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Opinion: Repeal 2nd Amendment To Return To ‘Collective Rights’ Over ‘Individual Rights’

August 21, 2019 Featured, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Opinion: Repeal 2nd Amendment To Return To ‘Collective Rights’ Over ‘Individual Rights’
Gun show billboard, 2011

There’s something about the United States that sets us apart from everywhere else in the world when it comes to gun violence. Some try to blame video games or mental health, but the those aren’t unique to the U.S.

Part of what is different is the constitutional right to bear arms, but that is read one of two ways: collective rights or individual rights.

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Such language has created considerable debate regarding the Amendment’s intended scope. On the one hand, some believe that the Amendment’s phrase “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” creates an individual constitutional right for citizens of the United States. Under this “individual right theory,” the United States Constitution restricts legislative bodies from prohibiting firearm possession, or at the very least, the Amendment renders prohibitory and restrictive regulation presumptively unconstitutional. On the other hand, some scholars point to the prefatory language “a well regulated Militia” to argue that the Framers intended only to restrict Congress from legislating away a state’s right to self-defense. Scholars have come to call this theory “the collective rights theory.” A collective rights theory of the Second Amendment asserts that citizens do not have an individual right to possess guns and that local, state, and federal legislative bodies therefore possess the authority to regulate firearms without implicating a constitutional right. (Wex Legal Dictionary)

Until 2008 the collective rights theory was accepted as the meaning of the militia reference in the Second Amendment. The late  John Paul Stevens, appointed to the Supreme Court by Republican Gerald Ford, wrote a couple of opinion pieces about gun violence and the constitution.

From 2012, two years after retiring:

The first 10 amendments to the Constitution placed limits on the powers of the new federal government. Concern that a national standing army might pose a threat to the security of the separate states led to the adoption of the Second Amendment, which provides that “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

For more than 200 years following the adoption of that amendment, federal judges uniformly understood that the right protected by that text was limited in two ways: First, it applied only to keeping and bearing arms for military purposes, and second, while it limited the power of the federal government, it did not impose any limit whatsoever on the power of states or local governments to regulate the ownership or use of firearms. Thus, in United States v. Miller, decided in 1939, the court unanimously held that Congress could prohibit the possession of a sawed-off shotgun because that sort of weapon had no reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a “well regulated Militia.” (Washington Post)

The individual states that formed the Union were concerned about a national army that might infringe on their rights as a state. Remember, the Bill of Rights was ratified in December 1791 — not long after independence from England.

Justice Stevens again, from March 2018:

During the years when Warren Burger was our chief justice, from 1969 to 1986, no judge, federal or state, as far as I am aware, expressed any doubt as to the limited coverage of that amendment. When organizations like the National Rifle Association disagreed with that position and began their campaign claiming that federal regulation of firearms curtailed Second Amendment rights, Chief Justice Burger publicly characterized the N.R.A. as perpetrating “one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”

In 2008, the Supreme Court overturned Chief Justice Burger’s and others’ long-settled understanding of the Second Amendment’s limited reach by ruling, in District of Columbia v. Heller, that there was an individual right to bear arms. I was among the four dissenters.

That decision — which I remain convinced was wrong and certainly was debatable — has provided the N.R.A. with a propaganda weapon of immense power. Overturning that decision via a constitutional amendment to get rid of the Second Amendment would be simple and would do more to weaken the N.R.A.’s ability to stymie legislative debate and block constructive gun control legislation than any other available option. (New York Times)

In 2018 Stevens argued for repealing the 2nd Amendment. I agree. The individual rights fraud pushed by the N.R.A. is partly to blame for gun violence that sets the United States apart from every other nation. A pistol in the home for self-defense is fine, but buying dozens of assault rifles and ammunition in a short period of time is not.

The recent non-scientific Sunday Poll was hijacked — more than twice the number of usual responses. The highly skewed results are visible in the original post, so I’m not going to reprint them here.

— Steve Patterson

 

Reflections on the Recent Jehovah’s Witness Conventions This Month

August 19, 2019 Featured, Parking, Walkability Comments Off on Reflections on the Recent Jehovah’s Witness Conventions This Month

A large convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses was just in St. Louis. An advance group came through at the beginning of August, the main (larger) group just left yesterday. They made an impression on me, but not about beliefs — I’m still an atheist. Let me explain.

The area across Cole Street from The Dome was going to become “The Bottle District” over a decade ago. It never happened. Usually it’s just vacant and unsightly.

Jersey barriers blocked off many streets. Looking East from 7th & Biddle, March 2019
Looking North March 2019
Looking south on Broadway

In early August we noticed the first group making changes.

One of the most visible things they did was paint one side of the barriers this soft green color.
They had equipment and were busy moving/rearranging barriers in the vacant lots.

When the recent group arrived it became clear why all that work had been done. To prep the vacant lots (all of them) for parking.

This past weekend usually vacant lots were filled with cars, saw many out of state license plates.
6th Streets runs north-south through the vacant lots, they used cones to designate a pedestrian area of the street width.

The other thing they did that caught my eye is they put down bright tape to highlight potential trip hazards around The Dome.

