Readers: Municipalities Shouldn’t Change Ordinances To Keep Out Semi-Topless Establishments

A majority of people in the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll do not agree with municipalities changing their ordinances to keep out some establishments. Here were the results: Q: Agree or disagree: Municipalities are right to change ordinances to keep out establishments where female breasts are covered only by body paint. Strongly …

The High Cost of Buying a Car If You’re Poor

For months now I’ve been wanting to post about auto financing. Last month John Oliver did a segment on it (below) that got me motivated: Is there another subprime loan crisis brewing? John Oliver, host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” found disturbing similarities between the easy loans dished out for used cars …

Sunday Poll: Should Municipalities Make Sure Ordinances Keep Out Businesses With Female Servers In Body Paint?

In March an establishment featuring females with pasties on nipples & body paint on their upper bodies opened in the Delmar Loop, with the limits of University City. When John Racanelli announced last winter that he was replacing his failed sports bar, the Market Pub House, with a spinoff of …

St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills 9/23/2016

The following seven (7) Board Bills will be introduced at today’s 10am meeting of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. Review today’s agenda here. Board Bill No. 136 | Block Grant Bill BOARD BILL NO. 136 INTRODUCED BY: Alderman Joseph Roddy An ordinance, recommended by the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, …

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Readers: Municipalities Shouldn’t Change Ordinances To Keep Out Semi-Topless Establishments

September 28, 2016 Featured, Politics/Policy 1 Comment
Social House, just South pd downtown
Social House, just South pd downtown

A majority of people in the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll do not agree with municipalities changing their ordinances to keep out some establishments. Here were the results:

Q: Agree or disagree: Municipalities are right to change ordinances to keep out establishments where female breasts are covered only by body paint.

  • Strongly agree 7 [18.92%]
  • Agree 3 [8.11%]
  • Somewhat agree 2 [5.41%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 1 [2.7%]
  • Somewhat disagree 6 [16.22%]
  • Disagree 6 [16.22%]
  • Strongly disagree 11 [29.73%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 1 [2.7%]

Nearly two-thirds disagreed with the above statement.

This is a tough issue for smaller municipalities in a region. No nothing and be perceived as not a good place for families. Take quick action, as many have this year, and be perceived as moral puritans. There are parallels to the 19th century temperance movement, witch led to prohibition:

The country’s first serious anti-alcohol movement grew out of a fervor for reform that swept the nation in the 1830s and 1840s. Many abolitionists fighting to rid the country of slavery came to see drink as an equally great evil to be eradicated – if America were ever to be fully cleansed of sin. The temperance movement, rooted in America’s Protestant churches, first urged moderation, then encouraged drinkers to help each other to resist temptation, and ultimately demanded that local, state, and national governments prohibit alcohol outright. (PBS) http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/prohibition/roots-of-prohibition/

On the other hand, the objectification of females by heterosexual males can have serious consequences, including rape and sex trafficking:

The National Human Trafficking Resource Center defines human trafficking as a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers use force, fraud or coercion to control victims for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or labor services against their will. 

Since 2007, more than 1,500 calls have been made from Missouri to the National Human Trafficking hotline, the same site reported. 

St. Louis and Kansas City are hotspots for human trafficking. Missouri is responding through legislation, law enforcement and grassroots organizations that work to combat and raise awareness about trafficking.

“The FBI has stated that St. Louis is one of the top 20 trafficking destinations in the country. Because of our highway system, highway 70 and 44, we have a lot of possibilities for that. So we do know it’s a problem,” said Republican Rep. Elijah Haahr, chair of the Human Trafficking Task Force. “People attribute it to being an East Coast, West Coast problem. It’s a Midwestern problem, both sex trafficking and labor trafficking. (KMOX)

I’m not sure where the line should be drawn. I have no problems seeing the female nipple, our notions around nudity, decency, and morality are weird.  But, as a gay man, I’m not affected the way straight men are.

Still, laws forcing women to cover their nipples where men don’t have to seems unjust — simply because some straight men are unable to control themselves.

— Steve Patterson

The High Cost of Buying a Car If You’re Poor

September 26, 2016 Featured, Transportation 12 Comments

For months now I’ve been wanting to post about auto financing. Last month John Oliver did a segment on it (below) that got me motivated:

Is there another subprime loan crisis brewing?

John Oliver, host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” found disturbing similarities between the easy loans dished out for used cars and the mortgage crisis that devastated the economy in 2008. 

