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Ferguson, Missouri

The last events of last weekend were tragic, inspiring, confusing, and disappointing. Noon Saturday an unarmed young man, Michael Brown, 18, was shot by an unnamed Ferguson police officer, he died at the hospital. That night numerous protests & vigils were held. On Sunday evening more were planned, the family asked for them to be peaceful.

The photos & videos showed a large/vocal, but peaceful, crowd Sunday evening; likely the largest such event ever held in Ferguson.   I wasn’t there to see who & how it went from peaceful to lawless, including rioting, looting, and arson. Monday morning everyone is trying to make sense of the events, even though reconciling them is hard for most everyone.  Sadly, racist views often come out at times like these.

Yet we should all remember, looting & rioting takes place all over the world. It happens after major sporting events, natural disasters, and injustices. Some examples:

In 1979 people in San Francisco were upset with the light sentence Dan White received for shooting Mayor Moscone & Supervisor Milk:

Dan White, Milk’s assassin, was acquitted of murder charges and given a mild sentence for manslaughter, partly as a result of what became known as the “twinkie defense.” His attorney claimed that White had eaten too much junk food on the day of the killings and thus could not be held accountable for his crimes. He was sentenced to less than eight years in prison on May 21, 1979—the day before what would have been Milk’s 49th birthday—igniting what came to be known as the White Night Riots. Enraged citizens stormed City Hall and rows of police cars were set on fire. The city suffered property damage and police officers retaliated by raiding the Castro, vandalizing gay businesses and beating people on the street. (Harvey Milk Foundation)

From 1992:

German gangs smashed windows, looted shops and assaulted Dutch fans in 12 hours of violence surrounding Holland’s 3-1 victory over Germany in the European Championships in Goteborg, Sweden.

Riot police with horses and dogs repeatedly chased mobs of Germans through the center of Goteborg. The gangs dispersed and formed again, seeking openings through police lines to get at crowds of celebrating Dutchmen, but officers averted serious fighting.

Policeman Lasse Hansson said 23 were arrested, all Germans except for one Dutchman. He said charges against them included inciting riot, possession of weapons and resisting arrest. (Seattle Times)

Also in 1992, the LA Riots:

The LA Riots are mostly associated with the beating by police of Rodney King, but have a deeper and more complex background than that. We will start by looking at the background of Rodney King and the other causes to the LA Riots. (South Central History)

From 1998:

After the Denver Broncos defeated the Green Bay Packers to win Super Bowl XXXII, 10,000 fans went a little overboard and tears of joy became tear-gas-induced tears when people began flipping cars, looting and destroying the Mile High City. The Broncos’ victory and the following riot were selected as top news stories of 1998 by newspaper and broadcast members of the Associated Press. (source)

Earlier this year:

$25K in damage done to Historic century-old Pioneer Square pergola during out-of-control jubilation. About six people arrested after midnight when crowd began throwing bottles at police. Crazed students lit furniture on fire and made bonfires. Thousands throughout Seattle took to the streets to revel in the Seahawks’ victory, the city’s first major sports championship in more than 30 years. Drivers honked their horns, fans launched fireworks and at least one bonfire was blazing near the University of Washington. (NY Daily News)

But why?

The idea that people in crowds act differently — more violently, more passionately and perhaps, with a compromised moral compass — than individuals acting alone is not new. LeBon and Freud proposed it way back in early 20th century and others have since built on the theory.

But is that really the main motivation at play here?

Some, like Columbia University’s Tory Higgins don’t think so. Higgins, a professor of psychology who studies motivation, believes that riots such as the these typically occur when people feel “ineffective.” “In situations like this, there is a long period prior to the riot of feeling that you’re not in control of your own life. It may either be financial, like unemployment or a low-paying job, or political,” he says. “They basically don’t feel respected or that they’re making a difference.” (Huffington Post)

There’s so much we don’t know, particularly about the shooting on Saturday. Hopefully an impartial & transparent investigation will be conducted, and the community will accept the findings.

Burnt out QT at 9420 West Florissant on Monday Aug 11, 2014, 9:37am
Burnt out QT at 9420 West Florissant on Monday Aug 11, 2014, 9:37am
The word "SNITCH.."  was painted on the sign
The word “SNITCHER” painted on the sign

Why Quik Trip? It seems, based on internet hearsay, Michael Brown visited the store right before returning to the apartment complex where his grandmother lives.

