New Arch To Riverfront Ramps Are A Great Improvement


 When I first moved to St. Louis in August 1990 the grand staircase down to our riverfront wasn’t complete — it was grass with steps only on the North & South edges. At some point the center steps were completed.But even as a young (20s) able-bodied person the steps were …

Sunday Poll: Should St. Louis Consider Ranked-Choice Voting?


 When you have two candidates running for office it is easy to understand the winner — the person who receives more than 50% of the vote — even if by just one vote. I’m looking at the March 7th Democratic primary ballot with 7 choices for mayor and 6 choices …

St. Louis’ Easton & Franklin Avenues Became Dr. Martin Luther King Drive 45 Years Ago Today


 Last month, on the Martin Luther King holiday, I posted my 13th look at the street named after the slain civil rights leader — see Annual Look At Changes Along St. Louis’ Dr Martin Luther King Drive. From a STL250 Facebook post that has since been deleted: This Day in …

Opinion: Sales Taxes Outdated In 21st Century


 We order stuff online frequently because it’s convenient to do so, not because we want to save on taxes. Often we’ll order from so we pay the same tax rate we do when we shop at Hampton Village location once per month.  Amazon is the bulk of our online …

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Opinion: Service Workers Rarely Get Holidays Off

November 23, 2016 Featured, Retail Comments Off on Opinion: Service Workers Rarely Get Holidays Off
South County Center is one of four area malls that will be closed Thanksgiving Day, August 2015 photo
South County Center is one of four area malls that will be closed Thanksgiving Day, August 2015 photo

This afternoon we’re driving up to Springfield IL for Thanksgiving with my husband’s family tonight, his uncle has to work tomorrow. Like many service workers, my husband is off this afternoon & tomorrow only because he requested unpaid time off.

Though only a 90-minute drive, we stay overnight in a hotel to avoid a late night drive back to St. Louis. Tomorrow we’ll drive home, grab a casserole dish from our fridge, and head to my 20+ year tradition of a vegetarian Thanksgiving with long-time friends. Though we won’t stop at any malls or traditional retail stores like Target, we will encounter people working on Thanksgiving Day. .

The first people we’ll encounter working on Thanksgiving will be hotel staff — preparing breakfast and working the front desk. We won’t see them, but after we check out, a cleaning crew will get our room ready for the next guests. We may get gas before we leave Springfield — even with pay-at-the-pump someone is working inside. I’ll set the cruise control at the speed limit because the highway patrol will be working. Hospital, fire & EMS crews will also be working, as always.

If we’ve forgotten anything we might stop at a convenience or drug store, where more people will be working. Many of them will reach their jobs via public transit — bus drivers & train operators don’t get holidays off. The airport isn’t closed either.

My point is many people have to work on holidays, cities just don’t shut down completely. This is related to one of the few areas where I strongly disagree with Sen. Bernie Sanders’ push for a federal election holiday.

Big businesses like banks and the white collar jobs at pharmaceutical companies shut down, and all the employees get a day off with pay. Schools and universities shut down, giving teachers and professors time to vote.

But you know what doesn’t shut down for federal holidays? Retail. Restaurants. Hospitals. Smaller businesses that can’t afford to lose a day of revenue, and if they do, they certainly can’t afford to pay people for the time off. (Inc)

Interestingly, in the Sunday Poll nobody voted that retail stores should be open.

Q: Agree or disagree: Brick & mortar retail stores, shopping centers, malls, etc. should be closed on Thanksgiving DayStrongly agree 25 65.79% 65.79%

  • Agree 4 [10.53%]
  • Somewhat agree 2 [5.26%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 5 [13.16%]
  • Somewhat disagree 0 [0%]
  • Disagree 0 [0%]
  • Strongly disagree 0 [0%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 2 [5.26%]

Hopefully everyone who encounters anyone working tomorrow will think about how their day would be impacted if they weren’t working. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying retail stores should be open on Thanksgiving.  I’m saying service workers are an under-appreciated part of society.

A friend who works retail will be off tomorrow, his employer will be closed. Unfortunately, he can’t go visit the person he’d like to because he only has the one day off.

— Steve Patterson

Reading: What Makes A Great City by Alexander Garvin

November 21, 2016 Featured, Reading Comments Off on Reading: What Makes A Great City by Alexander Garvin

whatmakesagrearcity-coverWhen I saw the author’s name it looked familiar to me, but I searched the last 12 years of blog posts — no mention. Ah, the answer is in his bio:

Alex Garvin is currently an adjunct professor at the Yale School of Architecture and President and CEO of AGA Public Realm Strategists, Inc., a planning and design firm in New York City that is responsible for the initial master plans for the Atlanta BeltLine as well as other significant public-realm projects throughout the United States. Between 1996 and 2005 he was managing director for planning at NYC2012, the committee to bring the Summer Olympics to New York in 2012. During 2002–2003, he was Vice President for Planning, Design and Development of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. Over the last 46 years, he has held prominent positions in five New York City administrations, including Deputy Commissioner of Housing and City Planning Commissioner. He is the author of numerous books including The American City: What Works and What Doesn’t, now in its third edition. 

