March 2nd Non-Partisan Ballot Is Set

 

 Seven weeks from today, Tuesday March 2, 2021, St. Louis will hold its first non-partisan election for aldermen & mayor. Additionally, it’s the last election where half the aldermen means 14. This year happens to be the odd-numbered wards up for election — to a special two-year term. A couple …

Initial Thoughts On Proposed ‘City District’ In North St. Louis

 

 In 1990, at just 23, I fell in love with St. Louis and its quirky street grid. I hadn’t yet been to New York or Chicago but I knew many big cities had rigid orthogonal grids — nothing but right angles. St.Louis’ grid, on the other hand, had right, obtuse, …

So Long 2020: Too Much Death

 

 Most agree 2020 was, overall, an awful year. So much death. Not just from COVID-19, murders in St. Louis also set records. As of December 24th 254 people had been murdered in the city. St. Louis has seen a nearly 25% increase in the number of homicides over the same …

Metro’s Blue Color Scheme A Welcomed Change

 

 A year ago Metro announced that a new color scheme was being phased in. You will continue to see the red-white-and-blue trains and buses for a long time. There are currently three MetroLink trains featuring the new look, as well as 26 new MetroBus vehicles. These new 30-foot Gillig buses …

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Population Loss in Six North St. Louis Wards

November 16, 2020 Featured, North City, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Population Loss in Six North St. Louis Wards
 
The six wards on the top 1/3 of the city had lower registered voters in 2016 & 2020.

As I pointed out recently, north St. Louis continues experiencing population loss. In my post on the election results I wrote:

Despite the increase in registered voters, six contiguous north city wards (1,2,3,4,21,22,27) had decreases in registered voters. These same six also had decreases in 2016. When the 2020 census numbers are released next year we’re going to see population loses in the north side, but increases in the central corridor — the same pattern happened a decade ago. The overall increase in registered voters tells me the overall population loss slowed again or we might even see a very slight increase in population. A loss is more likely.

Overall the city had increased voter registration compared to 2016, so something is going on. Once we have the detailed census results we’ll get a clearer picture what is happening.

In the meantime I have some thoughts on this subject.

The 1940 census saw a decline from 1930 — those who could afford to move to the new suburbs  were doing so in large numbers.

Peak population in St. Louis in 1950 was around 856k. That population exceeded the physical capacity of our housing units — major overcrowding occurred in the oldest housing. Housing in the NW & SW was only 20-30 years old during the 1950 census, it likely wasn’t overcrowded. It was the 19th century housing that was overcrowded. The increased population masked an underlying problem — the white middle class was fleeing rapidly. Rural/poor whites & blacks looking for work after WWII made the census numbers look good but it was a huge shift in people.

In the seven decades since we’ve razed a significant percentage of the 19th century structures for highways, urban renewal projects, and due to abandonment. During this time the total population each census was less than the previous census. Initially it was large scale and widespread, but has slowed. Within a few decades all white neighborhoods became all black neighborhoods.

After the 2010 census we saw increased population in the central corridor (downtown west to city limits) but losses north and in parts of south St. Louis. I don’t think we’ll ever see widespread abandonment south of the central corridor. So much has been rehabbed — just too much invested to walk away. This is not to say that small areas on the southside won’t see losses, they very well could. Another thing we saw in the 2010 census was the black population dropped to just below 50% of the total, the white population remained unchanged as a percentage.

The six wards that make up the northern third of the city, on the other hand, are highly likely to see significant losses in the 2020 census results. These losses will most likely account for the majority of the overall population loss of the city.

What’s happening is the residents of these six wards are likely finding better housing elsewhere — either in the rest of the city or in St. Louis County. Population in the St. Louis region has long shifted around in search of better housing. What’s new is in these wards we are seeing a significant shift out with no new group shift in. When older homeowners die their kids don’t want the dated old family home.