Yesterday I rode the #74 MetroBus from 14th & Washington north to St. Louis Community College — Florissant Valley and back. From the Quik Trip north, for 2 miles along West Florissant, I saw busted windows, shattered bus shelters, closed businesses, and police.   The Taco Bell my husband ate at in June, about a half mile north, had a busted window. The Walgreens at West Florissant & Chambers I passed in my wheelchair in April had a boarded window, and was closed. A guy on the return bus trip was saying the Walmart 2 miles north on West Florissant was closed.

Monday morning traffic was busy on West Florissant as people wanted to see the damage
Monday morning traffic was busy on West Florissant as people wanted to see the damage
We saw police investigating where a car had rear-ended a truck in the heavy traffic
We saw police investigating where a car had rear-ended a truck in the heavy traffic

The destroyed Quik Trip was built in 1989, I remember stopping there in the fall of 1990 on my way to visit a work supervisor who lived in the subdivision behind. QT may have been considering rebuilding the location, though they had likely updated the building in the last 25 years. It’s not hard to imagine Tulsa-based QT deciding to not rebuild this location.

The Walmart & Sam’s Club 2 miles north, both looted Sunday, were also built in 1989.

QT built this larger location at 10768 West Florissant in 2013, just off I-270
QT built this larger location at 10768 West Florissant in 2013, just off I-270, across from Walmart & Sam’s Club
The  McDonald's at 10873 West Florissant, built in 1993, was recently razed for a new building.
The McDonald’s at 10873 West Florissant, built in 1993, was recently razed for a new building.

The issues of the officer who shot Brown, the looters, etc should get resolved through investigation and the courts. The long-term implications for West Florissant can go any number of ways:

  1. Business owners see the looting as a one time thing and resume business as usual.
  2. Businesses remain but begin planning their exit strategy.
  3. Businesses don’t reopen.

Hopefully we’ve seen the worst of the rioting & looting. I want Michael Brown’s family to get the justice they seek.

— Steve Patterson


40th Anniversary of ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’; Planning/Policy Insights

July 28, 2014 Crime, Featured, Popular Culture Comments Off on 40th Anniversary of ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’; Planning/Policy Insights

Today’s post isn’t about St. Louis, but it is about urban planning/policy as observed through popular culture. The movie “Gone in 60 Seconds” premiered 40 years ago today — July 28, 1974. The second half of the movie is a very long chase scene — the police today would never be able to engage a suspect at these speeds.  The star is ‘Eleanor’, a yellow 1973 Ford Mustang Mach I.  By the premier, the ’73 Mustang had been replaced by the Pinto-based Mustang II. My very first car was a ’74 Mustang II, an awful car.

I’m a public transit advocate that’s also a car nut, this movie filmed in 1973 so many cars.

Company Headquarters/Streets

The chase scene passes by the USA headquarters of Datsun
The big chase scene passes by the USA headquarters of Datsun (aka Nissan) then located at 18501 S Figueroa St in Carson, CA

At the time the three biggest Japanese auto manufacturers (Honda, Toyota, & Datsun/Nissan) had their US headquarters very close to each other in Los Angeles County. In late 2005, Nissan announced they were relocating to Tennessee:

Nissan Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said the Japanese automaker, which set up shop in Southern California in 1958, would spend more than $70 million to build a corporate headquarters complex in Franklin, about 15 miles southwest of Nashville.

Ghosn said the widely anticipated decision was prompted chiefly by cheaper real estate and lower business taxes.

“The costs of doing business in Southern California are much higher than the costs of doing business in Tennessee,” he said. (LA Times)

In April of this year Toyota announced it too would leave California:

Toyota is moving to Texas. The Japanese automaker is consolidating its various United States headquarters operations into a single campus in Plano, Tex.

Right now, Toyota’s sales and finance arms are headquartered in California, while its manufacturing and development arms are headquartered in Kentucky. Toyota also has offices in New York City and some of those jobs will also be moved to Texas. (source)

Another article noted Toyota wants to avoid the problems Nissan faced:

In moving its U.S. headquarters out of California, Toyota hopes to avoid some of the problems that Nissan encountered when it did the same thing in 2006.

Sources inside Toyota say they already dissected Nissan North America’s move and were particularly dismayed to see that their Japanese rival lost roughly 60 percent of its 1,300 Los Angeles headquarters staffers and executives when it relocated to Nashville. (source)

So what happened after Nissan left?

