Sunday Poll: Should St. Louis Police Be Able To Declare Protests Are “Unlawful Assembly”?

 

 Last week a judge put limits on the St. Louis {P;oce: U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry’s order says that police can’t declare an “unlawful assembly” and enforce it against those “engaged in expressive activity, unless the persons are acting in concert to pose an imminent threat to use force or violence or …

St. Louis Board of Aldermen Week 24 of 2017-2018 Session

 

 The St. Louis Board of Aldermen will meet at 10am today, their 24th week of the 2017-2018 session. No new bills were introduced last week. THIRTEEN (13) NEW BOARD BILLS ON THE AGENDA* FOR INTRODUCTION TODAY 11/17/17: *Note that just because a bill is on the agenda doesn’t mean it’ll be introduced, similarly, …

Readers: A Burrito Is Not A Sandwich

 

 A century ago retailers could lease or buy a storefront where they pleased, but with shopping centers/malls leases began to include clauses to exclude potential competition.A Boston-area franchisee of St. Louis-based Panera sued their landlord when it leased a space to a burrito place. The lease prohibited another sandwich place. …

The LRA’s 10 Smallest Properties For Sale.

 

 Last week I posted about the city’s Land Reutilization Authority, see Land Reutilization Authority Selling Vacant Lot That Is Less Than An Inch Wide. Today I want to highlight this property and nine others to make the 10 smallest properties for sale — out of 151 under 1,000 square feet. …

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Opinion: Our Gas Prices Are Way Too Low

October 4, 2017 Economy, Featured, Transportation Comments Off on Opinion: Our Gas Prices Are Way Too Low
 

Gasoline here in the U.S.is cheap compared to much of the world.

The average price of gasoline around the world is 4.09 U.S. Dollar per us gallon. However, there is substantial difference in these prices among countries. As a general rule, richer countries have higher prices while poorer countries and the countries that produce and export oil have significantly lower prices. One notable exception is the U.S. which is an economically advanced country but has low gas prices. The differences in prices across countries are due to the various taxes and subsidies for gasoline. All countries have access to the same petroleum prices of international markets but then decide to impose different taxes. As a result, the retail price of gasoline is different. (GlobalPetrolPrices)

Comparing gas prices alone doesn’t tell the full picture. For that I turned to a handy Bloomberg site,

Global gas prices are on the decline—about 2.3 percent, on average, in the past three months. Behind that modest decrease is a wide range of price swings felt differently around the world. We ranked 61 countries by three economic measures to see which has the most affordable gas and which feels the most pain at the pump.

It listed the US is the third most affordable — behind Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. Initially I decided to limit myself to the G7 countries:

Canada

Canada is seeking to restore its image as a leader on global warming with a nationwide tax on carbon pollution. The country has a lot to lose: Vast reserves of difficult-to-extract oil will mean either an environmental toll to produce it or an economic toll to keep in the ground. Cheap gasoline in Canada goes hand in hand with high consumption—only Americans use more per person.

France

The French can afford to pay for their expensive gasoline, but they’re increasingly turning to electric cars instead. French automakers Peugeot and Renault are both competing in the expanding market for EVs. France has one of the world’s highest EV sales rates and one of the densest charging networks.

Germany

German gas isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s little bother for the average driver in Europe’s largest economy. Gas consumption is average and is likely to decrease as the country commits to battery-powered cars. Incentives were introduced for car buyers in 2016, and BMW and Volkswagen are now working to electrify their fleets.

Italy

Car ownership in the home country of Ferrari and Maserati is among the highest in the world. However, the prolonged slump in global oil prices offered less relief to Italian drivers than in most countries, largely because of the country’s high taxes on fuel.

Japan

Japan’s long-standing national gasoline tax helped its carmakers take an early lead in developing fuel-efficient vehicles. Toyota and Honda invested big in fuel-cell technology, while the Nissan Leaf became the world’s best-selling electric vehicle. Japan now has more public battery chargers than gas stations.

United Kingdom

Sales of electric vehicles are accelerating in the U.K.—one of the biggest markets for battery-powered transportation. EVs make a lot of sense in a region defined by short driving distances and one of the highest gasoline prices in the world.

