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Report: St. Louis Most Dangerous U.S. City

November 1, 2006 Education, Politics/Policy 42 Comments

This week, as we were still riding high from the World Series victory, came a report indicating St. Louis is the most dangerous city in the country. Everyone is up in arms saying it is not true and the report is complete BS. Sorry to break it to you St. Louis, but we may very well be the most dangerous city. But what does it mean to the be the most dangerous?

First, someone has to be first on the list. For years we’ve been in the top five bouncing around from spot to spot so landing at #1 should not really come as a shocker. Many white members of the board of aldermen have voted against establishing civilian oversight for the police department. Our police board is controlled by the state, not the citizens of St. Louis. The police don’t want to live in the city. And why don’t they? With a few exceptions, the public schools suck big time. Gee, this isn’t exactly a formula for creating the safest city in the country.

Throughout the 20th Century St. Louis’ leadership made one bad decision after another. In 1916 the citizens of St. Louis passed an ordinance requiring racial segregation of the city! Although struck down by the courts a year later, the racial divide has stuck with us. In the 1940’s federal housing/lending policies pretty much sealed the fate of cities across the country but starving them of much needed lending guarantees. The feds made sure it was easier & cheaper to buy a new house in the emerging suburbs than a renovate old older place in the central core. Huge sections of cities, including St. Louis, were pretty much written off as “obsolete” in part because the areas freely mixed housing, retails and workplaces. Living above a corner store was considered a bad thing, creating risky neighborhoods. Granted, much of this housing stock lacked modern plumbing and electrical service. Conditions in these buildings were indeed poor. But, Soulard stands as a testament as to how these so-called obsolete buildings can be renovated and make useful for new generations.

Chicago’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 got people excited about creating grand urban places, part of the City Beautiful Movement (see wiki). By the time we hosted the World’s Fair in 1904 the movement was going strong. This prompted leaders in St. Louis to contemplate clearing the riverfront for such a grand space. The area, the oldest in St. Louis, was now marked territory. Why bother keeping it up? It was 30 years later before the demolition crews got started razing 40 city blocks as part of a WPA project. The original city was being tossed aside. For decades the area remained parking and it was not until the late 60’s the Arch was topped out and the landscaping didn’t happen until the 1970’s. The arch is a stunning monument but if I could turn back time and prevent the demolition of the riverfront I’d do it in a heartbeat.

But the riverfront gave the city leaders their first taste of wholesale demolition, the false notion that problems can simply be wiped away with bulldozers. They were oh so wrong then and yet we continue to see this same logic applied to day in recent projects like clearing McRee Town. In the meantime we saw entire neighborhoods divided for highway construction and others erased from the maps for housing projects that turned out worse than the “slums” they replaced. Pruitt-Igoe, one of the most infamous housing projects in the world, was razed less than 20 years after completion! Note: be sure to attend the lecture thursday afternoon on Modernist public housing — see post. In all of this demolition people were displaced and relocated, some numerous times. Social networks, the foundation of our society, were destroyed along with the physical structures.

The impact of all these decisions and others are not isolated, they are quite cumulative. Our current issues were not created today, they are the legacy of numerous prior decisions. One mistake after another, often in the name of progress of correcting a social ill, added to the problems rather than solving them. Today’s bad decisions — demolition of historic Century building for parking garage, anti-urban Loughborough Commons and suburban Sullivan Place senior housing to name a few — will be issues for St. Louisans to deal with in 30 years or more, long after those responsible are forgotten.

St. Louis lost roughly 60% of its population in a mere five decades. As the population dropped leaders and planners kept coming up with new schemes to turn around the situation, or so they presumed. A 1970’s plan for the city called for the entire destruction of the area we now know as The Gate District bounded by I-44 on the south, Grand on the west, Chouteau on the north and Jefferson on the east. Today St. Louis University is doing their best to destroy the western edge of that area with parking garages, street closures and new construction that doesn’t recognize the street.

Throughout the decades of population loss we increasingly were left with the poorest in society. Cities will always have poor, I don’t see a way around that. But cities must have a middle-class and recent studies are showing the middle class in this country is eroding. We are separating into poor & rich, not a good trend. In cities this, as we are witnessing, can be devastating. Someone who is poor is no more inherently pre-disposed to crime than anyone else. However, poverty and the feeling of desperation that pervades in areas of concentrated poverty can drive good folks to do bad things. Someone who has lost hope in their own future is apt to look for the easy road to our society’s symbols of success, fancy clothes, a sharp ride and some flashy bling. Those who engage in such criminal activity see this as their only choice. This lack of hope and choice among young people is our failure as a society. We have created and allowed this to continue and to grow.

I could go on and on but I won’t belabor the point. The city has screwed up repeatedly and we’ve yet to learn from past mistakes. So when a study says we are the most dangerous in the country I am not at all surprised. Rather than denying reality we must examine the underlying reasons for why we got to our current situation. We cannot continue to sweep those things that we find depressing or embarrassing under the rug. We should feel embarrassed!

Mayor Slay has been in office since 2001 and continues to use Reagan’s trickle down economics in the city. In theory all the attention downtown will eventually make its way to others parts of the city. Sure, in 50-60 years if we are lucky? Washington Avenue, the Old Post Office, Ballpark Village, Convention Hotel, riverfront master plan, Chouteau’s Lake —- all downtown focused. I’m not saying these are not worthwhile efforts but the trickle isn’t happening. A suburban Walgreen’s store in a poor inner-city neighborhood isn’t going to cut it. That cannot be our only plan of action. We need large quantities of middle class people, and not those uptight provincial ones either. We need creative types that appreciate an urban city, not some suburban recreation in an urban area. We need to attract new people and new money from outside our region. New people and new money will help create the hope that doesn’t currently exist in much of our youth out on the streets committing crimes.

