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St. Louis Buys 2nd Leadership Award, Mayor and Planner Get London Trip to Accept

December 7, 2007 Media, Planning & Design, Politics/Policy 20 Comments

Last night Mayor Francis Slay and Planning Director Rollin Stanley were in London representing the city at the World Leadership Awards. St. Louis was a finalist in the area of housing. Yesterday the Mayor’s blog noted this much. They also had a little note at the end:

Note to Editors: The World Leadership Forum (WLF) is a not-for-profit organization which promotes leadership internationally — especially in the areas of science, technology, education, communication and the arts — by spotlighting the work of exceptional leaders and achievers in a host of disciplines.

See, by adding a note at the end it gives the group some legitimacy. From where I see it, this organization is all about award shows and by paying money to “win” an award it is self funded. Sure, they have no entry fees but they notify the short list of people later and they must fork over some cash to offset costs. The price tag last year was £3,000 ($5,900).

So you are asking yourself, how can I be so sure this is all rigged? Well, I cannot prove anything. First, it is the price tag which raises a big red flag. World leaders seldom have to pay to be recognized as such. References to this have been removed from their website. Last year their site indicated:

Cities reaching the shortlists (from two four in each category) will be required to pay a fee of £3,000 to cover the presentation and judging costs (venue hire, audiovisual equipment, crew, catering, judges travel expenses etc.), as well as the cost of a table at the award ceremony (the table seats up to ten guests and includes complimentary cocktails, dinner, wine programs etc.).

Cities which fail to pay the fee within 30 days of the invoice date will be disqualified from the awards.

Cities that do not reach the shortlists will not be charged any fees.

Second, the sponsoring organization refuses to disclose how many entries are received in each category. Was it just the two-four on the shortlist or was it 10 or more. They indicate they refuse to disclose the entries not shortlisted because they don’t want to embarrass those cities. Well, they don’t want to disclose the number of entries as it would likely prove embarrassing to the winners. Furthermore, while claiming to promote leadership and give awards to cities so that it might help others, they don’t publish the winning entries.

Speaking of winners, The City of Las Vegas was the big winner last night. The unsustainable city in Nevada got three awards for Transport, Leisure & Sport as well as the American City of the Year. Yes, Las Vegas the American City of the Year! That has to tell you something!

We were a finalist against City of Ahmedabad, the capital city of Gujarat, India. Their submission was called Housing for the Poor.
Our submission? The title was, “Vacancy to Vibrancy.” Did we win? Uh, yeah. You don’t think we are going to send the Mayor and a key staff person to London if we weren’t going to win? (Wink, wink).

Last year the St. Louis PR spin machine was in full swing using words like “nominated” — as if someone suggested we deserved an award. They also said things like ‘out of 400 entries’ to imply it was a crowded contest. In actuality, it turned out to be the organization sent mailers out to over 400 cities asking them to submit entries. You can read last year’s post here and review last year’s entry here. I’ve already sent over my request for the latest entry via the Missouri Sunshine Law regarding open records.


Currently there are "20 comments" on this Article:

  1. john says:

    Are the writers still on strike… isn’t this a repeat? City of LA in finals for Law & Order? Are you writing for Leno now? I don’t know if I can consider this blog as serious anymore…

  2. ex-stl says:

    let’s face it most design awards a business and a vanity thing to one degree or another – even the Pritzker. and even w/o a steep entry fee I’ve spent thousands of dollars of firms’ money on time, photography and materials.

  3. awb says:

    As a city resident and taxpayer, I would prefer that we earn awards. This is just another expensive trip on our tax dimes for two politicians who don’t do enough for the little people. They give out corporate welfare and then buy or give themselves awards.

    What do they call the award for the city that buys the most awards?

  4. Jim Zavist says:

    An All-American City!

  5. dutchtown says:

    I wish the city would receive one of those “kickass awards”.

  6. sketpic says:

    Man this sketchy organization, as you would have everyone see it as, much be getting rich off the $5,900 the finalists have to submit!! Do you know how much a ballroom rental in London costs Steve? By inferring that this is a shady organization that gives awards to cities that pay them fees, you make it seem like they’re making serious money. $5,900 couldn’t pay one month’s rent for a small apt in London. Get real

    [SLP — I just updated a post to the “awards” site.  Yeah, what was I thinking, $6K doesn’t buy much.  Oh wait, they have 15 categories.  Well, how much does $90K buy???  I’m not saying it is an illegal scam, just not credible in my view.]

  7. BeanCounter says:

    Vegas being the city of the year should tell you something. People want to live there. The area is growing in population. The city provides things that people want.
    Vegas used to be, maybe still is, the fastest growing city in the country. It will never have heavy industry, like a Detroit, but it does what it does best, providing entertainment to the rest of the country. Even with the explosion of casinos around the country, no one can touch Vegas. Its convention business puts other cities, including ours, to shame.

    That being said, I have been there once, and I don’t have much of a desire to go back. Others, however. . .

    [SLP — They also have the highest foreclosure rate in the country.  After years of sprawling the boom may well be a bust.]

  8. ryan says:

    Slay – mayor for life.

  9. citizen says:

    Did you fake that picture?

  10. Joe says:

    There are 23 cities on the shortlist. At $6000 a piece that’s $138,000 to the organizers.

