Reading: The Space Between Us: Social Geography and Politics, by Ryan D. Enos

 

 A recent book explores the the interrelationship between several fields, including geography & politics. The underlying research is fascinating. The Space between Us brings the connection between geography, psychology, and politics to life. By going into the neighborhoods of real cities, Enos shows how our perceptions of racial, ethnic, and …

Sunday Poll: Condos vs Apartments…Does It Matter?

 

 On Friday we learned about a proposed 33-story apartment tower across Broadway from Busch Stadium/Ballpark Village. A 29-story apartment tower is already planned within Ballpark Village. Other recent new downtown residential projects include the 25-story Tower at OPOP at 411 North Eighth Street, which has one- and two-bedroom apartments that range …

St. Louis Board of Aldermen Week 26 of 2017-2018 Session

 

 The St. Louis Board of Aldermen will meet at 10am today, their 26th week of the 2017-2018 session. FOUR (13) NEW BOARD BILLS ON THE AGENDA* FOR INTRODUCTION TODAY 12/8/17: *Note that just because a bill is on the agenda doesn’t mean it’ll be introduced, similarly, bills not on the agenda might be introduced …

Opinion: Shake Shack Kinda A Big Deal For St. Louis (UPDATED)

 

 The origins of Shake Shack were hummbl;e…a cart. From their website: Shake Shack sprouted from a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park in Manhattan to support the Madison Square Park Conservancy’s first art installation. The cart was quite the success, with Shack fans lined up daily for three summers. In 2004, …

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Sunday Poll: Is Shake Shack A Big Deal For St. Louis?

December 3, 2017 Featured, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Is Shake Shack A Big Deal For St. Louis?
 
Please vote below

The first Shake Shack opened in 2004, becoming a huge worldwide hit in the years since. A week from tomorrow St. Louis will join the long list pf cities with a location.

Shake Shack, the immensely popular burger-’n’-shake restaurant chain, has locations in Moscow, Tokyo, Dubai and more.

On Dec. 11, it is coming home to St. Louis.

The chain’s founder, Danny Meyer, grew up in St. Louis (John Burroughs School) before moving to New York to open the iconic Union Square Café and later to take over the Michelin-starred Gramercy Tavern. (Post-Dispatch)

There has been a lot of hype about the opening.  Today’s non-scientific poll seeks to find out what readers think.

This poll will close at 8pm tonight.

— Steve Patterson

St. Louis Board of Aldermen Week 25 of 2017-2018 Session

December 1, 2017 Board of Aldermen, Featured Comments Off on St. Louis Board of Aldermen Week 25 of 2017-2018 Session
 
St. Louis City Hall

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen will meet at 10am today, their 25th week of the 2017-2018 session. The 3rd item on the agendas is “Swearing In Alderwoman Elect Elicia “Lisa” Middlebrook. ” Middlebrook won a 3-way race held last month to serve out the unfinished term of 2nd ward Alderman Dionne Flowers, who was appointed Registrar.

In other news, longtime 8th Ward Alderman Stephen Conway, appointed Assessor by Mayor Krewson,  resigned on Monday, a special election will be held February 13, 2018 — see press release.

FOUR (4) NEW BOARD BILLS ON THE AGENDA* FOR INTRODUCTION TODAY 12/1/17:

*Note that just because a bill is on the agenda doesn’t mean it’ll be introduced, similarly, bills not on the agenda might be introduced if they suspend the rules to do so. This information is based on the published agenda as of yesterday @ 8am:

  • B.B.#203 – J. Boyd –An Ordinance, recommended by the Board of Public Service of the City, establishing multiple public works and improvement projects within the City of St. Louis (the “Projects”).
  • B.B.#204 – Williamson –An ordinance approving a Redevelopment Plan for 1020 Union/5251 Cates.
  • B.B.#205 – Moore –An ordinance approving a Redevelopment Plan for 2400-22 N. Sarah and 4056-58 St. Ferdinand.
  • B.B.#206 – Kennedy –An ordinance approving a Redevelopment Plan for 5122-24 Kensington.

