Heating With Soft Coal Caused Black Tuesday 75 Years Ago Today

During the 1930s the population of St. Louis was declining, no doubt in part due to the unhealthy air during the winter months when soft coal was used to heat nearly every building. In February 1937 a smoke ordinance was passed creating a “Division of Smoke Regulation in the Department …

Grand Jury Decision Sooner Than Readers Expected

In the Sunday Poll at the start of this week it was looking to many like we wouldn’t see a decision anytime soon. Only 6 readers correctly guessed Monday as the day. Here are the results, in chronological order: Q: What day do you think the Michael Brown Grand Jury will …

Spring 2015 Municipal Election Season Has Started

The national midterm elections are only 3 weeks behind us, but already the Spring 2015 St. Louis municipal election season has begun, yesterday candidates filing for office in the city’s even-numbered wards. Also on the ballot will be the citywide office of President of the Board of Aldermen. So far …

Ever Changing Grocery Market

The grocery industry, like many industries, continues to evolve. In the UK, for example, analysts are suggesting one out of five stores need to close to grow profits.  Closer to home, Whole Foods is building a new store in one of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods: That proposition entails unusually high stakes …

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Heating With Soft Coal Caused Black Tuesday 75 Years Ago Today

"Mist and smoke hung over St. Louis on this day in January more than year after Black Tuesday however the smoke lifted within a hour." Missouri Department of Natural Resources
“Mist and smoke hung over St. Louis on this day in January more than year after Black Tuesday however the smoke lifted within a hour.” Missouri Department of Natural Resources

During the 1930s the population of St. Louis was declining, no doubt in part due to the unhealthy air during the winter months when soft coal was used to heat nearly every building.

In February 1937 a smoke ordinance was passed creating a “Division of Smoke Regulation in the Department of Public Safety”, forcing larger businesses to burn only clean coal and setting standards for smoke emission and inspection. By 1938 emissions from commercial smokestacks had been reduced by two-thirds. (Wikipedia)

Mayor Bernard F. Dickmann, the first Democratic Mayor in decades, put Raymond Tucker in charge of cleaning the air. In 1941 Dickmann lost the race for a third term, defeated by Republican William F. Becker:

 

Perhaps the most significant development during Becker’s term as mayor was the adoption of a civil service amendment to the City Charter. The amendment enacted a merit system for the hiring of city employees. Prior to that time, a political patronage system prevailed in which all city employees could be replaced with a change of partisan administration. Becker supported the civil service reform and it was approved by the voters in September 1941. Becker also retained Raymond Tucker who had been appointed Smoke Commissioner by Mayor Dickmann, and supported his efforts to reduce air pollution within the city. (Wikipedia)

Becker was killed in a glider accident just two years later, he was succeeded by the Republican President of the Board of Aldermen Aloys P. Kaufmann.  Kaufmann was elected to a full term in 1945, he was the last Republican mayor in St. Louis.

I’m glad the citizens of St. Louis in the 30s & 40s took the big steps they did to clean the air. Today I don’t think we have the kind of political leadership that it takes to achieve such change.

— Steve Patterson

Happy Thanksgiving St. Louis

November 27, 2014 Events/Meetings No Comments

Hope you get to spend the day with family and/or friends.

— Steve Patterson

Grand Jury Decision Sooner Than Readers Expected

The AutoZone at 9947 W. Florissant in Dellwood was one of many businesses burned following the grand jury decision.   Photo date: August 19, 2014
The AutoZone at 9947 W. Florissant in Dellwood was one of many businesses burned following the grand jury decision.
Photo date: August 19, 2014

In the Sunday Poll at the start of this week it was looking to many like we wouldn’t see a decision anytime soon. Only 6 readers correctly guessed Monday as the day.

Here are the results, in chronological order:

Q: What day do you think the Michael Brown Grand Jury will announce their decision?

