Charter Amendments On General Election Ballot

 

 A week from tomorrow is the general election in St. Louis.  I already posted about the School Board & Junior College Board races. We all know about the mayor’s race, and some of us live in a ward electing an alderman to a 4-year term. All of us have the following six …

Sunday Poll: Should Municipal Bans On Pit Bulls Remain?

 

 Two weeks ago one local municipality voted to repeal a prior ban on pit bulls: The Florissant City Council voted Monday night to end the city’s ban on pit bulls and pit bull mixes. The new ordinance that passed states it “allows pit bull dogs in the city with mandatory spaying …

April 4th Ballot: School Board & Junior College Board

 

 In a little over a week St. Louis voters will return to the polls for the general election — mostly a rubber-stamp of the Democratic nominees selected earlier this month. In addition to propositions that I’ll cover next week, there are two often overlooked nonpartisan races on our ballot (sample): …

Opinion: Loop Trolley Will Surprise Naysayers

 

 I’m not a huge fan of vintage/heritage streetcar/trolley lines — I much prefer modern streetcar lines using 21st century low-floor vehicles (see Kansas City’s streetcar). I have ridden vintage/heritage lines in San Francisco, Little Rock, New Orleans, and Memphis. I wanted to ride the one in Dallas after becoming disabled, …

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Status Quo Affirmed In Recent Primary

March 10, 2017 Board of Aldermen, Featured, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Status Quo Affirmed In Recent Primary
 

St. Louis resists change, and with a few notable exceptions, the status quo was affirmed in Tuesday’s primary election. It’ll get rubber stamped in the formality known as the April 4th general election.

Despite St. Louis being overwhelmingly Democratic, we hold partisan primaries followed a month later by a general election that’s a complete farce. Why? Because voters wouldn’t know how to vote otherwise…or so I’ve been told. None of the people I voted for won, however, if I were a gambler I could have easily predicted the winners in most races.

MAYOR:

I like Lyda Krewson personally. She was the only mayoral candidate to ask me for my vote. A few days before the election I saw her at an event and she asked it I had endorsed anyone. “No”, I said. Krewson asked if she’d get my vote Tuesday, but I told her I already voted absentee. Her next question is obvious, did I vote for her?  “No”, I said again.

In the 7-way race Krewson was the winner with only 32.04% of the vote. That means a majority of voters wanted someone else to occupy room 200. This is why I said before the primary that St, Louis needs Ranked-Choice Voting. The final outcome may have been the same — or it may have been different — just depends on how voters ranked their 2nd & 3rd choices. Given how close Tishaura Jones was the result may have been different.

The general election on April 4th will be a 4-way race. Republican Andrew Jones, Libertarian Robb Cunningham, and Green Jonathan McFarland will lose to Democrat Lyda Krewson.

COMPTROLLER:

I like Darlene Green well enough, but there’s no Rolex watch for longevity in office. Darlene Green will decimate the Green party candidate in the general.

ALDERMAN:

This year was the odd-numbered wards — plus the 16th to fill a vacancy after Donna Baringer was elected to the state house in November.

Ward 1: Sharon Tyus was reelected in a 3-way race with 44.25% of the vote — most voters wanted someone else.

Ward 3: Brandon Bosley won the race usually occupied by his father. But 29.33% of the vote in the 6-way race shows a majority voted for someone else.

Ward 5: Disappointingly, Tamika Hubbard was reelected. Like other races, a majority of voters picked one of the other 5 candidates in the race. Hubbard got 43.23% of the vote.

Ward 7: The Democratic & Green primary candidates were unopposed, Democrat incumbent Jack Coatar will win April 4th.

Ward 9: This was the one big upset of the primary. Longtime incumbent Ken Ortmann was handily defeated by Dan Guenther. Ortmann for years refused to use email to communicate…relying on phone calls or face to face. Good riddance. Guenther got 64.2% to Ortmann’s 35.8%. Guenther will face Green candidate Katie Gore in the general. Gore was unopposed in the primary — she got ONE vote! This is why partisan primaries for local office are a waste of time & money — money that could be spent actually making our city better.

Ward 11: For the first time in years the 11th ward alderman will not be named Villa — because no Villa ran.   Sarah Martin, endorsed by Tom Villa, easily defeated her two challengers with 65.52%. The Green candidate got 3 votes in her unopposed primary race.

Ward 13: Incumbent Beth Murphy was unopposed in her primary, as was the Green candidate. The latter received 4 votes.

Ward 15: Voters overwhelmingly rejected Jennifer Florida’s bid to once again represent them in city hall. Megan Green got 66.1% of the votes in the 2-way race. Florida resigned a few years ago when appointed to finish the term as Recorder of Deeds, but she lost the election for a new term.

