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Michael O.D. Brown May 20, 1996 – August 9, 2014

August 9, 2019 Featured, Ferguson, History/Preservation Comments Off on Michael O.D. Brown May 20, 1996 – August 9, 2014

Five years ago the world learned where Ferguson Missouri was located because a young black man was unnecessarily killed by a white police officer. We’ve seen it happen over and over since.

Days later roses in the center of Canfield Drive ended at the spot where Brown’s body was left for four hours the afternoon Saturday August 9th, 2014
A section of the Canfield Drive sidewalk was replaced, along with a plaque. August 2016 photo.
9/7/16

The Urban League built a new facility on the site of the nearby burned out QT, there also included a plaque. August 2017 photos below.

ADA-compliant accessible route from public sidewalk to Urban League building set back behind parking.
Bench along route, before building
Plaque beneath bench

I have thoughts on proposed development in Ferguson & Dellwood, but I’ll share about those another day. Today I pause and think about Michael Brown and the too-long list of others who were unarmed but died in the hands of police. Hopefully in my lifetime I’ll witness the end of such discrimination.

— 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

 

Readers Split on Party-Corruption Connection

May 8, 2019 Featured, Politics/Policy, St. Louis County Comments Off on Readers Split on Party-Corruption Connection

Despite what some of you may think, neither major political party is immune from corruption. Elected officials from both can be drawn into corruption based on the amount of money involved. Common is a pay to play, also known as quid pro quo:

In the early 16th century, a quid pro quo was something obtained from an apothecary. That’s because when quid pro quo (New Latin for “something for something”) was first used in English, it referred to the process of substituting one medicine for another—whether intentionally (and sometimes fraudulently) or accidentally. The meaning of the phrase was quickly extended, however, and within several decades it was being used for more general equivalent exchanges. These days, it often occurs in legal contexts. (Merriam-Webster)

From Steve Stenger’s campaign website

Former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger pleaded guilty Friday to three counts of public corruption for steering county contracts to campaign donors and faces prison time when he is sentenced in August. Based on the offense level calculated in his guilty plea under federal guidelines, Stenger could get around three to four years in prison. Judge Catherine Perry emphasized she’s not bound by those guidelines, and set Stenger’s sentencing for Aug. 9. He will also be required to pay restitution. Although the exact amount isn’t clear it could be several hundred thousand dollars. The maximum sentence is 20 years and a $250,000 fine on each count.

Perry accepted Stenger’s guilty plea on charges of bribery, mail fraud and theft of honest services. The 44-page indictment made public on Monday accused Stenger of steering county contracts to his campaign donors and political supporters. (St. Louis Public Radio)

This is behavior an accountant & attorney should know better than to engage in. From Stenger’s re-election campaign website:

Steve Stenger grew up in Affton, the youngest of four children. His father was a union telephone lineman with Southwestern Bell. A 1990 graduate of Bishop DuBourg High School, he briefly toured as a singer with two local bands, The Stand and The Painted Faces. He graduated from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, became a certified public accountant, and attended law school at Saint Louis University.

After law school, Steve went to work as an attorney and CPA at the firm of Ernst & Young. He later started the law firm Klar, Izsak and Stenger. In 2014, voters elected Steve to serve as the eighth St. Louis County Executive. He previously represented the sixth district on the St. Louis County Council for two terms.

As County Executive, Steve has focused his first term on improving public safety and bringing new economic investment to all parts of St. Louis County. Steve and his wife, Ali, have a 4-year-old daughter, Madeline, and a 2-year-old son, Lincoln. (SteveStenger.com)

In St. Louis, city & county, the biggest challenge is often from your own party in the primary. The general election is just a formality. In the city every elected  official is a Democrat. In St. Louis County three of seven council seats are held by Republicans.  Cross the Missouri River into St. Charles County and every elected official is a Republican.

Corruption can take different forms:

There are several types of political corruption that occur in local government. Some are more common than others, and some are more prevalent to local governments than to larger segments of government. Local governments may be more susceptible to corruption because interactions between private individuals and officials happen at greater levels of intimacy and with more frequency at more decentralized levels. Forms of corruption pertaining to money like bribery, extortion, embezzlement, and graft are found in local government systems. Other forms of political corruption are nepotism and patronagesystems. One historical example was the Black Horse Cavalry a group of New York state legislators accused of blackmailing corporations.