I’ve often referred to my first edition (1996) copy of his book The American City: What Works and What Doesn’t when researching a topic.

From the publisher:

What makes a great city? Not a good city or a functional city but a great city. A city that people admire, learn from, and replicate. City planner and architect Alexander Garvin set out to answer this question by observing cities, largely in North America and Europe, with special attention to Paris, London, New York, and Vienna.

For Garvin, greatness is not just about the most beautiful, convenient, or well-managed city; it isn’t even about any “city.” It is about what people who shape cities can do to make a city great. A great city is not an exquisite, completed artifact. It is a dynamic, constantly changing place that residents and their leaders can reshape to satisfy their demands. While this book does discuss the history, demographic composition, politics, economy, topography, history, layout, architecture, and planning of great cities, it is not about these aspects alone. Most importantly, it is about the interplay between people and public realm, and how they have interacted throughout history to create great cities.

To open the book, Garvin explains that a great public realm attracts and retains the people who make a city great. He describes exactly what the term public realm means, its most important characteristics, as well as providing examples of when and how these characteristics work, or don’t. An entire chapter is devoted to a discussion of how particular components of the public realm (squares in London, parks in Minneapolis, and streets in Madrid) shape people’s daily lives. He concludes with a look at how twenty-first century initiatives in Paris, Houston, Atlanta, Brooklyn, and Toronto are making an already fine public realm even better—initiatives that demonstrate what other cities can do to improve.

What Makes a Great City will help readers understand that any city can be changed for the better and inspire entrepreneurs, public officials, and city residents to do it themselves.

Publisher summaries always sound good, the place to start is the table of contents — does it cover the right subjects:

Preface: What Makes a Great City

Chapter 1: The Importance of the Public Realm

  • Defining the Public Realm
  • Streets, Squares, and Parks
  • Beyond Streets, Squares, and Parks
  • Making Cities Great

Chapter 2: The Characteristics of the Public Realm

  • Open to Anybody
  • Something for Everybody
  • Attracting and Retaining Market Demand
  • Providing a Framework for Successful Urbanization
  • Sustaining a Habitable Environment
  • Nurturing and Supporting a Civil Society

Chapter 3: Open to Anybody

  • Overwhelmingly Identifiable, Accessible, and Easy to Use
    • Plaza Mayor, Salamanca, Spain
  • Creating an Identifiable, Accessible, and Easy-to-Use Public Realm
    • The Paris Metro
    • Federal Center, Chicago
    • Piazza del Campo, Siena, Italy
    • The Squares of Savannah
    • Sixteenth Street, Denver
  • Keeping the Public Realm Safe
    • Gran Via, Barcelona
    • Piet Heinkade, Amsterdam
    • The Streets of Paris
    • Feeling Comfortable
    • Jardin du Palais Royale, Paris
    • Commonwealth Avenue, Boston
    • Kungstradgarten, Stockholm
    • Via dei Condotti, Rome
    • Via Aquilante, Gubbio, Italy
    • Worth Avenue, Palm Beach
    • Levittown, Long Island
  • Forever Welcoming

Chapter 4: Something for Everybody

  • A Reason to Return Again and Again
    • Boulevard des Italiens, Paris
    • Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris
    • Washington Park, Chicago
  • Having Fun
    • Playgrounds
    • Piazza Navona, Rome
  • Animating a Multifunctional Public Realm
    • Market Square and PPG Place, Pittsburgh
  • A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place
    • Central Park, New York City
    • Passeig de Gracia, Barcelona
  • Reclaiming Bits of the Public Realm for Public Use
  • Plenty of People

Chapter 5: Attracting and Retaining Market Demand

  • Using the Public Realm to Trigger Private Development
    • Place des Vosges, Paris
    • The Revival of the Place des Vosges
    • Regent’s Park, London
    • Avenue Foch, Paris
  • Enlarging the Public Realm to Accommodate a Growing Market
    • An Administrative Center for the Modern City of Paris
    • North Michigan Avenue, Chicago
  • Responding to Diminishing Market Demand by Repositioning the Public Realm
    • Kärntner Straße, Vienna
    • Bryant Park, New York City
  • Continuing Investment

