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Ald. Florida Calls Urban Review a “Stupid Blog”

Yes, in today’s Post-Dispatch Ald. Florida says, “It took me half an hour to find his stupid blog.” Stupid? Even those that often disagree with my views would most likely not characterize this site as stupid — as in “lacking intelligence or common sense” per one dictionary I consulted. I won’t even comment on taking a half hour to find my blog…

What I think Ald. Florida, and so many other elected officials find frustrating, is they no longer control the flow of information. In the old days, they’d go to neighborhood meetings and tell people A) as little as possible and B) what they wanted to hear. Few citizens would talk to each other about a proposal so even if some thought a plan was a bad idea they had no clue if they were the only ones that felt that way. If they thought it was bad they were not sure how to go about changing or stopping a proposal. Neighborhood newsletters did little to change things because by the time word got around the deals were done. Email had a big impact but only if you had a good list of contacts or an active listserve. A searchable website, on the other hand, is perfect for communicating to the masses. I have more readers each month than an alderman has total constituents.

Society today is increasingly interested in urbanity. Many are realizing the “suburban experiment” is nearly over and an urban existence is the way to go. My site and others provides a timely forum for discussion and debate of these relevant issues. Again, our elected officials are basically left out of the discussion because they continue to hold on to the way things were done when they were first elected. Many are a good two decades behind the times.

On the issue of the McDonald’s, as quoted in today’s paper:

“I really don’t know what I could have done differently,” Florida said. “I attend to the ward as if it were my own child.”

Really? Now what could she have done differently? Well, she could have started with telling Pyramid & McDonald’s that drive-thrus are against the redevelopment plan for South Grand from Utah down to Meremec and held firm that any such facilities would need to be limited to physical locations that have already had them. In other words, the bulk of the area has never had drive-thru restaurants and that should be enforced. She didn’t do that.

Ald. Florida will correctly argue this is a “private land swap” and they could do the deal without her. While it is true they could exchange real estate the problem with her logic in this case is the variance needed for the drive-thru. At the hearing in February Ald. Florida acted pretty much as the project’s spokesperson in full support of the variance over the objections of many residents that will be directly impacted. So, once again Ald. Florida had another chance to do something different — oppose the variance request rather than enthusiastically support it.

If she attends to the ward like her own child then it is clear she’ll sell out all the neighbor kids to make her own kid happy in the short term. She is even quoted as saying, “”Patterson went after my children,” which is pretty humorous considering they were the ones that came after me on my site (read post).

Ald. Florida has simply dug in her heals on this one, not wanting to consider the many alternative solutions offered by myself and others (see alternates). When Ald. Craig Schmid, who represents the bulk of the residents that will be affected by the relocation spoke against it, she voted against another bill that she was co-sponsoring with Schmid. Voting against legislation you co-sponsor over a disagreement on another issue is simply petty. Is this how we want our elected officials conducting business on our behalf?

The flap could ultimately cost Florida her job, as opponents galvanized by the McDonald’s debate move forward with a push to remove her from office.

This may well happen. Ald. Florida wants to blame me but she really has only herself to blame. I didn’t tell Gravois Park residents the McDonald’s would not be located on the former Sears site all the while planning for just that. I didn’t conceal drawings for the site plan at a Dutchtown meeting two days prior to the public hearing. I didn’t speak at public hearings over the wishes of the residents. I didn’t sponsor legislation to effectively spot zone the parcel to remove the no drive-thru clause from the redevelopment plan nor did I think it was OK to place a drive-thru on land acquired using federal tax dollars. I didn’t take the maximum contributions allowed from the officers of developer Pyramid Companies. Ald. Florida’s actions on the McDonald’s and other issues over the last five years have gotten her exactly where she is today, in the midst of a recall campaign. It is unfortunate that citizens have been forced to take such drastic measures to have a sense of checks and balances.

