Wednesday, June 28, 2006

FY07 City Budget: Now Online!

FY07 City Budget: Now Online!

The Fiscal Year 2007 City of St. Louis Budget (Annual Operating Plan) is now downloadable in PDF.

With kudos to Paul Payne in the Budget Division, this marks the tenth year of posting the city budget online on the St. Louis CIN web site (although year 2000 is missing due to technical difficulties), and the first time it's been posted before the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1st.

Take a look. It's an interesting read. Who controls the purse strings - and who gets what - tells much about the politics of a city.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Down on Main Street

Down on Main Street

Weekend before last, Kelly and I spent a lot of time in St. Charles. Yeah, yeah, I know. But, really, Main Street has its charms. Honest. ;-)

We went to the "Dog Days of Summer" festival with our little dachshund-terrier mix Dingo (we met up there with the STL area Doxie group).

The event was also a benefit for the St Charles Humane Society, a no-kill animal shelter - not to be confused with St Charles County Humane Services nor with the Humane Society of Missouri, both of which euthanize.

SCHS accepted a stray, feral cat with FIV named Jack whom we had taken in several years ago.

This past weekend we spent in Poplar Bluff MO, visiting Kelly's family. She drove, because the Amtrak service there arrives in the wee hours of the morning, and because I still haven't gotten my license (I am working on it though!).

Poplar Bluff got its start from the railroads and the timber industry, both of which have seen better days in that region. Indeed, poverty is pretty high (there's even a Weed & Seed area), but there are still some remnants of the town's glory days.

The Poplar Bluff Railroad Museum was a really fun stop for me. It's located in the historic Spanish-style former Frisco depot (c. 1928), lovingly maintained by devoted volunteers with some (limited) help from the city, which owns the building.

Just a few blocks away, though, is the still operating but quite decrepit former Union Pacific depot and steps. It certainly deserves its status on the 2006 Missouri's Most Endangered Historic Properties listing.

It doesn't look so bad in the dated pic on the Amtrak web site, but in fact the entire south end of the structure looks like it's been chewed on by an elephant.

The roof is rapidly decaying, so the only section of the building still in use is a small room in the center of the building. Most of the time, that's locked as well, since this is an unstaffed Amtrak station.

Back to the Main Street theme: the UP depot sits downhill, via some similarly decayed and hazardous stairs, from the historic Main Street of Poplar Bluff. Most of Main is still paved in bricks! I think that's very cool.

Of course, decades ago the commercial center of town migrated a couple miles west to US 67 aka "Westwood Boulevard" (now designated Business Route US 67 with the recent construction of a expressway bypass for 67 still further west).

There's a surprisingly large assortment of large and small retailers along that BR 67 corridor, many fairly new, mostly regional and national chains. Included, of course, is the obligatory Wal-Mart Supercenter.

Anyway, I enjoyed these small-town sojourns, but I'm glad to be back in the big city! (Yes, I do realize WashU is actually located in the county, but that just makes me a reverse commuter!)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Thank You, AT&T

Thank You, AT&T

Back in April, Wired Magazine reported that "AT&T provided National Security Agency eavesdroppers with full access to its customers' phone calls, and shunted its customers' internet traffic to data-mining equipment installed in a secret room in its San Francisco switching center," providing the basis for former AT&T tech, whistleblower Mark Klein, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation's class-action lawsuit against AT&T.

Oral arguments in that case start tomorrow.

But more recently, the central role of the AT&T Bridgeton Network Operations Center (NOC) in the monitoring of national Internet traffic has come to light, as further reported in Wired and yesterday by Salon Magazine.

The Bridgeton NOC is located at either 3324 Hollenberg Drive or 12976 Hollenberg Drive, NW of the junction of I-270 and I-70 in Bridgeton, in the office park originally developed by Western Union in the early 1970s off St. Charles Rock Road. Both locations have been listed as addresses for AT&T network services in various sources. They're about 1/4-mile apart.

I'm thinking the 12976 address is the more likely one; especially since 3324 is now occupied by Critical Technologies. 12976 Hollenberg Drive is pretty visible from the ramp from WB 270 to WB 70. Its ownership on county records is listed as "Corporate Property Associates2 Etal At&t" with an address at "55 Corporate Dr, Unit: 21c7, Bridgewater, NJ 08807" That sounds like (the old) AT&T to me.

