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A Decade Since Steve Patterson Filed To Run For The St. Louis Board Of Alderman

A decade ago today I decided I wasn’t going to let an incumbent win four years in office because of a lack of a challenger.  If she, Dorothy Kirner, wanted a four-year term she was going to have to work for it. Two months later I lost the primary, receiving 44.1% of the vote.  Not bad considering I started putting together my campaign after filing on the very last day, instead of months earlier.

Here I was a candidate but I had no team, no money, no plan.   My check for the filing fee didn’t even clear, thankfully then-Democratric party chair Brian Wahby allowed me to replace it rather than disqualify me from the race. At this point I was an unknown, this blog had only been around a little over two months.

I had been paying attention though, the day before filing I posted:

Carl Coats, a former city building inspector, had filed to challenge Dorothy Kirner for the 25th Ward aldermanic seat. On 1/4/05 he withdrew himself as a candidate. Unless someone files tomorrow Dorothy Kirner will win by default. This is my ward – I was hoping someone would mount a good challenge to Kirner. (See 25th Ward Challenger Carl Coats Has Withdrawn from Race).

That night I realized nobody else was going to run, but why not me? I was 37 and self-employed, so I had the time. I owned three properties in the ward, one co-owned with a friend, so I was invested. I had ideas I wanted to become part of the conversation during the election. I called a few people that night and the next day I went down to the Board of Election Commissioners to file.

People I know & people I just met stepped up to offer help, money, advice, etc. — too many to thank them all individually.

Steve Patterson speaking at a gathering at Gallery Urbis Orbis downtown, February 2005
Candidate Steve Patterson speaking at a gathering at Gallery Urbis Orbis downtown, February 2005
Patterson yard signs in the 25th Ward
Patterson yard signs in the 25th Ward
The yard sign graphic
The yard sign graphic with my campaign website prominently displayed
Kirner reused signs from the prior year, before the 25th Ward Regular Democratic Club had endorsed her in the current race
Kirner reused signs from the prior year, before the 25th Ward Regular Democratic Club had endorsed her in the current race
This rink in Mt. Pleasant Park was one issue during the campaign, none of us in the immediate area asked for this in the park -- it just appeared,
This rink in Mt. Pleasant Park was one issue during the campaign, none of us in the immediate area asked for this in the park — it just appeared

Early press was discouraging, such as the story ‘Incumbent aldermen assured of re-election’  in the South Suburban Journal five days after filling closed:

Incumbent Alderman Dorothy Kirner, 70, of the 3700 block of Taft Avenue, faces challenger Steven L. Patterson, 37, a real estate agent living in the 3100
block of Mount Pleasant Street. The primary is March 8.

“I have lived in the neighborhood for 48 years,” said Kirner, who was elected June 15, 2004 to succeed her husband, Alderman Dan Kirner, who died in office. Stressing her experience, she said, “I have been around longer than my husband was in the political field.”

But Patterson, who has lived in the neighborhood for 10 years, said he had a lot of experience in getting things done, in looking at development and managing people and projects.

“I think the fact that I haven’t spent many years in politics is actually a benefit to me. It’s time for a fresh approach to the ward,” he said.

As the campaign progressed the coverage did improve, from the Vital Voice, an LGBT publication, just days before the primary:

Steve Patterson is busy knocking on doors and talking to residents throughout the 25th Ward in hopes of becoming the first openly gay individual to serve in the 28-member St. Louis Board of Alderman.

Patterson, who turns 38 on Feb. 28, is mounting a serious challenge to unseat incumbent Alderwoman Dorothy Kirner in the March 8 primary. Kirner, 69, was elected last June to serve the remaining ten months of her late husband, Dan Kirner’s term.

“What brought me into politics is the desire to see change and realizing that I couldn’t sit here and complain that no one was taking charge without realizing that maybe that should be me,” said Patterson of his insurgent campaign. “The campaign experience is awesome. I’m really enjoying getting involved and being involved. It actually feels really good to be this civic minded.”

The 25th Ward, which includes neighborhoods around far South Grand is ethnically diverse with large Caucasian, African American, Bosnian and Vietnamese communities. The ward also has a representative gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community. Nevertheless, the heavily Democratic 25th is socially conservative and accordingly voted to approve Amendment 2 last August witch banned gay marriage in the Missouri Constitution.