    And the “Ballroom rental in London” seems to be covered separately.

    “Each table seats ten guests, and the price of £1,750 (+ VAT) includes cocktails on arrival, plus a three course dinner with wine, or soft drinks, and complimentary copies of the commemorative book.”

    It doesn’t surprise me that “Award” ceremonies like this exist and I’m no longer surprised that Mayor Slay’s office would choose to participate.

  11. rolo says:

    I really don’t think this is a bad thing for the city at all. Yeah, it is not the most prestigious award, and yeah it cost 6 grand to participate, but I highly doubt anyone is really getting rich off of an event that nets $138,000, split between two people and that isn’t much, especially for London Cost of Living. That isn’t even counting any money spent on promotion, marketing, the friggin trophies, etc.

    Call me crazy but, $6,000 for national and international good PR for the city of St. Louis, sounds like a bargain to me.

  12. Michael Allen says:

    There is a difference between recognition and awards. All awards are an enterprise (inlcuding the most respected like the Pritzker). You pay to play, in one way or another. Recognition comes in the public realm, sometimes with awards won paving the way.

  13. Ott says:

    Sounds like an inexpensive way to get some international publicity for the city.

  14. shocked and in awe says:

    I think this post is cheap shot at our City. I know of many awards that require some monetary deposit and I know of other awards that require far less money to win an award.
    Did you know the AIA sponsors an annual awards gala but there are monetary fees to enter the competition? I can think of a few other organizations that do this as well.
    I think the city is working hard to bring positive news to St. Louis. It’s a shame that people have to dis anything “positive” that happens in St. Louis be it worthy or from Marketing initiatives that City Hall performs.
    People -stop complaining!

    [SLP — Tell me about any other award where the winning entry is hidden from public view, requiring an open records act to see why we’ve won?]

  15. shocked and in awe says:

    ^Here are the entry fee costs for the AIA St. Louis design awards: http://www.aia-stlouis.org/entry_form.pdf
    A lot of design awards are achieved via entry fees. Don’t dis City Hall for entering this competition and winning.
    It’s good PR for the city as Rolo says. Michael Allen says you pay to play, one way or another. I agree with both fellas.

    [SLP — It is one thing to say that anyone who want to enter pays a small fee such as $100 as opposed to a $6,000 fee if you are on a shortlist — which may well mean only two people entered that category.]

  16. Digitizdat says:

    Dude, lighten up! Like many other “awards” and “honors” in this world, this one costs money. Big deal. It’s good publicity, unless of course the city’s most vocal pundits devalue it. There’s all sorts of academic honors and awards you essentially pay for, like Who’s Who, and the United States Achievement Academy, and they don’t really mean that much, except that someone nominated you for the award, so presumably you did something deserving of the nomination, but they look good on your resume.

    Earlier this year I was “selected” to “represent Missouri” at an academic summit in Beijing because I’m in the Golden Key Honor Society. Of course, it requires that I shell out a few thousand dollars for the trip, which I can’t afford. But think of how great that would be to write into my resume! Did I really earn it? All I did was maintain a decent GPA, just like hundreds of other students in St. Louis, so why was I picked? Heck, I’m didn’t even enroll this semester or the last one!

    So how is this different?

  17. BS says:

    You must be in a foul mood lately. First, City government chooses to consolidate services in one old downtown building and you crab because it’s not the old downtown building you wanted. Now, the City gets recognition in a head to head competition and you treat it like something that fell out of a seasick elephant. Seems myopic to complain about any and all efforts the City makes to improve its image. If it was all the City was doing, ok sure, but tackling the City’s image is only one of the fronts it looks like the City is taking on these days.

    Is it getting personal? Did someone in City Hall not pay you the proper respect?

    PS: On an ironic closing note, my verification word was “progress.”

    [SLP — Foul mood?  Maybe.  I’m out trying to get a few feet of concrete at all our new suburban projects lacking federally mandated access while Slay and Stanley are jet-setting to London to get a leadership award.  Hmmm, I’d actually like to see some leadership on the ground, not just good PR, for a while. Perhaps we can get Stanley to actually do some planning while he is in town?

    Also, last year this thing was totally misrepresented and picked up by the media as such — indicating we competed with “over 400 cities” which was a complete falsehood.  Over 400 cities were asked to participate — an unknown number accepted and a very small amount were shortlisted (total number that applied, anyone not shortlisted?).   I wanted to make sure the same lies were not spread this year.  If they want good PR they need to be honest — we beat out one city located in India on the topic of housing — presuming they paid the fee and made a presentation.]

  18. Justmyview says:

    Complaining about insignificant activities by city government cheapens your overall message. Sounds like it must be a no news day to me.

  19. ex-stl says:

    BS: I think the correct term is “seasick crocodile” (it is the holiday season after all)

  20. Former St Louisan says:

    Gotta stick up for Steve here. Even the AIA application only costs a couple hundred bucks. When I submit a news piece for an Emmy, that’s a wallet-busting $300 — and there’s no guarantee it will even get a nomination (that’s just for submission — hundreds are submitted; five are actually nominated from that number).

    But the rules in this alleged international competition seem convoluted and too secretive. ‘Buying’ an honor is no honor at all. I only hope the city gets lots of good press and curious tourists for its ‘fee.’


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