Thursday, December 21, 2006

Supporting An Incumbent Does Not Make Me A Conservative

Supporting An Incumbent Does Not Make Me A Conservative

You've probably noticed I'm a supporter of the re-election of Jim Shrewsbury, and of Craig Schmid. Of course I was also the website manager for Jeannette Mott Oxford's re-election campaign in November.

Also I always thought Pat Dougherty was and is a great public servant. No disrepect to Jeff Smith or the other candidates in that race, but I wish we could have kept Sen. Dougherty in the State Senate a little longer.

Experience does matter. I should know -- I'm still pretty young and relatively inexperienced myself. I make plenty of mistakes as a result. That's how we learn -- by making mistakes. It's true in politics, in your profession, in school -- and not to mention, in marriage! ;-)

Yes, I have personal relationships with most of the elected officials I just mentioned. Is that a bad thing? Politics may be about power, but it's also about people. If you want to get something done, whether it's for yourself or for a group or organization with which you are allied, you need to have productive, constructive relationships with the people in power.

Enough said.


I'll probably be off-line for most of the holiday break period from tomorrow onward. I may check email occasionally, but most likely won't post to the blog. So, Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!

See ya' in 2007.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Danger Zones

Danger Zones

Much political hay has been made of both denouncing and promoting the recent report by Morgan Quitno that called St. Louis the most dangerous city in the U.S., using data submitted by the Police Department to the FBI for its Uniform Crime Report.

Mayor Slay, his chief of staff Jeff Rainford, and Police Chief Mokwa have made numerous statements decrying these sorts of reports, pointing out the major crime problems are confined to a few neighborhoods.

Unfortunately, most people assume they're talking about North St. Louis, which allows them to assure the suburban public that downtown is perfectly safe.

However, if you look at pure per capita statistics, downtown looks pretty dangerous. That's because, despite recent rapid growth, downtown's 24-hour resident population is still pretty low. Downtown is reasonably safe, though.

It's the Southside that's of special concern to me.

We clearly have a number of neighborhoods in South St. Louis that have high concentrations of criminal activity. Whether it's more or less than in sections of North St. Louis is not that important. Both areas have their hot spots.

And both North St. Louis and South St. Louis have some very nice, quiet blocks too!

Anyway, I started playing with some data. They are the 2006 Year-to-Date Crime by Neighborhood report downloadable on the Police Department website; and population by neighborhood (from 2000) available from the City website. I ranked the neighborhoods by various categories adjusted for population and for land area.

Some highlights:

Top 20: Total Index Crime Per 100 Population

Downtown = 254
Near North Riverfront = 60
Downtown West = 60
Riverview = 35
Cheltenham = 35
Mark Twain I-70 Industrial = 24
Covenant Blu-Grand Center = 23
Patch = 23
Fountain Park = 20
Fairground = 20
Gravois Park = 19
Old North St. Louis = 19
Kingsway East = 18
Lewis Place = 18
Kingsway West = 17
Penrose = 17
Jeff Vander Lou = 17
The Ville = 17
Central West End = 17
Vandeventer = 16

Top 20: Crimes Against Persons Per 100 Population

Downtown = 21
Downtown West = 7
Near North Riverfront = 7
Fairground = 6
Gravois Park = 5
Mark Twain I-70 Industrial = 5
Fountain Park = 5
Jeff Vander Lou = 5
Wells-Goodfellow = 4
Carr Square = 4
Walnut Park West = 4
Academy = 4
Lewis Place = 4
Covenant Blu-Grand Center = 4
Walnut Park East = 4
The Ville = 4
Old North St. Louis = 4
O'Fallon = 3
Hamilton Heights = 3
Kingsway East = 3

Of course, on per capita figures downtown, industrial areas, and heavily depopulated areas in North City score particularly badly. But you get different findings when instead of adjusting the crime figures for population, you adjust them for land area in square miles. You find that some areas on the Southside have crime rates comparable to, even in some cases higher than, those on the Northside.