United States

President Donald Trump has scrapped environmental regulations and supported fossil-fuel production in the first months of his presidency. But if success is judged by the price of gasoline, there isn’t much room left for improvement. U.S. gasoline prices tumbled under his predecessor, Barack Obama, while oil production soared and cars became more efficient. Americans still guzzle more gas than any other country, so even with low prices, a thirst for the open road takes a bite out of the average paycheck.

I then decided I needed to also look at the country with the most expensive gas and the two where gasoline is more affordable than here:

Norway

Norway’s high gas prices and high incomes are an electric car maker’s dream. The country has the biggest share of electric vehicles in the world. That may seem strange for an economy built on oil, but Norway is one producer that doesn’t subsidize gasoline at the pump. Instead, the country uses its oil riches to fund national services, such as free college education and savings for infrastructure improvements.

Saudia Arabia

The Saudis sit atop two enormously valuable bodies of liquid: oil and water. Both are being pumped to the surface at unsustainable rates. Saudis rank among the greatest gas guzzlers in the world, but they devote a below-average share of their incomes to buying it. That’s because the government heavily subsidizes the price at the pump.

Venezuela

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Countries have different ideas as to which rights are inalienable, and Venezuela stands alone in considering nearly free gasoline a birthright. In 2016, President Nicolas Maduro raised pump prices 6,000 percent, but filling up a tank of gas still costs less than a cup of coffee. Venezuela isn’t a rich country but consumes gas like one.

I complied some of the information into a chart — looking at price per gallon, affordability relative to wages, gallons used per driver, and how each compares to the highest user of gasoline.

As you can see four other G7 countries (France, Germany, Italy, UK) have gas prices that are at least twice ours. Twice. We use far more gasoline than everyone else — even the two countries with more affordable gasoline.

The recent non-scientific Sunday Poll had fewer responses than usual:

Q: Current gas prices in St. Louis, at around $2.27/gal, are…

  • Extremely high 0 [0%]
  • High 1 [5%]
  • Somewhat high 1 [5%]
  • Neither low or high 7 [35%]
  • Somewhat low 4 [20%]
  • Low 3 [15%]
  • Extremely low 4 [20%]
  • Unsure/no opinion 0 [0%]

Still, more than half said our gas prices are on the low side of the scale. Decades of low taxes enabled us to build a non-sustainable auto-centric built environment. We can’t just raise taxes to where they should be, at least not too quickly. But we can’t continue to neglect our massive amount of crumbling infrastructure.

— Steve Patterson

Taco Bell Sans Drive-Thru

October 2, 2017 Featured, Retail Comments Off on Taco Bell Sans Drive-Thru
 

Recently a longtime regular reader sent me an interesting article about Taco Bell’s big 5-year expansion plans — 300+ new locations. Taco Bell’s free-standing building design is instantly recognizable: one=story, parking lot, drive-thru window, plastic interior.

In 1994 a Taco Bell was built at the SW corner of Jefferson & Russell. After it failed it became a short-lived financial institution. The building was later razed and a multi-story daycare built on the site. March 2012

So what’s interesting about hundreds more?

Around 55 to 70 percent of Taco Bell’s revenue comes from orders purchased at the chain’s drive-thru windows. Which is why it’s rather shocking that the Tex-Mex brand plans to open hundreds (300 to 350 locations to be somewhat exact) of new drive-thru-less cantinas by 2022. More specifically, the chain wants to make its presence known in urban areas.

Zeroing in on big cities like Detroit, Pittsburgh, Boston, and New York (including a plan to open at least 50 locations around the city’s five boroughs). The new-and-improved “urban in-line” or “cantina-style” stores to come will be designed to express the local vibes with artwork, open kitchens, and digital menu boards. (Food & Wine)

The first Taco Bell Cantina opened in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood in 2015:

Taco Bell really wanted to be in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood, along Milwaukee Avenue, colloquially-known as “The Hipster Highway” due to the bike lanes and abundance of walking traffic. Corporate waited for a while before closing the deal on the space, which used to be Batteries Not Included, a sex toy shop. (Eater Chicago)

This first Taco Bell Cantina, a franchise, is located in an old narrow building with apartments above, see the exterior here. I hadn’t heard of this location before, and I prefer non-chains. More locations are now open in Chicago and in other cities. One new Chicago location is just 2 blocks from where we stay while in Chicago, so early next year we’ll check it out.

