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Economic Development & Job Creation Tops List For Aldermen

January 12, 2011 Board of Aldermen 4 Comments

Last week readers selected. from a long list, the issues they’d like to see our 28 aldermen work on in 2011.

Q: What are three issues you’d like the St. Louis Board of Aldermen to address in 2011? (Pick 3)

  1. Economic development/job creation 80 [18.31%]
  2. Reducing the number of city elected offices, including aldermen 73 [16.7%]
  3. Rejoinging/merging with St. Louis County 63 [14.42%]
  4. The budget – reducing expenses and/or increasing revenue 46 [10.53%]
  5. New form-based zoning 41 [9.38%]
  6. Defeating the April ballot measure to repeal the earnings tax. 39 [8.92%]
  7. Local control of the St. Louis Police 36 [8.24%]
  8. Ballpark Village 18 [4.12%]
  9. Homelessness 15 [3.43%]
  10. Other answer… 11 [2.52%]
  11. A comprehensive valet ordinance. 8 [1.83%]
  12. Attracting a pro basketball team to the city 6 [1.37%]
  13. Create boundaries of one ward so we might see an Asian or Hispanic elected in the future 1 [0.23%]

Not surprising that “Economic development/job creation” topped the list.  But what does that look like from a body that can pass ordinances? Tax abatement? TIFs?

ABOVE: Suburban-style housing with front garages has often been used
ABOVE: Suburban-style housing with front garages has been a redevelopment favorite of many aldermen over the years

The 11 other answers were:

  1. Cannabis reform
  2. Citywide demolition review
  3. Making ward boundaries so that neighborhoods are not split among multiple wards
  4. Cracking down on brick/copper thieves
  5. taking a long hard look at City education, i.e. investigating admin. corruption
  6. crime
  7. Work to pass the earnings tax and wring the difference out of the budget
  8. pension reform
  9. Get real on balancing pension obligations and funding!
  10. None. Violence is no way to organize a society.
  11. establishment of checks and balances

Pensions are certainly a topic I should have included on my list.  Not sure how a legislative body can impact crime, other than toughen our ordinances. Similarly, I don’t see how the aldermen can improve education.  More economic development & jobs, however, would indirectly reduce crime and improve education.

Your thoughts?

– Steve Patterson


Reducing The Number Of Aldermen

ABOVE: City Hall, Granite City IL
ABOVE: City Hall, Granite City IL

Many have long thought 28 members of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen is excessive for a population of 350,000.  Across the river in Granite City IL they will have the size of their city council go from 14 members to 10 in April.  The numbers of wards will go from 7 to 5, each ward has two representatives.

In the 2011 election, all 10 seats will be up for election for either two- or four-year terms.(source)

The two & four year terms will allow for staggered 4-year terms going forward.  Their thinking was fewer residents so you need fewer elected representatives. If only we’d get wind of such logic on this side of the river!

Here is a list of past decades with the number of residents per St. Louis alderman in parenthesis.

  • 2000 (12,435)
  • 1990 (14,167)
  • 1980 (16,171)
  • 1970 (22,223)
  • 1960 (26,787)
  • 1950 (30,600)
  • 1940 (29,145)
  • 1930 (29,356)

Were the aldermen of decades past so much more competent that they could represent more than twice as many residents as our current aldermen? Granted, they didn’t need to respond to constituent emails.  Maybe, just maybe, the bureaucracy was such that citizens went there first rather than ring their aldermen? As our population declined the aldermen changed the system so they were thought to be indispensable?

Ald Fred Heitert was first sworn into office in 1979.  After the 1980 census each alderman represented just over 16,000 persons.  If we were to use this number, from the first year of a current alderman, we could go from 28 to 22 (based on 350,000 residents).  1970 was in my lifetime, if we use the 22,223 per alderman figure we would be at 16. Based on the 1950 peak we’d have only 11.

I have no clue what the magic number should be.  Perhaps we should have two aldermen per ward such as Granite City does?  It is time to reexamine how our city government is structured.  If little Granite City IL can do it, why can’t we?

– Steve Patterson


Poll: What Issues Would You Like The Board of Aldermen To Address In 2011?

ABOVE: St. Louis City Hall
ABOVE: St. Louis City Hall

There is still some time left in the current session of the Board of Aldermen ends, the last meeting before the Spring break is Thursday February 10, 2011.  A new session begins in April 2011.