How do we get these new middle-class residents? Transit, I believe, is a big part of the answer. Good urban mass transit will attract development and population. But where is Slay or County Executive Dooley on more funding for transit? They are nowhere to be found but Slay is out front seeking for a billion dollar highway bridge to Illinois. East-West Gateway is studying options for transit through north & south St. Louis but these are planned as a future pass through to the county. As it stands, we are likely 15 years away from riding the first train along Natural Bridge or Jefferson. If we locally funded a modern streetcar, or guided tram as Milwaukee is considering, we could probably cut the cost and time in half. Milwaukee ruled out light rail in favor of a guided tram due to cost of construction, $45 million per mile vs “only” $21 million per mile, respectively. See the Milwaukee Connector site for more information.

Next week we vote on a sales tax increase to fund two new recreation centers, one north and one south, along with maintenance for the ones we’ve got. Will this attract new residents? Will it entertain the youth to the point they now have hope in their futures? Doubtful.

St. Louis may well be the most dangerous city in America. I can accept that and work to change the underlying causes. When you vote Tuesday keep that in mind, are you voting for more of the same? When filing opens at the end of this month for half the seats in the Board of Aldermen & two seats on the school board will you sit back and assume that others will solve these issues or will you step forward to chart a new course for the city? Our entrenched leadership has gotten us where we are today — the top of the most dangerous city list. It is now up to us to work to change that reality. If we do not, we cannot bitch about remaining on top in the years to come.


Currently there are "42 comments" on this Article:

  1. dave devore says:

    Couple questions:
    How’s the recent resale values of those downtown condo’s working out?

    How many more TIF’s and Super TIF’s with other tax abatements does the South City homeowner have fork the bill for?

  2. anon says:

    In my opinion, you are placing too much blame for these problems at the feet of the mayor.

    You do talk about “entrenched leadership. That is a more appropriate reference..

    And “getting all the bums out” is not a workable option either-they are entrenched leadership; they’re not going away. We need to bring them along.

    Maybe we’ll learn something when Clay and Carnahan announce their “vision” for St. Louis.

    [UR — Actually I am blaming Slay for future problems, not the current set. The entrenched leadership I speak of is not the individuals but the system in which the players sometimes change.]

  3. Brad Mello says:

    I realize this is a tangent — but have you read “The Devil and the White City” by Erik Larson about Chicago’s Columbian exposition? Great book — it highlights the thinking at the time regarding cities — while also telling the tale of one of the most notorious serial killers of the time.

  4. the dude says:

    mass transit is the answer for middle class people to locate to the city? c’mon. how may middle class women feel safe riding mass transit?

  5. Anonymous says:

    It’s not the transit system. It’s the schools – plain and simple. No schools, no middle class, no families. When a school in the city posts a banner on its facade thanking the citizens for raising taxes to help pay for air conditioning in the school – that’s a problem. When central air is the highlight and not education – that’s a problem. Are they proud of central air at Clayton schools? No, central air is a given. I love living in the city, but without decent schools, you can pretty much be assured that not much else will improve.

  6. Jim Zavist says:

    Transit might help IF there were something to ride it to . . . until we (re?)build up density, first in places of employment, then in places to live, will transit be both needed and used. As you point out, we’ve been headed the wrong way for too many years, with both jobs and housing headed out to the suburbs, leaving the inner city with all the “problems”. Fortunately(?) the inner-ring suburbs are on the verge of experiencing the same set of “challenges” that many parts of St. Louis have struggled with for years, so when that happens there MAY be more of an incentive to deal with planning and development issues regionally instead of in an us versus them mindset. Bottom line, it’s all about the good-paying jobs, stupid! Without emplyment, we can very well become just a bedroom community, lacking the taxbase that they create . . .

    [UR — I fall into the “build it and they will come” camp with respect to transit. Waiting for density to arrive before adding good transit will be a long wait indeed, longer than our lifetimes. No, the transit must come first just as it did a hundred years ago as these very same neighborhoods were first developing.

    The order goes like this, in my mind: Transit, people w/o kids, jobs, schools, people w/kids.]

  7. Mike says:

    Everyone knows numbers can be twisted every which way but loose. Fighting back against this survey is not a long term solution to anything, but it is a short term necessity. Almost all of these surveys have flaws. They are also driven as much by publicity as anything. If the list looks the same every year, who’s going to pay for it?

    Schools have to be by far the biggest issue in terms of attracting and keeping the middle class in the city. We love living in the city, but we are going to have to think long and hard about whether we want to commit to spending $75,000 – $200,000 to send two kids through private school. At this point, I don’t see where the public school district is ready to even dream about the day when it would be an attractive choice to the middle class.

  8. Jason Toon says:

    The violent crime rate in St. Louis is indeed embarrassing, but one needn’t “sweep those things that we find depressing or embarrassing under the rug” to question this vapid ranking.

    The central flaw in this study is that it doesn’t take into account the unique situation of St. Louis’ city limits being frozen since 1876. Draw a line around the oldest, poorest part of any major city, and there you’ll find the highest crime rates. Conversely, extend the St. Louis numbers out to, say, Lindbergh (roughly where the city limits would probably be without the great folly of ’76) and we would plunge in the rankings. An apples-to-oranges comparison like Morgan Quitno’s sheds no light on the real situation here.

