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Some Thoughts On The November 4th Midterm General Election

October 14, 2014 Featured, Metro East, Politics/Policy, St. Louis County Comments Off on Some Thoughts On The November 4th Midterm General Election
Get your sticker on November 4th
Get your sticker on November 4th

The television commercials before the August primaries were constant; especially Steve Stenger vs Charlie Dooley and Bruce Rauner attacking Pat Quinn, rather than his primary opponents. I’d hoped for a little relief between the primary and the general election, three weeks from today. It seems like right after the primary ended the election commercials continued, except for St. Louis County Executive, those only picked up again recently.

Illinois

Both the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and National Republican Congressional Committee are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on behalf of Enyart and Bost. And one of the worst-kept secrets in national politics is that when those committees get involved in a contest, the messaging becomes largely indistinguishable from other hotly contested races throughout the country. (St. Louis Public Radio)

It’s clear from both sides that Bost is a Tea Party conservative, the type that shut down the federal government a year ago:

In a truly misguided display of chutzpah, some members of the Tea Party are congratulating themselves over a supposed “historic victory” in the government shutdown debacle. Yet the shutdown gang led by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas extracted no concessions and instead hurt the GOP’s nationwide reputation and shaved GDP growth. (Forbes)

Bost wouldn’t change Congress at all, he’d have no impact on spending other than adding to it by refusing to extend the debt limit. Vote Enyart!

Republican Bruce Rauner falsely claims in a TV ad that Illinois leads the Midwest in “job losses” under Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn. In fact, Illinois has experienced job growth — albeit small — since Quinn took office. (FactCheck.org)

Rauner’s big push is taxes — cuts for billionaires like himself. You think Illinois has fiscal problems now, it’d be far worse if Rauner got his way:

Once again we are testing the question: Can tax cuts pay for themselves? The answer– yet again– is a resounding no.

We’ve tried this experiment time and again. And tax cut proponents such as economist Art Laffer continue to insist they can turn fiscal dross to gold: Cut taxes deeply enough and the resultant boom in economic activity will boost revenues. Magic. Painless. Everything a politician would ever want.

Except this is fiscal snake oil. Over the past few years, Brownback and the Kansas legislature have gone all-in on this theory. The good news: They have left little room for ambiguity (though Brownback and his defenders are scrambling to find some, given the dismal results of their ambitious experiment). (Forbes)

Bruce Rauner reminds me of embattled Kansas Governor Sam Brownback.

Kansas suffered by far the largest decline in overall year-over-year receipts — a fall of 21.9 percent. The U.S. average drop was only 1.7 percent.

The institute said Kansas’ decline was “mostly attributable to legislated tax changes.” The state had a stunning 42.9 percent reduction in individual income tax revenue in the April-June period compared with a year earlier. The national decline was just 7.1 percent. (Kansas City Star)

Please don’t vote for Rauner!

St. Louis County

The August 9th shooting of Michael Brown, just four days after the primary, is affecting the general election for St. Louis County Executive:

The schism among St. Louis County Democrats split wide open Wednesday with the endorsement of the Republican nominee for county executive — Rick Stream — by a coalition of black officials angered over what they characterized as “years and years of disrespect” by party leaders. (Post-Dispatch)

For those unfamiliar, Democratic nominee Steve Stenger is close with Prosecutor Robert McCullough, whom many think should’ve recused himself in the Michael Brown/Darren Wilson case.

I personally don’t care for Stenger or Stream. The race includes Libertarian Theo (Ted) Brown, Sr and Constitution party candidate Joe Passanise.

Missouri voters also have to decide on some constitutional amendments, I’ll post on those before the election.

— Steve Patterson

 

ADA Violation: Mini of St. Louis Doesn’t Have Required Pedestrian Access They Said They Would

Back in 2011 Mini of St. Louis announced they would relocate from Clayton to a large site adjacent to the Sunnen MetroLink light rail station (blue line).  I took the opportunity to remind them they needed to provide an accessible pedestrian route.