Meanwhile, while the Secretary of State has no listing for "Corporate Property Associates 2" in its registered business entities, they do have several others in that series. Of note is Corporate Property Associates 9 owned by W.P. Carey & Co. LLC of New York City. W.P. means William P. Carey; and William P. Carey of NYC is a noteworthy donor to many Republican officeholders, including Jim Talent and Roy Blunt.

Isn't data mining fun? ;-)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Inestimable Board

The Inestimable Board

The Board of Estimate and Apportionment of the City of St. Louis is a governing body of inestimable importance. ;-)

Its legal authority is basically to develop the city budget and approve most major (and many minor) city expenditures.

I attended my first ever E&A meeting yesterday. I brought a few students along as a class field trip. Admittedly, it's a rather obscure operation.

The public meeting (held in the less-than-public venue of the mayor's conference room) lasted only five minutes!

The mayor read the entire regular agenda (not posted online); there was one amendment offered by a city staffer. Most items were approving contracts related to federal grants, leases, and other projects.

Item #12 was interesting: "Request from the Chief of Staff, Office of the Mayor, for approval to pay invoices for dues to Sister Cities International in the amount of $1, 865, St. Louis County Municipal League in the amount of $5,791 and East-West Gateway Council of Governments in the amount of $43,523.63, all chargeable to account #190-5648."

Then, the "public" (that's me, my two students, and a few others) were politely but firmly asked to leave so they could go into "executive session."

The excutive session probably lasted only a few minutes longer; something about Airport property purchasing I believe.

And that's how sausage is made!

I was quite gratified that Jim Shrewsbury took a few minutes just afterwards to talk with my students and me, in his office down the hall.

Thanks again, Jim!

As a side note, the first time I visited the mayor's conference room was in 1997, at the end of Mayor Bosley's term. He held a pizza party for all us members of the Mayor's Youth Advisory Board.

Mayor Bosley and I have at least this much in common: we both like anchovies on pizza! ;-)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

End of the Line: 60th Anniversary of the End of Several Streetcar Routes

End of the Line: 60th Anniversary of the End of Several Streetcar Routes

The Chicago Transit & Railfan web site by Bill Vandervoort has surprisingly extensive information about the history of St. Louis' public transit system.

Compare information from his site with today's MetroBus routes and schedules, the Metro Redefined restructuring plans, and other historical resources like Andrew D. Young's excellent books Streets and Streetcars of St. Louis: A Sentimental Journey and The St. Louis Streetcar Story. You'll notice many, many significant changes in the transit system -- but, nevertheless, some definite continuity as well.

I've identified eight (8) present day MetroBus routes -- all of which will continue to exist under the Metro Redefined plans -- that date at least as far back as the 1923 streetcar route map on the Vandervoort site. They are also listed on his Concise History of St. Louis Transit Routes.

These routes cover largely the same territory, with the exact same route number and very similar route name, as they did in 1923! (But to be clear, as Vandervoort notes on his site, "Route numbers were introduced in 1928.")

They are in route number order. All links are to the Metro Redefined versions of the PDF route maps:

#13 Union-Shaw (PDF). This route has been extended south and reconfigured on that segment several times; but the core route on Union Blvd. from West Florissant Ave. to Waterman Blvd. remains unchanged from the old #13 Union car. This streetcar route was replaced with buses on June 15, 1946 -- 60 years ago today!

#15 Hodiamont (PDF). The segment east of Vandeventer into downtown (or, now, ending at Grand MetroLink station) has been shifted and reconfigured many times. Likewise, in 1993 the western terminus was shifted from Wellston Loop to Rock Road MetroLink station; and then in 2001, it changed again to terminate at Wellston MetroLink station via Etzel. But the core route of the last streetcar line to operate in the city remains, along its private right-of-way from the 3900 block of Enright Ave. to Hamilton Blvd. This streetcar route was replaced with buses on May 21, 1966 - a little more than 40 years ago.

(Initially I included the #16 City Limits on this list, but it turns out that streetcar route was mostly part of the old #01 Kirkwood-Ferguson line. Sometime in the 1930s, that route was cut in two, forming the #01 Kirkwood 'dinky' discontinued August 2, 1950; and the #16 City Limits-Ferguson, replaced with buses February 21, 1948.)

