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“We Are Barely Surviving”

“We are barely surviving” was the testimony of one bar owner on day one of hearings last week on Board Bill 46 to create a smoke-free St. Louis.  75% of her customers are smokers.   Her business is barely making it as it is.  Take away her smoking customers and she won’t survive.

During the 3 hours I was at the hearing she was just across the aisle from me.  Throughout the testimony of those speaking in favor og BB46 she’d say things like “stay home.”  Her bar targets 25% of the population and is barely getting by yet she wants non-smokers to stay home.  When your business is focused on a niche market but isn’t doing well, telling a bigger audience to stay home just seems like bad business.

Just as I will not step foot into an establishment that permits smoking I would imagine there is a group of smokers unwilling to go to a place were they can’t smoke indoors.  I’d imagine this being around 5% of both smokers and non-smokers.  Do smokers drink more than non-smokers?  Perhaps but I know many non-smokers that drink plenty.

But non-smokers don’t stay home, they just go to places that are not heavily smokey.  Again, I don’t go into spaces where smoking is permitted.  Two places I’d like to visit again, Tuckers & Joanies, have non-smoking sections upstairs over smoking areas.  Might as well make it all smoking because the air is the same. Pathetic.

Those restaurants that are viewed by smokers & non-smokers as a smoking establishment to the point that 75-90% of the customers are smokers likely will not survive when St. Louis or Missouri finally goes smoke-free.  They are going to hold onto that niche clientele until they go broke (lack of non-smoking customers) or the law says smoking is no longer permitted indoors.

If more than 25% of your customers smoke indoors you need to rethink your business plan.  Improve your outdoor options.  Begin preparing for the day when indoor smoking in public places in St. Louis is no longer permitted.  Or you can fight it and in a few years return to your old space to see what opened after your niche business closed.

The Board of Aldermen’s Heath & Human Services committee will continue hearings on BB46 at 1pm on July 9th in Room 208 in City Hall.

– Steve Patterson


Controversial “Blairmont” Project to be Revealed Tonight

Tonight we expect politically connected developer Paul McKee, of McEagle Development, to publicly unveil the controversial development project nicknamed “Blairmont.”

The project got this name after one of the early holding companies used to acquire properties, Blairmont Associates LLC.

Here is a video that explains Blairmont:

Another source of info on Blairmont is a January 2007 RFT article.

Out of the controversy came an August 2007 bus tour of McKee’s properties.  Here is 5th Ward Alderman April Ford Griffin:

The next month the meetings continued.  Here is 19th Ward Alderman Marlene Davis:

I got involved by asking a question of Alderman April Ford Griffin.  Griffin is the chair of the Neighborhood Development committee at the Board of Aldermen.  She has a warped view of zoning.  Rather than have excellent zoning that codifies the community vision, she likes outdated zoning so developers must come to her.  The video starts out rough but gets better:

Congressman Clay talks about a hearing held at city hall with a reference to the 1970s Team Four plan that called for reducing services in parts of the city:


Here is a summary of the infamous Team Four plan:

This document contains the technical memorandum that was submitted to the Plan Commission by Team Four, Inc. in 1975. This memorandum proposed public policy guidelines and strategies for implementing the Draft Comprehensive Plan that was prepared by others. It offered a series of considerations concerning the process of adopting, staging, budgeting and ultimately implementing the Draft Comprehensive Plan. In addition, this document contains a preface dated 1976 that attempts to clean up any inconsistencies and or controversies surrounding the proposed implementation strategies and a bibliography or annotated listing of Technical Memoranda and Appendixes. Part I of this document focused on strategies for three generic area types: conservation, redevelopment, and depletion areas; and Part II of this document discussed major urban issues and their solutions.

Today “shrinking cities” are studied and various techniques are debated.  In the 70s in St. Louis the Team Four plan was seen as a racist plot to deny services to a minority population.  We know more today about how to adjust to shrinking populations.