    Since pretty much no other facet of modern American life follows city limits (schools, of course, being a big exception), wouldn’t it be fairer if Morgan Quitno conducted these studies based on MSA boundaries?

    Well, guess what: they do. They just don’t hype those numbers. Morgan Quitno’s own figures show the St. Louis MSA at #94 for violent crime rate (out of 348). The greater Detroit are still comes in at #2. Number one is Florence, SC – but a press release that says “Florence is America’s most dangerous city” isn’t going to get much play on CNN, nor will it sell many Morgan Quitno products.

    Oh, and the way I see it, there are three possible solutions to the schools problem:

    (1) Consolidation: a unified, MSA-wide school district, which of course county residents will never, ever consent to.

    (2) Devolution: the elimination of busing and a return to neighborhood-based schools, where at least parents could be sure that the public school in their neighborhood is OK, and where schools could serve as anchors of their neighborhoods rather than warehouses that empty out every afternoon. Yes, this would mean some schools would be better than others, and more affluent kids would have more access to better education, and more affluent families would move into neighborhoods with better schools. (In other words, the status quo.) But in this case, these families would have the option of staying in the city instead of moving out of it.

    (3) The complete elimination of poverty in the United States.

    Alas, each solution is politically impossible, so the schools will continue to fester, to the detriment of us all (except exurban developers).

  9. Kara says:

    I agree with the “build it and they will come” approach. A city like St. Louis needs to show that it respects it’s people before anyone else will want to come. Once the word gets out it will catch on and people will come. Places like San Francisco and NYC are very cost prohibitive and people are seeking alternatives where they can live a nice life. Will St. Louis show itself to be one of these places? Or does it only promise more strip malls and parking lots for the future?

    It will take a major investment in the beginning, but if done right and all areas are touched on and considered together (including mass transit, good schools, walkable streets, etc) then the investment will pay off eventually. Paris wasn’t always the great romantic place that it is today. It was once an unremarkable dirty, crowded, medieval city. It took a major investment to modernize it around 150 years ago. That investment has paid off immensely and is now one of the most desirable places in the world. St. Louis can become the Paris of America. Will it?

    btw, I’m a middle class woman and I love riding public transit. Most people do actually, when they get the chance to ride a functional system.

  10. margie says:

    Slay might not have caused the longstanding school problems, but he sure didn’t help.

    I think it’s fair to consider the current state of the SLPS to be Mayor Slay’s personal Iraq. His slate of “reformers” did just enough to leave the district in hyper-disarray, its leadership cannibalizing itself, with the spotlight of the region now shining on it so everyone can feel hopeless (rather than merely indifferent as before). Slay’s people botched a once-in-an-era opportunity badly.

  11. Josh says:

    I’m a strong believer in the psychology of isolated social groups. Just as politicians discovered that evangelicals and numerous other religious groups could be easily manipulated because they were already pre-conditioined by their leaders not to question the authority of scripture (which translates to those interpreting it); so (I believe) can the psychology of isolated pockets of poverty, of affluence, and many other social groups, be easily manipulated by the actions of those in positions of authority or those who are given a loudspeaker by out media.

    Granted, the tools of this type of psychological are much more difficult to discern, but let’s take your example: the suburban-style Walgreen’s. If you drop a suburban-style Walgreens/Walmart on an massive chunk of recently demolished urban landscape, the message you are communicating to both locals and passer-thru’s is simple: “This was not worth saving; this style of architecture was not worth repeating; it is outdated, obsolete, and salvaging or staying with the same thing would only advance the appearence of poverty in your neighborhood.”

    This type of thing robs a community of any sense of pride, it forces it as a system to cease to value the place where they live. Which part is the eye-sore? The brand-NEW Walgreen’s, or these 50-100 year old homes? And before I recieve criticisms for such a generalization I realize that this is certainly not the way everyone is going to feel. But over time, demolition after demolition, parking lot after parking lot, it’s easy to see how a majority of people could feel disuaded. If all the “well-off” people are building these massive homes in suburbia, buying new cars every few years, and this is the measure of success in America, what do I have to be proud of?

    This is what I’d like to imagine someone like James Howard Kunslter might call something like “the psychology of new construction”. For many people the simple act of NEW construction is synonomous with progress and success. When in reality, much of what is being constructed today is unsustainable and very likely headed for eventual failure. But when the new construction is so dramatically different from what was there before it’s easy to understand how urbanites and suburbanites alike would percieve the “new” to be BETTER than the “old” when the reality is quite different.

    What all this boils down to, I suppose, is the question of what effect does that type of psychology have on a socially isolated community? If they are constantly being told by this wretched NEW development in addition to the compulsive demolition of their existing buildings that what they have is not worth preserving, that it should be a source of shame and not a source of pride… what more can we expect?

  12. Heather, proud STIX parent says:

    And yet again the magnet schools are getting clumped in with the underperforming regular city schools. Maybe if responsible parents actually researched what the city schools had available, they wouldn’t have to consider the expense of private schools. As an upper middle class parent, I’m thrilled with the excellent education and exposure to diversity my children are receiving.

    BTW Steve I forwarded this post to all of my relatives who called me up to tell me the *proud* news.

  13. Heather says:

    Oh and ITA with “build it and they will come”.

  14. The Voice of Reason... says:

    “the dude”…. if the facts were fully disclosed “middle class women” would feel much safer in mass transit than behind the wheel. It’s been a while since I looked at the statistics, but last time I checked fatal auto accidents exceeded homicides by something like 500%. Furthermore, roughly 1/4 of all drivers are involved in accidents each year… I’m pretty sure than 25% of the city population is not the victim of violent crime each year.