#18 Taylor (PDF). Again, the southernmost segment of the route has changed several times. The streetcar route ran on Euclid and the old S. Kingshighway, ending at Manchester. For many years, the bus route went even further, to Forest Park Community College via Manchester and Macklind. But the core route via Taylor from Olive to Maffitt, Maffitt from Taylor to Newstead, Newstead from Maffitt to Carter/Pope, then via Pope, West Florissant, and finally back to Taylor to end at North Broadway, remains intact. This streetcar route was replaced with buses on June 15, 1946 -- 60 years ago today!

#32 Wellston-MLK (PDF). This line has changed many times in and around the downtown area, most notably in 2001 when it was shifted off MLK Drive east of Grand, to instead replace the old #30 Cass on Cass Avenue from Grand to 9th Street. And of course, the original streetcar route ended at Wellston Loop. The segment from Grand to Wellston Loop, though, remains the same.

Service further west was provided on the old #65 Woodson Road streetcar line (turned over to St. Louis County Bus Company on December 28, 1948), and still further west on the old #64 St. Charles streetcar line. (Streetcar service to St. Charles, MO via the old Route 115 bridge lastest less than thirty years! May 10, 1904 to January 18, 1932.) The #32 hung on as a streetcar until July 28, 1963 (on the original Easton Ave. - Franklin Ave. route into downtown of course).

#40 Broadway (PDF). This venerable old route -- a favorite of mine since I used to ride the Broadway bus on a daily basis -- still traverses the city along the same corridor it has for decades. Quite simply, it runs from Catalan Loop in the south end of the city, to Baden in the north end of the city, via Broadway. This route lost streetcars on August 19, 1956 -- almost 50 years ago.

In downtown, there will be a significant deviation to provide a better connection with MetroLink under the new route plan. And in the county, its branches have changed a lot over the years. For many years, the Broadway bus ended at River Roads Shopping Center in Jennings. Now that it has closed, the end has moved back into the city, to the soon to be built Riverview-Hall Transit Center. Also, service farther north through Moline Acres, Castle Pointe, all the way to Flower Valley Shopping Center on North Lindbergh and New Halls Ferry, was truncated and made into a separate shuttle route several years ago.

To the south, service in South County has changed several times. From 1896 to March 6, 1932, there was direct streetcar service to Jefferson Barracks (along South Broadway through Lemay) via the #43 Barracks line. This was replaced by the #114 Barracks bus line, which some years later was integrated into the Broadway line.

As late as the 1990s, the Broadway had two branches in South County: one, the more common, was directly via S. Broadway, Kingston Dr., Telegraph Rd., Pottle Ave., Robert Koch Hospital Rd., and Koch Rd. to serve both the City's Koch (Quarantine) Hospital and the VA Hospital. Of course, Koch Hospital has long since closed and been demolished. The other branch provided mid-day service to South County Mall via Marceau Street, Alabama/Lemay Ferry, Military Road, S. Broadway, Ripa Ave., Telegraph, Sappington Barracks, Barracksview, S. Lindbergh, and Lemay Ferry to the mall.

Today the south end of the #40 serves the mall six days a week, but via a very different route. Instead of ending at the VA Hospital, it's just a stopping point (except on Sundays). The route is via S. Broadway, Kingston, Telegraph, then to Kinswood Lane (I-255's south outer road), Koch Road, loop into the VA, then back to Koch, then to Robert Koch Hospital, to Pottle, straight into Forder Road, and then via Lemay Ferry to the mall.

#41 Lee (PDF). Another venerable Northside trunk line, the Lee has changed the streets it uses east of Grand several times, but generally it runs along the N. 20th St. corridor. The streetcar line used to end at Kingshighway and Lee, but the bus has for many years extended into Walnut Park and to Halls Ferry Circle, until recently ending at River Roads. Streetcar service ceased almost 60 years ago: July 6, 1946.

#42 Sarah (PDF). The Sarah line at one time came as far south as Shenandoah and Tower Grove in the Shaw neighborhood. There's now a house where the old streetcar loop was. These days the southern end falls at the Grand MetroLink station, but the core of the route along Sarah Street, and then along Fair Avenue near Fairgrounds Park, is pretty much the same. This streetcar route was replaced with buses on June 15, 1946 -- 60 years ago today!

