9th & 10th Streets Need To Be Two-Way North of Cole Street

 

 Five years ago I suggested 9th & 10th Streets through the Columbus Square neighborhood (Cole to Cass) be uncoupled so that both are two-way streets again. See Columbus Square: 9th & 10th Streets from May 19, 2014. In short, 9th & 10th have been a one-way couplet (opposite directions) to facilitate …

Sunday Poll: Should Roe v. Wade Be Overturned?

 

 On Friday the Missouri House passed a restrictive abortion bill. Gov. Parsons is expected to sign it into law. Missouri’s Republican-led House on Friday passed sweeping legislation designed to survive court challenges, which would ban abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy. If enacted, the ban would be among the most …

St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills Week 5 of 2019-2020 Session

 

 The St. Louis Board of Aldermen will meet at 10am today, their  5th meeting of the 2019-2020 session. Today’s agenda includes seven (7) new bills: B.B.#40 – Green/Ingrassia/Rice/Guenther/Navarro/Narayan – An ordinance submitting to the qualified voters of the City, a proposal to amend the Charter of the City by adding a new Article, …

Opinion: Climate Change Making Natural Weather More Intense, Frequent

 

 The St. Louis region has experienced flooding events since its founding, so it’s easy to think current flooding is usual Spring flooding. It’s not. The impact of climate change on snowfall in the Midwest and Plains is uncertain, but projections suggest that heavy snow events will become more likely in …

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My Ridesharing Experience As A Driver

February 22, 2019 Featured, Transportation Comments Off on My Ridesharing Experience As A Driver
 

My first time mentioning ride sharing companies Lyft & Uber on this blog was in a May 2014 poll. This was largely due to the fact I’d never used either. In January 2018 that changed when it was just too cold for me to take my wheelchair/transit to a doctor’s appointment. That cold January day I tried Lyft for the very first time. After a good experience both directions I decided I’d sign up as a driver.

My husband has our car most of the time while he’s at work, but there are times I have the car — at least access to it.  After my first trip as a driver I also signed up to drive for the better-known Uber.  I then got my husband to sign up for both, he could do it on the way home if he finished with a client early.

Though I’m technically still a driver for both, I haven’t done so since March 2018. Couple of reasons why. First, we bought a newer car that was larger and more high tech than I’d been used to. When driving it initially I needed to get used to it without any distractions. Second, my vision was getting so bad that I often couldn’t see to drive when the car was available due to glare from the sun.

In August & October 2018 I had cataracts surgery on my eyes, in November I got new prescription glasses for distance.  See My Vision Is Better Than It Was On Sunday!

Earlier this week I completed and filed our 2018 taxes, so I’ve recently downloaded and reviewed our summary reports. I gave a grand total of 8 rides in about a 10 week period, 3 via Lyft and 5 via Uber. Most drivers, including my husband, will have both Lyft & Uber on simultaneously until they get a ride, immediately shutting down the other. I could never bring myself to do that. The mental stress of just one app open was enough for me.

Still, it was a great experience. I met some nice people, both locals and tourists. I got to experience the ride sharing industry from within, albeit limited. One was my eight was perfect. I was driving to ALDI to go grocery shopping. I picked up a guy at Firestone and took him to his house, which was on the way to the ALDI I wanted to visit.  In 2018 my husband had a total of 177 trips; 58 with Lyft & 119 with Uber.

Back to taxes, both apps track the miles driven while on trips. This is used for tax purposes to account for vehicle expenses (fuel, wear & tear, insurance, maintenance, depreciation, etc). Though we both came out ahead, it wasn’t as much as I’d hoped it would be. We’re going to contribute to the high turnover among Lyft/Uber drivers.

My conclusion on my first time using ride sharing is the same as it is today — this is expensive way to get around. My guess is that it’s on par with a taxicab, but that’s just a guess. Both are far pricier than transit.

In the last few years there have been a ton of articles about how ride sharing reduces car trips…or increases them. How it cannibalizes transit systems…or compliments them. I recently even saw an article about college kids taking Lyft/Uber instead of walking across campus. Compared to a taxicab I do prefer ride sharing — no pressure from the driver to pay with cash instead of plastic.

I’ll keep watching the ride sharing industry and how it is potentially disrupting  others, I like that I’ve got experience as a rider & driver.

— Steve Patterson

Opinion: Dollar Stores Are A Problem In St. Louis

February 20, 2019 Featured, Retail Comments Off on Opinion: Dollar Stores Are A Problem In St. Louis
 

In the 70s we didn’t have dollar stores, we had the five and dime.

