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White Flight, Black Flight, Abandonment, Poverty, and Gentrification

August 26, 2019 Featured, Neighborhoods, North City, Planning & Design, Politics/Policy Comments Off on White Flight, Black Flight, Abandonment, Poverty, and Gentrification

St. Louis has some positive things going on lately, Square announcing they’re moving/expanding from Cortex to downtown, Major League Soccer awarded a St  Louis ownership group an expansion team, etc.  These will bring new needed investments and jobs.

Will any benefit reach those north & south of the “central corridor?” The central corridor runs from the central business district west to the burbs.

A friend on Facebook said Square’s move downtown will cause more gentrification.  Not sure he’s correct, but the challenge of attracting investment and jobs without leaving out large segments of the region is real.

This is a good opportunity to talk about how we bring new investments without negative consequences. It’ll help me get these thoughts out of my brain.

5744 & 5748 Highland Ave, Wells-Goodfellow neighborhood

Merriam-Webster defines gentrification as follows:

The process of repairing and rebuilding homes and businesses in a deteriorating area (such as an urban neighborhood) accompanied by an influx of middle-class or affluent people and that often results in the displacement of earlier, usually poorer residents.

Gentrification is a major problem in many regions, but here we still have so many highly vacant neighborhoods. Sure, the average worker can’t afford a downtown loft, but that’s not gentrification.

First we need to look at how we got here.

By the 1920s the white middle class began leaving the City of St. Louis for life in the suburbs. With new people moving to the city from rural areas looking for work the census didn’t show what was happening.

In 1948 the Supreme Court ruled on a St. Louis case, saying racial restrictive covenants couldn’t be enforced through the courts (Shelley v Kraemer).  This prompted more white middle class residents to flee. Upwardly mobile black middle class residents were now able to purchase nicer housing than where they’d been limited to previously.

This house at 4600 Labadie was at the center of the case Shelley v Kraemer

Post WWII brought many to the region looking for work, others just trying to escape oppressive Jim Crow laws in the South. Basements and attics were crudely converted into living spaces. Large homes were subdivided. The population was too high, our housing stock just couldn’t handle all the people resulting in overcrowding. In 1950 St. Louis recorded its highest population — 856,796.

It didn’t help that entire neighborhoods were being razed for “urban renewal” projects and others being divided as highway construction cut wide paths through densely-populated neighborhoods.

Neighborhoods like Fountain Park remained respectable middle class, just now black instead of white. Eventually the black middle class got older, while some would stay but others began buying housing in North County as the white middle class there began moving to St. Charles County.

Some north city neighborhoods have been without the black middle class for decades now. In these neighborhoods the working poor have also been leaving, seeking affordable housing in other neighborhoods or in older north county areas where the black middle class have left more recently. An example is Wells Goodfellow — more vacant lots than residents.

!912 Clara Ave, left, and 1904 Clara Ave are occupied, the two houses in between were just razed.

Here is what I struggle with. We need money in the city — we need middle class and more affluent people so jobs will be created. This doesn’t mean white, though that’s often what happens.

How do we change long-disinvested neighborhoods so they’re attractive to all people with more money — without pricing out those who still call the neighborhood home?

In the ideal world we’d invest in neighborhoods in a way that attracts & accommodates all races & economic classes. This means housing at a variety of price points — from low-income to high end with everything in between.  Retail & restaurants should appeal to all segments and pocketbooks.

This may not be possible, I know it won’t happen without regulation. Free-market capitalism has demonstrated it is ok with excluding many.  The trick is learning from other regions so we can reduce unintended negative consequences from regulations.

Unfortunately I think our city/region is too laissez-faire to enact regulations to transform vacant neighborhoods so they’ll become great neighborhoods.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Opinion: Repeal 2nd Amendment To Return To ‘Collective Rights’ Over ‘Individual Rights’

August 21, 2019 Featured, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Opinion: Repeal 2nd Amendment To Return To ‘Collective Rights’ Over ‘Individual Rights’
Gun show billboard, 2011

There’s something about the United States that sets us apart from everywhere else in the world when it comes to gun violence. Some try to blame video games or mental health, but the those aren’t unique to the U.S.