Twitter conversation in June 2011
Part of Twitter conversation in June 2011, read from the bottom to the top. My reply they responded too last (top) was “@miniofstl you still must provide pedestrian access to the public sidewalk.”

They said ” Oh, of course!!! That’s a non-issue. We have all that in place already…” but I knew the dismal record of their architects on pedestrian accessibility.  In October 2012 I blogged about what I was seeing happening at this station, see Transit-Ignored Development (TID) At Sunnen MetroLink Station

Earlier this month I visited again to see if it turned out as I’d predicted. Unfortunately, it did.

Upon arrival on a WB train you can easily see the way out to the extended Sunnen Dr
Upon arrival on a WB train you can easily see the way out to the extended Sunnen Dr
The civil engineer responsible for Sunnen Dr didn't plan a way for pedestrians to cross it, the only option is to squeeze between the crossing gate and track.
The civil engineer responsible for Sunnen Dr didn’t plan a way for pedestrians to cross it, the only option is to squeeze between the crossing gate and track. This might explain why Mini thought pedestrians wouldn’t cross the street.
Once across the street and on the new public sidewalk you can easily see the destination, but no accessible route.
Once across the street and on the new public sidewalk you can easily see the destination, but no accessible route.
I west up Sunnen Dr  looking for an accessible  pedestrian route into the dealership.
I west up Sunnen Dr looking for an accessible pedestrian route into the dealership.
This entry could've easily included at short accessible route, but it doesn't
This entry could’ve easily included at short accessible route, but it doesn’t
Out along Hanley Rd they've got hundreds of feet of new sidewalk but no accessible way for pedestrians to enter.
Out along Hanley Rd they’ve got hundreds of feet of new sidewalk but no accessible way for pedestrians to enter.

It’s very simple folks, if you’re building on a site that has public sidewalks, transit stops (bus or rail), or another way for a pedestrian to reach the building you need to provide an accessible route. The Dept of Justice, in a 1993 letter, gave an example of when an accessible route isn’t required:

For example, the Standards would not require that a developer provide an accessible route between an accessible entrance to a retail store and a major highway bordering the site, if customers only have access to the store by driving to the parking lot. (US DOJ — recommended reading)

In urbanized areas (non-rural) even sites next to highways can be accessed by pedestrians because of other streets & sidewalks. This type of anti-pedestrian development isn’t tolerable anywhere in the region, especially next to a light rail station that had such potential. Crossing the street at the station can be retrofitted as can an accessible route to Mini of St. Louis.

For once I’d like it if our new construction included planning for pedestrians.

— Steve Patterson

 

The St. Louis County Municipal Court Racket

Since Michael Brown was shot & killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on August 9th, the entire country has learned a dirty little secret: some of our municipalities make big money ticketing & arresting our residents, often minorities. Just as corporations that operate  for-profit prisons seek more prisoners, some of the 90 unsustainable municipalities within St. Louis County need to stop people driving through their tiny municipal borders to keep the municipal coffers full:

Unfortunately, for many of the poorest citizens of the region, the municipal courts and police departments inflict a kind of low level harassment involving traffic stops, court appearances, high fines, and the threat of jail for failure to pay without a meaningful inquiry into whether an individual has the means to pay. (ArchCity Defenders: Municipal Courts White Paper)

I recommend reading all 37 pages of the ArchCity Defenders: Municipal Courts White Paper, it’s an eye-opener! They looked at 60 courts and found “approximately thirty of those courts did engage in at least one of these [illegal and harmful] practices.” The report focuses on the three “chronic offenders”: Bel-Ridge, Florissant, and…Ferguson.

A personal friend has two citations from Vinita Park, population 1880, but the fine amounts aren’t on the citations he was issued. Neither of his citations were for speeding.