To be sure there are some very nice pockets within these six wards with well-maintained houses, tree-lined streets, etc with relatively dense populations.  These islands are in contrast to the food/job deserts of the rest of the wards. Large non-residential sites include O’Fallon & Fairgrounds parks, Bellerive & Calvary cemeteries, and the contaminated government facility on Goodfellow occupy a lot of land, but a lot of the land is where buildings used to exist.

With these longtime wards emptying out it presents problems for redistricting next year. Ideally political boundaries are drawn to be compact, ideally square in shape. But you also want wards to reflect the demographic makeup of the population. After redistricting each ward represents roughly the same amount of people so the number of wards doesn’t matter as much when a third of the city is being vacated while the two-thirds is stable or increasing. It’s going to be challenging keeping the same number of majority black wards. I could see a black alderperson representing a diverse south city ward.  The next redistricting will reduce the number of wards from 28 to 14.

In a future post I’ll share my thoughts what St. Louis should do to counteract the increasingly empty third of the of the city.

— Steve Patterson

Downtown St. Louis Grocery Store ‘Culinaria’ Will Soon Become A ‘Schnucks’

November 12, 2020 Downtown, Featured, Retail Comments Off on Downtown St. Louis Grocery Store ‘Culinaria’ Will Soon Become A ‘Schnucks’
 

In August 2009 Schnucks Markets opened a small format grocery store in downtown St. Louis. It has been called “Culinaria, A Schnucks Market.” They had little choice, the Schnucks’ development company Desco had razed the historic marble-clad Century Building to construct a parking garage for their Old Post Office project across 9th Street — but the ground floor retail space wasn’t getting leased. To save face, Schnucks opened a grocery store in the space.

They didn’t have much confidence it would be successful, so they called it Culinaria rather than Schnucks. To their surprise it has been a success, though the average transaction amount is likely less than the big stores.

The entrance is at 9th & Olive, the Culinaria name is still present. For now.

Very soon they’ll drop the ‘Culinaria’ brand name to become a ‘Schnucks’, like the bigger stores.

Schnucks family members cutting the ribbon at Culinaria on August 11, 2009

Over the last 11 years they’ve made physical changes, such as a minor reconfiguration of shelves in 2013. They also stopped doing wine tastings in the upstairs mezzanine long ago. The Kaldi’s Coffee station closed before the pandemic. The pharmacy became a CVS pharmacy this year, as Schnucks sold their pharmacy business entirely.

In 2013 shortcut was eliminated (red circles) to gain needed shelf space. Grocery items were largely rearranged.

Currently the store is undergoing the biggest changes since opening. Here’s a list of just some of the ongoing changes I’ve observed:

  • New shopping carts
  • New flooring is being installed throughout
  • The coffee station is gone
  • The wine & spirits will be moving from the mezzanine to maim floor
  • The dark shelving is being changed to white shelving
  • New aisle guides
  • Self-check stations have been added for the first time, replacing most cashier stations
  • The wall over the deli, meat, seafood areas is now red with new signage.
  • Only very longtime employees still have Culinaria name tags.

You could say they’re just revising the store, but everything new now has the Schnucks name on it. The Culinaria name and the design elements that distinguished it from regular Schnucks stores are all being removed.

The Schnucks name over the front door is new,

Schnucks hasn’t yet announced the name change, and a spokesperson didn’t confirm it upon my inquiry. But clearly it’s happening. The very last change will likely be new exterior signage.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Post-Election Analysis: Missouri Getting Redder, St. Louis Turnout Declines

November 9, 2020 Featured, Missouri, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Post-Election Analysis: Missouri Getting Redder, St. Louis Turnout Declines
 

One of the big stories from the 2020 election was the huge turnout nationwide.

While more people have voted than at any other time in American history, percentage-wise, this number does not quite break records. Given that around 239.2 million Americans were eligible to vote in 2020, the projected number of voters brings us to a 66.8% turnout rate. This makes 2020 the year with the highest voter turnout since 1900, when Republican William McKinley won reelection with 73.7% turnout.

The highest voter turnout in history was in 1876, when 82.6% of eligible voters cast ballots in the race between Republican Rutherford Hayes and Democrat Samuel Tilden. Hayes eventually won the presidency in a close, contested election. (Town & Country Magazine)

Missouri voters exceeded the national average this election, by a few points.

