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Sunday Poll: Rate The New Mississippi River Bridge

Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar

Years in the making, one year ago today Illinois & Missouri cut the ribbon on a new bridge over the Mississippi River at downtown St. Louis, officially named the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge.  The name, like everything about the project, is a compromise between interests in each state.

For budget reasons the bridge has fewer lanes than originally desired, in downtown it feeds into Tucker rather than a West bypass loop. Now that a year has past I’d like you to rate the overall bridge project. How did Illinois & Missouri do?

The exact question is: Rate the new Mississippi River Bridge (aka The Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge) based on your overall impression.

The 1-5 rating scale will be presented in random order, the poll is in the right sidebar on the desktop layout. The Sunday Poll closes at 8pm — 12 hours from now.  Note: your feelings for the late Stan Musial shouldn’t be a factor in your rating of this major infrastructure project.

— Steve Patterson


We’re Not Going To Be An NFL City, That’s OK

Over the last few weeks, listening to others and reading,  I’ve come to realize a few things about the NFL and the St. Louis Rams:

  1. The NFL does appeal to many, providing instant cache for a city/region.
  2. Even though the number of games are limited, the financial benefits to the region are very real.
  3. Kroenke wants the Rams in LA — his investment substantially increase in value.
  4. Kroenke is a real estate developer, he enjoys building stuff and owning it.
  5. Kroenke wants more than a stadium plus parking, he wants to build an experience — and to profit from it. See #4 above.
  6. Kroenke appears willing to move the Rams without approval of his fellow NFL owners.
  7. St. Louis advocates of a new NFL stadium are setting us up for a big fall when we’re no longer an NFL city.
  8. The first 4 decades of the NFL St. Louis wasn’t an NFL city, we had our first NFL team for 28 years (1960-1987). We’ve been an NFL city only half years the NFL has been a league!
  9. St. Louis stands a good chance of getting an Major League Soccer (MLS) team. St. Louis has a rich history of European football.
  10. Soccer players don’t like playing in NFL stadiums, see Playing MLS games in NFL stadiums.
  11. 13 of the MLS’ 19 teams (68%) play in soccer-specific stadiums, with seating ranging from 18,086 to 27,000. See MLS’ Soccer-Specific Stadiums and Major League Soccer’s Stadium Revolution.
  12. Soccer fans like to tailgate, but also prefer a downtown location. Those who don’t tailgate like pubs.
  13. The largest record attendance (48,263) at Busch Stadium was not baseball, but a soccer match in May 2013.
  14. In May 2014  St. Louis became an expansion city for Division III soccer, the Saint Louis FC’s home opener is Saturday April 11th, at the 6,000+ seat Soccer Park in Fenton.
  15. A 20,000-25,000 seat soccer-specific stadium could possibly be built in the North Riverfront area without razing any historic buildings or displacing residents, businesses.
  16. After the Rams return to LA, an MLS expansion team could play in the Edward Jones Dome while a new outdoor stadium is being built.
  17. The smaller-sized MLS stadium would fit much easier into the North Riverfront, parking would be less and could be in a combination of garages and surface.

Based on the above I think we as a city/region/state should:

  1. Accept that the Rams will leave, the cost to retain them or entice another team to move here is just too high a price to pay given the benefits. Move on knowing we have baseball & hockey.
  2. Encourage the Blues owners to get an NBA team to play in the Scottrade Center.
  3. Use this as an opportunity to put our efforts into getting a Division I MLS team, while supporting our new Division III team.
  4. Develop a plan to continue the ongoing efforts in the North Riverfront area, creating a mixed-use neighborhood in the remaining buildings and building new to infill the gaps.
The blue
The blue area shows the developable area North of Carr St that could be developed without the loss of any historic buildings.  Click for map of area
Warehouses in the along Ashley between 2nd and Lewis.
Historic warehouses along Ashley between 2nd and Lewis could be right next to the stadium, perfect for offices, apartments, restaurants, etc.

I’ve accepted that St. Louis will not be an NFL city, just like it wasn’t when I moved here nearly 25 years ago. Our best years of population growth and prosperity were well before NFL arrived in St. Louis.

— Steve Patterson


Some Seek To Lower Missouri’s Voting Age

Former offices of the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners
Former offices of the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners

In early December news came out about a proposed change to Missouri’s voting age:

Democratic Rep. Karla May of St. Louis this week filed a joint resolution to amend the state constitution to reduce the legal age to vote from 18 years old.

If passed by both the state House and Senate, the measure would go to a public vote. (Missouri lawmaker wants to lower voting age to 16)

Currently you need to be 17-1/2 to register, 18 to vote. Decades ago the minimum voting age

The long debate over lowering the voting age in America from 21 to 18 began during World War II and intensified during the Vietnam War, when young men denied the right to vote were being conscripted to fight for their country. In the 1970 case Oregon v. Mitchell, a divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Congress had the right to regulate the minimum age in federal elections, but not at the state and local level. Amid increasing support for a Constitutional amendment, Congress passed the 26th Amendment in March 1971; the states promptly ratified it, and President Richard M. Nixon signed it into law that July. (History.com)

The following is an argument in favor of lowering the voting age:

FairVote supports expanding suffrage to 16 and 17-year-olds in municipal elections. The proposal to extend voting rights to people after they turn 16 may surprise some, but the latest research is a revelation. All evidence suggests that cities will increase turnout by allowing citizens to cast their first vote after turning 16. The reason is simple. Many people at 16 and 17 have lived in their communities for years and are taking government classes in high school. That combination results in more people exercising their first chance to vote if they are 16 or 17 than if they are unable to vote until they have left home and school.