Part of what is different is the constitutional right to bear arms, but that is read one of two ways: collective rights or individual rights.

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Such language has created considerable debate regarding the Amendment’s intended scope. On the one hand, some believe that the Amendment’s phrase “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” creates an individual constitutional right for citizens of the United States. Under this “individual right theory,” the United States Constitution restricts legislative bodies from prohibiting firearm possession, or at the very least, the Amendment renders prohibitory and restrictive regulation presumptively unconstitutional. On the other hand, some scholars point to the prefatory language “a well regulated Militia” to argue that the Framers intended only to restrict Congress from legislating away a state’s right to self-defense. Scholars have come to call this theory “the collective rights theory.” A collective rights theory of the Second Amendment asserts that citizens do not have an individual right to possess guns and that local, state, and federal legislative bodies therefore possess the authority to regulate firearms without implicating a constitutional right. (Wex Legal Dictionary)

Until 2008 the collective rights theory was accepted as the meaning of the militia reference in the Second Amendment. The late  John Paul Stevens, appointed to the Supreme Court by Republican Gerald Ford, wrote a couple of opinion pieces about gun violence and the constitution.

From 2012, two years after retiring:

The first 10 amendments to the Constitution placed limits on the powers of the new federal government. Concern that a national standing army might pose a threat to the security of the separate states led to the adoption of the Second Amendment, which provides that “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

For more than 200 years following the adoption of that amendment, federal judges uniformly understood that the right protected by that text was limited in two ways: First, it applied only to keeping and bearing arms for military purposes, and second, while it limited the power of the federal government, it did not impose any limit whatsoever on the power of states or local governments to regulate the ownership or use of firearms. Thus, in United States v. Miller, decided in 1939, the court unanimously held that Congress could prohibit the possession of a sawed-off shotgun because that sort of weapon had no reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a “well regulated Militia.” (Washington Post)

The individual states that formed the Union were concerned about a national army that might infringe on their rights as a state. Remember, the Bill of Rights was ratified in December 1791 — not long after independence from England.

Justice Stevens again, from March 2018:

During the years when Warren Burger was our chief justice, from 1969 to 1986, no judge, federal or state, as far as I am aware, expressed any doubt as to the limited coverage of that amendment. When organizations like the National Rifle Association disagreed with that position and began their campaign claiming that federal regulation of firearms curtailed Second Amendment rights, Chief Justice Burger publicly characterized the N.R.A. as perpetrating “one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”

In 2008, the Supreme Court overturned Chief Justice Burger’s and others’ long-settled understanding of the Second Amendment’s limited reach by ruling, in District of Columbia v. Heller, that there was an individual right to bear arms. I was among the four dissenters.

That decision — which I remain convinced was wrong and certainly was debatable — has provided the N.R.A. with a propaganda weapon of immense power. Overturning that decision via a constitutional amendment to get rid of the Second Amendment would be simple and would do more to weaken the N.R.A.’s ability to stymie legislative debate and block constructive gun control legislation than any other available option. (New York Times)

In 2018 Stevens argued for repealing the 2nd Amendment. I agree. The individual rights fraud pushed by the N.R.A. is partly to blame for gun violence that sets the United States apart from every other nation. A pistol in the home for self-defense is fine, but buying dozens of assault rifles and ammunition in a short period of time is not.

The recent non-scientific Sunday Poll was hijacked — more than twice the number of usual responses. The highly skewed results are visible in the original post, so I’m not going to reprint them here.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: The 2nd Amendment

August 18, 2019 Featured, Politics/Policy, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: The 2nd Amendment
Please vote below

This year has been violent:

When gun violence erupts in America, the local mayor is often the first to comfort families and try to heal their community. So far this year, there have been more than 35,000 incidents of gun violence in America — 261 of which are considered mass shootings — blamed for more than 9,200 deaths.