More than 70% of all registered Missouri voters turned out to vote this election, Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft tweeted last night. That’s the highest turnout level in more than 20 years. The 1992 presidential election between Bill Clinton and George George H.W. Bush brought out 78% of registered voters. (St. Louis Public Radio)

The St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners is on the first floor at 300 N. Tucker (@ Olive)

I was curious how we did in the City of St. Louis. Turnout was less than four years ago, and 2016 was less than in 2012. I decided to delve into the data to seek an explanation for the decline in turnout.

Here are my findings:

  • Turnout in 2016 was 69.43%, but 65.05% in 2020.
  • Four wards (10, 13, 23, 24) had slight increases in the percentage of registered voters who voted, the other 24 wards all had declines.
  • Over 12,000 new registered voters compared to 2016, a 6.3% increase! Comparing 2020 to 2012 the increase in registered voters was 4.61%.
  • Despite the increase in registered voters, six contiguous north city wards (1,2,3,4,21,22,27) had decreases in registered voters. These same six also had decreases in 2016. When the 2020 census numbers are released next year we’re going to see population loses in the north side, but increases in the central corridor — the same pattern happened a decade ago. The overall increase in registered voters tells me the overall population loss slowed again or we might even see a very slight increase in population. A loss is more likely. More on this in a future post.
  • In all three (2012, 2016, 2020) some voters in every ward didn’t vote in the presidential race which is first on the ballot. In 2016 a few wards this approached 1% of voters, but in 2020 non exceeded half of one percent. It’s good that voters aren’t skipping down ballot races, though that likely exists too in fewer numbers.

Ok, on to Missouri.

I’ve voted in nine presidential elections, eight of those in Missouri. Democrat Bill Clinton won Missouri in 1992 by 10.15 points. Clinton won Missouri again in 1996, but only by 6.3 points. This was the last time Missouri went blue. Four of the next six elections have been redder than the last. The exceptions are 2008 & this year.

Here is the point spread, all favoring the GOP nominee.

  • 2000: 3.34 points
  • 2004: 7.2 points
  • 2008: 0.13 points (Obama nearly flipped Missouri blue)
  • 2012: 9.38 points
  • 2016: 18.51 points
  • 2020: 15.57 points

Biden this year lost Missouri by a smaller margin than Clinton, but still worse than Obama in 2012. As I said in December 2019: Missouri Is A Solid Red State. A poll in June had some thinking a blue wave would sweep across Missouri.

In total, the poll found that Biden claimed 48 percent of the likely voters in Missouri and Trump claimed 46 percent. “This result is consistent with national polls showing a double-digit Biden lead and state polls showing Biden ahead in other states Donald Trump won in 2016,” pollsters said in a release.

Biden’s campaign did not respond to Newsweek’s request for comment before publication.

“The political environment in Missouri has shifted slightly away from Republicans,” the pollsters concluded. Missouri is not the only battleground state in which recent polls indicate this is true. Earlier this month, election forecasters estimated Biden had an 86 percent advantage over Trump nationally, with his edge in some important swing stages ranging between 2 and 8 percent. Even so, the president has said that he holds a lead in all of the states likely to be critical in the general election’s outcome. (Newsweek)

I was highly skeptical when I saw this poll in late June because Missouri hasn’t been a battleground/swing state for years. It may be in play in the future, but it won’t happen in my lifetime.

— Steve Patterson

Local St. Louis Elections Finally Go Non-Partisan!

November 5, 2020 Featured Comments Off on Local St. Louis Elections Finally Go Non-Partisan!
 

I’ve lived in St. Louis over three decades now and one constant in Spring elections has been races are decided in the March Democratic primary, not the April general election. I’ve spoken out against partisan plurality voting for years now.

The last link above mentioned the effort to collect signatures to get Approval Voting on the ballot — that became Prop D that voters approved yesterday.