You see, in our municipal government we don’t have checks and balances. The other aldermen simply “defer” to the wishes of a singular aldermen when it comes to development issues. The will of one person often rules. Ald. Florida is attempting to say this issue is out of her hands. Interesting viewpoint since she has lobbied hard to get the necessary variance for the drive-thru and most likely will do so again on June 21, 2006 when the Board of Adjustment meets again on this issue (1:30pm, room 208 City Hall). I seriously doubt she’ll walk into that hearing and say she is withdrawing her support given all the information that has surfaced.

The McDonald’s is among several local stores operated by Jim Proctor, who says the move is necessary to build a new restaurant with an updated design.

I just love how these folks try to twist the truth around. Moving the franchise is not necessary to build a new restaurant. They’ve got a site. It may need to be re-graded and perhaps have a retaining wall added to achieve what they want. But to say they must move or close is false and is simply a tactic to get myself and others to capitulate. Since 1996 it has been recognized the area was blighted and it is the many auto-centric establishments that has made it so. We should not allow drive-thru restaurants to establish themselves anywhere they happen to buy land. Allowing them to locate anywhere is far to dangerous for the health of the street yet forcing them to leave is too harsh. The reasonable middle ground is to allow them to rebuild on their current sites.

Florida’s dilemma highlights the city’s shifting political landscape.

The landscape has changed. Myself and other citizens are tired of the status quo and some are not willing to wait until the next election cycle to take action. We are a city. We should look and act like a city. If the folks in office currently are not willing to work with those of us they are supposed to represent then we will simply replace each and every one. My role, as an urbanist, is to highlight the various issues and illustrate how politics is getting in the way of good urbanism. The tired tradition of aldermanic courtesy is not more important than the physical rebuilding and subsequent re-population of our city. Those in office & administrative jobs need to either adapt or get out of our way.

– Steve


Currently there are "19 comments" on this Article:

  1. Margie says:

    Steve, that is amazing coverage considering you didn’t pay Richard Callow a cent!

  2. Haas Watch says:

    In Jennifer’s defense she doesn’t represent you Steve. You aren’t the one she has to please. Though those recalling her are the ones she needs to work with.

    [REPLY – I have this silly notion that all the aldermen should look out for the interests of the city as a whole. Aldermanic courtesy precludes my interests in the city from being represented. Ward boundaries change every 10 years so it would be wise to not be so narrow in our views. – SLP]

  3. “In Jennifer’s defense she doesn’t represent you Steve. You aren’t the one she has to please. Though those recalling her are the ones she needs to work with.”

    Jennifer is paid through taxpayer money. She represents her ward, but is paid from citywide taxpayer funds, from the General Budget. Someone in any of the 28 Wards could be paying her salary. Furthermore, she is acting in a way, which destroys the urban fabric of the City, thereby lowering property values, thus causing taxpayers to move out of the city.

    Any public official which:

    1. Represents corporations over hard working citizens, or
    2. Promotes suburban developments, which lower property values, and destroy the urban fabric of the City, or
    3. Takes action that repels taxpaying citizens thereby decreasing the tax base, or
    4. Violates, or amends City ordinances without the consent of those who are directly affected by the proposed ordinance amendment

    is subject to recall. This is a disjunctive test, as any one of these unilateral offenses is cause for action.

    Our City deserves better representation.

    Let somebody into office who will not act in such a manner.

    Machine politics can no longer be the engine of our City.

  4. Greg says:

    As a regular reader of your blog (first-time commenter), I just have to say that I’m happy to see people like you pushing urban issues into the spotlight. It’s about time residents of St. Louis reclaim their city and demand accountability from elected officials. Now what do I have to do to get you to Soulard to highlight some of our problems!

    Keep up the good work!

  5. Blog Defender says:

    Jennifer Florida was quoted in a May 17 article saying, “I don’t have a blog like Patterson.” Sounds like a WONDERFUL idea to me – perhaps a consistently updated blog where she discusses current efforts, future proposals, and other items that impact the 15th Ward would go a long way towards quelling some of the dissent she is encountering. Steve P has proven the effectiveness of the blog as a communication tool.

