St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills Week 24 of 2019-2020 Session

 

 The St. Louis Board of Aldermen meet at 10am today, their 15th meeting of the 2019-2020 session. As previously noted, they have the first two meetings labeled as Week #1, so they list this as week/meeting 23. Today’s agenda includes three (12) new bills. B.B.#171 – Ingrassia – An ordinance prohibiting the …

Readers: Keep Cut From 28 To 14 Aldermen

 

 Unsurprisingly, the majority of those who voted in the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll prefer to keep the planned cut from 28 to 14 Aldermen. Q: Agree or disagree: St. Louis voters should vote to keep the Board of Aldermen at 28, rather than be reduced to 14 by 2022. Strongly …

Examining the St. Louis MLS Stadium Site Plan, Part 2

 

 Two weeks ago I began a critical look at the site plan for the proposed Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium with a look at the area to the south of Market Street(see Part 1). This area includes practice fields with parking below, new streets, and development sites that have been …

Sunday Poll: Should the Size of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen Stay at 28 or be cut to 14?

 

 St. Louis voters have made some  notoriously bad decisions at the polls — the 1876 “divorce” from St. Louis County topping the list, the 1916 pro-segregation vote a close second. Back in 2012, city voters passed a measure cutting the Wards and Aldermen in half to 14. The measure takes …

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Effectiveness Of Police Body Cameras Can Vary

August 28, 2019 Crime, Featured, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Effectiveness Of Police Body Cameras Can Vary
 
The St. Louis Police “Incident Command Center” truck in 2012

St. Louis City & County are both looking to get police body cameras. This is a good thing, especially based on experience in other cities.

A quick online search reveals how body camera footage has been helpful, here are a few:

The above makes a very convincing argument in favor of cameras. Looking to Chicago, however, tells me effectiveness is closely related to how they’re implemented within each department.

Since the program’s inception, the department has issued 8,200 body cameras to officers through city funding and grants. The U.S. Department of Justice has also awarded the department more than $2 million in grants to assist with the implementation of the program. The goal is to improve transparency, accountability, and safety between police and the public.

But a compliance evaluation by the City of Chicago Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found watch operations lieutenants failed to complete required reviews of body camera footage, and the department does not have a standardized process to do so. [CBS Chicago]

We know off cameras aren’t effective.  An overwhelming majority of us believe these cameras are worth the cost — from the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: Police body cameras are a huge waste of money.

  • Strongly agree: 1 [2.7%]
  • Agree: 2 [5.41%]
  • Somewhat agree: 1 [2.7%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 1 [2.7%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 2 [5.41%]
  • Disagree: 8 [21.62%]
  • Strongly disagree: 21 [56.76%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 1 [2.7%]

I plan to keep looking into pitfalls other regions have encountered as they added body cameras. I’m also concerned about costs — annual leasing versus buying upfront. How much money could we save over the next couple of decades depending upon how we purchase? The other question I have is how long before we’d need to upgrade to new technology?

— Steve Patterson

White Flight, Black Flight, Abandonment, Poverty, and Gentrification

August 26, 2019 Featured, Neighborhoods, North City, Planning & Design, Politics/Policy Comments Off on White Flight, Black Flight, Abandonment, Poverty, and Gentrification
 

St. Louis has some positive things going on lately, Square announcing they’re moving/expanding from Cortex to downtown, Major League Soccer awarded a St  Louis ownership group an expansion team, etc.  These will bring new needed investments and jobs.

Will any benefit reach those north & south of the “central corridor?” The central corridor runs from the central business district west to the burbs.

A friend on Facebook said Square’s move downtown will cause more gentrification.  Not sure he’s correct, but the challenge of attracting investment and jobs without leaving out large segments of the region is real.

This is a good opportunity to talk about how we bring new investments without negative consequences. It’ll help me get these thoughts out of my brain.

5744 & 5748 Highland Ave, Wells-Goodfellow neighborhood

Merriam-Webster defines gentrification as follows:

The process of repairing and rebuilding homes and businesses in a deteriorating area (such as an urban neighborhood) accompanied by an influx of middle-class or affluent people and that often results in the displacement of earlier, usually poorer residents.

Gentrification is a major problem in many regions, but here we still have so many highly vacant neighborhoods. Sure, the average worker can’t afford a downtown loft, but that’s not gentrification.

First we need to look at how we got here.

By the 1920s the white middle class began leaving the City of St. Louis for life in the suburbs. With new people moving to the city from rural areas looking for work the census didn’t show what was happening.