There were a lot more, couldn’t photograph them all. Sometimes it was missing bricks, others were raised bricks. Still others were just uneven areas.

I love that they go to so effort to make sure their membership doesn’t fall and injure themselves.  Perhaps our Convention & Visitors Commission could learn a lesson from our recent guests? Perhaps Paul McKee could develop or sell the “Bottle District” land?

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: The 2nd Amendment

August 18, 2019 Featured, Politics/Policy, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: The 2nd Amendment
Please vote below

This year has been violent:

When gun violence erupts in America, the local mayor is often the first to comfort families and try to heal their community. So far this year, there have been more than 35,000 incidents of gun violence in America — 261 of which are considered mass shootings — blamed for more than 9,200 deaths.

CBS News national correspondent Adriana Diaz spoke to four mayors, one of whom had to respond to a massacre less than two weeks ago. Nan Whaley of Dayton, Ohio, Bobby Dyer of Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Christine Hunschofsky of Parkland, Florida have all had to help their cities heal after a mass shooting. Washington, D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser addresses gun violence on a continual basis. Together, they’re part of a growing bipartisan chorus of local politicians pushing Congress to take action on guns. (CBS News)

St. Louis hasn’t been immune:

When classes resumed this week at public schools in St. Louis, some desks were noticeably empty as grief counselors greeted students returning from one of the deadliest summers for childrenin the city’s history.

Xavier Usanga, a 7-year-old student at Clay Elementary School, was killed by a stray bullet while playing near his home Monday, a day before he was to begin the second grade, his family said.

The boy’s death marked the seventh child under the age of 17 killed by gun violence in St. Louis this year, police said. All but two of the victims were slain since school let out in June, and police have expressed frustration about the unsolved killings. (ABC News)

Inevitably the 2nd Amendment comes up whenever guns, and gun regulations, are discussed. So it is the subject of today’s non-scientific poll:

Today’s poll will close at 8pm tonight. Wednesday I’ll have the results and my thoughts.

– Steve Patterson

 

Time For St. Louis To Decide What The Area Around A Future MLS Stadium Should Look Like, How It Should Function

August 16, 2019 Accessibility, Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Walkability Comments Off on Time For St. Louis To Decide What The Area Around A Future MLS Stadium Should Look Like, How It Should Function

On Wednesday a long expected, though still unconfirmed, report indicated St. Louis will be the next city to get a Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion team.

Major League Soccer will award an expansion franchise to St. Louis, a source close to the prospective ownership group has confirmed to ESPN. The deal is expected to be announced as soon as next Tuesday.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch was first to report that St. Louis will be MLS’s 28th team.

The ownership group, MLS4TheLou, declined to directly comment on the reports, issuing the following statement: “Major League Soccer is responsible for the timing of any announcements around League expansion, but we remain confident St. Louis has made a strong case for a team.”

MLS didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.” (ESPN)

Now that it looks likely the team and new stadium will happen we can delve more seriously into the design of the stadium and, more importantly, the surrounding blocks.

My map of the area from 2016

Nearly four months ago we got our first look at the proposed stadium, here’s how I ended my post then:

Here’s what I think about the site, both north & south of Market Street:

  • The stadium & new buildings should take advantage of the existing hole for basement or underground parking.
  • Market Street between 20th & 21st is a deteriorating bridge, it should be removed. Under it can be filled in with foam so a new road/sidewalks can be built at grade.
  • Market Street should be redesigned to be friendly to pedestrians. This means narrowing the road (fewer, narrower lanes) and more crossing points. Right now there’s a crosswalk at 20th and at Jefferson –this is nearly a half a mile without a crossing.
  • Hopefully the changes at Union Station, including the upcoming Farris Wheel along 20th Street, will mean easier access under the train shed between the Union Station MetroLink platform on the East side of 18th to the new MLS stadium.
  • Metro will need to rethink downtown circulation with a revised Union Station, a MLS stadium, and hopefully active surroundings.
  • Pine & Chestnut have been a one-way couplet for decades. Once the on/off ramps to/from I-64 are gone both streets should be returned to two-way traffic. The revised Soldiers Memorial, however, has only one eastbound lane on Chestnut between 13th-14th.  Chestnut has our only protected bike lane.

I’ll probably think of more issues, hopefully the site planning being done now will address at least some of these.

My views haven’t changed, but I do have some additional thoughts now that we’re getting close. Most are questions, in no particular order:

