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Turnout In Tuesday’s Primary Varied Widely

ivotedLess than 10% of the city’s 181,967 registered voters actually voted in Tuesday’s partisan primary, but to get the bigger picture we need to delve deeper into the numbers. A total of  17,291 ballots were cast among the three parties selecting their candidates for the general election next month. As expected, the overwhelming majority selected a Democratic ballot:

  • Democrat: 16,520  — 96%
  • Republican: 651 — 4%
  • Green: 120 — 1%

The purpose of holding a partisan primary is so each party can select their candidate to compete in the general election, yet in St. Louis the Democratic primary is largely the entire election — win the Democratic primary and you’re basically the winner of the seat — the general is just a formality. Why do we continue to do this?

We’ll have three people running in the same ward — a Green, a Republican, and a Democrat. Each runs unopposed in the March primary only to face each other in the April general. We need to eliminate the March primary and just have a nonpartisan primary in April. It’ll save money, voters only need to go to the polls once, and each candidate will need to present themselves to voters to get elected.

In addition to eliminating the unnecessary primary, we need Ranked Choice/Instant Run-Off Voting:

 Ranked choice voting (RCV) describes voting systems that allow voters to rank candidates in order of preference, and then uses those rankings to elect candidates able to combine strong first choice support with the ability to earn second and third choice support. RCV is an “instant runoff” when electing one candidate and is a form of fair representation voting when used in multi-winner elections.

More on this later, back to the numbers from Tuesday’s election. Ok, so we know 9.5% of registered voters bothered to vote. Apathy, right? Wrong!

Aldermen were elected in 17 of 28 wards, those of us in the other 11 wards knew the only race for us to vote on was President of the Board of Aldermen — Lewis Reed would get the Democratic nomination over Jimmie Matthews, the Green & Republican candidates were challenged for their party nomination. Six of the 17 wards had unchallenged incumbents — no reason to vote. Only 11 of the city’s 28 wards had challengers. Apathy wasn’t responsible for the dismal turnout — it was our system that was set up when our population was growing and the two main parties fielded viable candidates in every race

  • In the six unchallenged wards the turnout ranged from a low of 4.5% (13th) to a high of 7.4% (6th) — an average of 6%
  • In the eleven contested wards the turnout ranged from a low of 8.7% (22nd) to 21.9% (8th) — an average of 15%

Clearly a contested election increases voter turnout!

The number of votes in a ward election is also telling:

  • The low was the uncontested 14th ward — only 242 of the 297 who voted selected the unchallenged incumbent — 55 voters (18.5%) knew their vote wouldn’t matter.
  • The high was the hotly contested 8th ward — 1,587 voted in the race — only 6 voters went to the polls but didn’t vote in the race for alderman.The winner, incumbent Stephen Conway, received 843 votes in the 2-way race — that’s more votes than in 9 .

The ranked voting mentioned above is important when you have three or more candidates.

  • In the 2nd ward none of the four candidates received more than 50% of the vote — only 5 votes separated the top two. Ranked voting may have selected a different winner.
  • In the 3-way race in the 7th ward Jack Coatar received over 50% of the votes — ranked voting wouldn’t have mattered because he received a plurality.
  • The 20th ward also had a 3-way race — Cara Spencer defeating 20-year incumbent Craig Schmid with 48% — not a plurality.
  • The only other 3-way race was the 22nd where incumbent Boyd received 77%!

When I went to bed Tuesday night the early returns had Ogilvie & Bauer tied 50/50.  In the end incumbent Ogilvie received 74.5% to win a second term.

In a related note here are the results of the Sunday Poll:

Q: Which of the following best describes your political views?

  1. Mostly liberal 18 [33.33%]
  2. Consistently liberal 16 [29.63%]
  3. Mixed 13 [24.07%]
  4. Mostly conservative 4 [7.41%]
  5. Consistently conservative 3 [5.56%]

Not really a surprise that self-described liberals made up nearly 63% of the responses, conservatives just 13%, with the balance (24%) in the middle.