Nissan’s plan was treated with alarm by officials, who made a last-ditch effort to keep the automaker in town. Unswayed, Nissan brass turned out the lights and moved their North American headquarters to Nashville in the summer of 2006. After nearly 50 years in Los Angeles County, Nissan’s nerve center was gone.

Left behind was a cluster of 13 buildings, including a nine-story tower topped with a red Nissan sign that was a familiar sight to drivers passing the intersection of the Harbor and San Diego freeways. More than 700,000 square feet of office and light industrial space lay empty.

In Rust Belt cities such as Detroit, many abandoned commercial buildings fall slowly to pieces. But in a sign of the vitality and adaptive nature of the Southern California economy, the 42-acre Nissan campus has been taken over by 11 different businesses that are expected to employ more workers than Nissan did — about 1,400 in all. (Nissan’s old campus in South Bay gets ‘flipped’)

The campus now has multiple owners, employing more total people in diverse industries. In the developer’s words:

Now complete, Kearny South Bay Business Park employs more people than when Nissan occupied the property. Due to demand and the significant improvements made to the campus, the campus was quickly backfilled by firms in diversified sectors including finance, health services, high-tech manufacturing, fashion, automotive, and food processing which helped to re-energize the entire area. Of the 13 buildings, 7 were sold in 2007, 5 in 2008 and the last office building closed in December 2009. Kearny is proud of this transformation. (source)

As you might expect, the area looks different forty years later. South Figueroa St got a planted median to take up some the excess street width.

Similar view as the still from the movie, this image is from a May 2011 Google Street View.
Similar view as the still from the movie, this image is from a May 2011 Google Street View, click image to view in Google.

Property Taxes

The movie car chase conveniently goes by the ground breaking ceremony for a new Sheriff’s office where the announcer says:

“In February 1968 the City of Carson was incorporated and since then it has grown to be one of the fastest growing cities in the southern California area, with a population of over 82,000 and an assessed valuation of nearly $350 million dollars and no property taxes.” Click image to view building on Google Maps.

At the time Carson was a new city in the region, with employers like Datsun and attracting more with the lure of no property taxes.

Carson borders Compton:

Soon, middle class blacks also found other areas more attractive to them. Some were unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County such as Ladera Heights, View Park and Windsor Hills; and others were cities such as Inglewood and, particularly, Carson. The latter was significant because it had successfully thwarted attempts at annexation by neighboring Compton. The city of Carson opted instead for incorporation in 1968, which is notable because its black population was actually more affluent than its white population. As a newer city, it also offered more favorable tax rates and lower crime. 

A more affluent unincorporated area incorporated rather than be annexed by an area losing its tax base, this happened everywhere.

By the time Carson finally incorporated as a city in 1968, its landscape was pockmarked with the dozens of refuse dumps, landfills, and auto dismantling plants which none of its neighbors would have in their own cities.

As a result, the history of the City of Carson since 1968 has, to a large extent, been the history of struggling to deal with these problems caused by its late incorporation. And to its credit, Carson has worked miracles in the short time since its birth as an independent city.

Following its incorporation in 1968, Carson acted swiftly to close down most of the unwanted facilities that had been foisted upon the city in the past, enforcing a strict building and landscaping code, and a working to attract successful new commercial ventures to the city. As a result, most of the heavy industry of the past has been replaced. The new industrial parks in Carson, such as the Watson Industrial Center, are models of cleanliness and attention to appearance. Beautification efforts by the city have resulted in numerous landscaped center medians, lighting projects, street improvements and public parks.

All these services eventually required property taxes.


Carson’s 18.968 sq mi makes it less than a third the size of the City of St. Louis (66.2 sq mi).  St. Louis has a slightly greater population density.


Ronald Moran Cadillac was featured  in the chase, it's now Penske Cadillac.
Ronald Moran Cadillac was featured in the chase, it’s now Penske Cadillac, click image to view in Google Maps.
One of the most memorable scenes was a police car s,mashing into a line of new Cadillacs.
One of the most memorable scenes was a police car s,mashing into a line of Cadillacs.

The chase ended up at the Cadillac dealership after passing by the nearby Mazda dealer.

A camera inside the showroom saw the police set up a road block right out front
A camera inside the showroom saw the police set up a road block right out front. The car in the showroom is likely a 1973 808 (aka RX-3)

Across Hawthorne Blvd was a wall, but now the road is wider with a median. Across the street is a trailer park.

