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Married In East St. Louis Five Years Ago

June 10, 2019 Featured, Metro East, Steve Patterson Comments Off on Married In East St. Louis Five Years Ago

Saturday was my 5th wedding anniversary, we spent the weekend in Chicago to celebrate. At the time we got married Missouri recognized same sex marriages performed in other states, but we couldn’t get legally married in Missouri. No problem, we just borrowed the St. Louis skyline as the backdrop. We had a great day and our wedding was inexpensive thanks to borrowed audio equipment and dear friends volunteering to help.  A beautiful wedding need not cost a fortune.

Our wedding was held at 9am at the Malcolm Martin Memorial Park in East St. Louis, Illinois — one of our favorite places.

We posed for a selfie with friend/officiate Chris Reimer (center) during the ceremony.

Chris read an appropriate paragraph from ‘Wild Awake’ by Hilary T. Smith:

“People are like cities: We all have alleys and gardens and secret rooftops and places where daisies sprout between the sidewalk cracks, but most of the time all we let each other see is is a postcard glimpse of a skyline or a polished square. Love lets you find those hidden places in another person, even the ones they didn’t know were there, even the ones they wouldn’t have thought to call beautiful themselves.” 

Friend Jesanka French read a poem she adopted from Edward Monkton’s Lovely Love Story
Friend Dionna Raedeke sang ‘The Very Thought of You’
Here we’re smiling in the back seat of a new friend’s Tesla. She drove us carbon-free from the wedding in East St. Louis to the brunch reception in South St. Louis
Arrived at Bevo Mill

Our guests paid for their own brunch. In the 5 years since our wedding the building was purchased, renovated, reopened as Das Bevo, then closed except for special events. Plans to have a few guest rooms upstairs never materialized, we’d hope to spend the night there on our 5th anniversary.

It amazes me how quickly times goes by.  I’ve lived in St. Louis almost 29 years, this is the 15th year of this blog, it has been over 11 years since my stroke. And something I never thought possible when I was younger — I’ve been legally married for 5 years! Speaking of time passing by quickly, today is my oldest brother’s 69th birthday.

So many great memories of our wedding day, thanks to our friends & family for attending & helping.

— Steve Patterson

One of the songs we played before the ceremony:

 

Readers Favor Automatic Expungement of Marijuana Convictions Once Legalized

June 5, 2019 Crime, Drug Policy, Featured, Metro East Comments Off on Readers Favor Automatic Expungement of Marijuana Convictions Once Legalized
Most of the recreational marijuana stores we visited in Colorado in 2014 had a separate section for medical marijuana.

Marijuana became illegal largely because Henry Anslinger needed to keep his government job during the Great Depression. Anslinger was appointed the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1930, just 3 years before the end of Prohibition on alcohol.

“From the moment he took charge of the bureau, Harry was aware of the weakness of his new position. A war on narcotics alone — cocaine and heroin, outlawed in 1914 — wasn’t enough,” author Johann Hari wrote in his book, “Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs.” “They were used only by a tiny minority, and you couldn’t keep an entire department alive on such small crumbs. He needed more.” 

Consequently, Anslinger made it his mission to rid the U.S. of all drugs — including cannabis. His influence played a major role in the introduction and passage of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which outlawed possessing or selling pot.

Fueled by a handful of 1920s newspaper stories about crazed or violent episodes after marijuana use, Anslinger first claimed that the drug could cause psychosis and eventually insanity. In a radio address, he stated young people are “slaves to this narcotic, continuing addiction until they deteriorate mentally, become insane, turn to violent crime and murder.” 

In particular, he latched on to the story of a young man named Victor Licata, who had hacked his family to death with an ax, supposedly while high on cannabis. It was discovered many years later, however, that Licata had a history of mental illness in his family, and there was no proof he ever used the drug.

The problem was, there was little scientific evidence that supported Anslinger’s claims. He contacted 30 scientists, according to Hari, and 29 told him cannabis was not a dangerous drug. But it was the theory of the single expert who agreed with him that he presented to the public — cannabis was an evil that should be banned — and the press ran with this sensationalized version. (CBS News)

Race was used to get public support behind a new ban:

To understand how we ended up here, it is important to go back to what was happening in the United States in the early 1900’s just after the Mexican Revolution. At this time we saw an influx of immigration from Mexico into states like Texas and Louisiana. Not surprising, these new Americans brought with them their native language, culture and customs. One of these customs was the use of cannabis as a medicine and relaxant.