  • Today: Sunday 11/23/14 2 [6.25%]
  • Tomorrow: Monday 11/24/14 6 [18.75%]
  • Tuesday 11/25/14 4 [12.5%]
  • Wednesday 11/26/14 3 [9.38%]
  • Thursday 11/27/15 0 [0%]
  • Friday 11/28/14 1 [3.13%]
  • Saturday 11/29/14 1 [3.13%]
  • Sunday 11/30/14 2 [6.25%]
  • Sometime in December 2014 7 [21.88%]
  • Unsure/no answer 6 [18.75%]

The answer with the most votes was “Sometime in December 2014.” I’d expected the results the following weekend, I thought on Sunday the 30th.

The destruction we all witnessed on TV Monday night/Tuesday morning was easy to anticipate.  A look at history makes this clear:

  • The 1979 White Night Riots in San Francisco after Dan White was convicted of Manslaughter for the murders of San Francisco mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.
  • The 1992 Los Angeles Riots after four white cops were acquitted in the beating of Rodney King.
  • You can read a long list of civil unrest in the US going back to the late 18th century here.

This destruction we saw underscores the problems we have in the St. Louis region, see Guest Post: Why It Takes More Than Changing Beliefs To End Racial Inequality.

Peace…

— Steve Patterson

 

Spring 2015 Municipal Election Season Has Started

The St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners is on the first floor at 300 N. Tucker (@ Olive)
The St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners is on the first floor at 300 N. Tucker (@ Olive)

The national midterm elections are only 3 weeks behind us, but already the Spring 2015 St. Louis municipal election season has begun, yesterday candidates filing for office in the city’s even-numbered wards. Also on the ballot will be the citywide office of President of the Board of Aldermen.

So far the following wards will have contested races in the Democratic primary: 4, 8, 15, 20, 24. 28.  The last day to file for office is January 2, 2015.  You can see a list of candidates that filed yesterday here.

— Steve Patterson

Ever Changing Grocery Market

November 24, 2014 Featured, Retail 7 Comments

The grocery industry, like many industries, continues to evolve. In the UK, for example, analysts are suggesting one out of five stores need to close to grow profits.  Closer to home, Whole Foods is building a new store in one of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods:

That proposition entails unusually high stakes for a supermarket. Whole Foods is gambling that it can tailor its high-priced brand to a low-income market. It’s gambling that it can create customers out of people who out of necessity have long shopped at corner stores and Save-A-Lot. It’s gambling that it may even change what some of them eat. (Washington Post

This year we saw the opening of Fields Foods south of downtown, the closure of a Schnuck’s on North Grand and a new chain, Lucky’s Market in a former Straub’s in Ellisville. Never heard of Lucky’s? It started expanding outside of Boulder CO in January 2013:

Lucky’s founder Bo Sharon has partnered with industry veterans — including former executives of Wild Oats and Sunflower Farmers Markets — to launch Lucky’s Farmers Market, a chain of full-service grocery stores that offer a mix of mainstream, natural, organic and locally grown foods. 

Lucky’s Farmers Market officials quietly launched a website touting their intentions to open stores in the “Heartland of America,” including in Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan. (Source)

This month I’ve shopped at both of the open Lucky’s Markets in Missouri: Columbia & Ellisville. A friend told me they were a cross between Trader Joe’s & Whole Foods, but I think they’re closer to a less expensive Whole Foods, with very little in common with Trader Joe’s. Unlike Trader Joe’s, Lucky’s Market is a full service grocery store with butchers, deli, salad bar, sushi bar, and hot prepared foods.

Local chain Straub’s wasn’t open long at this location:

Less than a year after opening, Straub’s in Ellisville plans to close, leaving 50 workers without jobs.

The Straub’s store at 15830 Fountain Plaza Drive, which opened Dec. 3, 2008, will close Oct. 31, Trip Straub, vice president of Straub’s Markets, said Tuesday. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Staub’s still has four long-time locations: Town & Country (1966), Webster Groves, Clayton (1933), and the city’s Central West End neighborhood (1948). Next year a new Whole Foods will open in the CWE, just a few blocks from Straub’s.

