Home » Featured » Recent Articles:

Sunday Poll: Is Recycling Worth The Trouble?

September 16, 2018 Environment, Featured, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Is Recycling Worth The Trouble?
Please vote below

Recycling, like many businesses, is changing.

Recycling has worked well for the last 40 years because recycled waste was valuable and in high demand in countries around the world.

The United States has historically sold most of its recycled goods to China. 

But new restrictions from the Chinese government on imported recyclables have demanded that the materials have very, very little contamination, or in the case of paper, that it is processed into pulp before reaching their shores. 

Typically, contamination is a people issue. Plastic or paper with food remnants on it — like your greasy pizza box — cannot be recycled because those contaminants would mess up the refining process.

Contamination levels in America are at 25 percent right now, meaning 1 out 4 items in a recycling bin should actually be thrown in the trash, according to Waste Management. But China wants the contamination levels down to 0.3 percent, which is effectively code for “we will not be accepting any imported recyclable materials.” (Mashable)

Kirkwood, a suburb of St. Louis, had decided to end its curbside recycling program after it learned rather than making money on each ton — it would now be charged.

After residents complained about the plan to end curbside recycling, city officials pledged on Thursday to continue the program, which had been set to end next month.
Bill Bensing, public services director, said the city would use sanitation department reserve funds to sustain the current single-stream recycling program and absorb extra costs for six to 12 months until more economical, sustainable alternatives are found. Kirkwood, unlike many other cities, operates its own sanitation department.
Single-stream recycling allows a variety of recyclables — plastic, cardboard, paper and aluminum — to be mingled together in a single residential cart. (Post-Dispatch)

Today’s poll is about — you guessed it — recycling.

This poll will close at 8pm tonight, I’ll have the results and thoughts on Wednesday morning.

— Steve Patterson

 

St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills Week 15 of 2018-2019 Session

September 14, 2018 Board of Aldermen, Featured Comments Off on St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills Week 15 of 2018-2019 Session
St. Louis City Hall

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen will meet at 10am today, the 15th meeting of the 2018-2019 session.

Today’s agenda (version 1 as of 10am yesterday includes seven (7) new bills:

  • B.B.#109 – Muhammad – An Ordinance for the creation of a disconnected youth task force to study the obstacles to education and employment to disconnected youth in the City, and requiring said task force to compile a report of their findings and recommendations to be submitted to the Mayor and a Board of Aldermen standing committee to be designated by the President of the Board of Aldermen, within one (1) year following the first meeting of the task force.
  • B.B.#110 – Williamson -An ordinance recommended by the Board of Estimate and Apportionment authorizing the issuance and delivery of not to exceed Fifty Million Dollars ($50,000,000) principal amount of General Obligation Bonds, series 2018,
    for the purposes of paying the costs of the project and the costs of issuance of such bonds, all for the general welfare, safety, and benefit of the citizens of the City; containing a severability clause; and containing an emergency clause.
  • B.B.#111 – Howard – An Ordinance recommended by the Planning Commission, to change the zoning of property as indicated onthe District Map, from “A” Single-Family Dwelling District and “F” Neighborhood Commercial to the “F” NeighborhoodCommercial District, in City Block 5177 (5347-53 Nottingham); and containing an emergency clause.
  • B.B.#112 – Coatar – An Ordinance establishing a three-way stop site at the intersection of Missouri Avenue and Ann Avenue regulating all traffic traveling southbound on Missouri at Ann and regulating all traffic traveling eastbound and westbound on Ann at Missouri, and containing an emergency clause.
  • B.B.#113 – Vollmer – An ordinance approving a Redevelopment Plan for the 3201 Morgan Ford.
  • B.B.#114 – Davis – An ordinance approving a Redevelopment Plan for 2811-15 Locust.
  • B.B.#115 – Kennedy – An ordinance approving a Redevelopment Plan for 408 – 410 N. Sarah.

The meeting begins at 10am, past meetings and a live broadcast can be watched online here. See list of all board bills for the 2017-2018 session — the new bills listed above may not be online right away.