  • Bribery is the offering of something which is most often money but can also be goods or services in order to gain an unfair advantage. Common advantages can be to sway a person’s opinion, action, or decision, reduce amounts fees collected, speed up a government grants, or change outcomes of legal processes.
  • Extortion is threatening or inflicting harm to a person, their reputation, or their property in order to unjustly obtain money, actions, services, or other goods from that person. Blackmail is a form of extortion.
  • Embezzlement is the illegal taking or appropriation of money or property that has been entrusted to a person but is actually owned by another. In political terms this is called graft which is when a political office holder unlawfully uses public funds for personal purposes.
  • Nepotism is the practice or inclination to favor a group or person who is a relative when giving promotions, jobs, raises, and other benefits to employees. This is often based on the concept of familism which is believing that a person must always respect and favor family in all situations including those pertaining to politics and business. This leads some political officials to give privileges and positions of authority to relatives based on relationships and regardless of their actual abilities.
  • Patronage systems consist of the granting favors, contracts, or appointments to positions by a local public office holder or candidate for a political office in return for political support. Many times patronage is used to gain support and votes in elections or in passing legislation. Patronage systems disregard the formal rules of a local government and use personal instead of formalized channels to gain an advantage. (Wikipedia)

Here’s the results of the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: We have corruption in local governments because voters keep electing Democrats.

  • Strongly agree: 5 [18.52%]
  • Agree: 2 [7.41%]
  • Somewhat agree: 4 [14.81%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 1 [3.7%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 1 [3.7%]
  • Disagree: 3 [11.11%]
  • Strongly disagree: 11 [40.74%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 0 [0%]

Again, politicians from both parties have engaged in the above forms of corruption at some time or other.  Our region has a blue center ringed by red. From my perspective our city Democrats are too conservative.

I’m a firm believer that local politics should be non-partisan. Only 8 of the 30 most populous cities still have partisan elections (National League of Cities). Of course, this doesn’t root out corruption — it just removes the petty party finger-pointing that solves nothing.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: Are Local Governments Corrupt Because We Often Elect Democrats?

May 5, 2019 Featured, St. Louis County, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Are Local Governments Corrupt Because We Often Elect Democrats?
Please vote below

Local politics was rocked last week. On Monday Steve Stenger, just re-elected to a 2nd term in November 2018, resigned as St  Louis County Executive.  I posted about it on Facebook, one of the first comments was:

”How many crooked democrats does it take to ruin a city? Hard to say since idiots keep reelecting them.”

On Friday Stenger pled guilty.

Former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger pleaded guilty Friday to three counts of public corruption for steering county contracts to campaign donors andfaces prison time when he is sentenced in August.

Based on the offense level calculated in his guilty plea under federal guidelines, Stenger could get around three to four years in prison. Judge Catherine Perry emphasized she’s not bound by those guidelines, and set Stenger’s sentencing for Aug. 9. He will also be required to pay restitution. Although the exact amount isn’t clear it could be several hundred thousand dollars. The maximum sentence is 20 years and a $250,000 fine on each count.

Perry accepted Stenger’s guilty plea on charges of bribery, mail fraud and theft of honest services. The 44-page indictment made public on Monday accused Stenger of steering county contracts to his campaign donors and political supporters.

The week and comments I saw in various places helped me decide on the poll for today.

Today’s non-scientific poll will automatically close at 8pm tonight.  Results and my thoughts on the subject Wednesday morning.

— Steve Patterson

 

Olive Boulevard In University City Is A Pedestrian’s Nightmare

February 25, 2019 Accessibility, Featured, St. Louis County, Walkability Comments Off on Olive Boulevard In University City Is A Pedestrian’s Nightmare

University City Missouri is a first-tier suburb of St. Louis. Many towns in the region are older, starting as rural villages.  More than a quarter century after the municipal boundaries of the City of St. Louis were set in stone way out in the rural countryside, U City began at those limits:

University City was founded by publisher Edward Gardner Lewis, who began developing the location in 1903 around his publishing complex for Woman’s Magazine and Woman’s Farm Journal. Historic buildings associated with municipal operations, including today’s City Hall, were built by Lewis as facilities for his magazine enterprise. In 1906, the city incorporated and Lewis served as its first mayor.  (Wikipedia)

The streetcar from the city was extended West into the new suburb, turning around there. The urban business district is now knows as the Delmar Loop because of the streetcar loop to reverse direction.