Proposition D makes three changes to the voting process for St. Louis city elections.

First, it creates a nonpartisan primary. Second, voters have the ability to approve (or disapprove) of every candidate on the ballot. Finally, the two candidates with the most votes in the primary advance to the general election.

Proposition D was endorsed by Congresswoman-elect Cori Bush, St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura O. Jones, state Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, and Rev. Darryl Gray.  (St. Louis American)

At this point I think it would be helpful to explain a few of the many types of voting systems.

Vintage photo of the former offices of the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners. From my collection

Plurality voting system is what St. Louis has always had:

Plurality system, electoral process in which the candidate who polls more votes than any other candidate is elected. It is distinguished from the majority system, in which, to win, a candidate must receive more votes than all other candidates combined. Election by a plurality is the most common method of selecting candidates for public office. (Britannica

This is the voting system most of our elections in the U.S. use. With two candidates the winner is very clear, unless tied. With three or more candidates the winner doesn’t necessarily have a majority of votes. Say you’ve got a 3-way race and 1,000 voters. Candidate A gets 275 votes, B gets 375 votes, and C gets 350 votes. Nobody has a majority of 501 or more votes. Under our plurality system Candidate B would be the winner by receiving more votes than A or C — even though B didn’t get a majority.

Plurality voting is often manipulated with the addition of one or more spoiler candidates to dilute the opposition to the establishment’s preferred candidate.  The spoiler(s) ensures the well-funded candidate backed by the establishment receives more votes than the candidate in second place, even if just one more vote.

Approval voting that won yesterday takes a different approach.

Approval Voting is a single-winner voting method in where a voter can approve of any number of candidates. The candidate that gets the most approval votes wins office. This would help eliminate some of the disadvantages third party candidates have. They no longer would be splitting the vote and voters will be more likely to throw their support behind someone they don’t think it will be wasted on. (Follow my vote) See video.

Let’s use our same example from above to explain how this will work in St. Louis. So we have a 3-way race and 1,000 voters. A third vote for all three candidates (999 votes), a third votes for two candidates (666 votes), and the rest vote for one candidate (334 votes). This example means there are 1,999 total votes among our three candidates. Candidate A gets 500 votes, B gets 750, and C gets 699 — a very close second. In our new system Candidate A would be eliminated and candidates B & C would face each other in a runoff. The winner of the runoff might be B, might be C. We do know the final winner will have a majority of votes as it is a 2-way race.

As former alderman Antonio French recently pointed out, Approval Voting is also subject to manipulation. Even non-manipulative voters have to decide if they vote for one or more candidates.

Approval voting forces voters to face an initial voting tactical decision as to whether to vote for (or approve) of their second-choice candidate or not. The voter may want to retain expression of preference of their favorite candidate over their second choice. But that does not allow the same voter to express preference of their second choice over any other. One simple situation in which Approval strategy is important is if there is a close election between two similar candidates A and B and one distinct one Z, in which Z has 49% support. If all of Z’s supporters approve just him, in hopes of him getting just enough to win, then supporters of A are faced with a tactical choice of whether to approve A and B (getting one of their preferred choices but having no say in which) or approving just A (possibly helping choose her over B, but risking throwing the election to Z). B’s supporters face the same dilemma. (Wikipedia)

The voting system that I’ve been promoting for years is Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV).

A ranked-choice voting system (RCV) is an electoral system in which voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, lifting the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority. (Ballotpedia)

RCV is hardly new.

The first U.S. city to adopt at-large ranked choice voting for its city council was Ashtabula, Ohio in 1915. During the first half of the 20th century, ranked choice voting spread rapidly as part of the progressive movement. At its peak, some two-dozen cities adopted it, including Cincinnati, Cleveland, Boulder, Sacramento, and even New York City. New York City continued to use ranked choice voting for its school board until 2002 when those school boards were abolished.