Those with down-the-line conservative and liberal views do share some common ground; they are much more likely than others to closely follow government and political news. This carries over to their discussions of politics and government. Nearly four-in-ten consistent conservatives (39%) and 30% of consistent liberals tend to drive political discussions – that is, they talk about politics often, say others tend to turn to them for information rather than the reverse, and describe themselves as leaders rather than listeners in these kinds of conversations. Among those with mixed ideological views, just 12% play a similar role. (Pew: Political Polarization & Media Habits)

I’d like to see St. Louis eliminate the unnecessary primary and go to ranked choice voting at the same time we reduce the number of aldermen from 28 to 14 — after the results of the 2020 census are known in 2021. You can download my spreadsheet here (xlsx) and the election results here.

— Steve Patterson


Endorsements In Four Contested Primary Races

Vintage photo of the former offices of the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners. From my collection
Vintage photo of the former offices of the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners. From my collection.

Today I have endorsements in four contested races in the Democratic primary a week from today — March 3rd:

These four are the most progressive candidates in their respective races. One is running for an open seat, two are challenging incumbents, and one is an incumbent.

— Steve Patterson


The Proposed QuikTrip Doesn’t Work In An Urban City

Chouteau Ave, an East-West roadway, was once like most St. Louis streets — lined with urban buildings on both sides.

Chouteau West of Jefferson in 1908, click image to see full size source
Chouteau West of Jefferson in 1908, click image to see full size source
Vin de Set and PW Pizza are popular destinations, causing people to cross Chouteau often. April 2012
Vin de Set and PW Pizza, right, are popular destinations in an urban building — a former brewery. April 2012 photo
In the of Chouteau where the new QuikTrip is proposed you can see urban buildings on both sides of the street. When I was in real estate I represented the owner inn the purchase of the 3-story building on the left.
In the 26xx block of Chouteau, where the new QuikTrip is proposed, you can see urban buildings on both sides of the street. When I was in real estate I represented the owner inn the purchase of the 3-story building on the left. The QT would be to the East of the building on the right. May 2013 photo

The prevailing pattern on both Chouteau & Jefferson is urban — buildings built up to the property line. Sure, more holes exist now than 100 or even 50 years ago — but that’s no reason for the entire street to become the image of a suburban arterial. Even suburbs now are trying to urbanize their unsustainable development patterns.

Urban buildings in the 26xx block of Chouteau being razed, July 2011
Urban buildings in the 26xx block of Chouteau being razed, July 2011
The two buildings remaining to be razed aren't worthy of the National Register of Historic Places, but they do date from the late 19th century.
The two buildings remaining to be razed aren’t worthy of the National Register of Historic Places, but they do date from the late 19th century. April 2012

Chouteau is the southern boundary of my neighborhood of 7+ years: Downtown West. In April 2012 I wrote about a need to study Chouteau Ave, here are a couple of quotes from Chouteau Needs To Go On A Diet:

Chouteau Ave has four travel lanes plus generous parking lanes, it’s too wide. I couldn’t find the curb-to-curb width but the public right-of-way (PROW) is a massive 80 feet, encompassing the road and adjacent sidewalks.

Recent road diet projects on Grand and Manchester had the number of travel lanes reduced from four to two. I don’t think that’s necessary or even a good idea on Chouteau. It’s not lined with shops, although some do still exist in places. No need to make Chouteau into a low volume shopping street but there is no reason it’s can’t accommodate the current volume of vehicular traffic AND be less hostile to pedestrians.  This takes a corridor study.

Chouteau Ave extends east to the river and west until it becomes Manchester as it crosses Vandeventer, 3.4 miles long.  The far east end isn’t as wide and is located in what will become Chouteau’s Landing. A corridor study should focus on the 3 mile stretch from S. 4th on the east to Vandeventer Ave on the west.