Now, car dealers are making high-risk, high-interest loans that “trap people with few options into paying vastly more than a car is worth,” Oliver said. “It’s just one of the many ways in which when you are poor, everything can be more expensive.” 

The average interest rate on a “buy here, pay here” loan made by used-car dealers is 19 percent, but some buyers are paying up to 29 percent for loans that many default on within an average of just seven months.  (Huffington Post)

Oliver pointed out bad subprime auto loans are being bundled and sold as investments — the same way bad subprime mortgages were dome a decade ago.

Note: a few words aren’t suitable for all work environments.

Some have pointed out that the auto loan market is too small to cause another recession. Even assuming these won’t cause another recession, the reality is disturbing.

In most places, the working poor need a reliable car to get to work. Even in regions with high frequency public transit, commutes can take hours. We’ve designed our built environment to male car ownership mandatory. So you ask?

For those who live paycheck to paycheck, buying a car isn’t an easy task. When my husband and I bought our used Honda Civic in 2014 we got a loan at our credit union. We didn’t qualify for their best interest rate, but still got a reasonable 3.69%APR. They required the vehicle not be more older than 7 years and have under 100,000 miles. Being pre-approved allowed up to go car shopping with confidence.

Here’s the numbers for our auto loan:

  • $9,003.75 financed
  • $596.01 in interest
  • $9599.76 total after 42 months

Our last payment will be in November 2017. We got a good price on the car in 2014 so we’ve never been upside down on our loan.

For millions of people, their experience is very different. Their car breaks down, or they get a new job where they suddenly need a car. They turn to a nearby used car dealer where they can pay there.

The problem with this route is:

  • The sales price is well-above the value of the car.
  • The interest rate is 19%-25%.
  • The total paid, if paid in full, is double the value of the car at purchase. Double!

Wednesday 9/14/16 I went to the website of one such dealer, picking out a car with a high reliability rating, decent fuel mileage, and less than 100k.

This 2006 Toyota Camry met the qualifications listed above.
This 2006 Toyota Camry met the qualifications listed above.

To someone needing a car to get to/from work at 4-cylinder Camry is a good choice, with only 88,749 miles it should have a lot of life left. The asking price is the first problem. Sure, prices are negotiable — but not much.

I also went to Kelly Blue Book to see what someone should expect to pay at a dealer for a 2006 Toyota Camry LE with 88,749 miles.

They list the fair market range as $5,471-$6,922 -- five thousand below the asking price!
They list the fair market range as $5,471-$6,922 — five thousand below the asking price!

But this Camry is too old to get financed through my credit union, right now the oldest year model on used car loans is 2009. So I went back to the website and filtered their 299 cars in inventory to narrow down to 2009 & newer models under 100K miles. I got 59 matches — so 20% of their inventory could be financed elsewhere. I then sorted the 59 by price, ranging from $9,995-$15,995.

The listing has lots off photos -- all stock images of a white Aveo. This one is red.
The listing has lots off photos — all stock images of a white Aveo. This one is red.

But it’s new enough (2011) and low milage enough (97,257) that it could be financed at my credit union. But the credit union wouldn’t lend more than the value.

Not a surprise, their asking far more than the value.
Not a surprise, their asking far more than the value.

So I wanted to compare this 2011 Chevy Aveo purchased/financed two different ways. First up, buy here pay here:

  • Financed: $9,995
  • Term: 48 months
  • Interest: 22% (middle range)
  • Payment:$314.90
  • Total:$15,115.36
  • Interest: $5,120.36 (33.88% of payments made)

Wow, those are big car payments for a 7 year-old car with nearly 100K miles. At this price it would be hard to afford routine maintenance and repairs for the length of the loan. Now let’s look at the same car if bought elsewhere for the suggested price and financed at a local credit union:

  • Financed: $7,105
  • Term: 48 months
  • Interest: 3.69% (lowest rate is 2.49%)
  • Payment:$159.44
  • Total:$7,653.14
  • Interest: $548.14 (7.16% of payments made)

The monthly payment is half with a reasonable interest rate, so hopefully the buyer could afford to keep up the car, not miss any payments, etc. I used an auto loan calculator to do the math for both.

Some of you likely think this is just the free market at work. It is, which is why unregulated free-market capitalism means a few profit while others are bankrupted. We shouldn’t force people to buy a car so they enter into an unjust racket.

By contrast, those with higher incomes have many more options. When we’re in Chicago dealers there routinely advertise new car leases with one up front payment.