University City has a second East-West business district: Olive Boulevard. Where the Delmar Loop was established first, in the streetcar era, Olive developed later. Initially buildings were similar to those on Delmar: 2-story with residential over a business on the ground floor. As development marched Westward the automobile became more important and residential units above retail was no longer a thing — it was all about separation of uses. Business zoning meant businesses only, residential meant single-family detached homes, with a few zones for multi-family. Mixing these was considered a formula for creating blight.

As a result, the 3.6+ miles of Olive Blvd has always been very different than the short half mile of the Delmar Loop business district located within University City’s limits. On Saturday August 25 2018 I decided to explore a portion of Olive Blvd targeted for redevelopment. Today’s post isn’t about proposed development and all the pros & cons associated with it. No, today is about documenting what exists now. My round trip took more than four hours, including stopping for lunch to eat and recharge my wheelchair. In that time I took 181 photos.

It was quite hot on that Saturday, but I feel it’s important to personally experience an area before writing about it. I’m not going to share all my images, just enough to give you a sense of the area. The #91 MetroBus starts at the Delmar Station (I arrived on the #97 MetroBus, not via MetroLink). Anyway, the #91 heads North on Skinker before turning left to head Westbound on Olive Blvd. — the start of the U City limits.

Having lived in St. Louis for over 28 years I’d driven this part of Olive many times, but this was my first time seeing it from the bus window. My interest on Saturday, however, was the far end of Olive. I got off the bus in front of Royal Banks (map).  Before I get into my photos illustrating Olive Blvd I should give you some additional background. Neither University City or St. Louis County is responsible for maintenance of the road, sidewalks, signals, etc. The State of Missouri has that responsibility because Olive Blvd is also known as state Route 340.

Route 340 is a highway in the St. Louis metropolitan area. Its western terminus is Route 100 (Manchester Road) in Ellisville, and its eastern terminus is at an intersection with Ferguson Avenue and Olive Boulevard in University City. The stretch of Route 340 between Manchester Road and the Interstate 64 / U.S. 40 / U.S. 61 interchange is known locally as Clarkson Road. The remainder of Route 340 between this intersection and its eastern terminus is variously known as Olive Boulevard (which does not connect with Olive Street in the city of St. Louis. Route 340 ends at Ferguson Avenue in University City, but Olive Boulevard continues to Skinker Boulevard on St. Louis city line. (Wikipedia)

Not a divided limited-access interstate, but an urban corridor that is supposed to move more cars than other corridors — like Delmar Blvd. The headline gives away the theme — it was a nightmare.  This comes from auto-centric development in the absence of a mandate for accommodating pedestrians.

OK, let the visual tour begin.

Taken on the bus, this 1915 building has residential above commercial. This is shortly before Olive Blvd becomes Missouri Route 340. Due to parking, clear pedestrian access is limited.
Looking West as the bus continues heading on Olive Blvd to Chesterfield Mall.
Looking East from the same spot. Olive Blvd is 4 travel lanes, plus a center turn lane. Sidewalks at this point are “attached”, no tree lawn separating roadway from sidewalk.
The Royal Banks building, 8021 Olive Blvd, was built in 1971. In 1958 the land was vacant.
Next door, to the West, is a store specializing in Asian/International groceries. It was built in 1960 — has been updated many times since. Both are set way back from Olive to provide more room for parking.

Despite the presence of a bus stop, neither provide an accessible route to their accessible building entrance. This is the case for nearly every property I encountered the next few hours.

I quickly encounter a point where foliage is hanging over the sidewalk. I’m sitting in my wheelchair and still hit it when ducking.
In places the paving changes to a paver brick intended to spruce up the pedestrian experience. As expected, they were uneven.
The streetlight is also intended to help the image of Olive. The banner is for the Olive Link International district, next to rings meant to hold planters.
This shows a 1962 pizza place is relatively close to Olive.
Broken grate around a former street tree.

The above was written back in August, shortly after taking the trip on Olive. Rather than continue procrastinating, I’m going to post more pics with limited commentary to be able to finish this post.

One of many places where no curb cut exists, there’s a good ramp across the street but not this side

Yesterday as I was finishing up this post I reviewed all nearly 200 photos I took that hot August day. After wishing it wasn’t so cold now, I recall all the obstacles I encountered in my wheelchair. I also thought about how horrid the environment is for anyone to experience as a pedestrian.

Now that I’ve finally gotten this post completed, I can post about plans to redevelop the Western end of Olive Blvd in University City.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

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