A corridor study of the 3 mile length of Chouteau Ave would identify key points where crosswalks are needed. Those not at intersections, like Mississippi Ave, would have a yellow caution light flashing overhead. In the 6/10th of mile between Truman Parkway and Jefferson Ave I’d suggest two pedestrian crossing points: Mississippi Ave and 22nd Street, this would equally space them 2/10th of a mile apart. Too far apart for a commercial district but adequate for this area.

My main focus was on improving pedestrian amenities, but a corridor study would also look at building form. From end to end urban buildings remain — the key to having the corridor be more urban 20-25 years from now is to retain existing urban buildings or replace them with new buildings that are at least as urban. At the time Kacie Starr Triplett had been reelected to a new term a year before. After Triplett resigned I suggested to the newly-electred Ald Christine Ingrassia that Chouteau needs to be studied — she said it wasn’t a priority.

Her priority, it appears, is playing the same games aldermen have played for decades: pretend to be pro-city while introducing anti-city legislation. When called on it crying “I thought we were friends…” You see, they want to be friends so you won’t publicly oppose their bad public policy. I encountered this a decade ago when Jennifer Florida supported a new McDonald’s on Grand (McDonald’s eventually gave up, a multi-story urban building now occupies the site). At that time I referred to guidelines in other cities pushing for more urban fast-food buildings. So I found it funny when Ald Ingrassia told me “As an aside I’m looking at introducing a bill requiring an urban design for gas stations in the city (similar to one in Ottawa – see attached info sheet).”

Ok, so you work for a year on a gas station opposed by many — that you yourself say “Needs a lot of work” — then after getting pushback to the legislation sent to the mayor for signature you ask for urban help and say you plan to require that future gas stations be urban — just not this one. Sorry, that’s not how a smart city does business. A smart city, like Ottawa, develops guidelines to ensure new construction contributes to the environment they seek.

Yes, she talked with residents immediately to the West & South — they wanted police for security and a ban on hard liquor sales. This is the type of feedback when you talk to neighbors, the bigger planning issues never come up or if they do the project is presented as basically a done deal — just help make it better.  Here, we’ll allow you to rearrange the Titanic’s deck chairs…

The proposed QuikTrip (see site plan) has no business being built anywhere in the City of St. Louis — especially not at Jefferson & Chouteau. If built, how long before it’s on QuikTrip’s list of surplus properties? Probably 20 years. They can quickly depreciate their real estate then try to do a sale leaseback to maximize profits on their $11 billion plus in annual revenues.

QuikTrip can afford to develop an urban prototype and we have no incentives to allow them to build the planned location. It’s not like we must drive out to the suburbs to purchase a hot dog, chips, soda, or fuel. They want to build here because they can generate a profit in the location. Fine — let them build & profit — but let’s also not reduce the urban form on Chouteau or Jefferson in the process.

In the last Sunday Poll nearly 70% of the readers wanted an urban form or outright rejection:

Q: QuikTrip wants to build a typical QT at Jefferson & Chouteau, St. Louis should:

  1. Allow it, but require an urban form w/building at the primary corner 23 [38.98%]
  2. Deny it completely 18 [30.51%]
  3. Let them build what they want 14 [23.73%]
  4. Allow it, but require a few minor changes 4 [6.78%]
  5. Unsure/No Opinion 0 [0%]

Can we please stop electing faux progressives?

— Steve Patterson


Fortieth Anniversary of Laclede’s Landing Redevelopment

Four decades ago today — February 19, 1975 — the Board of Aldermen took at step to save what little remained of the oldest part of the city:

A group of downtown bankers and businessmen, led by William Maritz announced the formation of a corporation to oversee development of the tiny group of remaining buildings along the riverfront levee. The Laclede’s Landing Redevelopment Corporation was approved by the Board of Aldermen, which allowed interested owners to retain and improve their properties. Through the 1960’s several proposals were put forth for the area, including one shortsighted suggestion of complete demolition. The area was listed on the National Historic Register in 1976, the first commercial district in St. Louis to do so. Laclede’s Landing has since been on a steady upward path, with several local architects contributing to its renovation. The name “Laclede’s Landing” is a relatively recent name that has been given to the site, as there were nearly 150 more blocks of a similar character that made up the St. Louis riverfront before the creation of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. (STL250 via Facebook)

The bulk of the original city had been razed 35+ years before to make room for a riverfront memorial — eventually the Arch we know today. In 1975 the Arch was open but the grounds not yet landscaped, the north garage not yet built.