#70 Grand (PDF). The best-known and best-used of all bus routes remains the #70 Grand. It mostly traces the original #70 Grand streetcar route, although with some noteworthy changes. Of course, the North Grand Water Tower is a natural terminus; but sometimes the bus extends a few blocks further to connect with the #40 Broadway, ending at Bulwer and Gano off North Broadway. In the south, the original terminal loop was located just off Meramec Street, I believe on Minnesota Avenue. In the late 1970s, Dutchtown activists got the bus line extended to the old South Broadway bus garage; and more recently, it was extended to Jefferson/Chippewa/Broadway. Another branch came when the old #05 Gravois was eliminated, necessitating adding far south Grand to the #70 route. Every third run or so of the #70 now operates directly via Grand to Iron Street near Carondelet Park.

The #70 Grand streetcar was replaced with buses on January 3, 1960, in preparation for the demolition of the old Grand viaduct across the Mill Creek Valley. Ironically, it was not construction of the highways that killed it; the Market Street Bypass (now part of Highway 40/Interstate 64) built in 1955 included streetcar tracks on Grand, at much expense to the streetcar company.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Gambaro in the 28th?

Gambaro in the 28th?

Today I noticed Derio Gambaro for State Senate signs in the 6100 block of Waterman in Skinker-DeBaliviere (ward 28).

These weren't just on a random street corner; they were in two adjacent front yards.

Maybe a pro-Life, pro-Social Security Privatization Democrat appeals to some voters in the usually left-of-center 28th?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Lemay Ferry and Lindbergh

Lemay Ferry and Lindbergh

For more than a year, MODOT rebuilt the intersection of Lemay Ferry Road and South Lindbergh Boulevard in the heart of South St. Louis County.

The reconstruction, completed in October 2005, was anything but urban. It resulted in the demolition of numerous small commercial structures and the dramatic devaluation of their property by completely eliminating their curb-cuts onto those roads, to allow for a slight widening of both roads. The widening included dedicated right-turn lanes, and two dedicated left-turn lanes for each approach to the intersection.

Traveling through that intersection for the first time in a few years, I was struck by just how many businesses that fairly minor rebuild project may have killed. The Long John Silver's was demolished, as was an auto parts store (the former location of 9-0-5 Liquors) on the corner. Not demolished but closed are the old McDonald's and the Uncle Bill's Pancake House (formerly Dohack's Restaurant).

And, strangely, even the 1950s Mehlville Fire Protection District Engine House #1 has closed, replaced by a controversial new facility about one mile north on Lemay Ferry. Some years ago, the MFPD had purchased some property on Union Road to built a new House #1, but never did. The grand opening for the new House #1, at 3241 Lemay Ferry, was held on Saturday, June 3rd, 2006.

And now, we discovered, the Wendy's location in front of the K-Mart plaza (formerly Venture plaza) has closed, with "For Lease" signs up. We ended up picking up lunch on Sunday instead at the Arby's just down the road - which benefits because it has a 'secret' back way in via the employee parking / dock area between the massive K-Mart building and the so-called Lindbergh Building (a mid-rise office building constructed on spec in the 1980s by Carondelet Savings & Loan for their new headquarters just a few years before they went belly-up).

Because of the median dividers and heavy traffic, this has always been a difficult corner to navigate. But it seems the businesses in the vicinity suffered dramatically as a result of this construction.

I suspect a TIF plan may be in the works for this high-traffic intersection -- the traditional heart of the Mehlville area -- in the near future.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Happy Birthday Mom!

Happy Birthday Mom!

Since my mother doesn't really use the Internet, she probably won't see this. But anyway, it's her birthday. Yay!

I won't reveal her exact age, but it's a round number this year. She was 32 when I was born.

And last week marked nine years since her (rather early) retirement from nursing. It was the same week I graduated high school.


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

S. Jefferson Fast Food Shuffle

S. Jefferson Fast Food Shuffle

I promise this post on fast food will be shorter than my past ones.

On South Jefferson near Gravois, two fast food properties are on the market: one occupied under a long-term lease and for sale, the other vacant and for lease.

  • Rally's @ 2807 S. Jefferson and Lynch. This tiny 1988 drive-thru/walk-up only burger pit is under a 25-year lease by Rally's that extends to 2028.

    Sale price for the 15,881 square-foot property (with 771 square-foot building): $734,400!

  • Former Burger King @ 2500 S. Jefferson and Victor, backing to Gravois. This 1986 drive-thru plus dining room facility closed earlier this spring, and is now boarded up (the picture online, of course, doesn't show that).

    Monthly rent for the 3,200 square-foot space with drive-thru: $5,333.33. That's $64,000 per year, or $20.00 per square-foot per year.

  • Are these places really worth that kind of dough for the owners/operators/investors? It seems a little exorbitant to me.