My poll question this week asks: “What are three issues you’d like the St. Louis Board of Aldermen to address in 2011?

The answers are numerous but you have have additional ideas, pick up to three.  The poll is in the upper right of the blog.

– Steve Patterson


An Open Letter To The St. Louis Board of Aldermen

ABOVE: Sausage getting made in the Board of Aldermen's chambers
ABOVE: Sausage getting made in the Board of Aldermen's chambers

Dear Board of Aldermen:

I appreciate your many years of pubic service, but after about 12 years that service changes to public disservice.  In my view, more than half of you have stayed around too long.

Let me explain my thinking.

To run for the Board of Aldermen you need to be 25 years old — born by 1985.  Alfred Wessels & Phyllis Young were both sworn into office in the Spring of 1985 (source). They’ve now been in office so long that a person born on the day they were sworn in is now qualified to run for their seats!

Young & Wessels were once the new folks coming in to change City Hall:

“Phyllis Young, the Democratic incumbent, was first elected in 1985 as a reform candidate against the old Webbe-Leisure organization that for decades controlled the ward, which now takes in downtown and neighborhoods just to the south. Her immediate predecessor, former Alderman Sorkis J. Webbe Jr., is serving a prison term on charges of vote fraud and obstruction of justice.”  (St. Louis Post-Dispatch March 23, 1989)

Each of you are all nice and have the best of intentions.  That said, by running for reelection ever four years you are not allowing a new group of leadership to emerge & grow in this city.

The following of you are up for reelection in March, and frankly, I’d like each and every one on this list to return to the Board of Election Commissioners and withdraw from the race:

  1. Terry Kennedy (D-18, 1989)
  2. Stephen Conway (D-8. 1990)
  3. Craig Schmid (D-20, 1995)
  4. Lyda Krewson (D-28, 1997)

And one more — Fred Heitert (R-12, 1979)  Yes the sole Republican on the Board of Aldermen will have served 32 years at the end of his current term.  32 years!  All the above need to step aside to let others be able to participate.

In 2013 the following shouldn’t seek another term:

  1. Phyllis Young (D-7, 1985)
  2. Alfred Wessels (D-13, 1985)
  3. Joseph Roddy (D-17, 1988)
  4. Freeman Bosley Sr (D-3, 1989)
  5. Gregory Carter (D-27, 1993)
  6. April Ford Griffin (D-5, 1997)
  7. Matt Villa (D-11, 1997)
  8. Dionne Flowers (D-2, 1999)
  9. Ken Ortmann (D-9, 1999)
  10. Jennifer Florida (D-15, 2001)

This is not personal, I believe we’d have less voter apathy and more citizen involvement in the community if people saw a chance for change, an opening to get involved.  Have you done good things for the city? Yes.  Would you continue doing good things for the city.  Probably so.  But each of you replaced someone just they replaced the person before them.  Is there risk we’d get someone we don’t like as well? Certainly, but we need to take that chance.  We must take that risk! So please, let three terms be your limit.  Don’t be a house guest that stays too long.

– Steve Patterson


Who cares about ward boundaries?

The boundaries of St. Louis’ 28 wards change every 10 years, following the decennial census. The idea is each ward should have the same number of residents after redistricting.  But does anyone care about where the lines are drawn? Does anyone care if a business relocates from one ward to another within the city? The answer is yes, some aldermen obsess about the ward they represent to the point a property across the street from the ward doesn’t matter to them. This provincial way of thinking hurts the city as a whole.

In May Ald Kacie Starr Triplett tweeted the following from @KacieStarr:

“Patricia Stevens College is relocating to the 6th Ward. That’s approx 200-300 college students walking, visiting, shopping in downtown”. 6:53 AM May 26th via UberTwitter

Wow, 200-300 more people downtown!  Wait, where are they relocating from? Oh, from North 4th St, less than a mile away and also downtown.  They are leaving the current 7th ward and moving to the 6th ward, not really a gain.  Someone walking from the old location to the new location would pass through a bit of the 5th Ward on the way. Most of our aldermen are guilty of this.

Stevens Institute, July 10th, 2010

I’m very pleased Stevens Institute rehabbed a building near me for their new facility, I just wish our aldermen weren’t so narrowly focused on their 3.6% of the city. We need elected officials who will view the city as a whole and work to improve 100% of the city.

– Steve Patterson