Long before the days of big-box stores like Walmart and Target, these five-and-dime stores had everything you needed. You could buy clothes, grab some treats, and eat lunch for under $20. These iconic American stores dotted Main Streets across the country before the big guys came around and put them out of business. (MeTV)

In my hometown of Oklahoma City my favorite five & dime was TG&Y (1935-2001), I’d also ride my bike to the larger Woolco“It was a full-line discount department store unlike the five-and-dime Woolworth stores which operated at the time. At its peak, Woolco had hundreds of stores in the US, as well as in Canada and the United Kingdom. “  After closing, the space became a Venture, a retail chain based in the St. Louis suburb of O’Fallon MO.  Of discount department stores I’ve preferred Target for decades.

Walmart, in the early years, brought the discount department store to small towns all over America. Eventually they’d build a larger store in the same town. Main Street businesses began to close. Then Walmart began closing stores, forcing customers to drive a town or two over to shop at an even larger store.

And now Amazon is hurting all brick & mortar retail, right?

Family Dollar on Gravois near Bevo Mill, 2012

Not exactly.

Many investors believe the popular narrative that Amazon is crushing brick-and-mortar retailers. The e-commerce titan certainly humbled plenty of them, but some retailers continue to expand by opening new stores.

The top three dollar-store chains in America, for example, opened more than 1,800 stores last year. Dollar General (NYSE: DG) led the pack, followed by Dollar Tree (NASDAQ: DLTR) and its subsidiary, Family Dollar.

In 2018, Dollar General plans to open 900 new stores. Dollar Tree plans to open 350 more namesake locations and 300 new Family Dollar sites and re-banner 50 Family Dollar locations as Dollar Tree stores. All three chains posted positive comparable-store sales growth in their latest quarters. (Motley Fool/USA Today)

How did we get here? From 2014:

Wal-Mart Stores (WMT, +2.19%) executives could not have been too happy to wake up to the news this morning that dollar store dominator Dollar General (DG, -0.17%) offered $9.7 billion in an all-cash deal to buy out its smaller, struggling rival Family Dollar Stores (FDO, +0.00%), outdoing an earlier, accepted cash-stock offer by Dollar Tree (DLTR, +0.20%).

Dollar General is by all accounts a supremely well run retailer: it has reported 24 straight years of same-store sales growth, all the while managing a massive expansion in recent years that has won it millions of shoppers looking to save money. Moreover, its operating profit margin has also improved in the last five years despite the costs of opening thousands of new stores.

That management prowess could turn Family Dollar into a far more formidable rival than it has been on the watch of CEO Howard Levine, whose father founded the chain in 1959. Family Dollar has expanded quickly but also has run into trouble in the last two years by misreading its customers and ramping up its offering of pricier items such as beauty products. It has since backtracked, ramping up its inexpensive offerings. (Fortune)

However, it was Dollar Tree that prevailed, buying Family Dollar in 2015.

Family Dollar at 6000 Natural Bridge has no paved pedestrian access route from public sidewalk to entrance, even though it would’ve been easily achieved during construction. Click image to see my 2011 post.

From November 2018:

Dollar Tree acquired Family Dollar in 2015, after undergoing a bidding war with Dollar General, its main US rival. Dollar Tree and Dollar General are almost neck-and-neck in terms of store count and annual sales. Both dollar chains have about 14,000 to 15,000 locations. Dollar Tree generated $22 billion in sales in 2017 compared with $23.5 billion at Dollar General. (Business Insider)

First, how many of these stores are in the St. Louis region?  I checked all three within a radius of my zip code just North of downtown, 63106.

  • Family Dollar has 50 stores within 10 miles, still just 50 within 25 miles.
  • Dollar Tree has 18 within 10 miles, a total of 59 stores within 25 miles,
  • Dollar General has 28 within 10 miles, a total of 69 stores within 20 miles (they didn’t have a 25 mile option)

Added up, I’ve got 96 dollar stores within 10 miles. That’s a lot! Food is a big part of their business.

They technically aren’t even grocery businesses, but dollar stores are feeding more people than one of the highest-profile supermarket chains in America.

The finding, in a new report by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, is a testament to dollar stores’ growing dominance of the American retail landscape.

Grocery sales at the two biggest dollar brands, Dollar Tree and Dollar General, approached $24 billion this year, compared with roughly $15 billion at Whole Foods, according to private market data from the research firm Chain Store Guide.