— Steve Patterson

 

Opinion: Illinois & Missouri Need To Study ‘Vehicle Miles Driven’ Tax To Replace Fuel Taxes

September 12, 2018 Featured, Missouri, Politics/Policy, Transportation Comments Off on Opinion: Illinois & Missouri Need To Study ‘Vehicle Miles Driven’ Tax To Replace Fuel Taxes
Fuel prices include taxes in the posted price

The recent non-scientific Sunday Poll on how Illinois should fund road infrastructure maintenance/improvements was because of current political commercials in their heated race for governor.

J.B. Pritzker is up with a new ad, attacking GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner and an affiliate of the Republican Governors Association over ads criticizing the Democratic governor candidate about a vehicle mileage tax.

The Rauner ad features a woman identified as “Denise Smith” warning that Pritzker “wants a car tax, which will also come along with a tracking device.” State Solutions, an RGA affiliate, accuses Pritzker in an ad of plans for a 1.5-cent-per-mile vehicle mileage tax.

Pritzker in January told the Daily Herald the idea of a vehicle mileage tax was worth “exploring” but has since said he was open to ideas on how to pay for a capital bill and wasn’t wedded to it. He did not identify a specific amount of mileage tax as the State Solutions ad alleges. (Chicago Tribune)

I used the following, from a 2016 article, to explain Illinois’ options for paying for needed roads, as outlined by the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC):

GAS TAX
The MPC argues the state will need to raise $2.7 billion a year, half to spend and half to go towards bonds:

This is equivalent to a $0.30/gal increase in state motor fuel taxes and a 50 percent increase in vehicle registration fees. The tax and fees should be indexed to the consumer price index to keep pace with inflation. MPC recommends the state constitution be amended to create a transportation trust fund to protect this revenue. To acknowledge the effect of these increases on lower- and middle-income Illinoisans, the state earned income tax credit should double to 20 percent of the federal amount.

Because the state’s motor fuel tax has been unchanged for so long, Illinoisans are paying far less for road maintenance today when inflation is calculated:

The Illinois Senate has used the MPC’s estimates to draft legislation that would raise the gas tax by 30 cents, making it the highest gas tax in the nation.

Of course, not everyone is happy with that proposal. The Illinois Chamber of Commerce says Illinois needs to look into other options to fix roads. The Chamber’s recommendation includes an increased state income tax and a lower wholesale gas tax, while getting rid of some tax exemptions for goods like food and medicine.

MILEAGE TAX

Senate President John Cullerton has proposed a different way to get around a gas tax hike; a mileage tax. Illinoisans would pay 1.5 cents per mile in one of three payment options. From the Daily Herald:

Drivers could have a device that tracks the miles through geolocation technology, charging only for the miles driven on public highways and roads.

Alternatively, they could have an odometer tracker, which reports only number of miles driven, not where. The downside to this, notes Susan Martinovich of CH2M, an environmental and engineering consulting firms, is that drivers would be charged for miles driven out of state.

Finally, Illinoisans could opt out of installing any devices and pay a flat mileage tax of 1.5 cents per mile for 30,000 miles.

A mileage tax would also help the state raise revenue even as gas usage declines, thanks to better fuel efficiency and electric cars. The MPC’s plan also recommended Illinois stop raising funds tied to gas purchases eventually. It pushed for a mileage tax system by 2025. (GovTech.com)

Cullerton, a Democrat, introduced SB3267 in February 2016. It never got far in the legislative process.

I want to step back from politics and look at the big picture.

The first US state tax on fuel was introduced in February 1919 in Oregon. It was a 1¢/gal tax. In the following decade, all of the US states (48 at the time), along with the District of Columbia, introduced a gasoline tax. By 1939, an average tax of 3.8¢/gal (1¢/L) of fuel was levied by the individual states.

