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Waiting to Endorse Candidates

November 14, 2006 Local Business 15 Comments

For what it is worth, I do plan to endorse candidates in the upcoming municipal elections in the City of St. Louis. While people are already lining up behind this person or that person I want to share my thoughts on endorsements.

First, I will not be supporting anyone that is unopposed. It is just downright silly to see people endorse someone that has no challenger. That simply means your endorsement is worthless.

Second, I will not be supporting anyone until after campaign finance reports due on January 25th, 2007 are filed and I’ve had a chance to review them. I want to know, before I recommend a candidate, where their money is coming from — who is behind their candidacy. This is especially important this election since the campaign finance limits are getting tossed aside as of January 1st. Again, we won’t really know who is funding these races until late January and for me that makes a difference.

In municipal elections I could care less about political party — Democrat, Republican, Green, Libertarian or Independent. The Democrat’s National Platform doesn’t appear to speak to issues of say transportation or smart growth. The Missouri Democrats don’t have any platform at all, at least none that I could find. And the St. Louis City Democrats barely have a website, much less a coherent platform relevant to local issues. Where do local Democrats stand on smart growth, regional cooperation (consolidation?), transportation funding, and affordable housing? We are all expected to blindly vote for Democrats without any expectation of a vision. Oh sure, they say catchy phrases like they will, “improve the quality of our neighborhoods” but what does that mean? How specifically will they accomplish this task? Are they doing to work with others in the region to limit the affects of sprawl on the city and inner-ring suburbs? Maybe they are going to adopt new zoning? It is hard to say you are going to improve something until you cite that which needs improving — what is it in the neighborhoods that could be changed so as to create a higher quality environment?

Basically the Democratic stronghold on St. Louis politics has left them complacent on local issues. The group, currently led by Brian Wahby, focuses on state and national elections, local elections being an assumed. They’ve never had a reason to elaborate on a vision or strategies for lifting St. Louis out of decades of population decline. Through countless administrations the solution has been one mega “silver bullet” project after another — mostly downtown. This same flawed logic continues today with the idea that is what is good for downtown is good for the rest of the city. This has some truth in it but it can only go so far.

Until the Democrats, as a local party, demonstrate they collectively can agree on a vision and course of action I will certainly not give a blanket endorsement to voting for Democrats. Sadly, the Republicans are no better in this area and are virtually non-existant in this town. The Greens and Libertarians actually have some good ideas but they tend to focus all their energy (and limited resources) on running candidates for Mayor or Governor. I’d like to see one or both of these parties put together a competent candidacy for the open 6th Ward aldermanic seat.

Now that I think about all the flaws in local politics, come February I may not endorse a single person.


“Mr. Smith” Among Five Finalists for International Documentary Award

November 1, 2006 Local Business, Media 1 Comment

Locally produced film “Can Mr. Smith Get To Washington Anymore?” is a finalist for the 2006 IDA Feature Film award. The other four films up for the award are Deliver Us From Evil, Iraq in Fragments, SHOWBUSINESS: A Season to Remember, and Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars.

The International Documentary Association will announce the winner on December 8th at the Directors Guild of America. If you missed the film during its held over run in St. Louis you can catch it on November 8th as part of the Webster University Film Series.

Here is the trailer:


Reed Amends January 2006 Campaign Finance Report

October 18, 2006 Local Business 1 Comment

It seems the Reed campaign received $525 less in the fourth calendar quarter of 2005 than previously reported, they filed an amended report on 9/6/2006 (see PDF) with the Missouri Ethics Commission. However, subsequent reports from April and July have not yet been amended to reflect the change in totals for receipts and cash on hand. Reed’s July report indicated a cash on hand balance of only $356.71 but if we adjust the numbers to reflect the reduced receipts, that would make a deficit of -$168.29. This is after a $5,000 loan to the campaign treasury.

In comparing the original and amended reports the difference is relative to three contributors:

Goodco, LLC located at 1915 Park was originally reported to have given $100 but it was amended to $25.

• L. James Willmore, MD of 2327 Albion Place was originally reported to have given $300 but it was amended to $25.

• SAG Properties, LLC of 4515 Maryland Ave was originally reported to have given $300 but it was amended to $125.

The differences total the $525 adjustment to the January 2006 quarterly report which covered the forth quarter of 2005. Campaigns do make mistakes and thus require amendments now and then. But, subsequent reports have not yet been amended to reflect the adjustments to the total receipts for the campaign to date and cash on hand.


Quarter of Board of Aldermen Have Not Filed Required Campaign Reports

A full 25% of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen have not filed required campaign finance reports with the Missouri Ethics Commission, as of 10:45am today. I double checked the seven that have not filed and the Missouri Ethics Commission does not show any reports received but not yet scanned. The reports were due October 15th which translates to October 16th since the 15th was on a Sunday.