    Fight fire with fire, Jennifer! It doesn’t take much computer savvy to set up a blog. Maybe we could get some interesting and informative online “discussion” between Steve P and J-Flo. I have yet to see a persuasive argument in favor of the McDonald’s that addresses her constituents’ concerns.

    [REPLY – Wait a minute. Are you suggesting an elected official use the internet to communicate with constituents about local issues? That is just crazy talk! How do you push through controversial projects that way? – SLP]

  6. downside of being says:

    Some voices in cyberspace have bemoaned the presence of the lowly “anonymous poster”.

    Well, let me just say that as one anonymous poster, even though *I* coined the oft-repeated and catchy “J-Flo” moniker for fab Alderwoman Jennifer Florida, no credit is mine or ever will be as I remain in the shadows of anonymity.

    See? You might not like us, but us anonys do make important contributions!

  7. Anonymous Jr. says:

    ^ Ahhhhh, but some of us TGS internet krew know who you are…. We won’t tell.

  8. a says:


    No comment.

  9. Jeff says:

    That Steve Patterson, he’s such a comedian.

  10. Julia says:

    Why does the “supid blog” comment remind me of the one in Quest for the Holy Grail about Camelot – “Let’s not go there. It’s a silly place.”

  11. JFlo says:

    a…. First of all, Why do they make the power button so difficult to find? I spent a good portion of my time looking for the program for the Internet. I did the first smart thing, I typed in “BLOG” in the search field. Let me tell you, Steve Patterson is by no means ORIGINAL by calling this site “BLOG”. There are TONS of other sites out there with the same name. So I called charter, and they suggested I type in “Steve Patterson”. After taking nearly 24 minutes to read through that page, beginning with “web, images, groups, news, froogle….” and trying to figure out how those words made coherent sentence, squished between a bunch of other letters that appeared to be from the English alphabet (after consulting my dictionary) I FINALLY managed to find the “link” to this stupid blog.

    [REPLY – ROTFLMAO! For those who are google-challenged that is Rolling on the floor laughing my *ss off. – SLP]

  12. I don’t think that Steve came after Jennifer Florida’s children.

    I also do not think that they went after Steve. In fact, I think that Ian has made some thoughtful contributions to discussions here.

    As long people portray this conflict as one between two people, the larger ideas will get lost and the McDonald’s is not threatened. The real struggle is not between Steve and Jennifer, but between people who actually live, work and shop in the vicinity of Grand and Chippewa and a wealthy development company that owns land there.

    [REPLY – Agreed on some comments by Ian. It is the other two comments from the same location that were more of an attack on me as a source of information. – SLP]

  13. travis reems says:

    The story didn’t make you look very good, Steve. Regardless were a reader would be on this issue, no one can think the piece was balanced.

  14. Sam says:

    The JFlo post was easily a top 5 post since I’ve been reading this blog. Classic. The best was the email addy…notreallyjflo@stupidblog.com


    Anyway, I didn’t think the article was accurate enough. It glossed over certain issues, and ignored others. But it did make a few good points, and I hope that those points are what readers take away.

    Also, for anyone who cares, my mom thought that it didn’t paint Steve in a very good light. And she was an outside observer. I thought, overall, the article was okay.

  15. jeff says:

    Steve – did that reporter actually even contact you? It looks like all the quotes were just taken from blog posts.