    Having myself been the victim of a nearly fatal 60mph collision with a drunk driver on the 8-lane highways of Atlanta, and having been literally unable to avoid it, I feel much safer riding the bus or metro-link than I do behind the wheel of a car.

    How about a NEW city ranking… the most dangerous places to DRIVE in America.

  15. tom says:

    Middle age women is the largest demographic using MetroLink.

  16. job b says:

    anonymous is right. Gotta fix the schools before anything happens. The catholic schools/churches is/was another nail in this coffin too.
    Stl has been decent in getting some 20’s to early 30’s moving in and creating some stir. Eventually, though, they get older, marry and move on. No reason to stay.

    Mcree Town was the bain of Dutchtown. The police were so concerned they demanded lists of where these folks were being displaced to and over 80% went between Meramec, Grand, Bates and Broadway. Saw the list personally.

    Saving old buildings is cool. Bikepaths are cool too. Even demanding better newer buildings is cool as well. The auto is here though and not going anywhere.

    Gotta work around it.

  17. john says:

    Arguing over who’s #1 and/or whether the boundaries are appropriate misses the point as you clearly state. The problems are obvious and need to be directly addressed.

    The history of problems and causes are long and due to many variables including burdensome federal mandates, poor demographics, highways subsidizing urban flight, bureaucratic courts, distrust of law enforcement, court approved busing, etc. all of which contributed to the decay and the inability of local government to deal effectively with the root causes of crime.

    The legal boundaries created by choosing home rule over the burdens of growth created problems the leaders of StL never imagined.

    As the population declines, the same number of crimes lead to rising rates as the denominator declines. Add in the loss of corporate control (takeovers) and the revenue base gets further eroded and diluted.

    Yes the City must directly address the problems. Four issues that must be improved: police effectiveness and trust, MUCH better schools, renewed corporate interest, and political leadership.

    Does the City have the resources to address these? The national economy has been in an unprecedented upswing for over 24 years… how much longer should it take? What happens if the revenue spigot dries up in the next downturn?

    Unfortunately, this situation has deteriorated to such a point where the only possible solution may require coordination and agreement between the county and city. This level of coordination and cooperation has only been seen once in our area’s history, in creating MSD.

    To continue to rely on more governmental agencies, more bureaucracy, more elected/apoointed leaders is mistaken as it has given us less than satisfactory results.

    A major change in the tone and objectives is needed. This means that local governments must get back to basics and address infrastructures issues, not recreational centers.

  18. Josh says:

    According to the fbi, there were 402 murders in the State of Missouri in 2005. According to the Department of Transportation there were 1275 fatal auto accidents in the State of Missouri in 2005.

    You get the idea. What should we be “afraid” of?

  19. Craig says:

    Here we go again. Let’s build a multi-million dollar transit system that is designed to lose more money than it generates. And on top of it, let’s build it where few people in the metro area live or want to visit (like north St. Louis).

    You would be better off taking the money and paying it out per capita to let people use it on parking, a new car, taxis, whatever.

  20. Voice of Reason says:

    It’s easy to criticize ideas Craig, what is your suggestion? Neglect the neighborhoods? Build a highway through them? While I’m sure that’s not it, your lack of a follow-up suggestion leaves you open to that kind of speculation.

  21. dna says:

    I ride metro everyday, I’m middle class, 30’s female-
    everyone is nice, friendly and I think it is great, plus-I save 14 gallons of gas a week-728 gallons a year!

  22. LazyGuy says:

    Steve, Can you post who you’re endorsing for the upcoming election?

  23. GMichaud says:

    The number one ranking is no surprise. The solution has to be comprehensive in my view. A lot is made of schools, and yes they are important, but it is a losing battle if money is thrown at the schools without improvement of the home environment and the urban environment surrounding the schools. Economic development is part of that effort; mass transit is part of economic development and improving the urban environment. The city is a complex structure that grows organically and changes daily.

    Investment is necessary, but it is still business as usual by the corporate/political crowd. They make money the way things are, so they donÂ’t want to change the formula of a WalgreenÂ’s or a Southtown Centre, even in the face of failure.
    The solution is to begin to devise urban plans and go around the establishment. Express new leadership through ideas, “shoot the idea bullets at the people”. Money can be made off of new ideas in this capitalist society. Can a blog turn into a comprehensive plan?

    Literally $600,000 million is going to be invested in Ballpark Village to serve a small class of society, mostly wealthy. Billions are needed for St. Louis. How is it possible to raise that type of capital? Devise comprehensive strategies that will work is the certain way.
    It should be clear that the leadership that is in place is not leadership at all, they merely use those words in cooperation with the mainstream press to fool the people. The people have no real choice so they think it is true. Does St. Louis as the least safe city in the United States demonstrate good leadership or good management? It has been at this level for years, so maybe it is about time to do something.
    There has been ample opportunity to turn St. Louis around, but the faux leaders only have power that protects their interests and the interests of their money handlers. Make no mistake about it, if there was the desire to remake North St. Louis, it would have happened already with true leadership. Rebuilding North St. Louis is very attainable.
    This city is but a shell of what it could be, thanks to the endless mistakes of the dictators of democracy. The problem with voting is not the choices you have, but the choices you donÂ’t have.

    It is not the schools, but the rest of society that needs to be remade.

  24. Urban Reader says:


    If you’re going to “blame the mayor for future problems”, are you also going to give him credit for>

    New Busch Stadium/World Series downtown
    Ballpark Village
    Gazillions in Loft and Downtown development projects
    Metrolink Expansion
    Success in Old North St. Louis
    Major new housing construction all over north city
    Bottle District
    Pinnacle Casino
    Washington Avenue renewal
    St. Louis Centre redevelopment
    Chouteau’s Landing
    City Hospital

    And on, and on, and on?