A one pay lease, also known as a single pay or pre-paid car lease, is similar to a standard lease in that you are purchasing the use of the vehicle only for a set period of time. Like a standard lease, you agree to return the vehicle to the dealer in good condition and under a pre-determined number of miles at the end of this time. The difference is that instead of making monthly payments throughout this period, the entire amount is paid at the beginning of the lease. (Carintelligent)

That one payment of $12,000 will save you interest, but also cost you on interest it would’ve earned. It’s expensive to be poor.

— Steve Patterson

Sunday Poll: Should Municipalities Make Sure Ordinances Keep Out Businesses With Female Servers In Body Paint?

Please vote below
Please vote below

In March an establishment featuring females with pasties on nipples & body paint on their upper bodies opened in the Delmar Loop, with the limits of University City.

When John Racanelli announced last winter that he was replacing his failed sports bar, the Market Pub House, with a spinoff of Soulard’s Social House, U. City officials argued that it was a dramatic change in use — and that Racanelli needed a new liquor license. They then began to hastily revise the city’s code to bar sexually suggestive businesses.

But Racanelli and his always-quotable attorney, Albert Watkins, knew a good First Amendment case when they saw one. They pointed out that other businesses in the Loop had hosted burlesque — how were their servers’ costumes any different? And at any rate, it was the same ownership, Watkins insisted, so no new liquor license was needed. Social House II could open whenever it wanted … and so, on March 4, it did.

In court, the city sought a restraining order in court to close the bar and, at City Council, stripped the bar of its liquor license. Ultimately both efforts were unsuccessful: Judges both denied the restraining order and forced the city to give back the liquor license, suggesting there was a likelihood Racanelli would ultimately prevail on the merits. (Riverfront Times)

The months-long drama had other municipalities scrambling to review their decency ordinances to prevent this from happening within their municipal borders. From last month:

St. Peters has joined the list of area municipalities tightening indecent exposure ordinances following a controversy in University City over a bar which featured female servers with body-painted torsos.

Aldermen on Thursday night passed an ordinance that includes under the definition of nudity the female breast with “less than a fully opaque covering.”

The measure goes on to say that “fully opaque” doesn’t include body paint, dyes, tattoos and liquid latex.

City officials say that’s aimed at keeping bars from employing body-painted servers similar to those used at the now-closed Social House II in University City. (Post-Dispatch)

The Social House II closed months ago, but the issue remains in the minds of many. Which brings us to today’s poll question:

The poll will be open until 8pm tonight, share your views in the comments below.

— Steve Patterson

St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills 9/23/2016

September 23, 2016 Board of Aldermen, Featured 3 Comments
St. Louis City Hall
St. Louis City Hall

The following seven (7) Board Bills will be introduced at today’s 10am meeting of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. Review today’s agenda here.

Board Bill No. 136 | Block Grant Bill

BOARD BILL NO. 136 INTRODUCED BY: Alderman Joseph Roddy An ordinance, recommended by the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, authorizing the Mayor of the City of St. Louis, on behalf of the City, to submit a 2017 Annual Action Plan to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) as required to apply for funding under the Federal Community Development Block Grant (“CDBG”), HOME Investment Partnership (“HOME”), Emergency Solutions Grant (“ESG”) and Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (“HOPWA”) Entitlement Programs, authorizing and directing the Mayor and the Comptroller on behalf of the City to enter into and execute agreements with HUD for the receipt of 2017 CDBG, HOME, ESG and HOPWA funds, appropriating the sum of Sixteen Million Dollars ($16,000,000) which the City estimates will be available for the 2017 CDBG Program Year; appropriating the sum of Two Million, One Hundred Thousand Dollars ($2,100,000) which the City estimates will be available for the 2017 HOME Program Year; appropriating the sum of One Million, Four hundred and Seventy-Three Thousand, One Hundred and Seventy-Three Dollars ($1,473,173) which the City estimates will be available for the 2017 ESG Program Year; and appropriating the sum of One Million, Five Hundred and Fifty-Four Thousand, Nine Hundred and Forty Dollars ($1,554,940) which the City estimates will be available for the 2017 HOPWA Program Year, authorizing and directing the Director of the Community Development Administration (“CDA”) to contract with municipal agencies, non-profit corporations and other entities, as necessary for the expenditure of CDBG and HOME funds, to establish and implement a lump sum drawdown procedure for the purpose of financing property rehabilitation activities, to establish and implement a program to guarantee in whole or in part construction loans from private financial institutions, and/or to establish and implement a procedure for providing financial assistance to CDBG-eligible undertakings through float loan financing, authorizing and directing the Director of the Department of Human Services (“DHS”) to contract with municipal agencies, non-profit corporations and other entities, as necessary for the expenditure of ESG funds, authorizing and directing the Director of Health and Hospitals to contract with municipal agencies, non-profit corporations and other entities, as necessary for the expenditure of HOPWA funds, and directing the Comptroller to issue warrants thereon upon the City Treasury; and containing an emergency clause.