Chapter 6: Providing a Framework for Successful Urbanization

  • Alternative Frameworks
    • Atlanta
    • Dubrovnik, Croatia
    • Rome
    • St. Petersburg, Russia
    • The Paris Street Network
    • Ringstrasse, Vienna
    • Radio-Concentric Moscow
    • Houston’s Highway Rings
    • The Manhattan Grid
  • Maintaining the Public Realm Framework
    • Thirty-Fourth Street, Manhattan
  • Determining the Location of Market Activity

Chapter 7: Sustaining a Habitable Environment

  • What Does It Take to Sustain a Habitable Environment?
    • Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn
  • Using the Public Realm to Create a Habitable Environment
    • Boston’s Emerald Necklace
    • Long Island’s Network of Parks, Beaches, and Parkways
  • Reconfiguring the Public Realm to Improve Habitability
    • The Public Squares of Portland, Oregon
    • New York City’s Greenstreets Program
  • Transportation Alternatives that Improve Habitability
    • Union Square, San Francisco
    • Post Office Square, Boston
    • Congestion Pricing in London
    • Congestion Targets in Zurich
  • An Ever More Habitable Public Realm
    • The Chicago Lakeshore
    • Reviving the San Antonio River
  • Operating the Public Realm
    • Park Management in New York City
  • An Ever-Improving Public Realm

Chapter 8: Nurturing and Supporting a Civil Society

  • The Nurturing Role of the Public Realm
    • The Streets of Copenhagen
    • Palace Square (Dvortsovaya Ploshchad), St. Petersburg
    • Red Square, Moscow
  • Ensuring that the Public Realm Continues to Nurture a Civil Society
    • Times Square, Manhattan
  • The Public Realm as a Setting for Self-Expression

Chapter 9: Using the Public Realm to Shape Everyday Life

  • Whose Realm Is It?
  • Determining the Daily Life of a City
    • The Squares of London
    • The Minneapolis Park System
    • The Madrid Miracle
  • The Key to Greatness

Chapter 10: Creating a Public Realm for the Twenty-First Century

  • The Patient Search for a Better Tomorrow

    • Place de la République, Paris
    • Post Oak Boulevard in the Uptown District of Houston
    • Brooklyn Bridge Park
    • Atlanta’s BeltLine Emerald Necklace
    • Waterfront Toronto
  • What Makes a City Great

In my view this book covers the right topics, including market demand. In chapter 5 sections discuss the public realm in both growing & shrinking market demand.  The public realm can impact market demand.

This book can be ordered through Left Bank Books, Amazon, or your favorite bookseller.

— Steve Patterson



Sunday Poll: Should Malls & Retail Stores Be Open or Closed on Thanksgiving Day?

November 20, 2016 Featured, Retail Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Should Malls & Retail Stores Be Open or Closed on Thanksgiving Day?
Please vote below
Please vote below

Thanksgiving with my husband’s family in Springfield IL is held the Wednesday night before, largely because his uncle, the family patriarch, has to work Thanksgiving Day.

This year some stores will be closed this Thursday, from last month:

CBL & Associates Properties announced Wednesday that it would close 73 of its malls across the U.S. on Nov. 24, including its four St. Louis properties — West County Center, South County Center, St. Clair Square and Mid Rivers Mall. 

All four malls will close on Thanksgiving for the first time in several years and reopen at 6 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 25. CBL’s St. Louis malls first opened on Thanksgiving in 2013. (Post-Dispatch)

So here is today’s non-scientific poll:

As always, the poll is open for 12 hours — will close at 8pm. Wednesday I’ll discuss retail, workers, holidays, and the final results.

— Steve Patterson

St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills 11/18/2016 (195-197)

November 18, 2016 Board of Aldermen, Featured Comments Off on St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills 11/18/2016 (195-197)
St. Louis City Hall
St. Louis City Hall

Three (3) Board Bills will be introduced at today’s meeting of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, see the agenda here.

Two of the three have been in the news the last few days:

  • B.B.#195 – Krewson – An ordinance for the public health and welfare, prohibiting possession of assault weapons as defined herein; and containing a savings clause, a severability clause, and an emergency clause.
  • B.B.#196 – Krewson – An ordinance for the public health and welfare, requiring unattended firearms in motor vehicles to be stored in a locked condition; requiring stolen guns to be reported to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, to establish that a rebuttable presumption exists that a firearm in a vehicle is the property of the driver of said vehicle; and containing a savings clause, a severability clause, and an emergency clause.
  • B.B.#197 – Davis/Roddy – An Ordinance Approving the Redevelopment Plan for the St. Louis Midtown 353 Redevelopment Area submitted by St. Louis Midtown Redevelopment Corporation; and containing a severability clause and an emergency clause.