Tonight we will see another, a huge heavily subsidized redevelopment plan.  Many are opposed simply based on the history of the project to date.  I for one plan to go with an open mind. I have reservations about both the developer and the political leadership.  Griffin’s view on the role of zoning doesn’t give me a lot of hope for what may be presented in pretty artist renderings actually being completed as promised.  A good framework of a zoning code can help ensure the promised vision develops into reality.

Tonight’s meeting starts at  7pm at Central Baptist Church Education Building 2843 Washington Ave (Google Map).  I’ll be there and will report on the presentation next week.


Poll Results on Mayor Slay’s Odds of Getting Charter Reform

My poll last week asked:

Will Mayor Slay get 1) Charter Reform, 2) local police control; 3) the city back into STL County by the end of his 3rd term (April 2013?

Forty percent of the responses say none of the 3 will happen:

But more importantltly, 60% of you think some change will happen in the next four years.  I think the 12 that thought all 3 would happen are foolishly optimistic.  I don’t see St. Louis County taking the city back after a 130-year separation.  Of course I also didn’t think county voters would approve the Page extension through Creve Coeur Park.  I’m not convinced we need to be back in the County.  I’m on board with charter reform and local control of our police.


April’s Swearing in of the Aldermen

Last month, on Tuesday April 21st, the Aldermen from odd-numbered wards were sworn in to four year terms. For three of the 14 this was their first term (Cohn, French & Vacarro).

I was there to capture the moment on video. They were actually sworn in twice. The first time was in a conference room prior to the first meeting where they had a ceremonial swearing in.


The Board of Aldermen meets at 10am on Friday mornings.


Media Barred From Public Meeting on Proposed Development in North St. Louis (Updated 3X)

Earlier today I got word of a meeting regarding Paul McKee’s development in North St. Louis.  I posted about the meeting and decided to go.

It looked like a public meeting:

Sign posted outside door to meeting.
Sign posted outside door to meeting.

However, the first order of business was an announcement that the meeting, about a development project,  was private and all media had to leave.  I stayed seated until a man came over to me and asked me to leave — saying Central Baptist Church was private property.  I left in shock.  Outside I found reporters from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,  KWMU radio and later KMOV that were not allowed inside.  I guess I was in good company.

A security guard was on hand to keep the press in check.
A security guard was on hand to keep the press in check.
Church representative that announced media had to leave locked both exterior doors so nobody could enter.
Church representative that announced media had to leave locked both exterior doors so nobody could enter.

The doors were locked so we could not enter the building.  The doors do have panic bars so people could exit.  While outside some regular citizens arrived.  They had to pound on the door to be let in.  Not all persons inside were residents of the two wards that had their Aldermen on the agenda (April Ford Griffin & Marlene Davis).  A third Alderman was present in the audience, recently sworn Alderman Antonio French from PubDef.org.

I’m no expert on Missouri’s Sunshine Law but I’m pretty sure this was a violation.  I’ve already filed a complaint with Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster.

Developer Paul McKee was not at the meeting but the agenda listed William Laskowsky of McKee’s McEagle Development company and a Mark Johnson from Civitas, Inc.  Alderman Davis told us the public meeting would be on the 21st, most likely at Vashon High School. McKee has substantial real estate holdings in North St. Louis.  Stay tuned.

UPDATE 5/11/09 @ 11pm. KMOV reporter Ray Preston blogged about not being able to cover the meeting.

UPDATE 5/12/09 @ 7:50AM – additional coverage

UPDATE 5/13/09 @3:30PM – response from Missouri Assistant Attorney General Daryl Hylton:

I appreciate and understand your concerns about the meeting referenced.  As I understand the situation, this “meeting” was facilitated by two alderman, so that developers could address concerns of the citizens impacted by the development   Missouri courts, however, have interpreted the sunshine law to not apply to actions of individual members of a government entity when acting independently without any authority of the body;  or to meetings of less than a quorum of the entity absent an attempt to avoid the purpose of the sunshine law. See Colombo v. Buford, 935 S.W.2d 690 (Mo. App. W.D. 1996).

So the meeting was allowed to be closed to the press.  While legal it is not good PR for a project that has yet to garner any good PR.


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