The meeting begins at 10am, past meetings and a live broadcast can be watched online here. See list of all board bills for the 2017-2018 session.

— Steve Patterson

Opinion: Generations of Shortsighted Decisions Continues To Dog St. Louis Region. Will Likely Continue

November 29, 2017 Featured, Politics/Policy, St. Louis County, STL Region Comments Off on Opinion: Generations of Shortsighted Decisions Continues To Dog St. Louis Region. Will Likely Continue
 
Economic disinvestment in the north county area at Chambers & Lewis & Clark

Many of our current problems in the St. Louis region can be traced back to decisions made long before any of us were born. The Post-Dispatch’s example of two women who own the same type of 2014 Cadillac the personal property tax on one was $895. the other $436. Why? Where each happens to live in St. Louis County.  You might think the higher bill is in a fancier area than the lower bill — but the opposite is the case!

The total amount of real estate taxes assessed in St. Louis County has increased 18 percent since 2010, to $1.75 billion. By comparison, during that time the total amount of personal property taxes grew by 21 percent, to $280 million.

The personal property tax has steadily become a major revenue generator for municipalities and fire districts. Municipalities have increased their personal property tax revenue by 27 percent since 2010, to $9.1 million. And fire districts across St. Louis County have increased the amount they collect from personal property by 30 percent, to $31.8 million.

Johnson’s tax bill is more than double O’Neal’s in part because the school and fire districts and municipality where Johnson lives are strapped for cash. She sees a Caddy parked in her driveway; her leaders see a way to pay for teachers, cops and firefighters.

Even O’Neal doesn’t think that’s fair. She knows that sales taxes from the West County Mall help subsidize services for her area. (Post-Dispatch)

You’re probably asking what old decision is responsible for this current situation, right?  The answer is the 1876 divorce of the City of St. Louis from St. Louis County.

On August 22, 1876, in what was undoubtedly the stupidest move ever in the history of St. Louis, St. Louis City and St. Louis County decided to separate. Like the American Revolution, the great event was prompted by taxes — the 310,000 city residents didn’t feel like wasting money on the 27,000 county residents and reasoned that the city wouldn’t expand much further west than Grand Boulevard. (The boundary was eventually set at Skinker Boulevard so the city could claim Forest Park.)

Ah, short-sightedness! Thy name is St. Louis voters! Within 25 years, the city found itself pushing against its western border at Skinker and began to regret the decision to divorce itself from the county. (Riverfront Times)

As the land-locked City of St. Louis struggled as population and tax base fled to St. Louis County many County residents/leaders smugly thought something like “That’s the City for you!’ Now St. Louis County is going through the very same thing the city did in the last century — middle class fleeing certain areas with jobs, retail, etc following behind. In their place are lowered hime values, more crime, and an increased in concentrated poverty.

Had St. Louis not selfishly left St. Louis County it would have been able to annex smaller towns/villages as it grew. The city limits today would likely be out to at least the I-270 loop — North, West, and South. There would be a few municipalities that resisted annexation, but they’d be completely surrounded by the City of St. Louis. The majority of the region’s residents would live in the City of St. Louis. They’d all be covered by the city’s fire department and live within a few school districts. We wouldn’t have the disparity of taxes we do now.

Of course, this isn’t to say we’d be problem-free. We wouldn’t be. And thinking about this hypothetical scenario doesn’t change current reality. We’re one of the most fragmented regions in the country — a very high number of units of government — all with taxing ability.  Today many are as shortsighted as those in 1876 — their little corner of St. Louis County (or elsewhere in the region) is comfortable so this isn’t their problem. This is the “do nothing” approach to problem solving.

OK, let’s examine that option. Residents of North St. Louis County who cam afford housing elsewhere vote with their feet and leave — as many have been doing for years. Housing values drop so more poor move to North County, but in fewer numbers than those who left. Small municipalities continue to struggle — some raise taxes, others disincorporate themselves. Employers leave. Crime worsens. Income and other inequalities in the region get worse.

