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A New Saint Louis: Erasing Our Political Boundaries Through Consolidation

It is time for the St. Louis region to realize that, over the years, we’ve created too many political entities, most from the last (20th) century. I propose a complete overhaul.

Before I get into my solution I want to outline the problem(s) as I see them:

  1. A strong “City vs. County” attitude exists dividing us, holding the region back.
  2. Municipalities within St. Louis County disagree how to share revenues.
  3. St. Louis County experienced a drop in population in the 2010 Census.
  4. We have poor & affluent school districts providing very unequal education to future voters.
  5. Numerous police & fire departments exist.
  6. St. Louis, and the region by association, is viewed nationally as on the decline. This limits the potential to retain talent and attract employers.
  7. In 1876 the bulk of the region’s population lived east of Grand, but now the population lives mostly in St. Louis County. As a region we’ve outgrown our 19th century viewpoint.
ABOVE: Transect diagram developed by Duany Plater-Zyberk, click image for more detail

OK, so here is my solution: government consolidation on a massive scale.

  1. St. Louis County would become an independent city and absorb the current City of St. Louis and all 91 municipalities within it’s current borders.
  2. The new City of Saint Louis would have a population of 1,318,248 (998,954 + 319,294), instantly making it the 8th most populated U.S. city, after San Antonio and ahead of San Diego (see list).
  3. The Greater St. Louis MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) would remain the 15th largest with  a population of 2,779,939.The new Saint Louis would contain 47% of the region’s population.
  4. Planning districts would be established to plan corridor/transportation projects.  These would be classified using DPZ’s Transects, shown above, offering something for everyone.
  5. Existing government buildings (city halls, for example) would be evaluated and some used as district offices.
  6. St. Louis County’s existing buildings in Clayton would become the new City Hall for the new Saint Louis.
  7. Expenses would be incurred in the short term but in the long run savings would be realized.
  8. A Council-Manager form of government would be adopted, a professional municipal administrator hired.
  9. A new non-partisan city council would contain seven members, the presiding officer (“Mayor”) would be selected by a vote of these seven. The mayor would oversee meetings and cut ribbons. As an alternate two representatives could be elected from each of seven districts and a mayor elected by the public.  Either way administrative power would reside with the city manager.
  10. Staff would be empowered to enact the policy established by the city council.
  11. Former municipalities such as Florissant, Ladue & Pacific would become neighborhoods for planning and identification purposes,

 

ABOVE: St. Louis City Hall would be a district office

None of this is new, cities and counties have merged in this manner before. Evansiville Indiana is currently in the process:

Tonight is likely the final workshop between the Vanderburgh County Commissioners and the Evansville’s City Council before they reconvene their public hearing on June 30 to address a possible city-county merger proposal.

Members of the two bodies have met for five weeks to work on changes to the initial consolidation proposal drafted by a citizen committee earlier this year. Both bodies must ultimately approve identical merger plans for the issue to go to referendum, possibly in November of 2012. (source)

This sort of radical departure from the current forms is needed for the region to end the 21st century better than when we started.  Discuss.

– Steve Patterson

 

Poll: Thoughts on the Regulation of Food Trucks & Carts?

ABOVE: Customers lined up to buy pizza from Pi on Locust St recently

Saw this bit of information last week about a new regulation regarding food trucks in the St. Louis suburb of Maryland Heights:

The code requires rolling merchants to operate within health regulations and have a trash receptacle available. They may operate only on occupied properties, with the owner’s permission, and only while the primary establishment is operating or for 12 hours, whichever is less. Also, they may not establish a stand within 25 feet of a public road. (STLtoday.com)

Unlike urban places, I don’t think Maryland Heights has any on-street parking, except maybe in residential neighborhoods. Still, food trucks are booming in St. Louis:

The food truck trend has hit St. Louis with a bang, with more trucks than ever now trolling the streets to serve up everything from pizza to tacos to cupcakes to hungry St. Louisans willing to track down their mobile meals on Facebook and Twitter. (Sauce Magazine)

Cities, including the City of St. Louis, are grappling with how to regulate food trucks and other food vendors. Health regulations seem a no-brainer but the issue of where they are or are not allowed to vend is the big issue.

ABOVE: Mangia Mobile at the recent GroupHugSTL event

Officials may long for the day when the most mobile food vendors just had a stainless steel hot dog cart.

There are 190 food-service establishments in downtown St. Louis, and some restaurateurs fear being pushed out of business. “Inherently, it starts out being unlevel, because of the cost to operate a food service in a truck versus an established lease,” said Maggie Campbell, president and CEO of Partnership for Downtown St. Louis. While food trucks reflect the vitality of the neighborhood, Campbell wants to make sure their presence doesn’t end up hurting brick-and-mortar restaurants. “The most ideal outcome would be for food trucks to enjoy being downtown and have a strong enough customer base to invest in a storefront,” she said.

So there you go, regulation isn’t about public safety, it’s about protecting other businesses. Pi has two locations in the City of St. Louis and will open a downtown location at 6th & Washington in the Mercantile Exchange bldg (formerly known St. Louis Centre).

ABOVE: Sarah's Cake Stop vending at a recent event downtown

I personally love street food from carts and trucks.  I’ve purchased food from all four trucks pictured in this post, but I understand the need to have some regulations in place so it’s not a free for all (like valet parking).