  25. Jim Zavist says:

    You can “prove” pretty much anything you want with statistics. As Jason Toon points out, St. Louis, like Detroit, is landlocked, with city limits that are artificially frozen. Conversely, Louisville, KY., was able to merge with Jefferson County about ten years ago, which increased their size into the top thirty and included a lot of middle- and upper-class (and yes, low-crime) suburban areas. Surprise – they come out as one of the “safest” “big” cities on the list (and “bigger” than St. Louis).

    And as with every thing newsworthy, it only takes a little digging to find a lot more truth. If you click on the link Steve provided, you’ll find that we’re #1 “overall”, #1 in cities between 100,000 and 500,000 (Detroit is #1 in cities over 500,000), yet we don’t even appear in the top 25 of the standard metropolitan statistical areas, a much-more accurate definition of an urbanized area.

    Bottom line (unfortunately), is that perception IS reality and sensationalism sells!

  26. Tap Nnamtre says:

    While I appreciate the attempts to address the problems facing the city, I think that you should all face the realities that have for too long been papered over by the politically-correct regime that controls information in this region. First, it is impossible for one to claim that the failing public schools were the reason for the collapse of the South-Side, which, by the way I grew up in and still live in. Most of the folks that were decent sent their kids to Catholic schools and when a lot of these folks, up until the 1990s, moved to the county, they sent their kids to Catholic schools out there. Second, as much as people would like neighborhood schools to exist as the center/anchor of the neighborhood, Catholic churches in the South-Side used to serve exactly that purpose. Third, one of the tenets of Catholicism is that you are to provide your kids with a Catholic education. If people were doing that then the need for the public schools on the South-Side was minimalized as was the general dissatisfaction with them.

    So what happened? Where did all the good (i.e. Catholic) folk go? And why did they leave? I know itÂ’s not nice to say, but they fled the blacks! Not just the blacks in the schools, but the blacks everywhere. They just got tired of living around a sub-culture that did not respect in any way, and perhaps had nothing but contempt for the dominate culture.

    Yes, I know, surveys might say that white folk just wanted better schools, but those same people that say that that is why they left lock their doors and roll up their windows and would never ever park on Cherokee to go to Globe Drugs or one of the great Mexican joints that all of our local illegals (and yes I have discerned this from admittedly limited conversation with the non-antagonistic English speaking Mexicans) keep in business. This is in some part white suburbanites fault for their mis-perception of the city, but it is also the cityÂ’s dominate cultureÂ’s fault for not cleaning itself up and at least trying to put a pretty bow on an ugly package.

    Revitalization in St. Louis will NOT happen because of mass-transit, it won’t happen because of a few lofts on one or two streets downtown, or because of Ballpark Village or the Bottle District (what happened to that one anyway? Did the developers realize that they were building an artificial entertainment district next to a housing project and suddenly think to, “who in the heck is going to want to come here and spend money when it starts to have the demographics of the late-St. Louis Center or the sad Union Station, or even the now defunct US10 Movie theater adjacent to Union Station? Anyone go to the Esquire lately, on a Friday or Saturday night I mean?).

    St. Louis, nor any other urban core for that matter, cannot become truly revitalized until the issue of the backwards and self-destructive nature of black-Americans is at least talked about. And, I don’t mean by using the euphemism that is “public school.” I mean by saying stop littering, producing babies without fathers, stop shooting, start learning. It’s simple, but not likely. Don’t believe me? Just watch what happens.

  27. Howard says:

    “Many white members of the board of aldermen have voted against establishing civilian oversight for the police department. Our police board is controlled by the state, not the citizens of St. Louis.” I don’t think that white aldermen are smarter on this issue and I hope that’s not what you were implying. It’s more a matter of some aldermen having less pressure to support this token gesture.

    The 2 to 1 vote on racial segregation in housing in 1916 came about via initiative petition rights granted in the new 1914 City Charter. Referring to it as an “ordinance” without noting it originated by petition could leave someone with the impression that the ordinance originated from the Board of Aldermen. I do not remember it being actually struck down by a court. I remember something about a federal court restraining order against enforcement. But it seems to me like the issue was actually dealt with the next year when the Supremes struck down Louisville’s more elaborate segregation law in Buchanan v. Warley.

    That last line in the Wiki entry on City Beautiful should not be overlooked: “The movement waned after 1909 when it came under assault from planners and critics who disliked its expensive, impractical, and allegedly elitist and superficial characteristics.”

  28. Adam says:

    Tap Nnamtre,

    Second, as much as people would like neighborhood schools to exist as the center/anchor of the neighborhood, Catholic churches in the South-Side used to serve exactly that purpose.

    yeah, for CATHOLICS who could afford to send their kids to CATHOLIC school. i think you may be projecting your own enthusiasm for catholic schools onto the rest of the city’s population.

    They just got tired of living around a sub-culture that did not respect in any way, and perhaps had nothing but contempt for the dominate culture.

    …the backwards and self-destructive nature of black-Americans…

    DOMINANT culture? backwards and self-destructive NATURE? are you serious? your choice of words stinks of white supremacy. and it shouldn’t even be necessary to re-state these things but…

    white people litter. white people produce babies without fathers. white people shoot other white people. etc.

    surely the socio-economic history of black americans could have NOTHING to do with their CURRENT socio-economic problems. why that would be absurd! past effecting present? what? i’m not even black and your attitude makes me contemptuous.