Yes, only one of the city’s 28 wards voted in favor of Amendment 2 and I, an openly gay man, was running for alderman in that ward just 4 months later.  What was I thinking? I do remember knocking on one door, the woman who answered asked me if I supported gay rights or same-sex marriage. When I told her I was gay I turned a sceptic stranger into a voter, we remain friends today.

Although Kirner won a full 4-year term I have no regrets about running, one of the best decisions I ever made.  I do have some hindsight from my one and only political campaign:

  • Plan well ahead, don’t wait until the last day to file to start putting the campaign together.
  • Run to win, but know that becoming serious candidate makes you a winner even if you don’t win the election.
  • Video record your debate, I wish I’d done so!

This election was prior to social media — no Facebook or Twitter! Like I indicated in the photos above, I had a blog/website, one of the earliest aldermanic campaigns to have one. I raised & spent about $1,200m Kirner raised & spend about $12,000 — she  had to hire consultants to build a website.   She showed up for a debate on the issues, something she wouldn’t have had to do otherwise.

One issue raised during our campaign was a Citizen Review Board, I favored it while Kirner, whose late husband had been a police officer, opposed external review of the police. The Board of Aldermen passed a Civilian Review Board bill a year later — vetoed by Mayor Slay.

I received
I received 278 votes (51.5%) in the two precincts East of Grand, while Kirner received 292 votes (64.7%) from the two precincts West of Grand.  I lived East of Grand, Kirner West of Grand, her support was stronger than mine. Total votes was 437 vs 554.

After serving her one term, Dorothy Kirner didn’t seek a 2nd in 2009, setting up a 4-way race for the open seat. Openly gay Shane Cohn won the democratic primary with 487 votes (46.25%), this 4-way race had 1,053 votes vs 991 votes in my 2005 race.

Filing for the March 2015 primary has closed, though independent candidates can still get on the ballot in the April general by collecting signatures. Those of you in odd numbered wards who are considering running in 2017 should begin planning now.

Tomorrow I’ll look at the 2015 spring municipal races.

— Steve Patterson


Clemens Mansion Was To Kickoff McKee’s NorthSide Regeneration Project

November 17, 2012 25th Ward, Accessibility, Featured, Grad School, MLK Jr. Drive, Parking Comments Off on Clemens Mansion Was To Kickoff McKee’s NorthSide Regeneration Project

It was three years ago today that many gathered on the lawn in front of one of the most historic properties in St. Louis: The Clemens Mansion, located at 1849 Cass Ave.

ABOVE: Blueprints for the adoption of the Clemens Mansion to senior apartments was on display on November 17, 2009
ABOVE: St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay signs a bill for Paul McKee’s NorthSide Regeneration project

From The Beacon:

Mayor Francis Slay put his ceremonial seal of approval Tuesday on the first step of the $8.1 billion plan to redevelop a large portion of north St. Louis, but he remained noncommittal on what developer Paul McKee considers a key part of the project.

The signing ceremony for two bills passed by the Board of Aldermen — the bills were actually signed into law by the mayor on Friday — took place under a tent on the front lawn of the Clemens House, one of the most visible properties in the McKee project area. (St. Louis Beacon)

Initial work had begun on the renovation but work stopped when part of the financing fell through, I believe a low-income housing tax credit. Soon much of McKee’s project will have a final airing in court.

The state Supreme Court has set Nov. 28 as the date for oral arguments in the lawsuit that has blocked McKee’s massive NorthSide Regeneration project for more than two years. There’s no telling how long after that a ruling might come down, but that ruling will help the project advance, McKee said. (stltoday.com)

Disclosure: I was a very minor consultant on the Clemen’s Mansion project, assisting with accessibility and starting to look at traffic calming and walkability along a larger stretch of Cass Ave. Hopefully the project can be completed in the future.

— Steve Patterson


Former Alderwoman Still Using Board of Alderman ‘Official Business’ Placard

A personal friend of mine, last week on Monday August 24th, spotted former 25th Alderwoman Dorothy Kirner park at a parking meter and place an “official business” placard upon the dashboard of her Ford Escort before going inside without feeding said parking meter.

Kirner defeated me in the March 2005 Democratic primary election for Board of Alderman for the 25th Ward.  She did not seek re-election in the 2009 race.  Shane Cohn was sworn into office as the new Alderman for the 25th Ward in April 2009.