Ward 16 (Special election): Ald Donna Baringer was elected to the state house to replace termed-out Michele Kratky. Kratky then ran for the aldermanic seat vacated by Baringer — but Thomas Oldenburg defeated her. Republican Abigail Niebling faces an uphill battle in April even in the conservative 16th ward.

Ward 17: Joe Roddy won yet another 4-year term by defeating one primary challenger, he is unopposed in the general.

Ward 19: Sadly, Marlene Davis defeated her primary challenger. with 70.09% of the vote, she is unopposed in the general. Status quo maintained.

Ward 21: With Ald Antonio French in the mayor’s race, this became an open seat. John Muhammad won the 3-way race with 44.66%, 2nd place was close with 42.83%.  Muhammad is unopposed in the general.

Ward 23: Vacarro wasn’t challenged, is unopposed in the general.

Ward 25: Cohn wasn’t challenged, is unopposed in the general.

Ward 27: Ald Chris Carter didn’t seek another term. Another Carter ran in the 3-way race, but Pam Boyd won with 48.01%.

PROPOSITION S:

The $5,000 annual fee for short-term (aka Payday) loans was passed citywide but the vote was split along race/geography.

  • Wards that voted no: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 18, 19, 21, 22, 27
  • Wards that voted yes: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, 23, 24, 25, 26, 28

The 26th ward was the only ward mostly North of Delmar to vote yes — by just 32 votes. This says to me many are unaware of cheaper alternatives such as this and this.

Opinion: Minimum Wage Hike Will Benefit City Long-Term

March 8, 2017 Economy, Featured Comments Off on Opinion: Minimum Wage Hike Will Benefit City Long-Term
 
2013 Picket in front of Wendy’s in Rock Hill on August 26th

Poverty is a major problem in the region — especially in the City of St. Louis, from January 2014:

The Missourians to End Poverty coalition released a report Wednesday showing that poverty was up in the St. Louis area and statewide. In St. Louis County, 12.1 percent of the population was impoverished in 2012, up from 11.9 percent the previous year, according to the report. In the city of St. Louis, 29.3 percent of residents were impoverished, an increase from the 2011 figure of 27.2 percent.

Poverty in the state increased in 2012 to 16.2 percent — or nearly 948,000 people — from 15.8 percent in 2011. (Post-Dispatch)

It’s true that poor people spend nearly every dime they get — budgets just aren’t big enough for saving.  Low-wage workers who get a few bucks extra per week will put that money back into the local economy. Granted, some short-sighted employers will scale back employee’s hours to keep them impoverished. Reduced employees can lead to lower service and customer dissatisfaction.  Still other employers will accept reduced profit margins because their revenue & profits depend on billable hours.

Crime is often a result of poverty conditions, so reducing poverty is a way to reduce crime. I know many of you see this increase in the minimum wage as a disaster. I think it’ll actually not be a significant of a shift either way, though I do think the long-term prospects are good provided wages increase beyond 2018’s $11/hour.

Readers who voted in the Sunday Poll were split, with the agree/disagree trading places throughout the day:

Q: Agree or disagree: The increase in St. Louis’ minimum wage will be a long-term net positive for the city.

  • Strongly agree 12 [25%]
  • Agree 12 [25%]
  • Somewhat agree 5 [10.42%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 2 4.17%]Somewhat disagree 5 [10.42%]
  • Disagree 5 [10.42%]
  • Strongly disagree 6 [12.5%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 1 [2.08%]

I refuse to buy into the widespread job loss fear-mongering from those who want to keep people impoverished.

— Steve Patterson

Grocery Delivery: Easy & Convenient…But Costly

March 6, 2017 Featured, Retail Comments Off on Grocery Delivery: Easy & Convenient…But Costly
 

The local grocery market is once again changing. Last week I decided to have groceries delivered to try out Instacart, now available in St. Louis.

From late January:

Maryland Heights-based Schnucks is among several retailers partnering with Instacart to offer online ordering and delivery beginning Feb. 16. Other retailers that will begin offering delivery through Instacart locally next month are Straub’s, Shop ’n Save, Whole Foods Market, Costco and Petco, Instacart spokeswoman Rebecca Silliman told the Post-Dispatch on Friday.

Based in San Francisco, rapidly growing Instacart provides delivery service for retailers across the country in 30 markets. It just expanded grocery delivery in Virginia Beach and plans to launch in Nashville soon. Instacart plans to hire at least 50 people in the St. Louis area, Silliman said.

Beginning next month, customers can access Schnucks Delivers’ new service online at Schnucksdelivers.com. Instacart will provide the software, shoppers and drivers. (Post-Dispatch)

I decided to go directly through Instacart, rather than Schnucks’ website — even though I was ordering from Schnucks. I also browsed the selection from Shop-n-Save, Straub’s, & Costco — we sometimes make a Shop-n-Save run and we always go to Costco once per month.  Those who aren’t Costco members can still have items delivered from them.