CBS News national correspondent Adriana Diaz spoke to four mayors, one of whom had to respond to a massacre less than two weeks ago. Nan Whaley of Dayton, Ohio, Bobby Dyer of Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Christine Hunschofsky of Parkland, Florida have all had to help their cities heal after a mass shooting. Washington, D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser addresses gun violence on a continual basis. Together, they’re part of a growing bipartisan chorus of local politicians pushing Congress to take action on guns. (CBS News)

St. Louis hasn’t been immune:

When classes resumed this week at public schools in St. Louis, some desks were noticeably empty as grief counselors greeted students returning from one of the deadliest summers for childrenin the city’s history.

Xavier Usanga, a 7-year-old student at Clay Elementary School, was killed by a stray bullet while playing near his home Monday, a day before he was to begin the second grade, his family said.

The boy’s death marked the seventh child under the age of 17 killed by gun violence in St. Louis this year, police said. All but two of the victims were slain since school let out in June, and police have expressed frustration about the unsolved killings. (ABC News)

Inevitably the 2nd Amendment comes up whenever guns, and gun regulations, are discussed. So it is the subject of today’s non-scientific poll:

Today’s poll will close at 8pm tonight. Wednesday I’ll have the results and my thoughts.

– Steve Patterson

 

Reader Consensus: No Leniency For Former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger

August 7, 2019 Crime, Featured, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Reader Consensus: No Leniency For Former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger
From Steve Stenger’s campaign website

Friday Steve Stenger will learn his fate.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry will sentence Stenger on Aug. 9 — federal guidelines call for three to nearly four years in federal prison, although Perry is free to ignore the guidelines and the memos.

Stenger pleaded guilty in May to funneling county business to a campaign donor, John Rallo, in exchange for thousands of dollars in contributions. Rallo has also pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme and will be sentenced in October. (St. Louis Public Radio)

The feds are seeking the maximum sentence possible. Meanwhile…

Steve Stenger’s attorneys paint the former St. Louis County executive as remorseful for the fraudulent actions that led to his federal indictment on three charges, arguing that Stenger deserves no more than the minimum time of 37 months in prison in a memo filed Sunday. (Post-Dispatch)

So the 37 months requested falls at the low end of the guidelines. Will Judge Perry make it closer to 4 years, more, less? We’ll find out Friday.

In the years I’ve been doing these non-scientific Sunday Polls I can’t recall another instance where all participants agreed. Usually about 15% have the opposite view of the majority, occasionally there’s a close split.

This time it was unanimous — no leniency!

Q: Agree or disagree: Former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger should be shown leniency when sentenced later this week.

  • Strongly agree: 0 [0%]
  • Agree: 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat agree: 0 [0%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 1 [3.03%]
  • Disagree: 5 [15.15%]
  • Strongly disagree: 27 [81.82%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 0 [0%]

I was in Judge Perry’s courtroom in 2007 when she sentenced a friend — he did get leniency.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: Should Steve Stenger Get Leniency When Sentenced Friday?

August 4, 2019 Crime, Featured, Politics/Policy, St. Louis County, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Should Steve Stenger Get Leniency When Sentenced Friday?
Please vote below

Former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger will be sentenced on Friday in a pay-to-play scheme. From April 30, 2019:

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, a target of a yearlong undercover federal investigation into political favors traded for campaign contributions, was indicted by a grand jury Thursday on charges of theft of honest services.

The indictment was unsealed Monday as Stenger resigned in a letter to County Counselor Peter Krane, writing that “it is in the best interest of our County and my family.” (Post-Dispatch)

By the end of that week Stenger entered a guilty plea, he’d just be re-elected to a second term in November.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry will sentence Stenger on Aug. 9 — federal guidelines call for three to nearly four years in federal prison, although Perry is free to ignore the guidelines and the memos. (St. Louis Public Radio)

In addition to resigning the office, Stenger has given up his law & accountant licenses. Today’s poll is to see how readers feel about sentencing.

Today’s poll will close at 8pm.

—Steve Patterson

 

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