Mexican immigrants referred to this plant as “marihuana”. While Americans were very familiar with “cannabis” because it was present in almost all tinctures and medicines available at the time, the word “marihuana” was a foreign term. So, when the media began to play on the fears that the public had about these new citizens by falsely spreading claims about the “disruptive Mexicans” with their dangerous native behaviors including marihuana use, the rest of the nation did not know that this “marihuana” was a plant they already had in their medicine cabinets.

The demonization of the cannabis plant was an extension of the demonization of the Mexican immigrants. In an effort to control and keep tabs on these new citizens, El Paso, TX borrowed a play from San Francisco’s playbook, which had outlawed opium decades earlier in an effort to control Chinese immigrants. The idea was to have an excuse to search, detain and deport Mexican immigrants.

That excuse became marijuana.

This method of controlling people by controlling their customs was quite successful, so much so that it became a national strategy for keeping certain populations under the watch and control of the government.

During hearings on marijuana law in the 1930’s, claims were made about marijuana’s ability to cause men of color to become violent and solicit sex from white women. This imagery became the backdrop for the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 which effectively banned its use and sales.

While the Act was ruled unconstitutional years later, it was replaced with the Controlled Substances Act in the 1970’s which established Schedules for ranking substances according to their dangerousness and potential for addiction. Cannabis was placed in the most restrictive category, Schedule I, supposedly as a place holder while then President Nixon commissioned a report to give a final recommendation. (drug policy.org)

OK, the origins were racist — but they still broke the law. They must suffer the consequences of their actions, right? No, there are people who were caught with weed, served their time, but now find it difficult to get a job, housing. We can’t continue to write these people off.

According to The Heritage Foundation, manifest in convicted felons not being able to vote, difficulty getting a job or certification, problems with housing and many more. There are over 46,000 collateral consequences that a person can face at the federal or state level after they are convicted of a crime, leading to problems nearly 70 percent of the time for these people trying to get jobs.

Justice reform advocates say that these problems increase the recidivism of former criminals and encourage a life of crime when they have no options left.

“These extra problems for a person can extraordinarily make their life more difficult in the long term,” Holcombe said. “It’s such a long process that many people don’t know about and don’t have the resources to fix on their own.”

Other advocates point to the fact that taxpayers are having to pay for the over 600,000 people being arrested every year for marijuana crimes and footing a nearly $44 billion dollar bill over more than 30 years. The Drug Policy Alliance also points out that $47 billion dollars are spent a year on the War on Drugs and that nearly 50 percent of those in jail for drug-related crimes are people of color. (Wikileaf)

It’s in society’s interests to erase their records for something now legalized. This will allow them to find work, housing, etc. They might even work in the legal weed business at some level — much better than committing a different crime because all legal options were closed to them.

Most who participated in the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll think records should automatically be expunged.

Q: Agree or disagree: Those who were convicted of marijuana possession should not have their record automatically expunged.

  • Strongly agree: 3 [11.11%]
  • Agree: 3 [11.11%]
  • Somewhat agree: 1 [3.7%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 0 [0%]
  • Disagree: 6 [22.22%]
  • Strongly disagree: 14 [51.85%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 0 [0%]

Automatic expungement is better than making people file to receive expungement.  I’m very glad Illinois will be doing the right thing.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: Should Prior Marijuana Possession Convictions Be Expunged When A State Approves Recreational Use?

June 2, 2019 Drug Policy, Featured, Metro East, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Should Prior Marijuana Possession Convictions Be Expunged When A State Approves Recreational Use?
Please vote below

On Friday the Illinois House passed a

https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/legal-pot/illinois-poised-be-11th-state-legalize-recreational-marijuana-use-n1012721

https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/legal-pot/illinois-poised-be-11th-state-legalize-recreational-marijuana-use-n1012721

recreational marijuana bill, it was approved by the Senate earlier in the week. When signed by Gov Preitzker Illinois will become the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana — the first to do so through the legislative process instead of at the ballot.

One provision is the basis for today’s poll:

The governor will pardon past convictions for possession of up to 30 grams, with the attorney general going to court to expunge or delete public records of a conviction or arrest. For possession of 30 to 500 grams, an individual or a state’s attorney may petition the court to vacate and expunge the conviction, but prosecutors may object, with a judge to make the decision. [Chicago Tribune]

To save you doing the conversion:

  • 30 grams is 1.06 ounces
  • 500 grams is 17.6 ounces.