The ILSR is using the numbers to highlight the threat to independent businesses posed by low-end retail monopolies. (Huffington Post)

Ok, Whole Foods is a niche player in the U.S. grocery segment. Still, what are people eating from dollar stores? Certainly not organic kale. Even ALDI has a nice selection of organic products and lots of fresh produce.

Yesterday I checked out the Groceries, Food & Beverages section of the Family Dollar website.

Give your family delicious, healthy, nutritious meals for less. At Family Dollar our discount food and grocery items include the name-brand products you need to cook great meals at home or enjoy a snack on the go.

At the bottom of the page was the following:

Your local Family Dollar has all the same food and beverages you’ll find at grocery and big-box stores – but here, you can buy them all for less. Our shelves are stocked with delicious ingredients for meals and great snacks from the brands you know and trust. From Hormel, Betty Crocker, and Kellogg’s to Frito-Lay, Wise, and Hunts, you’ll find great discount groceries for everyone in your family. Best of all, we even have frozen and refrigerated foods, like potpies from Banquet, pizza from Red Baron, and fresh milk and eggs.  

Yes, the food items found at dollar stores can be found at grocery stores — but so much at grocery stores can’t be found at dollar stores. The biggest category is fresh produce.

Family Dollar’s food categories, no produce
Dollar Tree’s food. Again, no category for fresh produce
Dollar General’s food. Note it has a fresh food section!
But those fresh food includes lots other than produce

 

Their site does include fresh produce, like bananas. However, only 3 out of 69+ locations within 25 miles have them in stock.

Many are researching the problem of the growth of dollar stores:

This follows two decades in which Walmart’s super-charged growth left small-town retail in shambles. By building massive, oversized supercenters in larger towns, Walmart found it could attract customers from a wide radius. Smaller towns in the vicinity often suffered the brunt of its impact as their Main Street retailers weakened and, in many cases, closed.

Today the dollar chains are capitalizing on these conditions, much like an invasive species advancing on a compromised ecosystem.

Local grocers that survived Walmart are now falling to Dollar General. “This has become the number one challenge of grocery stores,” says David Procter, an expert on community development and director of the Rural Grocery Initiative at Kansas State University. (Institute for Local Self-Reliance)

Much of the above link focuses on predominately-black North Tulsa, here’s another quote:

In late August, just a few days before Labor Day, the City Council finally took up Hall-Harper’s proposed dollar store moratorium. Residents of North Tulsa filled the chambers and one by one spoke in favor of the measure — a show of support that Hall-Harper says made all the difference. The moratorium passed by a 5-to-4 vote. It suspended the permitting of new “small-box discount stores” for a period of six months in Hall-Harper’s district.

Three months later, Hall-Harper proposed a permanent change to the city’s zoning code. She introduced a “dispersal” ordinance that would restrict the development of dollar stores in North Tulsa. Intended to foster “greater diversity in retail options and convenient access to fresh meats, fruits and vegetables,” the measure prohibits a dollar store from opening within one mile of an existing dollar store in a designated “overlay” district. It also prioritizes full-service grocery stores by cutting in half the number of parking spaces they are required to have.

I’d love to see leadership in the St. Louis region to visit North Tulsa and take action here. Limit their numbers, proximity to each other, require sales of fresh produce.

Here are the results of the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: We should be happy dollar stores (Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, etc) are willing to operate in low-income neighborhoods.

  • Strongly agree: 4 [11.11%]
  • Agree: 8 [22.22%]
  • Somewhat agree: 3 [8.33%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 5 [13.89%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 6 [16.67%]
  • Disagree: 5 [13.89%]
  • Strongly disagree: 3 [8.33%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 2 [5.56%]

No, we’re not lucky. These dollar stores are part of the problem, not the solution.

— Steve Patterson

Worst Property in Columbus Square: 1127 North 9th Street

February 18, 2019 Featured, Neighborhoods, North City Comments Off on Worst Property in Columbus Square: 1127 North 9th Street
 

I’ve lived in the Columbus Square neighborhood for nearly two months now, one property stands out at the worst. To the casual observer passing by on I-44, you might think it’s the vacant warehouses/lots on the neighborhood’s eastern edge owned by Paul McKee’s Northside Regeneration.

The Vess bottle in 2012, before being repainted. The McKee-owned warehouse in the background has since had a fire.

Nope, the worst property in Columbus Square is right in the center, next to a public school.  Surrounded by nice residential properties.

