Reading: Within Walking Distance: Creating Livable Communities For All by Philip Langdon

 

 Last week I received a new book that immediately caught my attention. Within Walking Distance: Creating Livable Communities For All speaks to a core personal issue for me — walkability. Before the personal automobile displaced public transit, most everything in American cities was within walking distance. For nearly a century now Euclidean, …

Sunday Poll: Should Missouri Close Interstate Rest Areas?

 

 Missouri has low fuel taxes and the legislature is unwilling to increase it. Maintenance needs remain. Some states in this situation have opted to closer rest areas: For more than half a century, old-fashioned, no-frills highway rest stops have welcomed motorists looking for a break from the road, a bathroom …

Lyda Krewson Is The 5th Mayor Since I Moved To St. Louis

 

 On Tuesday, while waiting for the inauguration of our first new mayor in 16 years, I reflected on the mayors we’ve had since I moved here in August 1990. For many of you, Francis Slay has been the only mayor you’ve had as a voting-age adult. This could be because …

Opinion: Turnstiles Are For Fare Collection, Not Public Safety

 

 Many, including regional elected officials, letters to the editor, and others, are pushing the idea of turnstiles as a way to increase public safety on our MetroLink light rail system. Incredibly ill-informed because turnstiles, physical & virtual, are meant to combat fare-evasion. Heavy rail systems like Chicago’s EL, the NYC …

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Moral Crusader George Peach Charged In Prostitution Sting A Quarter Century Ago

March 13, 2017 Crime, Featured, History/Preservation, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Moral Crusader George Peach Charged In Prostitution Sting A Quarter Century Ago
 

The following is a slightly updated version of a post I did 5 years ago…

A year and a half after I moved to St. Louis a huge scandal broke — 25 years ago today:

The chief state prosecutor for the city of St. Louis, who has spent most of his 15 years in office crusading against obscenity, pornography and prostitution, was charged today with a misdemeanor offense of patronizing a prostitute.

[snip]

Since being elected as circuit attorney in 1976, Mr. Peach has led a fight to rid St. Louis of pornography and prostitution. In the 1980’s he was responsible for closing the city’s major pornographic book and video stores. Last June, he endorsed changes in city ordinances that would make jail mandatory for prostitutes, pimps and customers who are second-time offenders. (New York Times)

Peach was busted three days earlier, on Tuesday March 10, 1992,  in a hotel in St. Louis County. In the days immediately following his arrest on the misdemeanor charge local officials were debating if he should resign or run for a 5th term as prosecutor.

ABOVE: AP story from 3/15/92, click to view article

A January 2004 story in the Post-Dispatch recounts many the sorted details including more criminal activity:

In an eight-month Post-Dispatch investigation in 1992, reporters disclosed that Peach financed his extracurricular activities with cash from a confidential city checking account he controlled. He also took money from a fund set up to aid crime victims. (Link no longer available)

A number of years ago an independent hollywood company began raising money to produce a film about Peach’s downfall, myself and many others donated money to help get the film made:

Heart of the Beholder is a 2005 drama film that was written and directed by Ken Tipton. It is based on Tipton’s own experience as the owner of a chain of videocassette rental stores in the 1980s. Tipton and his family had opened the first videocassette rental stores in St. Louis in 1980. Their business was largely destroyed by a campaign of the National Federation for Decency, who objected to the chain’s carrying the film The Last Temptation of Christ for rental.

The film won “Best Feature Film” awards at several film festivals. Critic Ryan Cracknell summarized the film, “There’s no shortage of material for writer-director Ken Tipton to work with here. That alone makes Heart of the Beholder a film of interest. It is in many ways a politically charged film as it touches on issues of freedom of speech, religious beliefs and all out fanaticism. Still, I didn’t think it was charged with enough balance and I think a large part had to do with the film’s inconsistent pacing.” (Wikipedia)

As one of thousands of uncredited producers I got the film on DVD, but here’s the trailer:

You can watch the entire film online, view chapter 1, do not watch at work! The film is also available on Netflix.

I recall a video store on the south side of Olive between Compton & Grand, now part of Saint Louis University’s campus, that closed in the early 90s. I only visited the store once, not sure if it was one of Ken Tipton’s Video Library stores or not.

– Steve Patterson

Sunday Poll: Will City & County Both Lose Population In Upcoming 2020 Census?

March 12, 2017 Featured, St. Louis County, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Will City & County Both Lose Population In Upcoming 2020 Census?
 
Please vote below

Every Census since 1940, except 1950, the City of St. Louis has lost population. In that same period, St. Louis County has gained population — except the most recent Census in 2010.  Today’s poll is pretty straightforward, will both lose population in the 2020 Census to be held just 3 years from now? Or do you think one (perhaps both) will show an increase?

Missouri Route 364 (aka Page Ave Extension) opened on December 13, 2003 — which helps explain the county’s first population loss other than the 1880 loss following the city leaving the county in 1876.

 

As always, the poll is open until 8pm.

— Steve Patterson

 

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

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