Ok, here’s today’s poll:

This poll will close at 8pm tonight.  I’ll share my thoughts on Wednesday morning.

— Steve Patterson

 

Senior Apartments To Be Built Adjacent To Swansea MetroLink Station Parking Lot

January 9, 2017 Featured, Metro East, Planning & Design, Public Transit, Transportation Comments Off on Senior Apartments To Be Built Adjacent To Swansea MetroLink Station Parking Lot

Back in September 2016, on the 20th,  I received a press release from our transit agency Metro — aka Bi-State Development:

SWANSEA, IL, SEPT. 20, 2016…  Southwestern Illinois Development Authority (SWIDA), in partnership with Bywater Development Group and Bi-State Development (BSD), is pleased to announce a new, $10.5 million development that will bring senior apartment living adjacent to the Swansea MetroLink Station in Swansea, Ill. The transit-oriented development (TOD) project, which will be developed by SWIDA and Bywater, was approved by the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) in Chicago on September 16. 

This new development, called Metro Landing of Swansea, will feature a handsome three-story building with 62 affordable one- and two-bedroom apartments for older adults seeking an independent lifestyle. Located adjacent to the Swansea MetroLink Station, residents will have car-free transportation options via MetroLink and MetroBus to conveniently access restaurants, retail, entertainment venues, recreational locations, employment centers, and medical facilities around the bi-state region. The Swansea Station is located on the Metro East Park and Recreation District BikeLink trail system, so seniors will be able to utilize the trail for exercise and recreation.

This development would not have occurred without the collaboration of a number of groups including IHDA, the St. Clair County Transit District and the Village of Swansea.  The Village has been a vital asset in the predevelopment planning process.  “It is truly an example of how public and private partnerships can lead to an important community investment,” James Nations, SWIDA’s Chairman said. “This is an excellent opportunity for SWIDA and Bywater Development Group to contribute to active senior housing as this segment of the population continues to grow.” The SWIDA Board of Directors is seeking other markets in the region in need of comparable developments.

Mike Lundy, Executive Director of SWIDA said, “It has been great working with Bi-State Development. We are very pleased with the new senior housing development and worked extremely hard to move this development forward.”

“This new development to be positioned next to the Swansea MetroLink Station reflects other successful transit-oriented projects in our area, and is a testament to the positive benefits the Metro transit system brings to the region,” said John Nations, President and CEO of Bi- State Development (BSD). BSD operates the metro public transportation system for the St. Louis region. 

“Metro Landing of Swansea is reflective of a very strong and effective public/private partnership and stands to serve as a model for transit oriented senior housing. It will create both a positive impact on the community and an ideal living environment for its residents.  Our organization is highly honored to be a part of this collective effort,” said Aaron Burnett, President of Bywater Development Group.

Metro Landing of Swansea is scheduled for construction commencement in the summer of 2017 with full completion by late summer of 2018. 

 

About SWIDA

The Southwestern Illinois Development Authority is a special-purpose, municipal corporation and local governmental unit whose purpose is to promote and enhance economic development within the counties of Bond, Clinton, Madison and St. Clair Ill. To learn more, visit www.swida.org. 

About Bi-State Development

Bi-State Development (BSD) operates the St. Louis Regional Freightway, the region’s freight district, and the Bi-State Development Research Institute. BSD is the operator of the Metro public transportation system for the St. Louis region, which includes the 87 vehicle, 46-mile MetroLink light rail system; 391 MetroBus vehicle fleet that serves 77 MetroBus routes; and Metro Call-A-Ride, a paratransit fleet of 120 vans. BSD owns and operates St. Louis Downtown Airport and the Gateway Arch Riverboats, as well as operates the Gateway Arch Revenue Collections Center and Gateway Arch trams. 

Within 90 minutes of receiving the press release I emailed Mike Lundy of SWIDA and Aaron Burnett of Bywater Development volunteering to help with accessibility, pedestrian issues, etc. I wanted to make sure they avoided common problems I’ve found throughout the region.Unfortunately, I’ve yet to hear back from either.

The stories online that day from the Post-Dispatch & other media outlets was a rephrasing of the press release along with the image provided.  Rather than do the same as others, I visited the Swansea MetroLink station and surrounding area a few days later  — on the morning of September 23rd. I was in the area nearly 2 hours — taking 158 photos in that time.