ABOVE: The Fire and Ice Cream Truck is often on 9th Street in Citygarden

I recently started a Street Food STL list on Twitter to help track the growing number of trucks and other mobile food vendors.  The newest truck on Twitter is literally the oldest:

The Fire and Ice Cream Truck beat the food truck trend by a few years, quietly selling locally made ice cream from a rehabbed vintage fire truck along the riverfront. But now the truck has joined the fray, moving to a semi-permanent location on Tenth [Ninth!] Street between Market and Chestnut, in the middle of Citygarden (Ninth and Market streets; 314-802-9571 or citygardenstl.org). And it couldn’t be more perfect. (Riverfront Times)

The poll this week seeks to find out reader’s thoughts on efforts to regulate mobile food vendors. The poll is in the upper right corner of the blog, results will be published Wednesday June 29th.

– Steve Patterson

 

 

St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann Vetoed Smoke-Free Bill

St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann

Yesterday St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann vetoed a bill that would have given voters the opportunity to decide if they wanted their county to go smoke-free. In the poll last week the single answer with the most was the one where he would sign the bill and voters would approve:

Q: When Will St. Charles County Go Smoke-Free?

  1. Ehlmann will sign bill and voters will approve it in Nov 2012 16 [32%]
  2. Only after a statewide ban 13 [26%]
  3. Never 8 [16%]
  4. Other answer… 4 [8%]
  5. Eventually, Ehlmann will sign bill but voters won’t approve it in Nov 2012 3 [6%]
  6. Eventually, Ehlmann will veto this bill but this change will come later 3 [6%]
  7. Ehlmann will veto this bill but the County Council will override, voters approve in Nov 2012 2 [4%]
  8. Ehlmann will veto this bill but the County Council will override, voters reject in Nov 2012 1 [2%]

The issue was the casino exemption:

“If the purpose of the smoking ban is to protect the health of employees, there is no rational reason to exclude casino floor workers,” the Republican executive said in his veto message.

“If tobacco smoke is harmful, there is no reason to exempt cigar bars, while regulating bars that allow cigarette smoking.” (source)

The other answers were:

  1. How should I know?
  2. Who cares, St Charles county is a worthless pile of crap
  3. Why ban a legal product? Heavy perfume makes me ill…ban overly scented people
  4. I feel that speculating over what will happen is kind of pointless.

My reason for the poll was to show regional interest in going smoke-free.  Maybe there isn’t such interest? Expect additional bills to bring this to voters, most likely without an exemption for casinos.

– Steve Patterson

 

Poll: When Will St. Charles County Go Smoke-Free?

Interesting news from St. Charles County last week:

The fate of a proposed countywide smoking ban is now up to County Executive Steve Ehlmann.

The County Council voted 4-2 on Tuesday night for legislation to put the proposal on the November 2012 election ballot. Ehlmann has yet to signal whether he’ll sign or veto the measure, which would apply to bars, restaurants and most other indoor public places. (STLToday.com)

With St. Louis City & County now smoke-free, with some unfortunate exceptions, it would be nice to see more of the region become smoke-free.

He [Ehlman] has 10 days to veto or sign the bill. If he does neither, the bill is automatically approved. (Patch.com)

This is the subject of the poll this week: When Will St. Charles County Go Smoke-Free?  The poll is located in the upper right corner of the blog.

I hope Steve Ehlmann doesn’t veto this bill so the question goes to voters in November 2012.

– Steve Patterson

 

One Year Since St. Louis County Voters Approved Proposition A

A year ago St. Louis County voters approved a small sales tax increase to fund transit, Proposition A. Wednesday I attended a panel discussion on why this measure  passed where previous attempts had failed.  Professors Todd Swanstrom & David Kimball introduced their new study:  From Checkbook Campaigns to Civic Coalitions: Lessons from the Passage of Prop A (PDF).  From the introduction:

On April 6, 2010 the voters of St. Louis County approved a tax increase for transit with a surprising 63 percent majority. The 1⁄2 cent sales tax now raises about $75 million a year to maintain the bus system and expand light rail. Seventeen months earlier a similar initiative had lost with 48 percent of the vote. With the economy in a recession in 2010, unemployment high, and the anti- tax Tea Party movement rising around the nation, the huge majority for Prop A was startling. In this paper we try to explain the success of Prop A and tease out the lessons for future tax initiative campaigns and civic coalitions.

Compared to the defeat of Prop M in 2008 two characteristics of the 2010 Prop A election make the victory especially surprising and help to frame our analysis: 1) Prop A succeeded in an off-year election when the composition of the electorate is less inclined to support tax increases and public transit; 2) Prop A, at least initially, did not enjoy unified business support – usually the kiss of death for transit tax initiatives.

The report details how the campaign differed from prior campaigns.  One difference was the campaign targeted some voters, as outlined by the dark line below.

ABOVE: the dark area had increased support of more than 18%, the grey 10-18%

Basically efforts were concentrated on West & North County and ignoring far SW and South parts of the County.  Voters who had voted in the prior 12 elections were targeted rather than all registered voters.  Citizens for Modern Transit (CMT) funded an educational component that never mentioned Prop A.  The pro-transit slogan was: Some of us ride it. All of us need it. Here is the TV spot that ran in the months leading up to the vote:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aR9rzybjuU

Notice Metro isn’t mentioned at all, the focus is on transit.

At the panel an audience member asked about a more regional approach and including St. Charles County. All agreed that more of the region should be served by transit but it was noted those areas need to step up with a funding source. In Illinois both Madison & St. Clair Counties fund transit.    While the 2010 passage of Prop A was important, we still have more work to do.

– Steve Patterson

 

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