The following are the aldermen that have not filed the required reports, all are Democrats (that is a joke, btw, since we only have one Republican elected to office in the City of St. Louis):

•Charles Quincy Troupe — 1st Ward
•April Ford-Griffin — 5th Ward
•Lewis Reed — 6th Ward (Reed has two committees at this point – one for alderman and one for president of the board, neither committee has filed the required reports)
•Jennifer Florida — 15th Ward
•Terry Kennedy — 18th Ward (Kennedy is up for re-election in 2007)
•Frank Williamson — 26th Ward (Wiliamson is up for re-election in 2007)
•Lyda Krewson — 28th Ward (Krewson is up for re-election in 2007)

More to follow in the next week, after I’ve had a chance to download and review all the reports that have been filed up to that point.

Related prior post: July 27 — A detailed look at Campaign Finance Reports.

UPDATE 10/18/06 @ Noon:

Ald. Lyda Krewson emailed me to indicate they mailed their reports on 10/13. Krewson also indicated she talked with the folks in Jeff City that said they just received some mail this morning postmarked 10/10 & 10/111 (and presumably Krewson’s dated 10/13?). This is somewhat different than Publiceye’s assertion that the Missouri Ethics Commission is behind on opening mail. I’m much more likely to believe that the US Postal Service is slow. Krewson indicates she will send future reports via FedEx to avoid this anxiety over timeliness.

Electronic filing is an option that aldermen should consider. I will check back to the state site throughout the afternoon to see if new reports for these seven have been received today. Part of the problem we have, as the public, is knowing if a report was postmarked on time or not. If the Missouri Ethics is backed up they will indicate a report has been received but not yet scanned — and here they will indicate the postmark. Most often I find they go right to being a scanned report with only the date it was received by the office and the date scanned — the same day. So, all seven reports may arrive today and be scanned today but because of their reporting system I will be unable to distinguish, online, between those that were mailed on or before the 14th and those that may have been mailed or send via overnight after the deadline.

UPDATE 10/18/06 @ 2pm:

The Missouri Ethics Commission does not show any changes for the above seven. The potential existed for them to have received a report but not yet scanned it into their system for public consumption but none of these where so marked.

UPDATE 10/18/06 @ 8:55pm:

At 4pm this afternoon two reports were indicated as having been received but not yet scanned: one was for Ald. Lyda Krewson and the other for Ald. Lewis Reed’s committee running for the President of the Board of Aldermen. Both show as being postmarked on Monday, October 16, 2006. Per the Missouri Ethics Commission, these are technically late. At 8:15pm I check all seven again just to see if any additional changes had been made after 4pm. The other five remain unchanged but now the two reports, one from Krewson and one from Reed, are scanned and available for review. At the moment both are still showing in the received but not yet scanned section as well along with the postmark date of 10/16/06 (I have saved both pages as PDF files and may post if necessary).

The Missouri Ethics Commission website does not yet show a report for the aldermanic committee for Lewis Reed which remains an active and open account. It should probably be converted to a debt account, if possible. Ald. Krewson’s report is of course quite orderly and includes a cover letter dated 10/12/2006. This date would collaborate her contention that it was mailed the following day, on the 13th which would make it a timely filing. Still the Missouri Ethics Commission says it was not postmarked until the 16th, making it a late filing.

We’ve got a couple of issues at play here. First, some aldermen are habitually late, sometimes 2-3 weeks. That is quite a different issue than mailing it at a slow post office or even on the actual due date rather than prior to the due date as required. Habitually late and rarely late is the separator here. Krewson is consistently ontime, at least back through 2004. Reed, on the other hand, is either on time or really really late.

But the big issue is the information the Missouri Ethics Commission provides, or more accurately, doesn’t provide. Once a report is filed we know the date is was received and the date it was scanned. Almost always these are the same date. What is missing is the piece of information that determines whether a filed report is timely or not — the postmark date. How is it this information is not part of their reporting? If you agree this is relevant information that should be part of the public record online and thus not requiring a phone call to verify the postmark date, please email the Missouri Ethics Commission at [email protected].

One final thing, just an observation. While it may be a coincidence that Krewson held her big fundraiser on October 2nd I think the date was no accident. A week earlier and the activity would have been required on the report just submitted. But, no regular quarterly report is due in January so her next report is the 40 day before election report, not due until January 25, 2007 (that would be with a postmark of 1/24/07 if you are doing the math). Either way, this is after filing closes if anyone is considering challenging her they do so not really knowing how much money she raised a couple of weeks ago. Come January 1st contribution limits get tossed the window so someone that gave the maximum of $325 can come back and give considerably more prior to the election. Very smart that Lyda is.