As the progressive era transitioned into a period characterized by racial tensions and fear of communism, at-large ranked choice voting became a victim of its own success. In Cincinnati, ranked choice voting enabled the election of two African American city council members in the 1950’s. In 1951, African American attorney Theodore M. Berry won with the highest percent of the vote, which ordinarily would result in him becoming mayor. Instead, the city council chose one of the white councilmen to become mayor. Finally, Cincinnati repealed ranked choice voting in 1957 in the fifth Republican-led repeal attempt. Following civil unrest stemming from racial tensions in the 1960’s, the Kerner Commission cited the repeal of ranked choice voting and its effect on African American representation as one cause of the city’s violence.

Similarly, in New York City, ranked choice voting cut off the stranglehold previously held by the Democratic Party in the city. In the last election before adoption of choice voting, Democrats won 99.5% of the seats on the Board of Alderman with only 66.5% of the vote. Under ranked choice voting in 1941, Democrats won 65.5% of the seats with 64% of the vote, a much fairer result. However, ranked choice voting enabled representation of minor parties, including members of the Communist Party. During the Cold War, the Democratic Party took advantage of fears of communism to make a successful push for repeal of ranked choice voting. That repeal successfully prevented the election of communists to the city council, along with members of all other minor parties, but it also brought back an era of unrepresentative elections to New York City. (FairVote)

I suspect the group that got Prop D onto our ballot went with Approval Voting rather than RCV because our existing voting equipment can be used. I don’t think our paper ballots or machines could do RCV. This is just an assumption on my part.

Maine voters used RCV in Tuesday’s election, but Massachusetts voters rejected a measure to switch to RCV.  Next Spring we’ll get to try out our new approval+runoff system as the mayoral race already has at least three candidates. I’m just thrilled the election will be non-partisan.

It’s not clear to me if the ward Democratic committee will have any influence when an alderman resigns from office. Currently the Democratic central committee (committee men & women from all wards) select who will be the Democratic nominee, usually that ward’s committeeman or committeewoman.  Others could run, but voters almost always pick the Democrat.

Also note this doesn’t apply to the eight (8) “county” offices: Circuit Attorney, Circuit Clerk, Collector of Revenue, License Collector, Public Administrator, Recorder of Deeds, Sheriff, and Treasurer.

It’s a new era in St. Louis.

— Steve Patterson

This Blog’s Sweet 16, Plus My Cancer Treatment Is Working Well

October 31, 2020 Featured, Site Info, Steve Patterson Comments Off on This Blog’s Sweet 16, Plus My Cancer Treatment Is Working Well
 

It’s Halloween which means it’s the anniversary of this blog — the 16th to be specific! What a year it has been since the last anniversary.

Site plan of MLS stadium occupying the former 22nd Street interchange right of way.

Here’s an incomplete list:

  • Design for MLS stadium unveiled
  • Properties owned by T.E.H. Properties a major problem
  • Metro announced changes coming to the CWE MetroLink station, include a moved elevator and wider stairs.
  • Missouri began issuing licenses for medical marijuana cultivators, dispensaries, etc.
  • Controversy over Paul McKee’s plan to name his 3-bed urgent care facility at the former Pruitt-Igoe site Homer G. Phillips. This was the name of the former African-American teaching hospital in the Ville neighborhood.
  • The effort to privatize our airport was suddenly ended.
  • Efforts were still underway to build a hyperloop to connect St. Louis & Kansas City. Months later this came to a halt when another project was selected for a hyperloop.
  • The XFL began playing and St. Louis fans loved having football again. The XFL shutdown completely shortly after it began, filed for bankruptcy protection, was bought out of bankruptcy and new owners plan to restart it in 2022.
  • Larry Arnowitz resigned as alderman, was indicted for personal use of campaign funds.
  • The city shut down as the COVID-19 pandemic began, it reopened months later. The region has had a myriad of restrictions. Infection & hospitalization rates have been a roller coaster.
  • The Eads Bridge pedestrian walkway west entrance was finally repaired, once again accessible.
  • Work began on the windowless north addition of the former Post-Dispatch building, it’ll be the new main entrance when Square’s St. Louis offices move from Cortex to the renovated building.
  • Black Lives Matter protests began nationwide.
  • Progressive activist Cori Bush defeated 10-term congressman Lacy Clay in the August 2020 primary.
  • Our expansion MLS team announced their name: St. Louis CITY S.C.
  • Late night racing in downtown streets and the Eads Bridge prompted temporary closures, changes.
  • Medical marijuana sales began in Missouri.