In the years since being created, state fuel taxes have undergone many revisions.[6] While most fuel taxes were initially levied as a fixed number of cents per gallon, as of 2016, nineteen states and District of Columbia have fuel taxes with rates that vary alongside changes in the price of fuel, the inflation rate, vehicle fuel-economy, or other factors. (Wikipedia)

The first federal fuel tax happened after all the states had fuel taxes — in 1932 during the end of the Hoover administration. The initial temporary tax became permanent.  Eventually federal fuel taxes became part of a trust fund for roads. All was good for decades, but then it began to change:

The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards are regulations in the United States, first enacted by the United States Congress in 1975, after the 1973–74 Arab Oil Embargo, to improve the average fuel economy of cars and light trucks (trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles) produced for sale in the United States. (Wikipedia)

These CAFE standards have been highly effective at improving the fuel economy of vehicles. Less fuel, however, means less revenue for roads. Politicians at the state & federal levels are reluctant to increase fuel taxes. The smart solution is to look at a Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) tax. Oregon, the first state with a fuel tax became the first state to begin a test of a mileage tax.

Way back in 2001, Oregon recognized the problem that many state legislatures are now staring down: gas tax revenue is falling inexorably as vehicles become more fuel-efficient, threatening transportation budgets. The state launched a task force that investigated 28 alternative funding mechanisms before selecting a mileage tax as the one that best met a wide range of criteria: fairness, efficacy, ease of implementation, public acceptance, enforceability, privacy protection, etc.

In 2006, the state recruited 299 volunteers for participation in a year-long trial of a prototype system. Because any real-world mileage tax will be phased in over a long period of time, it has to harmonize with the existing gas tax. The Oregon experiment neatly solved this problem with a pay-at-the-pump system:

* A small GPS receiver in participants’ cars tracked miles driven.
* When participants went to the gas station to fill up, a wireless scanner at the pump detected the GPS receiver and recorded the car’s current mileage, which was then sent to a central database to determine miles driven since the last payment. No specific location data was transmitted.
* The payment system at the gas station applied either the standard gas tax (for cars that didn’t have a GPS system) or the mileage tax (for participating cars). The experiment was designed to be revenue neutral, so fees were about the same in either case. (Terrapass)

Of course, a VMT tax also has drawbacks:

Poor, disadvantaged, and rural people tend to commute farther than the affluent, and drive less efficient cars. The gas tax already charges them disproportionately. A straightforward VMT would too. Any lawmakers crafting a Vehicle Miles Traveled framework would need to consider such concerns. Again, technology could come to the rescue, identifying drivers who merit discounts or subsidies. (Wired)

If the feds & states all switched to a VMT tax to replace fuel taxes we’d see much more compact development, greater use of public transit. etc. — in a few generations. Missouri & Illinois should both join Oregon & others in studying VMT:

California is conducting a pilot VMT study, and the state of Washington is expected to conduct one, as well. Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania have all applied for federal support to test how a VMT tax could work across multiple states. (Brookings)

It’s time to change how we fund road construction.

— Steve Patterson

 

Accessibility Details: Soap Dispensers & Trash Receptacles in Public Restrooms

September 10, 2018 Accessibility, Featured, Planning & Design Comments Off on Accessibility Details: Soap Dispensers & Trash Receptacles in Public Restrooms

Before the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 there was Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973:

Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act was the first disability civil rights law to be enacted in the United States. It prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in programs that receive federal financial assistance, and set the stage for enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Section 504 works together with the ADA and IDEA to protect children and adults with disabilities from exclusion, and unequal treatment in schools, jobs and the community. (Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund)

Section 504 was added to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 four years later, in 1977.  It has been over four decades since we first began to construct buildings accessible to the disabled, and more than three decades prior to my becoming disabled due to a stroke in February 2008.  Though significantly better than they were decades ago, things still aren’t quite right.

Today a few of minor examples: public restroom soap dispensers & trash receptacles.

After using a public restroom the ability of me to use soap to wash my hand depends on access to the soap dispenser. At the Culinaria grocery store downtown the two soap dispensers are wall-mounted very high in corners. When I’m in my wheelchair it takes a lot of stretching to reach the one on the right. Not everyone who uses a wheelchair can stretch that far.

DuPont, formerly Solae

At Solae (now DuPont) at CORTEX, the soap dispenser is on the side of the sink — much easier to reach — but I still can’t get any soap from it.

This dispenser is very long, it’a designed for use with two hands — one to press down so soap comes out on the other.

I have two hands, but use of my left remains very limited. Shorter dispensers of this type I can use one-handed, pressing down at the back while getting soap on part. Long dispensers like the one at Solae/DuPont is completely useless to me.