    And such high prices totally preclude development of such sites for alternative, more urban-friendly uses.

    Meanwhile, nearby at Gravois and Texas, a former KFC outlet boarded up for at least five years, has been reopened as J & J Fish and Chicken, or something like that. It doesn't seem to have a drive-thru.

    I appreciate these establishments provide affordable dining options (which I have used myself), and entry-level job opportunities right in the city.

    But who really wants to own or lease a 20-year-old giant grease trap?

    Tuesday, June 06, 2006



    It's easy to underestimate or dismiss the impacts the Interstate Highway System has had on our neighborhoods and downtown.

    Last night, as I sat on the bus in an immense traffic jam on Washington Ave. near Tucker, I contemplated this.

    Many of the streets in neighborhoods and within downtown itself near downtown serve as collectors of traffic from the Interstates. This is true both of major streets like S. Jefferson and S. Tucker, and side streets like N. 9th and N. 10th near Cochran Gardens.

    But even the exit locations themselves are not straightforward nor easy to understand. Figuring out how and where to get onto westbound I-70 from within downtown is harder than it needs to be. If you're near the Arch and Old Courthouse you just head north on Memorial Drive and pick up the ramp that enters 70 about 1 block south of Washington.

    (This section of I-70, between Washington and Pine, is the worst barricade of all between the Archgrounds and downtown. Not only are there no pedestrian or vehicular crossings, access into downtown is further blocked by the massive superblock of the Mansion House Center parking garage and grounds.)

    The next WB on-ramp serves traffic coming from the MLK bridge. I don't think there's a way to access this ramp from within downtown.

    Most central and western downtown traffic enters I-70 west at either 4th Street or 9th Street. 4th Street roughly parallels N. Broadway and serves as the northbound traffic route for Broadway within downtown.

    The onramp to WB 70 comes a bit north of Biddle Street, after a confusing, winding section of road that runs next to and then under I-70. The Cole Street intersection is particularly confounding. (N. Broadway finally becomes a regular two-way street just south of Cass).

    The "9th Street" on-ramp is pretty far north. Coming out of downtown, drivers pass the convention center, Cochran Gardens, Columbus Square, and Cass Ave. The corner of 9th and Howard is located on an overpass above I-70. Then, to access the on-ramp, you veer wildly to the left at about 9th and Mound. This I-70 east outer road is, confusingly, signed as 10th St.

    The Madison Street exit ramp enters 10th near Tyler, and the old Interurban tracks pass over near Chambers. Then there's the stop sign at the Madison overpass, a pedestrian overpass at North Market, and finally at 10th and Benton the 9th St. on-ramp enters westbound I-70.

    As a result, 9th Street in the evenings - and its twin, 10th Street in the mornings - are super-speedways where most downtown-bound commuters have little regard or knowledge about the neighborhoods through which they pass.

    Of course, the worst thing about downtown traffic is that the streets within and around downtown function as connector ramps between the different highways. This is partly because the North-South Collector-Distributor (I-755) was -- thankfully -- never built across Lafayette Square, western downtown, and St. Louis Place. As a result, there are no direct connections from EB Highway 40 to WB I-70, WB I-44 / SB I-55; or to WB Highway 40 from EB I-70, NB I-55 / EB I-44.

    That means more wear-and-tear on city streets than expected. The S. Jefferson viaduct between Highway 40 and Chouteau carries tons of traffic. Only built in 1967, it is in dire need of reconstruction or replacement. It's amazing to me the Foodland store property can sit vacant at Lafayette and Jefferson given the huge traffic counts at that intersection.

    However, many drivers on that stretch of Jefferson at peak hours are just passing through from their residences in places like far South City, South County, Columbia IL, maybe even Arnold; to employment centers in the central corridor like SLU, BJC, WashU, and maybe even downtown Clayton.

    Some also are entering downtown from EB I-44, since Jefferson is still a bit more convenient than other routes like the left-side exit at Lafayette that (sort of) accesses the compromise solution to the non-building of I-755: Truman Parkway. (Prior to the construction of Truman Parkway, most people used Dolman as a cut-through between 18th/Chouteau and the on-ramps at Lafayette).

    Truman Parkway, of course, has two dedicated exit lanes from NB I-55. But most traffic prefers to exit at Gravois/Russell, and trek northward on congested S. Tucker into downtown. That might change when the reconstruction of S. Tucker from Chouteau to Lafayette starts this summer.