    It’s simple, but not likely. Don’t believe me? Just watch what happens.

    yes, clearly it’s just so simple. cause and effect cease to exist when it comes to the current state of black american sub-culture. it just arose out of black american nature. and all of us dominant white folks are pure, blameless bystanders.

    here’s what will happen. you’ll sit on your ass feeling dominant while other people search out and try to remedy the ACTUAL inequalities that cause marginalized people to become self-destructive.

    if your post was intended to be satire then my apologies.

  29. Margie says:

    This thread is so discouraging. There’s so much blame to go around, real answers can’t ever see daylight.

    How long before someone calls someone else a nazi?

  30. Tap Nnamtre says:


    Look, we can all argue about cause and effect, but ultimately the reality is what is at issue. I agree and regret that I did not include that there is plenty of blame to go around and that trashy white people are as bad as trashy black people. But the “white people shoot other white people” line is garbage. WE ARE TALKING ABOUT THE CITY OF ST. LOUIS and if you check the statistics there are way, way, way more black folk doing the shooting than anyone else doing the shooting.

    Once again, prove me wrong. Prove that the culture that dominates our public schools is positive. Prove that the gangs at Vashon and Roosevelt are not black-gangs. What is the percentage of fatherless/illegitimate black kids? Do you know? It is around 70%.

    Do a little research and you will find direct correlations between poverty and lack of education and the prevalence of illegitimacy in a socio-economic group. So yes, STOP HAVING FATHERLESS CHILDREN WHO GROW UP TO SHOOT AT PEOPLE AND HAVE FATHERLESS BABIES ETC…ETCÂ…ETC.

    Also, not to worry, white illegitimacy numbers are growing so maybe one day you will have your desired parity in that department.

    However, since we are living in 2006 and not 1863 or 1964, maybe it’s time we address the black community as it is today. That would be a largely, not wholly, irresponsible group that has allowed its victim mentality to overtake self-reliance(within the system) and self-respect.

    Like I said, “watch what happens.” You answered the call by labeling me with the white-supremacist label. Heaven forbid someone calls out the black community and says that they can fix it without our (your superior) help. ThatÂ’s right, I think that blacks can fix it on their own. Not needing my help or yours, good-Adam. I believe in the humanity of blacks and their ability, if we stop trying to “help” them, to overcome this on their own by looking at the statistics and listening to the leaders in their community that are speaking rationally about the situation. Leaders that are not appealing to emotion, but to the intellectual core that seeks rational answers, which exists in all of us, not just educated white folk like you. So there!

    The elephant in the room is the blacks and how they treat one another and themselves. No one wants to say out loud that they need to shape up. Bill Cosby has said it and people either love him or hate him. I guess that he is a White Supremacist also.

    Amazing that the plight of blacks in America is the system’s, history’s, or white Americans’ faults, but put a little, if not most of that blame on blacks themselves and you become a white-supremacist.

    As an amendment:

    It is important to add that I lament the housing projects that blacks were herded into from the 1940s-1950s and beyond on through desegregation. I abhor those St. Louisans who moved at the first sight of a black family on their street. I honestly believe that if those two things had never been then there might have been a chance at true integration. But, I was not there and do not like to judge the whites who moved, because I do not know what the black families (block-busters) brought to a neighborhood. I can’t help but think that most of those people moved because of pure racism (or hatred of the color of skin).

    You have tacitly judged me a white supremacist. While I may not be as liberal as you, good-Adam, I am not a white-supremacist. I do believe that if everyone would stop hating Western-European culture and start respecting the order that it brought to a lot of the world and then applying those principles that many of today’s problems could be solved. I am the first to admit that there was a whole bunch of bad that Western-European culture pulled off as well, but it is the only culture that I know of that has admitted it screwed up and tries to fix it.

    Yes, good-Adam, my relativist friend, I am saying that some cultures are better than others. If you don’t believe me try living with the Korowai tribe of southeastern Papua. It’s all gravy or maybe gravy is all it takes.

  31. Urban Reader says:


    While this is a fascinating discussion, your knowledge/terminology of St. Louis real estate history needs some correction.

    A black family moving onto a predominantly caucasion block is not a “block buster”.

    Rather, a real estate agent, warning caucasion families that blacks are moving in, and if they want to get any money for their properties, they better sell quick, is a block buster.

    Indeed, such illegal practices led to the emptying out of many white families in north city.

    Carry on…

  32. Adam Woodson says:


    1) what does this have to do with western vs non-western culture? black americans are a part of western culture. the sub-culture we’re talking about IS A PRODUCT OF OUR FINE WESTERN CULTURE. as for making objective claims about the superiority of one culture over another, good luck proving that we are better-off than the Korowai because of our culture. of course I would have a difficult time living with the Korowai BECAUSE IT’S NOT WHAT I’M USED TO.

    2) i take issue with your suggestion that high crime and illegitamacy rates amonst inner-city black-americans is due to the backwards and self-destructive nature of black-Americans. i never claimed that the crime/illegitimacy does not exist.

    3) Margie said it nicely: There’s so much blame to go around… i did not exclude myself. but i am not the one making sweeping generalizations about black american “nature” and the “dominance” of cultures. i didn’t say that black americans can’t help themselves. but it’s easy to say “just do it” from a position of middle- or upper-class white privilege.

    here’s a good book for you to read:

    “Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies” by Jared Diamond.

    oh, and by “mistakes of western culture” i assume you mean centuries of imperialism.

  33. Tap Nnamtre says:


    Yes, I do mean centuries of imperialism. There is no telling what would have happened in Africa and South America, for example, if Europeans had never entered the continents, but that has been talked about to the point of it being a pathology all its own.