Soap dispensers are, generally speaking, specified when buildings are designed/constructed.  My other issue is with trash receptacles, this is either because a good location wasn’t part of the original design or the occupants moved them to be in the way.

BJC’s recently completed Center for Outpatient Health on the NW corner of Forest Park & Euclid
I love how the main entrance off Euclid is a very wide ramp, with steps off to the side — the opposite of so many older buildings with wide steps and a narrow ramp on the side.
I also love how inside they have touch-free “buttons” to open bathroom doors.
Thankfully the first floor bathroom has two sinks & paper towel dispensers, because the trash receptacle prevents me from reaching the left side.  These soap dispensers are mounted low enough to be usable.

In the restroom above there really is no other spot where a trash can could be located. This might have been a good candidate for one under the vanity with the hole in the center, or a wall-mounted paper towel/trash unit.

To make matters worse, what doesn’t work for me may work great for another disabled person. And vice versa.

The take away from this post is details matter. Architects, designers, facilities managers, occupants, and owners of public buildings need to think about the little things. Hiring a disability expert  to review projects during design can reduce user issues.

Still, I’m grateful for the ADA, building codes, etc. that have made public restrooms significantly better than they were decades ago.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Sunday Poll: How Should Illinois Increase Revenue To Fund Road Maintenance?

September 9, 2018 Featured, Sunday Poll, Taxes Comments Off on Sunday Poll: How Should Illinois Increase Revenue To Fund Road Maintenance?
Please vote below

Due to budget issues Illinois has been delaying road maintenance for many years, an issue in the current race for Governor.  The following, from a 2016 article, explains the options as outlined by the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC):

GAS TAX
The MPC argues the state will need to raise $2.7 billion a year, half to spend and half to go towards bonds:

This is equivalent to a $0.30/gal increase in state motor fuel taxes and a 50 percent increase in vehicle registration fees. The tax and fees should be indexed to the consumer price index to keep pace with inflation. MPC recommends the state constitution be amended to create a transportation trust fund to protect this revenue. To acknowledge the effect of these increases on lower- and middle-income Illinoisans, the state earned income tax credit should double to 20 percent of the federal amount.

Because the state’s motor fuel tax has been unchanged for so long, Illinoisans are paying far less for road maintenance today when inflation is calculated:

The Illinois Senate has used the MPC’s estimates to draft legislation that would raise the gas tax by 30 cents, making it the highest gas tax in the nation.

Of course, not everyone is happy with that proposal. The Illinois Chamber of Commerce says Illinois needs to look into other options to fix roads. The Chamber’s recommendation includes an increased state income tax and a lower wholesale gas tax, while getting rid of some tax exemptions for goods like food and medicine.

MILEAGE TAX

Senate President John Cullerton has proposed a different way to get around a gas tax hike; a mileage tax. Illinoisans would pay 1.5 cents per mile in one of three payment options. From the Daily Herald:

Drivers could have a device that tracks the miles through geolocation technology, charging only for the miles driven on public highways and roads.

Alternatively, they could have an odometer tracker, which reports only number of miles driven, not where. The downside to this, notes Susan Martinovich of CH2M, an environmental and engineering consulting firms, is that drivers would be charged for miles driven out of state.

Finally, Illinoisans could opt out of installing any devices and pay a flat mileage tax of 1.5 cents per mile for 30,000 miles.

A mileage tax would also help the state raise revenue even as gas usage declines, thanks to better fuel efficiency and electric cars. The MPC’s plan also recommended Illinois stop raising funds tied to gas purchases eventually. It pushed for a mileage tax system by 2025. (GovTech.com)

So the question is how should Illinois proceed? Today’s poll includes the options listed above along with an option for “do nothing” and “unsure”. The poll’s options are presented in random order.

This poll will close at 8pm tonight.

— Steve Patterson

 

Advertisement



FACEBOOK POSTS

Where am I?

Bonus questions:
- name current & at least one prior occupant
- what’s behind me?
- what’s in a different part of this building, facing a different street?
... See MoreSee Less

1 day ago  ·  

Archives

Categories

Advertisement


Subscribe