Go back up and read the press release again, you’ll see buzz words/phrases like ‘car-free’, ‘transit-oriented senior housing’, and ‘ideal living environment.’ Yeah…not so much.

The main thing these independent seniors will be buying is groceries. The nearest grocery store is al Aldi about a half a mile walk to the South, a Schnucks just over a half mile to the North. Before we go to the grocery stores let’s take a look at the station.

From the station looking out we see a drive for buses, a drive for cars, and surface parking for cars.
From the station looking out we see a drive for buses, a drive for cars, and surface parking for cars.
Out looking back we see the main parking lot -- another is to the left out of frame. Most likely the new building will be built on the grassy area to the right.
Out looking back we see the main parking lot — another is to the left out of frame. Most likely the new building will be built on the grassy area to the right.
A more direct look at the likely spot where the building whirl be built. Other than the parking lots, this is the largest land owned by Metro at this station.
A more direct look at the likely spot where the building whirl be built. Other than the parking lots, this is the largest land owned by Metro at this station.
Further away firom the station we see the secondary parking lot on the left
Further away firom the station we see the secondary parking lot on the left

Let’s go to the Aldi first since it is slightly closer and we’re almost out to the main road, IL-159/N. Illinois St.

Looking back from near the main road.
Looking back from near the main road.
Looking South at IL-159, but no sidewalk on this side. Metro also owns owns this land and building, so perhaps they plan to build senior housing here?
Looking South at IL-159, but no sidewalk on this side. Metro also owns owns this land and building, so perhaps they plan to build senior housing here?
I went back to the station and used the circuitous trail to head South. The trail goes under Belt (left), a spur comes up (right)
I went back to the station and used the circuitous trail to head South. The trail goes under Belt (left), a spur comes up (right)
Heading toward the side of the Aldi
Heading toward the side of the Aldi
Getting closer
Getting closer
At this point you're dumped into the parking lot where you risk getting hit by cars. The store entry is to the left out of the frame.
At this point you’re dumped into the parking lot where you risk getting hit by cars. The store entry is to the left out of the frame.

Let’s return to the station entrance and go North to try to access the Schnucks. Though the Schnucks is also on the West side of IL-159, there’s no sidewalk so we must cross to the West to head North.

Not exactly friendly
Not exactly friendly
Looking back West we see an office park that includes medical offices -- not reachable as a pedestrian though
Looking back West we see an office park that includes medical offices — not reachable as a pedestrian though
Catching a bus at the station would save some distance, the Schnucks is behind the Mcdonald's
Catching a bus at the station would save some distance, the Schnucks is behind the Mcdonald’s
On the NW corner of 159 & Fullerton Rd we see the bus stop needed if we wanted to catch the bus back to the station. There's no sidewalk here, how do we reach the store?
On the NW corner of 159 & Fullerton Rd we see the bus stop needed if we wanted to catch the bus back to the station. There’s no sidewalk here, how do we reach the store?
The North side of Fullerton Rd has a sidewalk, but theres no connection to the Schnucks or other businesses.
The North side of Fullerton Rd has a sidewalk, but theres no connection to the Schnucks or other businesses.

Seniors living here might not be able to carry a bag or two of groceries, so an inexpensive folding shopping cart is a good option. But traversing parking lots are dangerous and trying to get the cart up & over many curbs is a challenge at any age/ability. My experience confirms the WalkScore of 33 out of 100 for the MetroLink light rail station — car dependent.

Metro and its partners want everyone to believe seniors will be able to live here car-free. I realize pedestrian-friendly development doesn’t happen around transit immediacy — it takes time. This station has only been open since…May 5th…2001 — over 15 years!

— Steve Patterson

 

Demographics & Technology Continues To Change Retailing

December 12, 2016 Featured, Metro East Comments Off on Demographics & Technology Continues To Change Retailing

Around Halloween each year I think more and more about retailing. Not because I’m into mass consumerism, but because of the five years I spent working at Toys “R” Us (1983-87). I also briefly worked at Dillard’s for a few months in 1988. Architecture school became too demanding, so I stopped working my last two of five years in college. In architecture school I took an interest in retail design.

A book from my college days
A book from my college days

Growing up in the 1970s, retailing was represented by Sears, Montgomery Ward (their catalogs too!), and Oklahoma stores like C.R. Anthony, TG&Y, Otasco, etc. Looking back on my personal experience, I realize just how much retailing has changed in my almost 50 years. My parents & grandparents saw considerable change in retailing during their lifetimes (1886-2007 range).