The deli and bakery in the Columbia MO Lucky's Market
The deli and bakery in the Columbia MO Lucky’s Market
Overview of the Lucky's Market in the St. Louis suburb of Ellisville
Overview of the Lucky’s Market in the St. Louis suburb of Ellisville
The 2nd St. Louis area Lucky's Market will be in Rock Hill
The 2nd St. Louis area Lucky’s Market will be in the Market at McKnight shopping center in Rock Hill
Whole Foods will occupy the ground floor of City Walk at Euclid & Pine
Whole Foods will occupy the ground floor of City Walk at Euclid & Pine
Fields Foods, November 22, 2014
Fields Foods, November 22, 2014

I think Lucky’s Market has the mix of products that Fields Foods is going for, but on a larger scale. Hopefully the locally-owned Fields Foods will scale up in the future so their prices can come down. I look forward to the opening of the new Whole Foods in the CWE but I also want a Trader Joe’s and a Lucky’s Market in the city.

— Steve Patterson

Sunday Poll: What Day Do You Think The Michael Brown Grand Jury Will Announce Their Decision?

November 23, 2014 Featured, Ferguson, Sunday Poll 2 Comments
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar

On Wednesday I said there would be no more weekly polls, which is true. However, that afternoon, I decided to try a poll that’s open for just 12 hours: 8am-8pm, each Sunday.

Most likely you saw the news yesterday — no decision from the Grand Jury yet:

A steady rain dampened an already gloomy mood here Saturday afternoon as word spread that a grand jury looking into whether to indict police Officer Darren Wilson had yet to make a decision. (CNN)

The poll question for today is ‘What day do you think the Michael Brown Grand Jury will announce their decision?’  The poll options include today and every day though the end of the month. The answers will be in the same order for everyone — chronological. The poll closes in 12 hours — 8pm central.

The poll is located at the top of the right sidebar on the desktop layout, mobile users will need to switch to the desktop layout to see the poll in the sidebar.

— Steve Patterson

Repurposing Gas Stations As Restaurants

The other day, while waiting at a red light, I noticed a business had opened in an old filling station at Eichelberger & S. Kingshighway. The ice cream shop is called The Filling Station.

The Filling Station opened in 2013, click image to see entry on Yelp.
The Filling Station opened in 2013, click image to see entry on Yelp.

I haven’t patronized the business so I can’t speak to the food or service. However, I can say I love the building and its use as a restaurant. Before the light turned green I was thinking about the lunch my husband and I had in Kansas City, at a place I thought was a former gas station.

Joe's Kansas City, formerly Oklahoma Joe's, is among the most popular BBQ restaurants in Kansas City.
Joe’s Kansas City, formerly Oklahoma Joe’s, is among the most popular BBQ restaurants in Kansas City, thankfully we arrived before the line was out the door.
Inside the former service bays
Inside the former service bays
It was after we ate that I realized this was still a functional gas station!
It was after we ate that I realized this was still a functional gas station!

A hugely popular restaurant operating out of a current gas station? Here’s part of their story:

Later that year [1996], experience and commitment intersected with opportunity and serendipity at the corner of 47th Avenue and Mission Road in Kansas City, Kansas, where the owner of a little neighborhood gas station and convenience store, not far from the Stehneys’ house, closed the little fried chicken counter he had been operating inside the store. “It seemed like a pretty good place for a barbecue joint,” Jeff says. “Inside a gas station. Plus there was a liquor store next door, in the same building, which was kind of cool. But the main thing was that it was close to home. I knew we’d be putting in some long hours, and being close to home would be a really good thing. We put together a proposal, made an offer, and all of a sudden we were not only in the barbecue business, but also in the gas station business.” (Joe’s KC)

As a vegetarian I don’t visit BBQ places, but I’d read about their portobello sandwich: The Portobello Z-Man Sandwich $7.39 (smoked portobella, smoked provolone cheese, topped with two crispy onion rings, on a toasted Kaiser roll).