City records list this property as 1127R North 9th
A cropped version showing the poor condition on the South
The Northern portion is a different brick color, presumably built later (between 1958-68 based on review of historicaerials.com). Patrick Henry Elementary school can be seen on the right.

I wanted to lookup the owner and contact them, but it wasn’t that simple. The address listed in the caption above — 1127R. The ‘R’ means rear. The city website shows a 10′ deep x 235′ wide parcel in front of this. The front parcel is owned by the LCRA — the city’s Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority.

The property at the rear, which contains the building, is owned by a corporation called Ribbon Cutter, Inc. Their address is listed as 217 E Greystone Ave Monrovia, CA 91016, a gorgeous single-family home that just sold for $1.85m. I’m sure the new owners will be surprised when they get an unpaid tax bill for 1127R North 9th Street St. Louis MO in the mail.

Searching the Missouri Secretary of State for ‘Ribbon Cutter’ we get three listings:

All three have one thing in common, the name Michael Thomas.

Filings for the corporation list two different addresses, across the street from each other:

Neither S. Broadway address appears to have any connection to Michael Thomas.  However, the former is owned by an LLC not listed by Missouri, the latter is owned by an LLC in California.

The two limited liability companies have another address: 30 Santa Clara #D Arcadia CA 91006, Google Maps says this is the address for American Healthguard Corporation, a dental insurance business.

So I’m putting this post out today hoping someone knows why A) the city owns a 10′ deep strip of land in front of this derelict building, and B) the whereabouts of this particular Michael Thomas. I’m also curious about the building’s history, the address is also listed as 1111 N. 9th St.

— Steve Patterson

Sunday Poll: Are We Lucky Dollar Stores Are Willing To Locate In Low-Income Areas?

February 17, 2019 Featured, Retail, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Are We Lucky Dollar Stores Are Willing To Locate In Low-Income Areas?
 
Please vote below

Today’s non-scientific poll is about dollar stores:

These stores have gained attention as success stories in the country’s most economically distressed places — largely rural counties with few retail options. Two main chains, Dollar General and Dollar Tree (which owns Family Dollar), operate more than 30,000 stores nationally and plan to open thousands more, vastly outnumbering Walmarts and other retailers.
 
In cities, dollar stores trade in economic despair, with many residents saying they are a vital source of cheap staples. But as the stores cluster in low-income neighborhoods, their critics worry they are not just a response to poverty — but a cause. Residents fear the stores deter other business, especially in neighborhoods without grocers or options for healthy food. Dollar stores rarely sell fresh produce or meats, but they undercut grocery stores on prices of everyday items, often pushing them out of business. (Post-Dispatch)

In many neighborhoods dollar stores are the only stores.

So here’s today’s poll:

This poll will close at 8pm.

— Steve Patterson

Four Candidates In Democratic Primary to be President of the Board of Aldermen

February 15, 2019 Board of Aldermen, Featured, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Four Candidates In Democratic Primary to be President of the Board of Aldermen
 
St. Louis City Hall

Today’s post is for those who’ve not made a decision about who to vote for in the 4-way race for the Democratic nomination to be president of the Board of Aldermen. The partisan primary will be March 5th, the winner will very likely easily defeat the Green Party nominee the general election on April 2nd.

If St. Louis government were a game of chess, the president of the Board of Aldermen would be the queen. It is a unique position: Empowered in both the city’s legislative and executive branches, the board president can wield power both in offense and defense. It’s equally capable of holding its own in a fight or just holding ground against an advancing opponent. (Riverfront Times)

To assist with your pre-voting research, here are the four candidates in the Democratic primary, listed here in reverse ballot order, with relevant links:

Jimmie Matthews:

Lewis Reed:

Megan Ellyia Green

Jamilah Nasheed

I personally enjoy seeing competitive challengers, not a fan of incumbents easily winning another 4 year term just because challengers are too timid to take on the power of incumbency.

I’d always heard the phrase “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” When I was younger I didn’t connect that to elections, but it’s very true.  I know the top 3 candidates, as well as people working on their campaigns.  Social media plays a role these days.

I’ve already voted absentee, but I voted based on my favorability of the candidates and their policy positions. I’m not going to say who I voted for, I will say it wasn’t Matthews. Hopefully each of you have made up your mind, or will use some criteria to make a selection before Tuesday March 5th.

In the 2015 race the voter turnout was less than 10%. Given the competitive citywide race the turnout should be in double digits, but it was less than 15% in 2007 — the last year of a competitive primary for President of the Board of Aldermen.  Your vote can make a big difference this year — VOTE!

— Steve Patterson

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