    Eventually, Truman Parkway will be extended northwest slightly, to merge into 18th Street. This is great for folks coming from the south and southwest to access Union Station and nearby office complexes. But it provides no connection to I-64. Those travelers will continue to use Jefferson, or perhaps cut over to 14th from Truman/18th via Chouteau or Clark to access the bizarre westbound I-64 on-ramp at 14th and Clark.

    Another option for accessing downtown from the south (without getting caught up in the Memorial Drive mess) could be Park Avenue. Then you can enter downtown either via 7th or via Broadway/4th.

    That works for some destinations, but often traffic is slow by that point on I-55 north, even in the mornings when bridge traffic shouldn't be heavy. But since I-55 north has a puny single-lane, narrow, steep on-ramp onto the Poplar Street Bridge, one slow-moving tractor-trailer can tie up the entire stretch of I-55 from there south.

    Similarly, the single lane that runs from the westbound PSB onto southbound I-55 (and thence westbound I-44) is also steep and twisty. One of the most dangerous things about the westbound PSB is the traffic jockeying for lane position in that approach.

    While the PSB appears to be four lanes westbound, only one of those lanes (the far right lane) connects to westbound I-70 and to downtown. Once you get onto that off-ramp, it splits so that the left ramp lane goes to 70 and the right ramp lane heads onto Memorial Drive.

    The I-55/44 ramp is the second from the right lane on the PSB. And the two left lanes continue west onto Highway 40/I-64. The next exit past there is at 9th Street.

    Getting to/from downtown and traveling through downtown can be tricky, indeed. And that's without any construction projects!

    Monday, June 05, 2006

    Sometimes, Statistics Lie

    Sometimes, Statistics Lie

    Lots of people seem to refer to as a source for statistics, photos, weather, maps, etc. for just about any city or village in the U.S.

    One popular feature of the site is the "Top 100 Lists." These indicate the relative ranking of places (mostly those of at least 2,000 people) in a variety of categories.

    For example, according to

  • The three largest U.S. cities are located... in Alaska! That's largest in land area. Even though Sitka (2,874 square miles), Juneau (2,718), and Anchorage (1,697) are large - they're certainly not BIG cities.

  • Another fun one: "Cities" (over 5,000 pop.) with Lowest Ratio of Median House Value to Median Household Income. A bunch of places in Texas rank high on this very crude measure of housing affordability. But so do several St. Louis area suburbs. For example:
    Village of Cahokia, IL. Ranking = #12. Ratio = 1.27. Median Income = $31k. Median House Price = $39k.
    Glasgow Village (unincorporated pocket), MO. Ranking = #46. Ratio = 1.45. Median Income = $36k. Median House Price = $52k.
    City of Dellwood, MO. Ranking = #47. Ratio = 1.46. Median Income = $43k. Median House Price = $63k.
    City of St. John, MO. Ranking = #77. Ratio = 1.53. Median Income = $38k. Median House Price = $58k.
    City of Bellefontaine Neighbors, MO. Ranking = #93. Ratio = 1.56. Median Income = $40k. Median House Price = $62k.

    What these ratios basically mean is that in those North County and Metro East suburbs, it should only take about a year-and-a-half (on average) to earn enough to pay for your house.

    Of course, just because houses are affordable relative to the average income of the town, doesn't necessarily mean these are good places to live. Indeed, all of these munis are what might be deemed 'transitional' - income, on average, is going down, as are housing sale prices, as better-off (mostly white) old timers move out to St. Charles County (or the Shiloh/O'Fallon IL area in the case of Cahokia), and are replaced by typically much less affluent African-Americans.

  • On the other hand, some places are really, really unaffordable - especially in California. The least affordable places list - those with the Highest Ratio of Median House Value to Median Household Income is topped by Isla Vista, California. Ratio = 24.91. Median Income = $16k. Median House Price = $402k.

    Why is that? Well, it can be explained by Isla Vista also coming out as #17 on the list of Youngest Residents (median age = 21.1) and #3 on Highest Percentage of College Students (76.6%).

    Isla Vista is the home of UC-Santa Barbara. It's not just a college town - it's basically a college campus/suburb of the much larger seaside city (with similarly costly houses) of Santa Barbara. That explains the statistical anomaly pretty well.

  • Another list where college towns come out on top: High-Educated but Low-Earning Cities. This is particularly true of places with large graduate schools. So, Stanford, CA is #1. 95% of the population has a bachelor's degree (and 65% a graduate degree), but the median income is only $41k, pretty low by California standards.