We needed bread and some produce but I decided I’d get the produce in person the next day. So my order was bread and three other items we’ll eventually eat — just enough to exceed $10.

These 4 items had a subtotal of $10.76. Sales tax was 69 cents for a store total of $11.45

I posted to my personal Facebook wall and a friend from grad school, now living in Chicago, said she loves Instacart, adding:

80%+ of what enters my house is delivered…..going to the store w/2 children in this town is literally insane. Happy to pay the delivery fee rather than spend 2 hours in traffic!!

I can see how a parent of two children might be willing to pay extra for delivery, but let’s look at the cost.

Instacart adds a 10% service fee onto the product subtotal, plus I tipped the delivery person $2. So my “free” delivery cost me $3.08 — 27% above what I would have paid id I’d gone to the store myself.

For my first free order the minimum was only $10, but the regular delivery rate is less for orders of at least $35.

Examples:

  • Orders less than $35, delivered within the hour: $11.99
  • Orders less than $35, delivered in 2 hours or more: $9.99
  • Orders $35 or more, delivered within the hour: $7.99
  • Orders $35 or more, delivered in 2 hours or more: $5.99

For $149 per year (or $14.99/month) you can get free delivery.

PROS

  • Fast & convenient
  • Easy to use website & smartphone app
  • Sale items appear on website/apps

CONS

  • Adds 25%+ to grocery cost
  • Four items arrived in 3 plastic bags
I use reusable bags, so having four items arrive in three bags was hard to accept. Not sure if this was the cashier or delivery person.

I do think grocery delivery will increase, but still be an expensive niche for a while. I invite you to try the service to see what you think. I got a link that will provide you with free delivery plus a $10 credit, click here.  Disclosure: I also get $10 for the first 5 who order using the link. Be sure to tip the delivery person online or in cash because Instacart keeps changing (lowering) their pay.

— Steve Patterson

Sunday Poll: Will The Increase In St. Louis’ Minimum Wage Be a Long-Term Positive or Negative?

March 5, 2017 Featured, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Will The Increase In St. Louis’ Minimum Wage Be a Long-Term Positive or Negative?
 
Please vote below

Last week the Missouri Supreme Court upheld a 2015 St. Louis ordinance increasing the local minimum wage — it had been challenged by business groups:

St. Louis will be able to raise its minimum wage to $11 by 2018, after the Missouri Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the city acted within its charter authority when it approved the hike.

The decision reverses a circuit court judge who struck down the increase in 2015, just hours before it was set to take effect.

The city was sued by business groups who said the ordinance conflicted with state law that caps the minimum wage at $7.65. (Post-Dispatch)

This is the subject of today’s poll:

The poll will close at 8pm.

— Steve Patterson

Reading: Seeing the Better City: How to Explore, Observe, and Improve Urban Space by Charles R. Wolfe

March 3, 2017 Featured, Reading Comments Off on Reading: Seeing the Better City: How to Explore, Observe, and Improve Urban Space by Charles R. Wolfe
 

The latest book I have really speaks to my philosophy about personal observation, I generally don’t write about something until I experience it in person.

From the publisher:

In order to understand and improve cities today, personal observation remains as important as ever. While big data, digital mapping, and simulated cityscapes are valuable tools for understanding urban space, using them without on-the-ground, human impressions risks creating places that do not reflect authentic local context. Seeing the Better City brings our attention back to the real world right in front of us, focusing it once more on the sights, sounds, and experiences of place in order to craft policies, plans, and regulations to shape better urban environments.

Through clear prose and vibrant photographs, Charles Wolfe shows those who experience cities how they might catalog the influences of urban form, neighborhood dynamics, public transportation, and myriad other basic city elements that impact their daily lives. He then shares insights into how they can use those observations to contribute to better planning and design decisions. Wolfe calls this the “urban diary” approach, and highlights how the perspective of the observer is key to understanding the dynamics of urban space. He concludes by offering contemporary examples and guidance on how to use carefully recorded and organized observations as a tool to create change in urban planning conversations and practice.

From city-dwellers to elected officials involved in local planning and design issues, this book is an invaluable tool for constructive, creative discourse about improving urban space.

As always, I look first at the contexts. In this case, short and to the point:

Introduction: Why Urban Observation Matters and Tools for Seeing the Better City

Chapter 1: How to See City Basics and Universtal Patterns
Chapter 2: Observation Approaches
Chapter 3: Seeing the City through Urban Diaries
Chapter 4: Envisioning our Personal Cities
Chapter 5: From Urban Diaries to Policies, Plans, and Politics

Conclusion: What the Better City Can Be

You can see a preview here. We need more policy based on experience and observation.

— Steve Patterson

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