A voting age of 18 means that many people won’t get a chance to vote in city elections until they are nearly 20. A detailed study of voting age and voters in Denmark found that 18-year-olds were far more likely to cast their “first vote” than 19-year-olds, and that every month of extra age in those years resulted in a decline in “first vote” turnout. Allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in local elections will enable them to vote before leaving home and high school, and establish a life-long habit of voting.

Lowering the voting age to 16 is becoming an international movement. A growing number of nations like Austria, Argentina, Germany and the United Kingdom that have extended voting rights to people at 16 for national, regional or local elections. Evidence from Austria confirms that extending voting rights to people after they turn 16 promotes higher turnout for first-time voters and over time. Austria’s experience also shows that 16- and 17-year-olds are ready for voting as far as making choices that accurately reflect their views.

Long-time backers of a lower voting age, like the National Youth Rights Association, make a fairness argument as well. Turning 16 has special significance in our culture. At age 16, we can drive, pay taxes and for the first time work without any restriction on hours. Many states already allow citizens under 18 to vote in Democratic and Republican primaries for president, Congress and governor. (FairVote)

I hadn’t read the above before the poll, I’m liking the idea of 16 for local elections, 18 for state & national, just not sure if that would be an administrative nightmare or not.

When I checked the Sunday Poll results about 3-4 hours before it closed the number of votes was low and keeping the age at 18 had a majority of votes, but by bedtime it was clear a group decided to push the “15 or lower” answer.

Q: What should the voting age be in Missouri?

  1. 15 or lower: 50 [65.79%]
  2. 18: 18 [23.68%]
  3. 16: 5 [6.58]
  4. 21: 1 [1.32%]
  5. 22 or higher: 1 [1.32%]
  6. Unsure/No Opinion: 1 [1.32%]

I would’ve been pleased if the total of all votes was 50, but that’s how many voted for 15 or lower late in the day, it had maybe 1 vote earlier. To my knowledge no state vote to lower the voting age below 18 has been successful.

— Steve Patterson


Sunday Poll: What should the voting age be in Missouri?

January 4, 2015 Featured, Missouri, Politics/Policy, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: What should the voting age be in Missouri?
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar

In the news last month was a report that a Missouri legislator wants to change the voting age. I’m being vague on purpose, so as not to influence today’s poll: What should the voting age be in Missouri?

The poll is in the right sidebar, mobile users can switch to the desktop view at the bottom of the mobile layout (not visible within apps like Facebook). Check back on Wednesday Tuesday for the results, specifics on the current & proposed voting age, and a bit of local political history.

— Steve Patterson


Federal & Missouri Fuel Taxes Should Be Raised Now, Indexed To Inflation

December 15, 2014 Economy, Featured, Missouri 5 Comments
The crumbling Kingshighway viaduct will finally get replaced in 2015
The crumbling Kingshighway viaduct will finally get replaced in 2015

In the last twenty years many things have increased in cost, including steel, concrete, asphalt, labor and other expenses of transportation infrastructure. Still, the main funding mechanism (fuel taxes) haven’t increased since 1993 (federal) and 1996 (Missouri). It’s no wonder our infrastructure is falling apart. Plus, we have more infrastructure than we did 20 years ago — more to maintain.

On the federal fuel tax:

It was last raised, in the year 1993, to 18.4 cents per gallon. That’s over 20 years ago, and gas prices at the time were close to the now unimaginable $1.00 per gallon mark. Yet the amount of the gas tax was fixed and not tied to inflation — so it has not changed since. (U.S. states also charge gasoline taxes; the national average is about 23.5 cents.) (Washington Post)

Fuel taxes have never been tied to inflation, but they need to be!  Politicians don’t like raising taxes, voters seldom approve increases. Yet we want nice roads and bridges that don’t collapse. Guess what folks, that requires money! Waiting a couple of decades between increases make raising the rate much more painful and shocking, we’re better off increasing incrementally every year or two.

Why now? Gas prices at the pump are at a 4-year low right now, but it’s likely temporary.

By holding production steady amidst very low global oil prices, Saudi Arabia and its OPEC allies have indicated that they will not take the U.S. assault on their market share lying down. Despite all the advantages of advanced U.S. hydraulic fracturing technology, Middle Eastern oil still has a definitive advantage: production cost. While OPEC countries could tolerate oil prices as low as $60 per barrel, analysts predict the U.S. will see a decline in new drilling if the price falls below $70 per barrel.

In the wake of OPEC’s announcement, the U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude oil benchmark price fell below $66 per barrel—right into the sweet spot between $60 and $70 per barrel that OPEC hopes will curb U.S. oil production. (Scientific American)

U.S. production, through “fracking”, has been impressive. Still, we’re a net importer of oil. Fracking is an expensive way to extract oil from the earth, if prices are too low it doesn’t pay to continue. Something will change that causes the supply to be reduced, causing gas prices to go back up. We need to get fuel taxes increased and set to go up automatically with inflation so we can maintain our existing infrastructure.

— Steve Patterson