A year ago at this time I was having tests done to confirm what my primary physician saw in my annual physical chest x-ray. His suspicions were correct: cancer. Specifically stage IV kidney cancer. In cancers Stage IV means the cancer has spread beyond where it originated.

Before my treatment began tests were showing the tumors/lesions rapidly increasing in size. From the first scans after the first treatment we knew it was working — all the tumors had stopped growing. Ideally you want them to shrink and go away, but not growing is good.

Nothing specific to see here, I can’t find the clear left/right difference images the way my oncologist can.
Another bone scan & CT scan on Monday, then every 12 weeks.

The following are excerpts from my most recent CT scan 7 weeks ago. Summary (1-4), followed by detail. I’ve added translation in brackets, the emphasis in main text is mine:

1. Bilateral renal masses, left greater than right which are similar
to the prior examination.

2. Metastasis to the mediastinum [membrane between lungs] and hilar region [entry/exit to lungs] The right hilar metastasis is slightly smaller. The rest of the mediastinal [between sternum, spine, lungs] metastasis are stable.

3. Right upper lobe pulmonary [lungs] metastasis which is smaller.

4. Large right posterolateral [back, side] chest wall mass which is stable, with
destruction of the adjacent ribs 7 and 8.

CHEST: Noted again are innumerable metastasis throughout the chest.
Bulky lymphadenopathy seen throughout the mediastinum.

Large heterogeneous masses are seen within the thyroid gland, right
greater than left, stable.

Large right paratracheal lymphadenopathy measures 6.5 x 4.5 cm,
similar to the prior examination. Lower in the mediastinum, there is
a right pretracheal mass that measures 6.7 x 6.6 cm on image 56,
previously measuring 7 cm x 6.6 cm. Left hilar metastasis measures 4
cm x 3.4 cm, previously measuring 4.7 x 3.5 cm. Additional right
hilar and subcarinal metastasis are seen. The right hilar mass
measures 5 cm x 3 cm, previously measuring 5.3 x 4.3 cm.

There is a very large multiloculated hypervascular mass in the right
chest wall, which measures 14 cm x 11 cm, similar to the prior exam.
There is no pericardial effusion. There is no pleural effusion.

Lung windows: Within the anterior segment of the right upper lobe,
there is a 2.3 x 1. 2 cm mass, which previously measured 3.8 x 2.6
cm
. Unchanged 6 mm left lower lobe pulmonary nodule.

ABDOMEN:

Noted again is a very large heterogeneous mass in the left kidney
compatible with renal cell carcinoma. Multiple collaterals are seen
medial to the mass. Overall, this mass appears stable.

Several exophytic smaller masses are seen arising from the right
kidney, also stable. There is an inferior vena caval filter in
place.

Bones: Spine is normal. The sternum is normal. Multiple destructed
ribs are seen embedded within the previously noted posterior chest
right chest wall mass.

Still reading? In short I’ve got lots of tumors, but two have shrank in size — this is the first time I’ve had a scan that showed any shrinkage. I have several ribs that are destroyed because of a large tumor.

What does all this mean? It means my chances of being part of the 12% to survive at least five years have improved.  I’m participating in a clinical trial, but I don’t know if the medication I take each night are placebo or the drug being tested on kidney cancer. I get an intravenous drug every month that’s routinely used for kidney cancer. The clinical trial is trying to determine if the combination of the IV and the nightly pill are effective in treating kidney cancer, it is already proven to work with other cancers.

The bottom line is I’ll always have cancer, treatment is about extending my lifespan. A year ago I wasn’t sure I’d make the 16th anniversary of this blog. Today I expect to celebrate another anniversary a year from now.

— Steve Patterson

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