Development which advised the board (headed by Ms. Jamala Rogers) had its office at Prince Hall.

    The #96 continued east on Carter; the #195 that operates today does not, but instead heads up to the bus transfer center at North Broadway and East Taylor, also known as the North Broadway Loop.

    The #96 served a pretty dense residential area in the O'Fallon Park neighborhood, up until about Carter at Warne Ave. Incidentally, when I was on jury duty a couple years ago, I was the foreperson in a civil case involving a two-car accident at the four-way stop at Carter and Warne. So, I was actually a little familiar with the location.

    East of Warne, in the Fairgrounds Park neighborhood, there are a lot of vacant lots along Carter, and the route is only one block south of the more frequent #74 Florissant on West Florissant/North Florissant Ave.

    The stop at Grand and Carter was usually pretty well-used, since at Grand and Carter / Grand and North Florissant there's a shopping center, which then contained an Aldi and the Grace Hill Water Tower Health Center. The Aldi has since moved to a new building at Grand and Natural Bridge; I think there might be a Family Dollar there now. Across the street is the North Grand branch of National City Bank (at that time, Allegiant Bank; and originally North St. Louis Trust Co.).

    The #96 continued east on Carter, very close to North Florissant, until running into it at the awkward intersection also shared by Grove Street and Ferry Street. Here is located the now-closed Eliot Elementary School, 4242 Grove St., built in 1898 as the first of the St. Louis Public Schools buildings designed by renowed architect William B. Ittner.

    At this awkward corner, the #96 turned northeast onto Ferry Street in Hyde Park. This narrow residential street goes uphill pretty steeply. I remember MSD was doing some sewer rebuilding at the time which made it nearly impossible for the bus to pass through. After four blocks on Ferry, the bus turned again, southeastwardly, onto Blair Avenue. The section on Blair Avenue used to also have evening service via the #74 Florissant, since the #96 didn't run very late. That occasional service has also been dropped from the #74 Florissant. Thus, there is no longer any bus service into the historic core of the Hyde Park neighborhood; now it's only along North Florissant.

    On Blair, the #96 passed the little-known Windsor Park, Newhouse Ave with Friedens Haus one block west (I think the last time I rode the #96 was in 2000 on a trip to Friedens Haus), and the neighborhood's namesake, Hyde Park itself.

    The #96 continued south on Blair all the way into Old North St. Louis. At Warren Street, I believe, adjacent to the 14th Street Mall, it jogged east toward 13th, where it would usually pick up several workers from the Grace Hill headquarters. Then it headed south on 13th Street, a corridor now served by the #30 Soulard. Unlike the #30 Soulard, however, I think it jogged again, taking North Market with its anachronistic grassy median for one block east to Hadley; then passing Webster Middle School on Hadley, turning east again for one block to Madison Street, and then picking up N. 11th Street (another I-70 outer road).

    I believe it then passed under the old elevated interurban streetcar tracks near I-70 and Tyler Street, and instead of turning south onto 11th, continued southeast until 10th Street. Then, the route would have followed 10th Street south all the way to Cole Street, passing Cochran Gardens public housing and Patrick Henry Elementary School.

    At Cole, the route started its downtown loop, which was probably something like Cole, Tucker, Clark, 9th, exiting downtown via N. 9th St.

    Often, I would get off the #96 on Tucker at the stop between Olive and Pine, transferring to the #17 Oakville Express (now the #240x), for the second leg of my trip home, all the way out to Telegraph Road.

    I'm sure very few other people made that transfer! But, for me, it was very convenient. On occasion, it even happened the Oakville Express came right behind the #96! No crossing a street or walking necessary.

    Friday, October 14, 2005

    St. Louis Community College at ... Grover?

    St. Louis Community College at ... Grover?

    The following statement from today's Post-Dispatch just makes me say "Ugh!"

    "For years, St. Louis Community College has dreamed of following the urban migration to west St. Louis County..."

    Yes, this has been a long time in the making, and it is not necessarily a bad thing to establish a community college campus in FAR FAR West County - off Highway 109 in Wildwood, in fact - but, still, that opening sentence for this article is annoying.

    St. Louis Community College has long had a significant connection to the City of St. Louis, but still, their facility on Natural Bridge Avenue in The Greater Ville, called the William J. Harrison Northside Education Center, is quite tiny. It was originally built in the mid 1970s as the Julia Davis Branch of the St. Louis Public Library; but by 1994, the library had really outgrown the facility, and moved to a new, larger building several blocks east.

    Obviously, SLCC-Forest Park is a major educational resource for the city; and both Meramec and Flo Valley have good programs, with Meramec generally considered the largest campus with the largest array of offerings. There's not really any kind of extension center serving South City directly, but Forest Park is not that far away; although many white South City residents, perhaps because of racism or perhaps just because it has a wider array of transfer-degree programs, shlep out to Meramec instead.

    I realize SLCC serves both the City and the County (and Pacific, MO too), so they have an obligation to expand their services into areas with growing demand.

    At the same time, there is always a significant need for their services in the City of St. Louis. The six Junior College District board members are elected by us, the voters, to six-year terms, representing four sub-districts. These elections usually go very much unnoticed. But perhaps it's time for that to change.