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Can St. Louis Learn From Newark NJ & Cory Booker?

I’ve seen Cory Booker  on TV and in the news. Booker is the young mayor of Newark NJ. To some of you, 42 may not be young, but anything younger than me (44) is young in my book.

ABOVE: The Manhattan skyline as seen from the NJ Turnpike on January 15, 2008

I’ve been to Newark once.  More accurately, I saw the highway exit as I was driving to Rhode Island in January 2008. I wanted to stop and visit, but my schedule didn’t permit.

Troubled cities are attractive to me for some reason, perhaps the challenge of reversing negative trends? Newark, like Detroit and St. Louis, has serious issues.  I knew in 2008 that Newark had this new mayor, 37 when he was elected mayor. Booker’s lost to 4-term incumbent Sharpe James in 2002 but when James didn’t seek a 6th term in 2006 Booker won the non-partisan election.

As I watched Street Fight, the documentary of the 2002 race, I couldn’t help think of parallels to St. Louis:


Old urban city with a large African-American population, poor performing public schools, poverty & high crime, entrenched machine politics and the dirty tricks that go along with that to discourage challengers.

Famed urban engineer Harland Bartholomew worked for Newark before coming to St. Louis.  We’d have been better off had he stayed there.

Newark does have some differences from St. Louis. Their elections are non-partisan, their municipal council has only 9 members – five from wards and four at-large. Corruption in Newark is so bad “where every mayor since 1962 (except the current one, Cory Booker) has been indicted for crimes committed while in office.” (Newsweek)

I plan to learn more about Newark’s efforts to reduce violent crime, improve schools and attract jobs. I’ve started watching episodes of Sundance Channel’s Brick City series.

– Steve Patterson



Readers Overwhelmingly Support Bill Regulating Scrap Metal Dealers

ABOVE: Cash's Scrap Metal on N. Broadway couldn't pay customers in cash is a new bill becomes law

Last week readers voted overwhelmingly in support of BB86 which sets up requirements for scrap metal dealers to help reduce metal theft:

  1. Good, something needs to stop metal thieves 94 [77.69%]
  2. Something needs to be done but mailing checks isn’t realistic 15 [12.4%]
  3. Other answer… 5 [4.13%]
  4. Bad, more government regulation of private business 4 [3.31%]
  5. Requiring the mailing of checks will hurt honest scrappers 3 [2.48%]
  6. Unsure/no opinion 0 [0%]

The five other answers were:

  1. both the 3rd and 4th option
  2. I need more time to educate myself on the scrap industry and the legislation.
  3. Expropriate the property of all scrap/brick dealers
  4. Give them checks do not mail them.
  5. take photo, match to drivers license before paying

I still think requiring computerization and the mailing of checks is unrealistic. Time will tell.

– Steve Patterson



Poll: Should Scrap Metal Dealers Be Required To Mail Checks Rather Than Pay Cash?

ABOVE: Cash's Scrap Metal on N. Broadway couldn't pay customers in cash is a new bill becomes law

The poll this week relates to a bill at the Board of Aldermen:

The ordinance would force scrap yards to stop dealing in cash and to computerize records of what they buy and from whom. They could only accept air-conditioner coils from certified technicians and could lose their business license if they violate the ordinance.

It is the first item — requiring scrap dealers to pay their customers by a mailed check — that is causing the most consternation. But that’s the one element police say is a must if the city wants to curb scrap metal thefts that are costing property owners thousands in repairs and driving rehabbers out of St. Louis.

Since 2010, the city has seen more than $6 million in scrap metal thefts, $1.5 million of that since March. Police say drug addicts who steal scrap and sell it to support their daily habits would lose interest without the immediate payout of cash. (STLtoday.com)

Board Bill #86 sponsored by  16th ward Ald Donna Baringer on June 3, 2011. Co-sponsors listed are Troupe, Arnowitz, Wessels, Boyd, and Cohn:

An ordinance pertaining to the purchase or resale of scrap metal; repealing Ordinance 67424, presently codified as Section 15.159 of the Revised Code of the City of St. Louis, pertaining to electronic database requirements, purchasing HVAC scrap metal, establishing licensing requirements and rules and regulations for persons doing business in the City of St. Louis as scrap metal merchants; containing definitions; a penalty clause, a severability clause and an emergency clause.

I’ve read opposition on Facebook, saying this bill, if passed, will hurt legit guys who collect metal for a living. The argument is they depend on cash to buy food and pay rent.

I don’t have a strong opinion, but I’d like to see how readers feel about this issue so this is the poll topic this week. As always, the poll is in the upper right corner of the blog.

– Steve Patterson



Broken Planter Discouraging to See

February 15, 2011 Crime, Downtown 7 Comments
ABOVE: broken planter on Washington Ave sidewalk between 15th & 16th.

Not quite sure what to say about this broken planter I spotted last week.  Mostly I’m curious about who would do this and why.  My first thought was someone out partying after they’d had too much to drink. It was definitely discouraging to see.

– Steve Patterson


St. Louis Natives vs. Newbies

ABOVE: St. Louis' street grid was a recent topic of conversation. Click to view in Google Maps

Last week I posted the following as my status on Facebook:

“I’ve got a couple of friends who are new to St. Louis. Ray & John arrived about the same time, one from SF, one from NYC. The other night at The Royale John was talking about how great the street grid is here! It is just so nice talking to non-natives because they tend to “get it” more than those born here.”

In a short amount of time a heated discussion broke out among my friends, getting nearly 50 comments very quickly.  My original point that those not from here don’t “get it” like those that move here as adults got lost in a debate about St. Louis vs. Kansas City.

Over the weekend a friend told me of a woman from West County that was certain she’d be shot and killed driving to the federal building downtown. In law enforcement, she had a weapon and was planning to wear Kevlar.  She doesn’t like going east of Lindbergh Blvd. Amazing people think like this!?!

Those new to St. Louis, especially those from more urban areas, seek out the urban areas of St. Louis whereas suburbanites often, but not always, fear urban areas. I’m dumbfounded each time I hear stories of people my age living in the region who are afraid to enter the city limits. So I often seek out those who move here from outside the region because it is all new to them.  I get to share my favorite restaurants & pubs, talking about architecture, the street grid — the raw potential.

My two new friends came here for work.  Had they found work in other cities they wouldn’t be here.  But they are quick learners, getting to know our people and institutions better than many who have lived here for years.

I know many natives, of course, who get it, who seek out urbanity rather than fear it.  I love my conversations with them as well but the thrill of introducing a newbie to gems in St. Louis is such fun.  I want them to tell their friends on the coasts of the potential here, the friendly people, the inexpensive cost of living, etc.  Each one needs to get several friends to visit with one deciding to move here.  Eventually it will snowball.  100,000 new residents from each coast would do the trick.

The ratio of natives to newbies would shift and so would the political winds. Sure, it will take a while, but I’m not going anywhere.

– Steve Patterson




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