Above you can see the placard placed on the dash.

These placards are issue to elected officials for, well, official business.  I’m not sure what official business a former Alderperson is conducting for the Board of Aldermen.  Could it be she expects to continue receiving the perks of the office she no longer holds?

– Steve Patterson


KMOX NewsRadio Used My Photo Without Attribution (Updated 2X)

When I first read KMOX’s May 13th story, Paul McKee — What’s his plan for north St. Louis? I thought something, the image used, looked familiar.  Here is how the story looked on KMOX’s website:

I reviewed my 160+ published images from an August 16, 2007 bus tour of Paul McKee’s properties and there was the image used in KMOX’s online story:

I published the above image and the others from the bus tour to Flickr that same day, 8/16/2007.  On August 21, 2007 I published  Bus Tour of Dilapitated McKee-owned Properties Ignored Other Issues using 20 images from the 160 I took that day.  The above image was among the 20 used.

I have 15,000+ images published on the photo sharing site Flickr, all using a Creative Commons license which grants the right to use the image provided attribution is listed:

Attribution — You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).

But CBS-owned KMOX 1120AM used my photo as if it was their own with no attribution to the source.

My photos are part of my work.  I want them used but I want the credit.

I’ve emailed numerous persons on KMOX’s website asking for attribution or for them to cease using my image.    Hopefully they will see fit to give me credit.

UPDATE 5/18/09 @ 9:10AM — In the last hour KMOX has removed my image from their story.

UPDATE 5/18/09 @10:30AM — Just received phone call from KMOX Reporter Kevin Killeen apologizing for the uncredited use of my image.


Spending Money on the Way Out the Door

Four years ago, in March 2005, I lost my bid to become Alderman for the 25th Ward.  My opponent was Dorothy Kirner, the incumbent.  Kirner had won the office through a special election in 2004 when the previous Alderman, her husband Dan Kirner, died while in office.

I ran on the premise that I’d do something. I didn’t win.  Kirner was elected to a full term.  She did something  — she hoarded $625K in capital improvement money rather than, you know, make needed capital improvements in the ward.

Alderman Dorothy Kirner incurred the anger of a neighborhood group when she approved a repaving package for her ward that includes $21,600 to repave two blocks in front of her house.

The allocation is part of $409,600 in capital spending she signed off on recently to repave parts of 12 streets in her 25th Ward.

Chris Wintrode of the West Dutchtown Neighborhood Association said there’s more pressing needs and that she didn’t obtain comment from the residents, some of whom have other concerns.

“The issue’s not that Alderwoman Kirner has no authority to spend money in the account. It’s that she’s secretly spending taxpayer money less than a month before she leaves office resurfacing the road in front of her house,” Wintrode said.

The repaving money came from a $624,469 reserve built up from 25th Ward capital money not spent for several years. Kirner is free to allocate it as long as it is spent on public property or a public right-of-way.  (source: Suburban Journal on 4/7/09)

So Kirner hoarded $625K over her four years in office and then spent 2/3 of it in her final month.  Why wait until you are a lame duck?

I should note that some money was spent in her four years.  Streets were repaved.  Beautiful brick alleys were covered in asphalt.  Sidewalk repairs were made.  Dumpsters were replaced.  But six hundred twenty-five grand was not spent.  Amazing!

The Dutchtown West Neighborhood Association has listed all 28 wards in both numerical order and in money unspent (link).  As of December 2008, the 25th’s $624,469 placed it second to the 1st ward with $745,617 in unspent money.  On the other end of the scale the 18th & 24th wards have fully exhausted their allotments.  The city’s fiscal year ends on June 30th.

The city’s 1st ward is located on the Northside and includes the intersection of Kingshighway & Natural Bridge.

The total unspent funds was nearly $5.5 million!  Are these wards so perfect we have no projects worth doing?  Aldermen too afraid of Eliot Davis questioning the use of the money allocated for capital improvements?

The city could certainly benefit from $5+ million in capital improvements.  I can think of many things likely needed in these wards with stockpiles of money.  Bike racks, street trees and ADA curb ramps come to mind.  Street furnishings like trash receptacles and benches are also good projects, in the right spots.  Parks always need improving as well.