    Urban Reader,

    In fact, in the 1950s and 1960s in St. Louis and other cities, “block busting” was when a white would present themselves as the buyer of a “red-lined” home and when the papers were signed, a black family or families would move into the home. This technique was often used. My mom lived in a neighborhood where it happened and they called themselves “blockbusters”. While this may not be the generally accepted term it IS the term that the people on my momÂ’s block used for themselves.


    I grew up far from middle to upper-middle class. I did attend Catholic schools but my mom worked two jobs to get my brother and me through grade school. And when I was 14 I started working so that I could go to a Catholic High School. My dad was an abusive maniac that my mom divorced when I was one year old. He paid $52.00 a month child support and did didly to help us.

    In 1989 we moved into an apartment complex near Grand Avenue and Delor. By December it had turned section 8. By the following year there were shots being fired on a regular basis. Thanks to some reckless jerks from my school, a kid that had relatives in the complex I lived in was run over and killed. For the next 5 or 6 weeks I had to fight (more accurately, be beat) my way into my building in the complex everyday after school. I was called every racially charged name you can think of by my abusers. To this day I am not sure if they did it because of the kid being killed or because I was white and they wanted an excuse.

    The great thing was, my best friend at school was the only black kid and I used to get crap from some of the other guys at school (oddly the most racist listened to rap and spoke a lot of Ebonics) because I defended him. So I literally got it coming and going and staying. HowÂ’s that for racial superiority?

    I was far from privileged growing up. I appreciate your generalization of me, but I have no right to generalize? Oh, I guess I just proved your point that generalizations can be wrong. But, unlike you, I was also fortunate enough to witness first hand what happened to the South-Side. All of the pie-in-the-sky ideas that you bring to the table cannot counteract the realities that everyone I knew and I lived through. We are not the exceptions.

    People that I grew up with that have left the city (90%), did not initially leave for better schools. They left to go to places where there were fewer minorities. People get tired of dealing with uncivilized behavior. I get tired of it. And yes, civilization can be defined. Unlike my friends, I have hope that by staying in the city that I can be an example of success to those around me. That by pulling myself up out of the crap-life that I had, that I can say to others, “you can do it too!”

    I am not sure why you object so strongly to someone stating that blacks can do it themselves. Only thing I can think of is that you derive your own personal sense of self-worth from believing that you are a champion of the lesser people. I, on the other hand, believe that they we are all great people endowed by our creator with the capability to attain heights of wonder. I just wish that people like you would stop telling other people that they canÂ’t. It is a cruel and unjust act; you might as well throw every black child out of school. Why should they try when you are telling them itÂ’s useless, the system will never let them achieve?

  34. Urban Reader says:

    Hey everyone, check this out…

    Tap wrote:

    “So what happened? Where did all the good (i.e. Catholic) folk go? And why did they leave? I know itÂ’s not nice to say, but they fled the blacks! Not just the blacks in the schools, but the blacks everywhere.”

    So Tap, what you’re saying then is that the Catholics were a bunch of cut and run Republicans.

  35. john says:

    The formula for decay, crime, depopulation, job losses, cheap real estate is obvious and is addressed by a local and independent reporter. Even an insider, the police chief, has complained about the revolving door in the criminal justice system in ol’ StL.

    See Chris Orlet’s column in the American Spectator, “Beat Me in St. Louis”.

    Get a clue people… the City has a long and obvious history of decay. Take a stand… demand change especially in leadership and appointments!

    Democratic liberals + Liberal paper + Apathetic populace = More Crime, Decay and Depopulation.

  36. Tap Nnamtre says:

    Urban Reader,

    No, they were cut-and-run Catholics. The city was Democrat, even back then. I have a whole slew of problems with the rampant materialism that has taken the place of traditional Catholic values. If Catholics were Catholics instead of materialists, they would not complain about the cost of Catholic schools. They would simply drive a smaller car oe a used car and put the saving towards their child’s education. I call them SUV-Catholics.

  37. Adam says:


    I am not sure why you object so strongly to someone stating that blacks can do it themselves.

    where are you getting this from? i never said anything remotely close to this. in fact, i said just the opposite. everyone has the power to help themselves, but only to the extent that society allows. some will choose to do so and others will not. for some it will be easy. for some it will be very difficult. for some it will be impossible.

    let me say this AGAIN. i objected to your use of the word “nature” as in

    …the backwards and self-destructive nature of black-Americans…

    and the word “dominate” (i.e. dominant) as in

    They just got tired of living around a sub-culture that did not respect in any way, and perhaps had nothing but contempt for the dominate culture.

    i’m sorry your life was rough, but your limited experiences don’t give you the right to make assertions about entire populations and cultures.

    Only thing I can think of is that you derive your own personal sense of self-worth from believing that you are a champion of the lesser people. I, on the other hand, believe that they we are all great people endowed by our creator with the capability to attain heights of wonder. I just wish that people like you would stop telling other people that they can’t. It is a cruel and unjust act; you might as well throw every black child out of school. Why should they try when you are telling them it’s useless, the system will never let them achieve?

    please. i guess now we can both prepend “good-” to our screen names.

  38. Tap Nnamtre says:

    First off, I was not allowed to post In an effort to curb malicious comment posting by abusive users, I’ve enabled a feature that requires a weblog commenter to wait a short amount of time before being able to post again. Please try to post your comment again in a short while. Thanks for your patience. I have absolutely no problem with your policy as long as you apply it equally to those who would brand me a white-supremacist or that my comments smack of white-supremacy. I guess if you agree with such statements then they are not abusive, but I simply find them to be quite abusive and counterproductive to discussion.