The fine amount doesn't appear on the citation, note is it online. Nobody at the company in Georgia knows the fine amounts either.
The fine amount doesn’t appear on the citation, note is it online. Nobody at the company in Georgia knows the fine amounts either. You’ve got to show up in court or call to get the amount to pay.

Logging online and entering your citation number doesn’t bring up the fine amount either, you must know it to enter and pay it. Late fees, of an unknown amount, are added. A bench warrant is issued if you miss the court date.  My friend finally reached a person by phone at Vinita Park City Hall that could tell him the amounts. Earlier calls went unanswered.

Yesterday I posted about the Flordell Hills, pop 822, city website which doesn’t list the elected officials, but has a detailed court section accepting online payments.  Their new police force begins October 1st.

More affluent municipalities, such as Chesterfield, don’t need to use such tactics to survive financially.  Their residents & visitors would never tolerate the injustices.

The poor in the region live in or drive through these predatory municipalities daily. Ferguson is taking steps toward change.

— Steve Patterson

 

More Flordell Hills Police Means More Municipal Revenue

September 17, 2014 Featured, St. Louis County 2 Comments

Flordel Hills is one of the many tiny municipalities in St. Louis County, it originated as a residential subdivision:

Before Flordell Hills was built in 1939, the area consisted of St. Ann Dairy Farms with corn fields, orchards, chicken houses, barns and buildings for cattle scattered throughout. A creek running under our area going out over Jennings Station Road, ran parallel to West Florissant and College where there was a foot bridge.

Norm Schuermann and Co. initiated construction of our homes in 1939, starting at Greenhaven. They came in three sizes selling for approximately $3,000 to $3,350. Some say the basements were dug out by mule teams and others remember tractors with metal wheels being used. We now have 360 homes and a population of approximately 950. Mr. Schuermann also agreed to enclose the ditch at Greendale Park (now Greenhaven) if we secured enough insurance policies from our residents for his insurance business. We got the policies and park too. The Improvement Association used the rocks from the ditch construction and formed the entrance columns on Greendale Drive.  (Flordell Hills history)

It was incorporated in 1945, prompting the incorporation of Jennings the following year:

By 1946, north St. Louis City and County were booming with plenty of blue-collar jobs and convenient bus transportation. The decision to incorporate the communities of Jennings, Jenwood, and Woodland occurred after the nearby smaller communities of Country Club Hills and Flordell Hills incorporated in 1943 and 1945, respectively. Both cities snapped up portions of commercial property on West Florissant Avenue. (Jennings history)

How tiny is Flordell Hills? Less than half the size of the I-70/I-170 interchange I posted about last week!

Two weeks from today Flordel Hills will have its own police force.

Flordell Hills police car
Flordell Hills police car

I wanted to know more about Flordell Hills so I started at the municipal website, flordell.com

Nowhere does the website list the names of the mayor or other elected officials. The municipal court tab, however, is very detailed. Click image to view live website.
Nowhere does the website list the names of the mayor or other elected officials. The municipal court tab, however, is very detailed. Click image to view live website.

 

Here’s the text under the Municipal Court about:

About the Program
On March xx, 2011, the Board of Alderman of the City of Flordell Hills, Missouri passed Ordinance No. xx-xxxx amending the Flordell Municipal Code of Ordinance by adding a new section establishing the infraction of “violation of traffic safety on roadways” and the automatic traffic enforcement regulations in the City of Flordell Hills.

The Ordinance authorizes the use of automated speed enforcement to improve public safety by controlling speeds in enforced zones, improving traffic flows and reducing speed-related accidents.

The Ordinance can be reviewed by clicking on this link (click here) to the City of Flordell Hills Code.

Automated speed enforcement automatically detects, photographs, and identifies vehicles exceeding the speed limit and then issues violation notices to the registered owners of those vehicles via mail.

Speeding is a major cause of all vehicle crashes and speed enforcement is a constant priority for ensuring the public safety. Fewer vehicle crashes reduce the need for other public resources such as first responders and hospital emergency room resources. Automated traffic enforcement systems are being used in safety-minded communities across the globe. Automated enforcement systems are recommended by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, The International Association of Chiefs of Police, The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, The Federal Highway Administration and The American Automobile Association.