The operating gas station in KC doesn’t have the architectural charm of the older & smaller building in south St. Louis, but the idea is great. What a great way for someone wanting to get into the restaurant business — opening up inside an existing gas station. I’m curious how many gas stations we have in the region that have lunch counters inside. If you’ve got a great product, you could do well.

Have a great weekend, see you at 8am Sunday for a one day poll (8am-8pm).

— Steve Patterson

Successful Pedestrian Malls Kept Cross Streets Open

Pedestrian malls, the closing of a street to vehicles, is an area of great interest to me. Popular in the 1960s & 1970s, very few had long-term success in North America, most failed and have been reversed. St. Louis’ former 14th Street Pedestrian Mall was such a failure.

In September I got to visit two of the successes, both in Colorado: Denver’s 16th Street Mall and Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall.  After visiting these two I’ve identified some key differences that I believe contributed to the success of these two while others failed. The main difference is both of these allow the cross streets to continue through uninterrupted. Most pedestrian mall projects screwed up the street grid in two directions, the closed mall street and all the intersecting streets. Depending on the length of the pedestrian mall this could mean 1-8 cross streets got redirected. In doing so a large area and many streets were cut off from regular traffic.

St. Louis’ 14th Street Pedestrian Mall — 1977

  • Length: 2 blocks
  • Status: removed
  • Map (was 14th from St. Louis Ave to Warren St)
Looking south on 14th, Spring 1991
Looking south on 14th, Spring 1991
Looking West on Montgomery St, Spring 1991
Looking West on the one cross street, Montgomery St, Spring 1991

St. Louis’ pedestrian mall was only 13 years old when I first saw it in the Fall of 1990. Long-time residents I talked to said the mall failed very early on, long before I saw it 13 years later.

Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall — 1977

  • Length: 4 blocks
  • Status: active
  • Map
Boulder's Pearl Street Mall
Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall is for pedestrians only
Broadway is only highway 7, one of three streets that continue through the four block mall.
Broadway is only highway 7, one of three streets that continue through the four block mall.
The same intersection
The same intersection as viewed from our rental car
We ate dinner at a popular restaurant on Pearl St, but it was one block West of the mall.
We ate dinner at a popular restaurant on Pearl St, but it was one block West of the mall.

Many small town pedestrian malls were built by malling the main highway that ran through the downtown business district and creating opposite one way streets on either side so highway traffic could continue. Boulder, however, allowed their highway to continue with only a traffic signal like you’d see if Pearl St was still open to cars. They too did the one-way couplet thing on parallel streets, but it and the mall are perpendicular to the main highway through town.

Denver’s 16th Street Mall — 1982

  • Length: 13 blocks
  • Status: active
  • Map
Denver's 16th Street Mall
Denver’s 16th Street Mall with mall-only buses, in the center in this block
At this point the bus lanes are divided, leaving a center pedestrian area
At this point the bus lanes are divided, leaving a center pedestrian area
The buses were every few minutes and were non-polluting
The buses were every few minutes and were non-polluting

Denver was late to get a pedestrian mall, few were built in the 1980s. Perhaps their delay paid off, enabling them to see mistakes made by other cities. Chicago also had a transit mall, but it was for many bus lines. The diesel fumes meant their mall wasn’t a pedestrian paradise. Whereas Denver runs free shuttles to get people up and down the 13 block length, with several points where you can connect to local bus or light rail lines.

It appears Denver, unlike St. Louis, has kept its street grid in tact — with the exception of 16h Street. St. Louis has made it a habit of closing streets, disrupting the grid.

Conclusion

Another successful pedestrian mall is Church Street Marketplace in Burlington VT (map).  Like Boulder & Denver, the cross streets continue uninterrupted. I need to return to my grad school data to see if any of the failed/removed pedestrian malls allowed cross streets to cut through the mall, I don’t recall any.