Chicago's Butler Bros had many warehouses for distribution, I can see St. Louis' from my home office window. They started the Ben Franklin chain. Click image for more information.
Chicago’s Butler Bros had many warehouses for distribution, I can see St. Louis’ from my home office window. They started the Ben Franklin chain. Click image for more information.

Today we have our phones out when in brick & mortar retail stores. I use a grocery app daily — I’ve added non-grocery stores for other items as well. Recently, in Target, we saw the Elf on a Shelf and decided to finally get it. A quick scan of barcode within the Amazon app showed us the price was the same at both stores, so we bought it at Target. We paid sales tax by buying at Target, but we got 5% off by using our Target RedCard MasterCard. However, we’re currently getting 5% cash back through Amazon using our Discover card. We paid more — the amount of sales taxes — so we could have it immediately. An informed decision.

My experience at Toys “R” Us was very different. I stocked shelves, but also worked as a cashier. Though part-time, I became a head cashier that trained and supervised other cashiers. In those days we had to key in a 6-digit stock keeping unit (SKU) for every item — no scanning a barcode. The register knew the price — assuming the price sticker on the product and computer were both updated. After we had the total sale amount we’d fill out a credit card form  and do an imprint of the card on the form. We had to enter the card number into the register to get an authorization code, which was then written on the form.

The truth is that the credit card imprint is nothing new. That’s how all transactions were handled in the days before the magnetic strip. It seems silly to have to explain this, but believe it or not, there are these imprint machines that are entirely mechanical. The merchant places the card on a steel plate on the imprinter and a credit card form is placed over it (it used to have “carbon paper” for those old enough to remember). The merchant slides an arm over the whole thing, and the pressure from the arm imprints the raised numbers on your card onto the paper form. It contains all the important information, such as card numbers and expiration date. (NerdWallet)

My point is retailing has continuously evolved since the first retail transaction. Once-giant retailers, like Sears, barely survive today. Some mom & pop stores go out of business, while others grow to become Nike, Spankx, Whole Foods, etc. With Millennials outnumbering Baby Boomers and Gen-Z shoppers entering the picture you can expect retail to continue changing.

Amazon is trying to stay ahead of these changes. As Amazon Prime members we’re used to getting things in two days, very fast compared to the old days of pre-internet mail/phone order from catalogs.    But sometimes you can’t wait 2 days. Google Express offers next-day delivery from local stores in St. Louis, with same-day delivery in some markets. Very soon Amazon will open two huge facilities in the Metro area —  from June:

Online retail giant Amazon announced Thursday that it would build two distribution centers in Edwardsville, bringing 1,000 new jobs and adding a big name to a growing distribution and logistics hub in the Metro East.

Known as “fulfillment centers,” the Amazon warehouse and distribution facilities service a growing cadre of online shoppers by storing and shipping goods to consumers who want them fast. One center will handle large items — big screen TVs, sports equipment or kayaks — while another will handle smaller items such as books and electronics.

Amazon has about 50 of the centers, and as online retail competition grows, the company is looking to meet the fast delivery times promised by its premium service, Amazon Prime. (Post-Dispatch)

How fast? Try 2 hours, or 1 hour for an additional fee!

We’ll be in Chicago for four nights in mid-February, so I’ll try Prime Now there. I’ve looked through the app and it’s largely groceries and Amazon’s own electronics. If it’s cold & snowing having them deliver groceries from Eataly would be nice. The walk is less than 10 minutes from the condo where we stay, but making fresh pasta and staying in might be nice. Prime Now also does restaurant delivery.

Amazon isn’t stopping there, they’re testing a brick & mortar store:

The first Amazon Go location is situated in Seattle and is only available to Amazon employees until early 2017. It looks like a typical small grocery store with one thing missing–cashiers. 

Amazon Go has no cash registers and no lines because customers do not have to check out. Instead, they check into the store using an Amazon Go app on their smartphones. Sensors placed around the store detect what customers take off the shelves, and the company automatically charges their established Amazon accounts when they leave. It’s like shoplifting, except you pay for stuff as you walk out of the store. (PBS)

Hard to say today what impact all this will have long term, but it’s safe to assume the retail industry will continue changing and adapting. Those that don’t will fade away.

— Steve Patterson

 

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