The meeting begins at 10am, it can be watched online here.

Next week the Board of Aldermen office will be closed Thursday & Friday (24th-25th). Here’s the upcoming schedule from the bottom of today’s agenda:



Thus, the full Board of Aldermen will meet on the following dates after today:

  • December 2016: 2, 9, 16
  • January 2017: 6, 13, 20, 27
  • February 2017: 3, 10

I’m not familiar enough to know the last date new legislation can be introduced this session. Partisan primaries are held on March 7th, the general election to confirm the Democratic nominee is April 4th.

— Steve Patterson


Opinion: Democrats Need To Ditch The Corporate/Centrist Wing, Not The Electoral College

November 16, 2016 Featured, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Opinion: Democrats Need To Ditch The Corporate/Centrist Wing, Not The Electoral College

ivotedOnce it became clear Sen. Bernie Sanders would not be able to overcome the inevitability of Hilary Clinton as the Democratic nominee, I knew I’d be unhappy with the election results. Like most, I fell for the punditry that said Clinton would win both the electoral college & popular vote. As you know, Trump won the electoral college, Clinton the popular vote. How is this possible? One state: California.

If you subtract California’s votes you’ll see that Trump won the popular vote in the rest of the country. Though it seems archaic, and it is, the electoral college was designed to prevent one state’s popular vote from overriding the rest of the country. It works.

This mismatch between the electoral and popular votes came about because Trump won several large states (such as Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) by very narrow margins, gaining all their electoral votes in the process, even as Clinton claimed other large states (such as California, Illinois and New York) by much wider margins.

In fact, the very nature of the way the U.S. picks its presidents tends to create a disconnect between the outcome in the Electoral College and the popular vote. The last time a popular-vote loser won the presidency in the Electoral College was, of course, in 2000, when George W. Bush edged out Al Gore 271-266 despite Gore winning some 537,000 more popular votes nationwide. The other electoral-popular vote mismatches came in 1876 and 1888; in all four instances the Democratic nominee ended up the loser. (In the 1824 election, which was contested between rival factions of the same party, Andrew Jackson won a plurality of the popular and electoral vote, but because he was short of an Electoral College majority the election was thrown to the House of Representatives, which chose runner-up John Quincy Adams.) (Pew)

After this loss, many of my fellow left-leaning Americans want to abolish the electoral college and go to a popular vote.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder called for an end to the electoral college voting system on Friday.

With Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote but losing the election, he said it was now time to change the way the U.S. elects its presidents.

“I’m in the process now of writing an article that says there’s a simple solution to it and we have to just abolish the electoral college,” Holder told “Real Time” host Bill Maher.

He acknowledged such a move would require a constitutional amendment, which Maher quipped would mean “some heavy lifting.” “But so all right, it involves heavy lifting, let’s lift heavy, let’s do it,” Holder replied. (Huffington Post)

Interesting, Holder is willing to do the heavy lifting to amend the constitution, but doing the heavy lifting to enact Sanders’ populist policies was deemed too difficult by the neoliberal establishment during the primary. Corporate-friendly old-guard conservative Democrats (looking at you McCaskill) are the problem, not the electoral college. They want to abolish the electoral college so the DNC doesn’t have to change at all, allowing California voters to give them a plurality every four years.

Sorry DNC, I’m not going to be your enabler…2012 was my last time. I do agree with Sanders we should examine the question of changes:

Q: Would it be good to change the Electoral College?

A: I think you ought to think about this. … I think we want to rethink that. (USA Today)

But looking at it doesn’t mean the answer is change, it might stay largely the same.

The recent non-scientific Sunday Poll had the largest ever response: 568! A good week is 32-35, so clearly the responses were more than regular readers. I let it continue because the results stayed consistent throughout the 12-hour voting period.

Q: Agree or disagree: We should ditch the Electoral College system in favor of a plurality vote

  • Strongly agree 301 [52.99%]
  • Agree 39 [6.87%]
  • Somewhat agree 22 [3.87%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 1 [0.18%]
  • Somewhat disagree 5 [0.88%]
  • Disagree 29 [5.11%]
  • Strongly disagree 170 [29.93%]
  • Unsure/no answer. 1 [0.18%]

Though I have zero evidence, my suspicion is most of the responses were based on partisan views and last week’s results. That’s not a valid reason to change the constitution. Besides, how would Democrats get a bill through congress to send to the GOP-controlled legislatures? Ridiculous. Now who’s being pragmatic?

The centrist neoliberal corporate-sponsored wing of the Democratic Party needs to go away — local, state, and national. This election may just be the thing to accomplish it. Maybe…

— Steve Patterson