Top 20: Total Index Crimes Per Square Mile

Gravois Park = 2,479
Downtown = 2,025
Tower Grove East = 1,954
Benton Park West = 1,735
O'Fallon = 1,716
Penrose = 1,652
Kingsway West = 1,621
Kingsway East = 1,610
Fairground = 1,594
Fountain Park = 1,513
Columbus Square = 1,505
Walnut Park West = 1,428
Dutchtown = 1,326
The Greater Ville = 1,308
Fox Park = 1,271
Walnut Park East = 1,236
Central West End = 1,234
DeBaliviere Place = 1,234
Hamilton Heights = 1,215

Top 20: Crimes Against Persons Per Square Mile

Gravois Park = 652
Fairground = 471
Benton Park West = 438
Walnut Park West = 426
O'Fallon = 424
Academy = 363
Fountain Park = 361
Columbus Square = 333
Dutchtown = 331
Walnut Park East = 306
Kingsway East = 302
Wells-Goodfellow = 297
The Greater Ville = 277
Hamilton Heights = 275
Tower Grove East = 255
Lewis Place = 252
Carr Square = 250
Kingsway West = 241
Jeff Vander Lou = 238
The Ville = 232

I focus here on crimes against persons including murder, rape, assault, and robbery. But if you look at property crime, you find that some very "safe" areas have comparable rates per square mile to those in "dangerous" areas. For example:

Property Crimes Per Square Mile

St. Louis Place (near Northside) = 412
Princeton Heights (far Southwest) = 410

Bottom line: Crime is a citywide problem, not one confined just to a few neighborhoods north of Delmar.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Riding the #17 Oakville Bus @ Rush Hour

Riding the #17 Oakville Bus @ Rush Hour

Last week I had the opportunity to ride the #17 Oakville, one of several new MetroBus routes opened in August along with Cross County MetroLink.

Back when I lived in South County, the area where I lived was served by numerous routes during the weekday rush hour. The #17x Oakville Express and #140x Broadway-Barracks Express provided direct peak hour service via I-55 to downtown St. Louis from Telegraph Road.

The #17 Clayton-Oakville provided direct, albeit very slow, peak hour service to downtown Clayton from Telegraph Road; and for a time, midday service to downtown Clayton via South County Mall and some backroads. The new #17 route reinstates service on portions of that route, as well as portions of the former #03 Morganford-Arsenal route.

Also, the #40 Broadway provided daily service along Telegraph; the #49 Lindbergh provided Mon-Sat service via Kinswood Lane; the #73x Lemay Express came pretty close to home, ending at Sylvan Springs Park-Ride Lot; and the Mehlville-St. Louis Express (forgot the route number), earlier the Forder-Union Rd Express, and for a while recently covered by the Tesson Ferry Express, provided service on Forder Road from Telegraph west.

Today, there is no direct express service to downtown from Telegraph Road in Oakville nor from Sylvan Springs Park-Ride lot. Instead, you can board the #40 Broadway on Telegraph north of I-255, or on Kinswood Lane, or on Forder Road, but not on Telegraph south of I-255. Or, you can take the #17 Oakville, then transfer to an express bus or to MetroLink.

I boarded the southbound #17 bus at 4:35 PM Wednesday at Shrewsbury MetroLink stop. This was a 30-seat bus. Total passengers boarding there = 7 (including me).

The bus headed south on River des Peres, and slowly down the Weil Ave ramp onto to Chippewa in rush-hour traffic, then west on Watson to turn into Mackenzie Pointe strip mall. Two passengers boarded in that shopping center. Total = 9.

The bus exited Mackenzie Pointe heading east on Watston, then south on Mackenzie. Nobody got on or off on Mackenzie until Reavis Road, several miles south. I don't recall historical service on Mackenzie north of Weber Road at all, which makes sense since this corridor is lined with cemeteries and fairly low-density subdivisions.