    Strangely, both Clayton, MO (#47, 70% with BA, median income $64k) and Richmond Heights, MO (#86, 57% with BA, median income $50k) appear on this list as well.

  • And finally, there's this list: Largest Percentage of Males. Three little burgs in Illinois come out on top: Baldwin (94%), Irving (90%), and Ina (90%).

    Why? Each of those towns hosts a men's prison with a population greater than the regular resident population. In Ina, it's the Big Muddy Correctional Center, for example. Still, it's kind of funny to read: "For every 100 females there were 874.2 males."
  • Friday, June 02, 2006



    I admit it: I watched with fascination (and Kelly with some interest, I think) the live telecast of the final rounds of the Scripps National Spelling Bee last night on ABC.

    The winner, of course, was Katherine "Kerry" Close of New Jersey.

    But the St. Louis-area was well-represented by Rajiv Tarigopula, an 8th-grader in the regional Program for Exceptionally Gifted Children housed at Sperreng Middle School in South County's Lindbergh School District.

    Rajiv - who lives in Chesterfield (next year he plans to attend Parkway West High School) and whose parents are both physicians - placed #4 in the national competition.

    (His sponsor, the Post-Dispatch, has more.)

    Placing #2 was Canadian 13-year-old Finola Hackett.

    The commentators on this show are quite odd; perhaps even worse than those on the Olympics. But, it's still fun and nerve-wracking to watch.

    I wasn't quite smart enough to make it into PEGS in my early elementary school days in Mehlville. My I.Q. is only 126. (145 is the minimum for PEGS.) ;-(

    But when my parents applied for the regular gifted pull-out program in St Louis Public Schools, I got in! I was in the gifted classes at Mallinckrodt Elementary and Mason Middle through eighth grade.

    Alas, my spelling career was ended in fourth grade at a four-school bee hosted by Mallinckrodt. I remember well the tension on the old stage in their rather cramped "assembly room." This was several years before the current gym with a big stage was built on part of the playground (thanks to the Capital Improvement Project approved in 1987; although the gym wasn't finished until after I left, probably in 1991. It should be noted that several schools that got gyms back then, have since been closed -- including, of course, Waring ABI which was sold to SLU and demolished and Stix ILC which was sold to WashU and demolished).

    My losing word?


    Of course, I transposed the i and the e, spelling frieght.

    Sad, I know.

    I remember the announcer was Huel Perkins, then anchorman at KSDK Channel 5; and nowadays at WJBK FOX 2 in Detroit.

    I believe the winner was a girl named Mary from Flynn Park Elementary.

    Thursday, June 01, 2006

    The Police Board's Idea of "Community Outreach"

    The Police Board's Idea of "Community Outreach"

    I noticed this item on the left side of the front page in last week's South City Journal, but couldn't find it online anywhere until now.

    This summer, the Board of Police Commissioners for the City of St. Louis, will be holding its monthly board meetings "in the community."

    Their first stop, on Wednesday, June 21st, at 7:00 PM?

    Word of Life Lutheran School gym at Eichelberger and Jamieson -- the same place where the St. Louis Hills Neighborhood Association regularly meets.

    St. Louis Hills, of course, is a very, very pleasant neighborhood in which to live. While I have been criticized in comments on previous posts for not recognizing the increasing diversity of Southwest City, nevertheless it seems pretty clear that St. Louis Hills is not demographically representative of the "community" as a whole that is the City of St. Louis. (See table below)

    2000 StatsSt. Louis HillsCitywide
    % White96.8%43.9%
    % Unemployed3.3%11.3%
    Median HH Inc.$67,125$32,585

    About ten years ago, during the Bosley administration, I was a member of the Mayor's Youth Advisory Board, managed by Jamala Rogers at the City's (now defunct) Office of Youth Development.

    The MYAB sponsored a forum on Youth and Police Relations in spring 1996, at the Wohl Recreation Center in Sherman Park at N. Kingshighway and Dr. Martin Luther King Drive. It was quite heated, but quite interesting and useful to watch.

    Perhaps, if the Blunt-controlled Police Board wants some really meaningful community input, they could have their July meeting up at Wohl.

    And then for August, somewhere in the Third District would be good: maybe Cherokee Recreation Center? (Where, strangely, former aldermanic president Tom Zych is apparently the current director.)