Eleanor had lap seat belts, no shoulder belt. All the cars had round sealed beam headlights, as required by US law. In 1974 the law was changed to allow rectangular sealed beam headlights. It wasn’t until the easily 1980s that more headlight designs were allowed on vehicles sold in the US.

I’ve rambled enough, I’m going to get a big bowl of popcorn and watch this great movie another time. You can watch it on YouTube here or order a DVD at gonein60seconds.com.

— Steve Patterson


New St. Louis Police Headquarters

July 26, 2014 Crime, Downtown, Featured 4 Comments

For the most part a police headquarters isn’t much different than any other office, so reusing a 1990 office building makes perfect sense. During the open house last Saturday I saw every floor of the new St. Louis Police headquarters, it seems like the space worked well for their needs.

2011 Photo
Vacant 1915 Olive in December 2010
Saturday morning before the ribbon cutting
Saturday morning before the ribbon cutting
The open house began while the festivities were still going on outside. We started at the top, 7th floor, and worked our way down floor by floor.
The open house began while the festivities were still going on outside. We started at the top, 7th floor, and worked our way down floor by floor.
The new office of Chief Sam Dotson
The new office of Chief Sam Dotson
View looking north on 19th Street from the 5th floor
View looking north on 19th Street from the 5th floor
The only clue this isn't most offices is the bank of holding cells and nearby interview rooms.
The only clue this isn’t most offices is the bank of holding cells and nearby interview rooms.

It’ll take a few weeks for police and civilian staff to get relocated into the new building. Hopefully having the long-vacant building occupied again will lead to nearby storefronts getting new businesses. The police are leaving their old headquarters built in 1927 because renovating it for their continued use would’ve cost considerably more. Besides, they couldn’t have stayed during renovations.

What will become of the old building?

— Steve Patterson


Poll: Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Archbishop Robert Carlson?

Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar

St. Louis’ Catholic Archbishop, Robert Carlson, was the center of a controversy last week over his testimony in a tapped deposition:

In a letter released Friday night, Carlson said he “misunderstood” a series of questions when he said he was unsure if he was legally obligated to report sexual abuse to police. Carlson had been deposed for a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, where he was previously a bishop. Carlson had a role in handling claims against priests who were accused of sexually abusing children from 1979-1994. (KMOV)

The controversy continues this week.


In the deposition questions about mandatory reporting begin on page 84, it picks up again on pages 108-09. According to a question from one of the lawyers, mandatory reporting became the law in 1973. Carlson served as the Auxiliary Bishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis from 1983–1994, where he handled sex abuse claims.

The poll this week asks your favorably of Robert Carlson, the poll is at the top of the right sidebar.

— Steve Patterson


Poll: Thoughts on St. Louis County Sales Tax Pool

May 11, 2014 Crime, Featured 1 Comment
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar

The City of St. Louis left St. Louis County in 1876 because it didn’t want to share its wealth with the rest of the county, now Chesterfield wants to do the same thing:

Frustrated by the lack of action by the state legislature on a proposed change to the St. Louis County sales tax distribution system that would let his and other cities keep more revenue generated within their boundaries, Chesterfield Mayor Bob Nation is threatening that his city may look at steps that include seceding from St. Louis County and joining St. Charles County. (stltoday)

Responding to the idea of Chesterfield switching counties, officials from both counties dismissed the idea. The article also explains the sales tax system:

The tax pool system was set up in 1977. Municipalities were either designated “point of sale” cities allowed to keep the revenue from the one-cent tax or “pool” cities drawing amounts from a common fund according to population. The pool also includes the county’s unincorporated areas.

Chesterfield was required to be a pool city when it incorporated in 1988. In 1993, the Legislature required point-of-sale cities to divert some of their money from the tax to the pool. Of the county’s 90 municipalities, 57 are pool cities. (stltoday)

More detail on the change 21 years ago:

The system was modified in 1993 to require point-of-sale cities to divert money to the pool. Many leaders of point-of-sale cities have called it a bad deal ever since. The system was intended as a compromise between municipalities with big shopping centers and those without, all of which have residents who go shopping. Richmond Heights, home to the Galleria, is a point-of-sale city. Florissant and University City are in the pool. (stltoday)

Chesterfield isn’t alone, mayors from other “point of sale” cities want to keep all/more of the revenue generated within their municipal boundaries. The poll this week seeks to find out what readers think, if anything, should be done to the current system. The poll is in the right sidebar.

— Steve Patterson





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