In 1948 the Supreme Court ruled on a St. Louis case, saying racial restrictive covenants couldn’t be enforced through the courts (Shelley v Kraemer).  This prompted more white middle class residents to flee. Upwardly mobile black middle class residents were now able to purchase nicer housing than where they’d been limited to previously.

This house at 4600 Labadie was at the center of the case Shelley v Kraemer

Post WWII brought many to the region looking for work, others just trying to escape oppressive Jim Crow laws in the South. Basements and attics were crudely converted into living spaces. Large homes were subdivided. The population was too high, our housing stock just couldn’t handle all the people resulting in overcrowding. In 1950 St. Louis recorded its highest population — 856,796.

It didn’t help that entire neighborhoods were being razed for “urban renewal” projects and others being divided as highway construction cut wide paths through densely-populated neighborhoods.

Neighborhoods like Fountain Park remained respectable middle class, just now black instead of white. Eventually the black middle class got older, while some would stay but others began buying housing in North County as the white middle class there began moving to St. Charles County.

Some north city neighborhoods have been without the black middle class for decades now. In these neighborhoods the working poor have also been leaving, seeking affordable housing in other neighborhoods or in older north county areas where the black middle class have left more recently. An example is Wells Goodfellow — more vacant lots than residents.

!912 Clara Ave, left, and 1904 Clara Ave are occupied, the two houses in between were just razed.

Here is what I struggle with. We need money in the city — we need middle class and more affluent people so jobs will be created. This doesn’t mean white, though that’s often what happens.

How do we change long-disinvested neighborhoods so they’re attractive to all people with more money — without pricing out those who still call the neighborhood home?

In the ideal world we’d invest in neighborhoods in a way that attracts & accommodates all races & economic classes. This means housing at a variety of price points — from low-income to high end with everything in between.  Retail & restaurants should appeal to all segments and pocketbooks.

This may not be possible, I know it won’t happen without regulation. Free-market capitalism has demonstrated it is ok with excluding many.  The trick is learning from other regions so we can reduce unintended negative consequences from regulations.

Unfortunately I think our city/region is too laissez-faire to enact regulations to transform vacant neighborhoods so they’ll become great neighborhoods.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: Are Police Body Cameras Worth The Cost?

August 25, 2019 Crime, Featured, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Are Police Body Cameras Worth The Cost?
 
Please vote below

St. Louis City & County are both moving closer to equipping police officers with body cameras.

He [Board President Lewis Reed] estimated that the cost to the city would be a little more than $1 million per year, covering cameras for the department’s 1,100 officers, plus the necessary data storage and maintenance. Reed said he got his cost estimates from St. Louis County’s police body camera vendor, Utility Associates, Inc.

St. Louis County police officials announced earlier this month that 700 officers will be outfitted with body cameras by April. The $5 million purchase is being paid for by Proposition P, a tax hike approved by voters in 2017. The chest-mounted cameras secured inside the officers’ uniforms  automatically activate when gunshots are detected, when officers start running or when they draw their guns. (Post-Dispatch)

Today’s poll is about the costs associated with police body cameras.

This poll will automatically close at 8pm tonight.

— Steve Patterson

Sports Team Ownership Is A Billionaire’s Hobby

August 23, 2019 Featured, Popular Culture Comments Off on Sports Team Ownership Is A Billionaire’s Hobby
 

Earlier this week we got confirmation that St  Louis will be getting a Major League Soccer (MLS) team and the name of the new XFL football team that’ll begin playing at The Dome starting in February 2020 — the BattleHawks.

Often these announcements bring out civic pride even among the most jaded of us. What we shouldn’t do is let this civic pride cloud our judgement when it comes to public coffers.  Remember — one thing major sports team owners have in common is billionaire net worths.

There are 62 billionaire owners of teams in major sports leagues around the world, who are the majority shareholder of managing partner of a team. These billionaires sports team owners have a combined net worth north of $375 billion and collectively own 78 teams.

To find out, the CEOWORLD magazine used net worth numbers from the Forbes’s World’s Billionaires ranking as of Tuesday, September 18, 2018 to rank the 20 richest sports team owners in the world. (CEOWORLD)

Owning major sports teams is a billionaire’s hobby. It’s also a business venture. While some major sports teams lose money, others add to their owners wealth.

The Taylor family (Enterprise Rent-A-Car) is somewhat unique in major sports — mostly women. The family is also very committed to St. Louis.