Board Bill No. 137 | Redevelopment plan for 2217 Locust Ave.

BOARD BILL NO. 137 INTRODUCED BY ALDERWOMAN INGRASSIA An ordinance approving a Redevelopment Plan for the 2217 Locust Ave. Area (“Area”) after finding that the Area is blighted as defined in Section 99.320 and Chapter 353 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri, 2000, as amended, (the “Statutes” being Sections 99.300 to 99.715 inclusive and Chapter 353), containing a description of the boundaries of said Area in the City of St. Louis (“City”), attached hereto and incorporated herein as Exhibit “A”, finding that redevelopment and rehabilitation of the Area is in the interest of the public health, safety, morals and general welfare of the people of the City; approving the Plan dated August 23, 2016 for the Area (“Plan”), incorporated herein by attached Exhibit “B”, pursuant to Sections 99.430 and 353.020 (4); finding that there is a feasible financial plan for the development of the Area which affords maximum opportunity for development of the Area by private enterprise; finding that no property in the Area may be acquired by the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority of the City of St. Louis (“LCRA”) through the exercise of eminent domain; finding that the property within the Area is unoccupied, but if it should become occupied the Redeveloper shall be responsible for relocating any eligible occupants displaced as a result of implementation of the Plan; finding that financial aid may be necessary to enable the Area to be redeveloped in accordance with the Plan; finding that there shall be available ten (10) year real estate tax abatement with the last five (5) years of payments in lieu of taxes based on fifty percent (50%) of the then current assessment; and pledging cooperation of the Board of Aldermen and requesting various officials, departments, boards and agencies of the City to cooperate and to exercise their respective powers in a manner consistent with the Plan.

Board Bill No. 138 | Redevelopment plan for Fox Park/ Benton Park West

BOARD BILL NO. 138 INTRODUCED BY ALDERWOMAN INGRASSIA /ALDERMAN ORTMANN An ordinance approving a blighting study and redevelopment plan dated June 28, 2016 for the Fox Park/ Benton Park West Scattered Sites Redevelopment Area (as further defined herein, the “Plan”) after finding that said Redevelopment Area (“Area”) is blighted as defined in Section 99.320 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri, as amended (the “Statute” being Sections 99.300 to 99.715 RSMo inclusive, as amended); containing a description of the boundaries of the Area in the City of St. Louis (“City”), attached hereto and incorporated herein as Attachment “A”, finding that redevelopment and rehabilitation of the Area is in the interest of the public health, safety, morals and general welfare of the people of the City; approving the Plan attached hereto and incorporated herein as Attachment “B”, pursuant to Section 99.430 RSMo, as amended; finding that there is a feasible financial plan for the redevelopment of the Area which affords maximum opportunity for redevelopment of the Area by private enterprise; finding that no property in the Area may be acquired by the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority of the City of St. Louis (“LCRA”), a public body corporate and politic created under Missouri law, through the exercise of eminent domain; finding that no property within the Area is occupied, however if it should become occupied the Redeveloper (as defined herein) shall be responsible for providing relocation assistance pursuant to the Plan to any eligible occupants displaced as a result of implementation of the Plan; finding that financial aid may be necessary to enable the Area to be redeveloped in accordance with the Plan; finding that there shall be available up to a fifteen (15) year real estate tax abatement; and pledging cooperation of this St. Louis Board of Aldermen (“Board”) and requesting various officials, departments, boards and agencies of the City to cooperate and to exercise their respective powers in a manner consistent with the Plan; and containing a severability clause.

Board Bill No. 139 | Treasurers Office Pay Bill

Board Bill No. 139 Introduced by Alderman Williamson An ordinance relating to the position classifications and salaries of the employees in the Treasurer’s Office; repealing Ordinance 69195 and enacting in lieu thereof certain new sections relating to the same subject matter and containing an emergency clause.