Traffic was heavy approaching the intersection with Gravois Road. Reavis Road is an activity center because there's a community center nearby and a few employment locations. So we gained one passenger there. Total = 10.

We continued south on Mackenzie, around the sharp curve into Reavis Barracks, and lost one passenger at Huntingdon Lane in the village of St. George. Total = 9.

Traffic got heavy again approaching the I-55 exit on Reavis Barracks, where there's also a park-ride lot off Spokane Drive that's also an ad hoc bus transfer location. When we got to the park-ride at 4:55 PM, also arriving or leaving were the #17 northbound to Shrewsbury; the #40x I-55 Express; the #10x South Grand Express; and the Harrah's Casino shuttle bus! There we lost one passenger, and gained another. Total = (still) 9.

It took a few minutes to get through the I-55 interchange, then we headed south on Union Road toward Lindbergh pretty quickly. Again we met massive congestion along Lindbergh, but eventually made it to Lemay Ferry, then South County Centerway to pull into the bus stop next to JC Penney at 5:12 PM. There we lost 5 passengers, and gained 1. Total = 5.

Coming around the back of the JC Penney catalog store, we then headed out of the mall property, back onto Lemay Ferry briefly, then east on Lindbergh. Another passenger disembarked in front of Dave Sinclair Ford, across from Home Depot. Total = 4.

We continued east on Barracksview and Sappington Barracks into Sheridan Drive to enter the Sylvan Springs Park-Ride Lot. One passenger exited there at 5:20 PM. Total remaining = 3.

Then I got off about 5:25 PM on Telegraph Road south of I-255. The two remaining passengers couldn't go much further south, since the route ends at Baumgartner Road. The old #17 at peak hour did run as far south as Fine Road for a few years, anyway.

This is the challenge of transit service in the suburbs: very low ridership, mostly heading to major activity centers. So, you need to serve those activity centers directly, resulting in a lot of turning movements that slows service considerably.

However, the old #17 route did operate with a smaller, Call-a-Ride sized bus most of the time. With 10 or fewer passengers, this makes sense. Those van-style vehicles are more capable of making the tight turns.

If there's only 9 people riding during evening rush hour during holiday shopping time, though, I can't imagine there's more ridership during the mid-day or on Saturday.

It's hard to comprehend how these kinds of services can be maintained long-term, given Metro's current fiscal crisis. I suspect this route will, unfortunately, be one of the first proposed for cutback.

However, it does pass by Jeffleigh Lane in Reavis Gardens subdivision, where St. Louis County Councilman John Campisi resides. Do you suppose he's aware of its existence? Do you suppose he would ever ride it?

Friday, December 15, 2006

So Long to Two Big Lots and One B. Dalton

So Long to Two Big Lots and One B. Dalton

Despite the upswing in some aspects of St. Louis City retail, the Big Lots stores at 2321 McCausland @ Manchester and at 4330 S Broadway (both, I think, former Kroger stores) are closing in January 2007.

So is the B. Dalton Bookseller in Hampton Village.

This will leave one location of Big Lots -- the fairly new one at 4930 S. Kingshighway in part of the old Venture space -- and zero locations of Barnes & Noble / B. Dalton within the City of St. Louis.

Most would probably say the Big Lots' are no great loss, since we have plenty of Deals and Dollar Tree stores around. Still, I guess I like the bright orange signage at Big Lots better.

Word is that the Big Lots on McCausland is owned by nearby Michael's Restaurant, who plans to sell the property to QuikTrip. No news about the S Broadway Big Lots; but the B Dalton in Hampton Village is slated to become a Noodle Cafe.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Does Having TV and Film Set in a City Have Economic Impact?

Does Having TV and Film Set in a City Have Economic Impact?

Lately, I've noticed we've watched a bunch of movies (some ok, some crappy) set in Chicago. And there are certainly have been a number of major and minor TV shows set there.