UPDATE 10/20/06 @ 10:15am:

As of yesterday afternoon after 5pm only one change was noted. The Missouri Ethics Commission received the quarterly report from the campaign for Jennifer Florida. However, it was noted as having a bad [unreadable] postmark.

This leaves the following as not yet having submitted reports: Ald. Lewis Reed’s aldermanic campaign committee, Ald Troupe, Ald. Ford-Griffin, Ald. Kennedy, and Ald. Williamson. Five out of twenty-eight, or just under 18%. Reed is now officially running for the President of the Board of Aldermen in 2007. Also in 2007, Ald. Kennedy and Ald. Williamson are up for re-election. I’m guessing they won’t file their intent to seek office again after the deadline.


St. Louis Grocery Market: Density Trumps Income

Over on Steve Wilke-Shapiro’s 15thWardSTL blog he is offering the following:

…a $10 Trader Joe’s gift certificate to the first person who can demonstrate that there is more money within three miles of the Brentwood Promenade than there is within three miles of Southtown Center.

This is in a post of his in response to a debate over demographics — the false notion that retailers locate in suburban areas due to higher purchasing power. Steve’s $10 is safe because, as he was betting, density trumps income. I was unable to find good public data within a 3 mile radius of Brentwood Promenada. Excellent data, however, is available for every address in the City of St. Louis. Click here to view the city’s excellent GIS (graphical information system) database where you can search by address and review census data.

I knew I probably could not prove Wilke-Shapiro wrong and collect the $10 gift certificate but I thought I could at least help out and prove him right. But, I was lacking good data from St. Louis County on a radius basis. I wanted to compare from the same source.

I found the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee Employment and Training Institute website. Here they have a database which looks at purchasing power and other data from the 2000 US Census.

ETI Purchasing Power, Business Activity, and Workforce Density Profiles for All Residential ZIP Codes in U.S.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Employment and Training Institute provides comparison data on purchasing power, business activity, and workforce density for all residential ZIP codes and the 100 largest metro areas in the U.S. The profiles are designed to help cities, businesses, developers, and organizations assess the advantages of urban density for underserved city neighborhoods.

Their stated purpose is to “assess the advantages of urban density for underserved city neighborhoods.” So I looked at 63116, where Southtown Centre is located as well as 63144 where the Brentwood Promenade situated in St. Louis County. Upon seeing the results I thought I’d look at a few more just for comparison sake. Density wins over higher incomes each and every time. The more people per square mile, regardless of income, the more raw purchasing power per square mile. Wilke-Shapiro was correct and the naysayers that blame demographics for the lack of big chain stores in the city are incorrect. To be fair, it may well be the racial makeup of our demographic or the average incomes that keep retailers out.

This density issue is, I believe, why in low-density sprawling suburbs developers talk of creating regional shopping centers. They certainly need more purchasing power than a 3-mile or 5-mile radius would support in the ‘burbs. They must draw in shoppers from greater and greater distances to support say a mega grocery store. Despite lower incomes within the City of St. Louis the sheer number of people gives us substantial purchasing power within a given geographical area — a square mile.

The ETI site looks at a total of 16 categories of consumer expenditure. I looked at two of these: “Food at Home” and “Food away from Home” and included the total from all categories. Others were items such as “Furniture”, “Apparel and related services”, and “Computer hardware and software.” The numbers are annual expenditures within a square mile from that population. It does not, however, indicate where they spent the money. This is strictly a combination of how much they have to spend.

purchasepowerGo down the chart and the higher the density the higher amount of money spent on food at home (aka groceries). In fact, if you compare each of the 16 categories from 63116 in South City to 63144 in Brentwood you’ll see the city zip code trumps Brentwood on each and every one. We pack in a lot per square mile. In North St. Louis from 63113 (The Ville/MLK area) their total purchasing power is just shy of Brentwood’s on a total basis.

We have considerable purchasing power throughout the city north and south yet we (myself included) tend to give it away to the county. We have the greatest asset of cities: density. We must collectively learn to capitalize on our density as a draw for more people, more purchasing power, and more retail options. We need our purchasing power to stay in the city — to earn tax revenue and to multiple as it makes through out community rather than being gone as soon as we spend it St. Louis County. This is how we will improve our schools and provide better services to the citizens.

The counter argument, if you do the math, is in the suburban areas they are spending more per person per mile. That is, they are buying more expensive items that are likely higher margin for the retailers. So, if you believe this argument then kindly ask Steve Wilke-Shapiro to send me the $10 gift certificate to Trader Joe’s.