This is not to say that the many failed pedestrian malls might have succeeded had they kept cross streets open, or a that a remaining mall could be enlivened by opening the cross streets. Both might be the case, I just can’t come to that conclusion — yet.

Still, St. Louis serves as an example of ongoing struggles when the street grid has been repeatedly compromised.

— Steve Patterson

Weekly Polls To Become Sunday Polls

November 19, 2014 Sunday Poll 5 Comments

Revised 11/19/14 @ 1pm:

Starting this Sunday I’ll try a poll that will start at 8am and end 12 hours later, discussing the results the following Wednesday.

Original post below:

In February 2009 I introduced the weekly poll on this blog. It’s been a great 5+ year run but every poll the last few weeks has been overrun by a flood of new visitors voting, I’m tired of seeing them flip the natural results to match their agenda. I can’t think of a way to prevent this other than cease doing the weekly poll altogether. Here are the results from last week and this week (1 day):

Q: Should Missouri have a law like Oregon’s ‘Death with Dignity Act’?

  1. No 201 [71.28%]
  2. Yes 75 [26.6%]
  3. Maybe 4 [1.42%]
  4. Unsure/no opinion 2 [0.71%]

Q: Do you plan to shop on Thanksgiving Day?

  1. Yes, online & in a store 100 [67.11%]
  2. No 42 [28.19%]
  3. I have to work 2 [1.34%]
  4. Maybe 2 [1.34%]
  5. Undecided 2 [1.34%]
  6. Yes, in a store 1 [0.67%]
  7. Yes, online 0 [0%]

The outcome of both are very different than those who voted in the first 8 hours. I might do a poll within a post, with it ending after 8-10 hours.

For the record I think Missouri needs a ‘Death with Dignity’ act to allow those who are terminally ill to end their lives before suffering. I also don’t think we should be out shopping in stores, if you do please be especially kind to those having to work on Thanksgiving.

I’ll now be posting 5 days a week, Monday-Friday. Maybe an occasional post on a Saturday or Sunday.

— Steve Patterson

Use Headlights During Low Visibility Conditions

November 18, 2014 Featured, Transportation 4 Comments

Sunday I drove my husband to work so I could use our shared car for errands. As I was ready to return downtown from Ellisville (far West St. Louis County) I noticed the weather had suddenly gotten worse.

Poor weather on Sunday 11/16/2014
Poor weather on Sunday 11/16/2014

What amazed me is how many people driving on Clarkson & I-64 weren’t using their headlights, they must think headlights are only to help them see the road ahead.  In low/reduced visibility conditions headlights help other drivers see your vehicle. Our car, like most newer cars, has daytime running lights, but headlights are more effective. Turning on headlights also turns on taillights, increasing visibility from behind.

On August 28, 2004 a law went into effect dealing with with the use of headlights at specific times, which motorists need to be reminded of during this time of year.

The definition in RSMo 307.020 dealing with when headlights are required was amended and new requirements were added to read:  “When lighted lamps are required” means at any time from a half-hour after sunset to a half-hour before sunrise and at any other time when there is not sufficient light to render clearly discernible persons and vehicles on the highway at a distance of five hundred feet ahead.  Lighted lamps shall also be required any time the weather conditions require usage of the motor vehicle’s windshield wipers to operate the vehicle in a careful and prudent manner as defined in section 304.012, RSMo.   The provisions of this section shall be interpreted to require lighted lamps during periods of fog even if usage of the windshield wipers is not necessary to operate the vehicle in a careful and prudent manner. (Missouri Highway Patrol)

Illinois and other states have similar laws requiring headlight use. This time of year car windows & mirrors aren’t always clear: snow & ice on the outside or frost/fog on the inside of other vehicles reduce the chances those drivers will so you.

Remember, your lights help others see your vehicle.

— Steve Patterson

SUNDAY POLL (8AM-8PM SUNDAYS)


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