Board Bill No. 140 | Parking Division Pay Bill

Board Bill No. 140 Introduced by Alderman Williamson An ordinance relating to the position classifications and salaries of the employees in the Parking Division; repealing Ordinance 69196 and enacting in lieu thereof certain new sections relating to the same subject matter and containing an emergency clause.

Board Bill No. 141 | Redevelopment plan for 2926-36 Locust

BOARD BILL NO. 141 INTRODUCED BY ALDERWOMAN MARLENE DAVIS An ordinance approving a blighting study and redevelopment plan dated July 26, 2016 for the 2926-36 Locust St. Redevelopment Area (as further defined herein, the “Plan”) after finding that said Redevelopment Area (“Area”) is blighted as defined in Section 99.320 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri, as amended (the “Statute” being Sections 99.300 to 99.715 RSMo inclusive, as amended); containing a description of the boundaries of the Area in the City of St. Louis (“City”), attached hereto and incorporated herein as Attachment “A”, finding that redevelopment and rehabilitation of the Area is in the interest of the public health, safety, morals and general welfare of the people of the City; approving the Plan attached hereto and incorporated herein as Attachment “B”, pursuant to Section 99.430 RSMo, as amended; finding that there is a feasible financial plan for the redevelopment of the Area which affords maximum opportunity for redevelopment of the Area by private enterprise; finding that no property in the Area may be acquired by the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority of the City of St. Louis (“LCRA”), a public body corporate and politic created under Missouri law, through the exercise of eminent domain; finding that no property within the Area is occupied, but if it shall become occupied, the Redeveloper (as defined herein) shall be responsible for providing relocation assistance pursuant to the Plan to any eligible occupants displaced as a result of implementation of the Plan; finding that financial aid may be necessary to enable the Area to be redeveloped in accordance with the Plan; finding that there shall be available up to a ten (10) year real estate tax abatement with five (5) years of payments in lieu of taxes or up to five (5) years real estate tax abatement; and pledging cooperation of this St. Louis Board of Aldermen (“Board”) and requesting various officials, departments, boards and agencies of the City to cooperate and to exercise their respective powers in a manner consistent with the Plan; and containing a severability clause.

Board Bill No. 142 | Ordinance pertaining to commercial semi-trailer trucks

BOARD BILL NO. 142 INTRODUCED BY ALDERWOMAN MEGAN-ELLYIA GREEN An ordinance pertaining to commercial semi-trailer trucks, also known as a semis, or tractor-trailers; prohibiting such traffic along Morganford Road from the north boundary of Arsenal Street to the south boundary of Utah Street, exempting from said prohibition emergency vehicles, including privately owned tow trucks when providing emergency service, vehicles making deliveries to nearby addresses, and vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) of less than 26,000 pounds, and containing an emergency clause.

The meeting begins at 10am, it can be watched online here.

— Steve Patterson

Readers Strongly Opposed to Change in Missouri Gun Law

September 21, 2016 Missouri, Politics/Policy No Comments

A majority of readers in the non-scientific Sunday Poll strongly oppose the changes to Missouri’s gun laws when the legislature overrode Gov Nixon’s veto lsat week. It should be noted the readership here doesn’t represent the region/state.

  • Come Jan. 1, lawful owners of firearms will be able to conceal and carry them anywhere in Missouri, subject to the limitations that already exist — not in the likes of courthouses, jails, polling places or businesses, such as grocery stores, that post “no guns” at their doors.
  • Background checks for buying weapons still apply as required.
  • Only holders of Missouri concealed-carry permits can carry concealed weapons outside of the state, and Illinois still requires visitors to have Illinois permits. The other seven states surrounding Missouri honor its permits. There also are some places in Missouri, such as some school districts, that give more rights to permit holders.
  • Local governments, such as St. Louis, still can prohibit people from carrying weapons openly unless they have concealed-carry permits. (Post-Dispatch)

The expanded ‘Stand Your Ground’ law begins October 14th.

Below are the poll results:

Q: Support or oppose: Missouri law will soon allow people to carry a concealed gun without a permit or training.

  • Strongly support 12 [16.67%]
  • Support 4 [5.56%]
  • Somewhat support 1 [1.39%]
  • Neither oppose or support 1 [1.39%]
  • Somewhat oppose 4 [5.56%]
  • Oppose 2 [2.78%]
  • Strongly oppose 48 [66.67%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 0 [0%]

More than 3/4 oppose the change.

— Steve Patterson

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