Of course, as most savvy viewers know, lots of movies and TV shows that claim to be located in a particular place may use stock footage and/or 2nd unit footage to place themselves, but are actually filmed in, say, Vancouver, sometimes referred to as "Hollywood North."

We have a Missouri Film Commission that works to get movies and TV filmed in Missouri for the economic benefits.

But is there any significant benefit to having a movie or TV show set here, regardless of where it is shot?

A handful of shows have been set in Missouri; I only remember "The John Larroquette Show" (which was pretty funny) and "Day by Day" (quite bad) as shows that claimed to be set in St. Louis.

I don't have a good answer to my question; but maybe it's just that cities that people already think are cool are more likely to have movies and TV shows set there.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Names That Profess

Names That Profess

Here's something light-hearted for a Friday.

I noticed recently a contractor we hired had the last name Carpenter.

And I recalled our high school librarian had the last name Reading.

But would you believe there's a professor at UM-Kansas City named Dean who was, for a while anyway, Dean of Libraries there?

And if you search the Missouri "Blue Book" personnel directory you can find some other interesting job-name combinations for state employees, anyway:

  • A guy named Driver who works for MODOT.

  • A fella named Cash who is a tax auditor for Revenue.

  • A P.O. for Corrections named Justice.

    Sadly, while there are cooks in state facilities named Baker, and there are bakers too, there are no bakers named Baker nor cooks named Cook. But there's a guy named Butcher who works in food service for Mental Health. That's almost close.

    And I'll be on the lookout for somebody named Joe Candlestickmaker. ;-)

    I guess my occupation, then, should be as a hot dog.
  • Thursday, December 07, 2006

    In Memory: Susan Foulk

    In Memory: Susan Foulk

    Former CDA housing analyst and former Dutchtown South director Susan Foulk passed away on Tuesday morning.

    Services will be private.

    I interviewed at one point with Susan for a housing assistant job at Dutchtown; later, at the City, I recall her as an exuberant, funny colleague.

    She retired in March 2006; as did her husband Dan, after 23 years with the city, most recently at Lambert Airport.

    Following so closely on the heels of the unexpected, tragic passing of John Rataj in August (recognized among others by a moment of silence at the East-West Gateway luncheon last month), this represents another blow to the CDA/SLDC/PDA collegiality.

    Wednesday, December 06, 2006

    Back Again!

    Back Again!

    Hello! Well, after a busy Thanksgiving holiday and an even busier time last week when we had a catastrophic roof leak during the freezing rain/ice storm caused by faulty roofing installation, I'm going to try to get back on the blog again.

    Some things:

    1) I wholeheartedly support the reelection of my alderman, Craig Schmid. I think his opponent Galen Gondolfi is a great guy, but I don't see a compelling reason to boot out one of the hardest-working, most approachable elected officials around -- Craig Schmid.

    2) I also strongly support the reelection of aldermanic president Jim Shrewsbury. I've known Jim for a number of years, having worked directly with him as his computer tutor when I was in college in the late 1990s. Jim really cares about this city, and has dedicated his life to public service. He deserves another term.

    3) Over in the 6th Ward, incumbent Lewis Reed is running against Jim for board president, creating an opening that's quite competitive. While
    committeeman Cacchione could presumably have a lead, I'd like to see my former SLDC colleague Christian Saller take that one. He'd be a voice for responsible development citywide.

    4) In the wake of this storm, aside from my own roofer frustrations, why isn't there more serious discussion about requiring Ameren to develop a five-year plan to put all power lines underground. PSC has the power, if they just utilize it! It would cost money, yes, but it would save lives. It would also help Gov. Blunt show he's really not in the hip pocket of the utilities.

    5) As depressing as it is, state-takeover (or "overlay board" takeover) of St Louis Public Schools appears increasingly imminent. Losing local control seems to be an acceptable trade-off for... what exactly?

    Further thoughts to come on these and other issues, at a later time.