    I want to appologize for my use of the word “dominate”. I should have used the word “dominant” instead.

    And, by dominant culture I am referring to the one that respects the law of the land and each other. Granted, more and more, that culture is less dominant and a we are simply focusing on the “win at all cost” nature that animals pursue. I am not calling any group animals, but I do believe we are all loosing our humanity.

    I look around and see alot of backwards and self-destructive behavior from blacks. I believe that we all, in addition to be capable of heights of wonder, are capable of all sorts of depraved and decadent behavior as well. The removal of responsibility for the state of their cuture from blacks also removes any impetus for them to aspire to any heights whatsoever.

    Yes it is their nature, but it is your’s and mine as well. We, thanks to the way we were brought up (I am hoping this applies to you), believe that we are capable of greatness and reach for it. We know what we must do. We spend everyday counteracting our more sever negative urges. By and large, (another generalization, but stats will back it up) blacks do not. Prior to the 1960s they did.

    It is long past the time that blame should be laid. You claimed that I am sitting on my butt and not coming up with solutions. No, I am. You just dont like my solutions. You are the one that wants to continue the blame game instead of saying “you gotta do it yourself!” I just don’t get how I am the bad guy? Is it because I don’t think that at this point it makes sense to place blame and I think that the situation can only be resolved by teaching self-respect NOW. If we wait even one more day to start saying “you can do it!” We lose hundreds of more young blacks. While you are busy assigning blame children are shot and babies are born into poverty.

    I guess I am a BBBBBAAAADDDDDD man. With no solutions. The only solution that has not really been tried is mine. Throwing money around is tired and has been proven flawed. But hey, if it makes you feel better, keep doing it anyway.

    You may not think that there needs to be a dominant culture, but there does. Sure you can have lots of cultures in the same geographic space for a time, but at some point one of them will begin to dominate.

    I DO think that you are probably a good person (hence, Good-Adam). I think that sometimes in an attempt to be good, we all cross the line into wanting to be liked. I don’t care if the world hates me. Granted, I might be wrong about all of this and you might be right. I think you are an interesting guy, even though you think I am a white-supremacist. I am not what you think and I hope that, if nothing else, we both can agree to my initial premise that “public schools” is a euphamiam for “blacks” and that until something is done about the state of the black community the city is doomed.

    I am honestly just really tired of suburbanites refusing to admit that the are suburbanites because of blacks and then pretending to be open-minded when they live very far from concentrations of blacks. I assume that this is not you, so you are ok with me, Good-Adam. It is only those who have zero experience with the realities of urban life, and then judge those of us who have always been, and never stopped being city dwellers that I loathe. People who live in gated communities, or private streets with their personal security forces that say the black community is just fine by them that I have contempt for. (sorry for the proposition)

    [UR — FYI: The spam blocking is something my web host installed on my site and all the other blogs on the STL Syndicate, I have zero control over how it functions. ]

  39. Joe says:

    Tap – Thanks for the direct, honest, and accurate portrayal of the situation. While others will admonish you and bury their heads further into the sand, cities like St. Louis will fall further into decay.

  40. Adam says:


    We spend everyday counteracting our more sever negative urges. By and large, (another generalization, but stats will back it up) blacks do not. Prior to the 1960s they did.

    to which stats are you referring, specifically?

    It is long past the time that blame should be laid … You are the one that wants to continue the blame game instead of saying “you gotta do it yourself!” … Is it because I don’t think that at this point it makes sense to place blame and I think that the situation can only be resolved by teaching self-respect NOW … While you are busy assigning blame children are shot and babies are born into poverty.

    oh, i see. i’m BLAMING black americans by arguing that it is NOT in their nature to commit crime and have illegitimate children, while you are SUPPORTING them by arguing that it IS in their nature and that they should solve their problems themselves. sorry, when you said It is long past the time that blame should be laid i SOMEHOW got the impression that you were blaming someone.

    You claimed that I am sitting on my butt and not coming up with solutions. No, I am. You just dont like my solutions. You are the one that wants to continue the blame game instead of saying “you gotta do it yourself!” I just don’t get how I am the bad guy? If we wait even one more day to start saying “you can do it!” We lose hundreds of more young blacks.

    what exactly is the solution that you’ve offered? so far it sounds like “it’s their problem. let them deal with it.” correct me if i’m misrepresenting you, but that doesn’t sound like a very good solution to me (nor is it a christian solution, if you’re into that sort of thing). also, you may not have stopped to think about this, but teaching self-respect NOW is an active process, not a passive one.

    I think that sometimes in an attempt to be good, we all cross the line into wanting to be liked.

    i don’t understand. is that what i’m doing?

    finally, a little about me since you have been so forthcoming:

    i am 29 years old. i went to catholic school for 13 years. i am now ardently anti-religious. i put myself through college (using loans for which i’m still paying) in a small homogeneous town. i lived near kingshighway and chippewa in south saint louis city for almost three years after college. lived in syracuse NY for one year while attending graduate school (for which i am still paying) moved back to saint louis and lived in benton park until august of this year when my lease ended. i am currently living in fenton (strictly out of necessity – never by choice) until next month at which time i will be moving to virginia to start graduate school once again.

    i’ve never been beaten up in the city, but i and my partner have been verbally accosted and had bricks thrown at us because we are gay.

  41. Adam says:

    almost forgot. i lived near loughborough and morganford for the first 11 years of my live, and fenton for the next 7 years until i left for college.

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