City of Flordell Hills police officers already use electronic speed-enforcement methods, such as radar, to monitor drivers and issue tickets to speeders. This has proven to be effective in reducing vehicle accidents and improving public safety and public officer safety.

Better safety is our primary traffic-control goal. Our objective is to improve the long-term behavior of drivers in the Flordell Hills community, which in turn improves the safety of our citizens and visitors to our community.

Please obey speed limits and drive safely.

Really? The “click here” link isn’t a link at all. March xx, 2011? Ordinance No. xx-xxxx? At least I know they have a Board of Aldermen rather than a city council. I bet it has x number of members representing x wards…

I took the #74 MetroBus to visit Flordell Hills, the main intersection is W. Florissant & Jennings Station Rd, click image for map
I took the #74 MetroBus to visit Flordell Hills, the main intersection is W. Florissant & Jennings Station Rd, click image for map
The Flordell Hills city hall is the building on the left. The cannon isn't militarization, it's a WWII memorial.
The Flordell Hills city hall is the building on the left. The cannon isn’t militarization, it’s a WWII memorial.

More on the memorial:

The cannon at Memorial Park is a WWI Howitzer than came from France with the approval of President Roosevelt. The cannon was dedicated on Memorial Day, 1946, to the men of Flordell Hills who lost their lives in WW2. Sixteen to twenty men volunteered to move the cannon from the boxcar on the tracks to Memorial Park. In the process it got away from them and nearly hit a building, but they managed to get the cannon in its present locations without further mishap. A band and parade were on hand for the dedication. In 1949 the cannon was supported by jacks encased in cement to keep the weight off the tires. (Flordell Hills parks

Here are the results from last week’s poll:

Q: Starting Oct 1st the north county suburb of Flordell Hills, pop 822, will have its own police force again. Thoughts:

  1. More officers means more revenue 32 [50.79%]
  2. Other: 12 [19.05%]
    1. Another example of why consolidation is needed
    2. Dissolve the counties’ police forces and local gov’ts and create one unity gov
    3. There should be only two police departments STL city & STL county
    4. stupid, disband town and police force, become county
    5. Another example of bureaucratic overload — mismanagement to the max
    6. Terrible
    7. Asinine ploy to get revenue
    8. They’ll lose money, get worse protection
    9. More opportunities for patronage placements!
    10. Sounds unnecessary
    11. Money grab
    12. contract with the county police!
  3. Won’t be substantially different than current protection from neighboring Country Club Hills 11 [17.46%]
  4. Unsure/No Opinion 5 [7.94%]
  5. They’ve decided to provide better police coverage for the community 3 [4.76%]

The Flordell Hills Police Department does have a Facebook page.

St. Louis County needs less police departments, municipalities, etc. Tomorrow I’ll expand on this subject.

— Steve Patterson

 

Land Hogs: Urban Highways

Urban interstate highways, especially their interchanges, a major land hogs. The other day on MetroLink heading to Lambert Airport the extent became very visible.

The EB I-70 ramp onto NB I-170
The EB I-70 ramp onto NB I-170
Traffic from I-170 merging with WB I-70
Traffic from I-170 merging with WB I-70
Using Google Maps I calculate this interchange consumes 154 acres, about 1/4 of a square mile
Using Google Maps I calculate this interchange consumes 154 acres, about 1/4 of a square mile

One quarter of a square mile isn’t much, is it?  At current density levels this would be enough to house:

  • 475 people (St. Louis County)
  • 1,200 (St. Louis City)
  • 2,845 (Chicago)
  • 17,000 (Manhattan, NYC)

Urban highways reduce overall density, place barriers that further separate us. I’m not saying we change this particular interchange, just recognize what highways do to urbanized areas (vs rural).

— Steve Patterson

 

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