As I see it, the only answer is to reduce the units of government in the region. Sadly, many just accept the status quo as a given. From the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: Lower-income areas of St. Louis County require more services (police. EMS. etc) so it makes sense those residents pay more pers. property tax

  • Strongly agree 5 [18.52%]
  • Agree 4 [14.81%]
  • Somewhat agree 1 [3.7%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 2 [7.41%]
  • Somewhat disagree 3 [11.11%]
  • Disagree 5 [18.52%]
  • Strongly disagree 7 [25.93%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 0 [0%]

As is often the case, the selfish shortsighted mentality will likely prevail. Please prove me wrong.

— Steve Patterson

Reading: Design for Good: A New Era of Architecture for Everyone by John Cory

November 27, 2017 Featured, Reading Comments Off on Reading: Design for Good: A New Era of Architecture for Everyone by John Cory
 

Most of my life I’ve believed design, both good & bad, plays a role in our quality of life. An inspiring book beautifully illustrates this idea that good design can make a positive difference.

“That’s what we do really: we do miracles,” said Anne-Marie Nyiranshimiyimana, who learned masonry in helping to build the Butaro Hospital, a project designed for and with the people of Rwanda using local materials. This, and other projects designed with dignity, show the power of good design. Almost nothing influences the quality of our lives more than the design of our homes, our schools, our workplaces, and our public spaces. Yet, design is often taken for granted and people don’t realize that they deserve better, or that better is even possible.

In Design for Good, John Cary offers character-driven, real-world stories about projects around the globe that offer more—buildings that are designed and created with and for the people who will use them. The book reveals a new understanding of the ways that design shapes our lives and gives professionals and interested citizens the tools to seek out and demand designs that dignify.

For too long, design has been seen as a luxury, the province of the rich, not the poor. That can no longer be acceptable to those of us in the design fields, nor to those affected by design that doesn’t consider human aspects.

From the Mulan Primary School in Guangdong, China to Kalamazoo College’s Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, the examples in the book show what is possible when design is a collaborative, dignified, empathic process. Building on a powerful foreword by philanthropist Melinda Gates, Cary draws from his own experience as well as dozens of interviews to show not only that everyone deserves good design, but how it can be achieved. This isn’t just another book for and about designers. It’s a book about the lives we lead, inextricably shaped by the spaces and places we inhabit. (Island Press)

The contents shows how the book is organized:

Foreword by Melinda Gates
Introduction: The Dignifying Power of Design

Chapter 1: If It Can Happen Here
Chapter 2: Buildings that Heal
Chapter 3: Shelter for the Soul
Chapter 4: For the Love of Learning
Chapter 5: Places for Public Life
Chapter 6: Raising Expectations
Conclusion: A Call to Expect More

At the moment the digital & paperback versions are on sale for only $7.50, the hardback is only $15 — directly from the publisher, Island Press.

— Steve Patterson

Sunday Poll: Should St. Louis County Personal Property Taxes Be The Same Regardless of Location?

November 26, 2017 Featured, St. Louis County, Sunday Poll, Taxes Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Should St. Louis County Personal Property Taxes Be The Same Regardless of Location?
 
Please vote below

We recently received our personal property tax bill in the mail for our 2007 Honda Civic EX, but I know anyone else with the same car registered in the City of St. Louis will owe the same amount. St.Louis County, however, is very different. Yesterday the Post-Dispatch did a story on the variation in rates, citing two women at the start:

Each owns a 2014 Cadillac XTS. And each got her personal property tax bill in the mail from the county this month.

Johnson’s tax bill was $895. O’Neal’s was $436.

Across the St. Louis area, people are writing checks to pay their personal property taxes, which are due by year’s end. Residents of St. Louis all pay the same rate. But St. Louis County residents are not assessed evenly — far from it.

All county residents pay the same real estate and personal property tax rates for certain services, such as county government and community colleges. But the rates for public schools, fire protection and municipalities vary dramatically. The boundaries don’t overlap cleanly, so even next-door neighbors can pay different rates. (Post-Dispatch)

According to the Post-Dispatch it is lower income areas that are paying the most.

The above is the subject of today’s poll:

This poll will close at 8pm tonight, I’ll post my thoughts on Wednesday.

— Steve Patterson

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