In the last four decades the area hasn’t been stagnant, buildings have been renovated while others have been lost. Most recently some sidewalks were improved, made more accessible.

Workers rebuilding curbs & sidewalks along N. 2nd St, November 2013.
Workers rebuilding curbs & sidewalks along N. 2nd St, November 2013.
One of the new sidewalks along N. 2nd, November 2014
One of the new sidewalks along N. 2nd, November 2014
It was announced a park was planned for the north side of the Eads Bridge, to the right of the trucks parked in the alley,
A park is planned for the site where the Switzer building collapsed (north side of the Eads Bridge, to the right of the trucks parked in the alley) March 2014 photo.

Despite recent progress, this summer a big employer will leave Laclede’s Landing:

Following an extensive search, the Bi-State Development Agency (BSDA) is excited to announce the relocation of its headquarters to the Metropolitan Square Building at 211 North Broadway in downtown St. Louis. The move is planned for summer 2015.

Since 1982, BSDA has occupied space at 707 North 1st Street, which currently serves as the agency’s headquarters for the Metro transit system, the Gateway Arch tram and ticket operations, St. Louis Downtown Airport, the new St. Louis Gateway Freight District, and the Gateway Arch Riverboats. The 117-year old building has approximately 100,000 square feet of floor space. (NextStopSTL)


Hopefully other businesses will take over the space that’ll be vacated by Metro! I’m grateful that decades ago some saw the value of holding on the last remnants of the old city.

— Steve Patterson


Board Bill 198 Would Improve ‘Complete Streets’ Law

An incomplete street: The ramp is on the other side of the traffic signal base, opposite of the button. No crosswalk.
An incomplete street, Gravois @ McNair: The ramp is on the other side of the traffic signal base, opposite of the button. No crosswalk.

This morning I will testify before the Board of Aldermen’s Streets, Traffic and Refuse committee in favor of Board Bill 198:

BOARD BILL NO. 198 INTRODUCED BY ALDERMAN SCOTT OGILVIE, ALDERWOMAN LYDA KEWSON, ALDERWOMAN MEGAN GREEN, ALDERMAN SHANE COHN, ALDERWOMAN CHRISTINE INGRASSIA, ALDERWOMAN CAROL HOWARD An ordinance repealing Ordinance 68663, codified as Chapter 3.110.120 of the Revised Code of the City of St. Louis and in lieu thereof enacting a new ordinance relating to a “complete streets” policy for the City of St. Louis, stating guiding principles and practices so that transportation improvements are planned, designed and constructed to encourage walking, bicycling and transit use while promoting safe operations for all users.

The first reading of the bill was in November, this will be the first hearing on it. The full Bill, as introduced, can be viewed here (5 page PDF).  As noted in the summary above, it repeals & replaces Ordinance 68663 — a “Complete Streets” law adopted a few years ago.  This new bill is more — complete.

The best part is the creation of a Complete Streets Steering Committee, comprised of:

Directors or their designees from the Departments of Streets, Planning and Urban Design, Board of Public Service, Health Department, Department of Parks, Recreation, and Forestry, and the Office of the Disabled.

This committee would meet quarterly and:

  • Develop short-term and long-term steps and planning necessary to create a comprehensive and integrated transportation network serving the needs of all users;
  • Assess potential obstacles to implementing Complete Streets practices;
  • Develop an action plan to more fully integrate complete streets principles into appropriate policy documents, plans, project selection processes, design manuals and  maintenance procedures;
  • Provide an annual written report and presentation to the Board of Aldermen showing progress made in implementing this policy.

We can do better, I’m glad some aldermen are trying. For more information see the National Complete Streets Coalition.

— Steve Patterson