  • We still need to see a proposed site plan. What is the current ownership of the current land?  How much city & state property will exist beyond the stadium boundaries? Is the stadium site too small? Too large?
  • Because not everything will get built by the date of the first match, we need to think long-term. What might this large vacant hole look like in 10-15-20 years? What do we as a community want it to look like?
  • I think minority businesses should get work from infrastructure improvements, stadium, and new construction adjacent to the stadium. Big investments are being made, every part of the community should benefit.
  • We need to plan an area larger than the stadium — I-64 on the South (since it’s a hard boundary), the West side of Jefferson (since the city is looking at Jefferson changes to accommodate the coming NGA West headquarters further North, to the North I’d say at least include Locust. To the East Union  Station is a hard boundary but there are development opportunities surrounding the historic train station (16th, perhaps 14th).
  • Housing should be included within the larger area described above. This should be at all price points from low-income to high-end. It should include purchase & rental.
  • Hopefully we can agree that new low-density uses like gas stations & stand-alone fast food restaurants would be inappropriate.
  • Pedestrian circulation needs to be considered as much, or more, than vehicular circulation. We’re going to have lots of visitors coming into town for future MLS matches, they need to be able to fly into St. Louis, take MetroLink to Union Station, easily walk to their hotel, walk from their hotel to the stadium, patronizing local businesses along the way. Will pedestrians be able to freely walk from 18th to 20th through the Union Station train shed, or will they be forced to go up to Market Street?
  • New infrastructure (water, sewer, electric, etc) needs to be planned for future development. Initial surface parking lots should be development sites in the future. For example, we shouldn’t need to move a water line just five years later.
  • Unlike Ballpark Village, the surroundings shouldn’t all be owned by the team ownership. It shouldn’t even be just one entity. A different company might work each direction from the stadium. The community plan, hopefully with form-based zoning, will ensure they all work to create what we want this area to become over time.
  • How can we make the area active on days without a match? One option might be having one street where restaurants are concentrated on both sides. Or maybe just at all corners?
  • How do we create a good West terminus to The Gateway Mall? Currently there’s a little bit of the linear park west of 20th Street.  Do we end at 20th? End at a new 21st?  At a new 22nd?
  • Will there be a place for match-day events? A side street that gets closed? A plaza adjacent to the stadium? The west end of The Gateway Mall?
  • Though this area is part of the Downtown West neighborhood, the stadium area needs a good name. This will help identify this district.

My fear is the rush to get a new stadium built mistakes with long-term consequences will be made. We’ve got one chance to do this right.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers Primarily Grocery Shop At Large Supermarkets

August 14, 2019 Featured, Retail Comments Off on Readers Primarily Grocery Shop At Large Supermarkets

The recent non-scientific Sunday Poll was to see where readers get their groceries. No surprise, large supermarkets was the top answer.

Local supermarket chain Dierbergs, 12599 Olive. 2015 photo

Here are the results:

Q: What are the three types of places where you get most of your food? Purchased in store or delivered.

  1. Full-service large supermarket (Dierbergs, Schnucks, Whole Foods): 21 [29.58%]
  2. Discount Grocery Chain (ALDI, Ruler, etc): 11 [15.49%]
  3. Medium Grocery (Culinaria, Straub’s, Trader Joe’s, Fields Foods, Lucky’s, Fresh Thyme, etc.): 10 [14.08%]
  4. Big Box (Target, Walmart, etc): 9 [12.68%]
  5. Warehouse (Costco, Sam’s): 7 [9.86%]
  6. Farmers’ market (Soulard, Tower Grove, etc): 6 [8.45%]
  7. TIE: 2 [2.82%]
    1. Mail order (Amazon, meal kits, etc)
    2. N/A – I eat out
  8. TIE: : 1 [1.41%]
    1. Convenience store (7-11, QT, etc)
    2. Local/small grocer (Local Harvest Grocery , Vincents, etc.
    3. Other: Grow it
  9. TIE: 0 [0%]
    1. Drug Store (CVS, Walgreens)
    2. Food Pantry
    3. Food Co-op
    4. International grocer (Jay’s, etc)

What’s interesting to me is the rise of ALDI. Last week I noted the new ALDI at Gravois Plaza, replacing the South Grand location, was my new favorite grocery store in the city.

Aldi has more than 1,800 stores in 35 states and is focused on growing in the Midwest, the Mid-Atlantic, Florida and California. It’s on track to become America’s third largest supermarket chain behind Walmart and Kroger, with 2,500 stores by the end of 2022. Its close competitor Lidl, another German grocer with a similar low-cost business model, is racing to grow in the United States, too. (CNN)

I’ve been hearing about the other German grocery chain mention above, Lidl. In 2017 they planned to open their first 100 stores in America, starting on the East coast.  But they had problems and didn’t reach their goal.  It may be some time before they reach St. Louis, if at all.

Schnucks family members cutting the ribbon at Culinaria on August 11, 2009

The grocery business operates on very slim profit margins and competition in most of the region is fierce. Other parts of St. Louis are food deserts.

“There’s a cultural aspect to food,” said Tosha Phonix, food justice organizer for the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. “People don’t know how to cook.”

Studies back up those claims. One, from 2015, found putting government-subsidized grocery stores in low-access neighborhoods did little to change people’s diets. Another, from the National Bureau for Economic Research, found education and income levels were much more indicative of people’s food behaviors than proximity to a supermarket.

Community-led solutions and education are key to making people healthier, Phonix said.

“The grocery stores aren’t coming back,” she said. Alternative models of stores, such as farmers markets and co-ops, can assure investment stays within a neighborhood, she said.

“If you own what is in your community, no one can say, ‘Hey, I don’t want to be here’ and move out. It will be the community’s. The community will benefit from it, and it will go back into the communities.” (St. Louis Public Radio)

It’ll be interesting to watch as change continues in the grocery space over the coming years.

— Steve Patterson

 

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