  16. MAC says:

    I’m all in favor in keeping a close eye on our elected representitives. They are often more driven by personal interests than possessed of any idealistic desire to look out for the public interest.
    But this dust-up regarding the McDonalds does not strike me as one where there is any misconduct or a public interest at stake. The South Grand redevelopment plan clearly is aimed at preventing an_expansion_of drive-thru locations in the area. McDonalds could sell their property and, under the redevelopment plan, the new owner would retain the right to maintain a drive through. So the redevelopment plan does not seem aimed at ultimatly_reducing_the number of drive-thru locations. Viewed in this light, the proposal by McDonalds seems entirely reasonable. As I understand it, McDonalds is not asking that the right to maintain a drive thru be preserved at their original location. When all is said and done, this proposal will leave the number of drive-thrus exactly the same. Try as I might, I fail to see that the public intrest is threatened here. And all concerned will benefit if Mcdonalds is able to have a drive-thru that flows more smoothly than the one they suffer with today.

    [REPLY – Thanks for your comment. First, I believe there has been a huge amount of misconduct on the part of Ald. Florida from telling residents they won’t get the McDonald’s to concealing drawings before a hearing. This has not be above board.

    Second, you are partly correct on the redevelopment plan except that technically the existing drive-thrus are grandfathered as non-conforming. In principal the aim is to reduce drive-thru uses to zero but in reality it is generally acceptable to allow a non-conforming use to rebuild on their current site.

    At issue here is not so much the number of drive-thru but proximity. Why should we subject an entire new set of residents to being immediately adjacent to a drive-thru when it was expected when they purchased their homes that would not be the case.

    I’ve shown through drawings in prior posts the McDonald’s can rebuild on their current site in an urban form and have a more conventional drive-thru. It will require them to build a retaining wall if they see a more level site. We do not, as a city, have to guarantee them a flat site. – SLP]

  17. MAC says:

    Steve Posted: “At issue here is not so much the number of drive-thru but proximity. Why should we subject an entire new set of residents to being immediately adjacent to a drive-thru when it was expected when they purchased their homes that would not be the case.”

    Comment: Steve, no one gets any garantee that we will have a veto on who moves next door to us. The Zoning laws provide some basic protections, but beyond that, we all take our chances. Those who require greater protections, should live in less developed areas.
    Thirty years ago, I bought a wheat field to build a handfull of new houses on. But a guy from across the street tried to quash my permits on the basis that he prefered the view the way it was. There was a wheat field across from him when he bought his property, and he wanted no changes. I offered to sell him the lots at a fair price, but he wasn’t interested. He prefered to find some legal device to deprive others of a reasonable use of their property.
    Bottom line is that if you own property along South Grand, you know you are in a commercial zone. Anyone who bought a house along this streatch of South Grand did so without a reasonable expectation of having a tranquil environment. More likely, they were hoping to benefit financially as their proximity to a commercial zone raised their property values out of proportion to those who bought in a more residential areas.

    [REPLY – You make a good argument but it has one flaw. The area has been blighted since 1996 with the provision that drive-thrus are not permitted. So while someone buying East of the old Sears site knew they were buying next to a commercial area they also knew a drive-thru would not be permitted.

    Just a mile North being adjacent to a commercial area is a good thing. All the restaurants and shops have helped make that a desirable place to live. So the issue is not commercial or not but what type of commercial. It was the redevelopment plan from 10 years ago that is still valid that gave these homeowners some reassurances about what to expect. – SLP]

  18. MAC says:

    Steve, I see your point. Anyone who bought in the last ten years, or elected to stay, could have reasonably relied upon the redevelopment plan for an assurance that no one would be building any more drive-thru businesses.

    If McDonalds wants to prevail in this matter, they would be smart to make agreements with the immediately ajacent property owners. A drive thru next door will reduce their property values. They should be reimbursed for at least this amount.

    [REPLY – It actually goes beyond the immediately adjacent to the entire neighborhood to the East. Here is why, the plans call for a curb cut on Winnebego where we think people will cut through Gravois Park to avoid making a left onto Grand. They will toss out trash along the way.

    McDonald’s current site does not have a connection to Phillips Pl, the residential street, on purpose. These are best connected only to major streets. Again, they can rebuild on their existing site with a retaining wall. – SLP]

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