In my 29 years in St  Louis I’ve seen so many companies be taken over by other companies in other cities. This is largely due to the owners of these former St. Louis companies cashing out by going public. Doing so increased their personal wealth, but put the fate of the company to a board of directors and shareholders.

The Taylor family, on the other hand, has kept Enterprise private. No listing on the stock market, no answering to out of state hedge fund managers. I applaud them for this.

We just shouldn’t let our enthusiasm get in the way of making sound decisions for St. Louis, and the entire region. I can guarantee you they’re keeping their emotions in check.

— Steve Patterson

 

Opinion: Repeal 2nd Amendment To Return To ‘Collective Rights’ Over ‘Individual Rights’

August 21, 2019 Featured, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Opinion: Repeal 2nd Amendment To Return To ‘Collective Rights’ Over ‘Individual Rights’
 
Gun show billboard, 2011

There’s something about the United States that sets us apart from everywhere else in the world when it comes to gun violence. Some try to blame video games or mental health, but the those aren’t unique to the U.S.

Part of what is different is the constitutional right to bear arms, but that is read one of two ways: collective rights or individual rights.

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Such language has created considerable debate regarding the Amendment’s intended scope. On the one hand, some believe that the Amendment’s phrase “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” creates an individual constitutional right for citizens of the United States. Under this “individual right theory,” the United States Constitution restricts legislative bodies from prohibiting firearm possession, or at the very least, the Amendment renders prohibitory and restrictive regulation presumptively unconstitutional. On the other hand, some scholars point to the prefatory language “a well regulated Militia” to argue that the Framers intended only to restrict Congress from legislating away a state’s right to self-defense. Scholars have come to call this theory “the collective rights theory.” A collective rights theory of the Second Amendment asserts that citizens do not have an individual right to possess guns and that local, state, and federal legislative bodies therefore possess the authority to regulate firearms without implicating a constitutional right. (Wex Legal Dictionary)

Until 2008 the collective rights theory was accepted as the meaning of the militia reference in the Second Amendment. The late  John Paul Stevens, appointed to the Supreme Court by Republican Gerald Ford, wrote a couple of opinion pieces about gun violence and the constitution.

From 2012, two years after retiring:

The first 10 amendments to the Constitution placed limits on the powers of the new federal government. Concern that a national standing army might pose a threat to the security of the separate states led to the adoption of the Second Amendment, which provides that “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

For more than 200 years following the adoption of that amendment, federal judges uniformly understood that the right protected by that text was limited in two ways: First, it applied only to keeping and bearing arms for military purposes, and second, while it limited the power of the federal government, it did not impose any limit whatsoever on the power of states or local governments to regulate the ownership or use of firearms. Thus, in United States v. Miller, decided in 1939, the court unanimously held that Congress could prohibit the possession of a sawed-off shotgun because that sort of weapon had no reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a “well regulated Militia.” (Washington Post)

The individual states that formed the Union were concerned about a national army that might infringe on their rights as a state. Remember, the Bill of Rights was ratified in December 1791 — not long after independence from England.

Justice Stevens again, from March 2018:

During the years when Warren Burger was our chief justice, from 1969 to 1986, no judge, federal or state, as far as I am aware, expressed any doubt as to the limited coverage of that amendment. When organizations like the National Rifle Association disagreed with that position and began their campaign claiming that federal regulation of firearms curtailed Second Amendment rights, Chief Justice Burger publicly characterized the N.R.A. as perpetrating “one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”

In 2008, the Supreme Court overturned Chief Justice Burger’s and others’ long-settled understanding of the Second Amendment’s limited reach by ruling, in District of Columbia v. Heller, that there was an individual right to bear arms. I was among the four dissenters.

That decision — which I remain convinced was wrong and certainly was debatable — has provided the N.R.A. with a propaganda weapon of immense power. Overturning that decision via a constitutional amendment to get rid of the Second Amendment would be simple and would do more to weaken the N.R.A.’s ability to stymie legislative debate and block constructive gun control legislation than any other available option. (New York Times)

In 2018 Stevens argued for repealing the 2nd Amendment. I agree. The individual rights fraud pushed by the N.R.A. is partly to blame for gun violence that sets the United States apart from every other nation. A pistol in the home for self-defense is fine, but buying dozens of assault rifles and ammunition in a short period of time is not.

The recent non-scientific Sunday Poll was hijacked — more than twice the number of usual responses. The highly skewed results are visible in the original post, so I’m not going to reprint them here.

— Steve Patterson

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