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St. Louis’ Award-Winning “Vacancy to Vibrancy” Now Online (w/Invoice)

December 14, 2007 Downtown, Events/Meetings, Media, Politics/Policy 7 Comments

Last week I was pretty harsh on the city for “buying” a second so-called World Leadership Award (see post). Well, I did a records request (per Missouri’s Sunshine Law) and have for your weekend reading the “Vacancy to Vibrancy” entry as well as the invoice for £3,000 (a tad over $6,000) to be included on the short list.

Here are a few selections from the entry:

Housing is the key to a sustainable urban environment.

Historic preservation has proven to be the catalyst for the resurgence in the inner city housing market.

Recycling aging buildings is key to a healthy urban environment.

I believe the City of St. Louis strategy “Sustainable Housing Through Preservation” can encourage Mayor’s in the world’s industrialized cities to meet the growing demand for housing by recycling our existing built heritage.

Wow, the mayor seems like he cares about developing sustainable housing and preserving existing structures. In the report, they talk about the energy it takes to build a new building and construct a very good argument for retaining old buildings. Too bad they do things like raze the historic Century Building for a parking garage rather than more housing as proposed by other developers with less influence. Or allowed SLU to raze a historic building for a surface parking lot. The list is long, too long.

The region experienced a 25% increase in the urbanized area, yet population growth was only 6 %. The region ranks 18th in population in the country, but second in land consumption. Land consumption occurred four times faster than our population growth.

Again, quite true. In fact, the report is excellent. Now if only they actually talked publicly about sustainability and acted upon these beliefs rather than on what those with money and influence seek. It should not take me doing an open records request to obtain this information. The full submission is a large PDF file (4.5mb), Vacancy to Vibrancy: Sustainable Housing Through Preservation.

The letter from the World Leadership Awards indicated the city was on the shortlist is dated September 4, 2007. It acknowledge being shortlisted in the “Law & Order” category but our entry was clearly marked for the housing category — I assume this to be a clerical error in the letter.

The letter references some details as well as payment for the “presentation fee”:

Because of difficulties which occurred with several cities last year we have, with great regret, been forced to adopt a stricter policy regarding late payment. If we have not received payment by 14th September, then we may not be able to include your city in the shortlist, which will be published on 20th September 2007.

So unlike competitions where everyone pays an equal registration fee, here they make sure you pay up if you want to be on the shortlist. No money, no shortlist. With 38 entries on this year’s shortlist that is over $228,000. Cities still have to make flight, hotel and transportation arrangements to get their team there to present in person. I’m not sure where in the budget this is funded. Do we have a PR budget? Click here to see the letter and invoice.

Speaking of PR, we had less incorrect BS being spread this year but there was still some misleading facts out there. For example, the Mayor’s announcement about the win included this item:

In his presentation, Slay focused on rebuilding the City through the creation of new housing units and renovating historic buildings. Since 2000, more than 20,000 units have been rehabbed and 4,221 new units have been built in historic buildings, resulting in almost 14,000 new residents of the City.

Really? “Almost 14,000 new residents of the City?” I covered these types of lies back in April when they were twisting original & challenged census numbers around.

Here are the official Census figures:

  • 2000: 348,189
  • 2006: 353,837 (after city challenged the census estimate)

By my math the difference is 5,648. Most likely Slay’s PR folks are playing with numbers again hoping the media will pick it up and not question the source. As in the past, they use the pre-challenge census numbers from years past to compare with a newly revised post-challenge census figure to artificially inflate population.

I personally am quite happy that we’ve stopped losing people, it does not benefit anyone to twist the facts around to make it look like we’ve gained nearly three times as many people as we actually have.


Currently there are "7 comments" on this Article:

  1. Otto says:

    I think the term “new residents” is causing confusion. If you conclude that there are only 5,648 new residents, rather than 14,000, then not a single person has left the city in the past six years.

    It looks to me like 5,648 is the actual rise in population. In other words, the city did get 14,000 new residents since 2000, but it also lost 8,000 or so. I don’t think 14,000 seems that outrageous in the past 6 years (a “new resident” would include a guy who buys a house in Benton Park even if the former owner moves to the county). But I’m willing to hear you out on this one, especially if there is a 14,000 difference between the original unchallenged 2000 census and the revised 2006 census.

  2. aye says:

    do your homework, Patterson. The City first challenged the Census in 2004 when they challenged the 2003 city population estimate. The estimate for 2002 was 338,353, which is likely the number the City subtracts from the current estimate of 353,837 to get the “over 14,000” number. So, they’re comparing the current estimate to the 2002 estimate, not the 2000 Census.

    [SLP — I did my homework, this issue was discussed in greater detail on the prior post I linked to.  It is not logical to say to the census, “we don’t like your numbers but we are going to use the lower number to attempt to show a gain in population.”  To accept their lower 2002 estimate they have to admit a loss of population in the first year of the Slay administration.]

  3. bob says:

    bottom line is that these two jokers got a free trip to London on our dime.

  4. no-bob says:

    No Bob, the bottom line is that these guys are helping the city revitalize.

  5. Jim Zavist says:

    Actually, it’s somewhere in between – these “two jokers” are working to revitalize the city, apparently have had some success, and have found a venue that will recognize their and our successes, even if they’re limited. We get plenty of bad press, so some good press can’t hurt, even if it’s bought and paid for. The only two real questions are a) are we getting our money’s worth out of this “investment” and b) do these “two jokers” deserve a trip to Europe on our (the taxpayer’s) dime to pick up the award in person? (I doubt that “you need to be present to win”.)

  6. no-bob says:

    Fair enough – but if they want to spend $6,000 and all their expenses every year to attend some fancy event I think that’s great. I’ll take it, along with the billion-plus dollars of investment the city has seen. I’m fully aware that Mayors are often placekeepers – that much of what happens on their watch would have happened with or without them. But I give these guys some credit for the beginning stages of revitalization in the city. Not let’s just hope that they can continue to lead so that much more is accomplished.

  7. St. Louis shouldn’t spend money to outright lie for the outcome of boosterism. We can do it through ethical means. It only takes billboards showcasing our rehabs. The City could work with the private sector and buy up radio or TV ads. We could have new residents talk about how great the City is. We don’t need some bullshit award whether this or US Conference of Mayors “Best Drinking Water.” And once we actually get quality infill then perhaps we would advertise that as well.


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