The closest Taco Bell to downtown is t Broadway & Chouteau, a typical suburban model. Downtown lacks a Mexican restaurant, though Downtown West has a couple. Not sure if a franchise owner in our region will e interested in downtown, Grand Center near Saint Louis University, Delmar Loop, or maybe Clayton?   Would they dare open up on Cherokee?

Of course, this could hurt locally-owned Mexican restaurants in areas too urban for a typical Taco Bell. Taco Bell is part of Yum! Brands — KFC & Pizza Hut are corporate cousins — maybe these will also develop an urban model? Expect other chains to also look to urban areas for growth — adding new suburban locations is no longer a viable strategy.

— Steve Patterson

Sunday Poll: Are Current Gas Prices High or Low?

October 1, 2017 Featured, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Are Current Gas Prices High or Low?
 
Please vote below

A recent online debate reminded me not everyone views gas prices as I do.

Over the years gas prices have risen and fallen, resulting in automotive changes. The first in my lifetime was the 70s oil embargo:

During the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, Arab members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) imposed an embargo against the United States in retaliation for the U.S. decision to re-supply the Israeli military and to gain leverage in the post-war peace negotiations. Arab OPEC members also extended the embargo to other countries that supported Israel including the Netherlands, Portugal, and South Africa. The embargo both banned petroleum exports to the targeted nations and introduced cuts in oil production. Several years of negotiations between oil-producing nations and oil companies had already destabilized a decades-old pricing system, which exacerbated the embargo’s effects. (Secretary of State)

Our daily paper had a recent story talking about the first wave of compact US cars, less than a decade before I was born:

The “compact” segment of the American car market was new to most consumers. VW had made inroads with their bug, but many folks looked on them more as a curiosity than something they would actually plunk down their hard earned money to buy. But, with gasoline prices “soaring” to around 25 cents per gallon, some were taking a second look at these smaller cars.

Chalk one up for the little guys. Studebaker beat the Big 3 to the punch by introducing the Lark a full year before Ford brought us the Falcon, Chevrolet debuted the Corvair and Chrysler unveiled their Valiant.

Studebaker came out of the chute with a full lineup of body styles consisting of a 2-door sedan, 4-door sedan, 2-door hardtop and a 2-door station wagon … all in base Deluxe or top-of-the-line Regal trim levels. A 4-door station wagon and a convertible were added for 1960. (Post-Dispatch)

My parents, again before I was born, bought a new VW and later a new Plymouth Valiant. In between they had, of all things, a used Cadillac!

Anyway, today’s poll is about how you perceive current gas prices. High? Low?

This poll will close at 8pm tonight,

— Steve Patterson

St. Louis Board of Aldermen: Board Bills #128-129 & #130-132

September 29, 2017 Board of Aldermen, Featured Comments Off on St. Louis Board of Aldermen: Board Bills #128-129 & #130-132
 
St. Louis City Hall

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen will meet at 10am today, their 17th week of the 2017-2018 session. .You’ve likely already heard about the first of four bills being introduced today — fees to pay for Scottrade Center renovations. But first, two board bills were introduced last week that were not on the published agenda:

  • Board Bill No. 128 | Establishing Detention Facility Advisory Commission
    BOARD BILL NO. 128 SPONSORED BY ALDERMAN JOE VACCARO An Ordinance establishing a Detention Facility Advisory Commission that shall receive public complaints regarding the City of St. Louis Justice Center and Medium Security Institution detention facilities and shall, at its discretion, review and investigate such complaints as well as patterns of issues and systemic concerns the City’s detention facilities and their operation it has identified and where the Commission deems appropriate, make recommendations to the Department of Public Safety, the Board of Aldermen, and Mayor with respect to Corrections Division policy and procedure, training, infrastructure, care and treatment of detainees, and other areas related to detention facilities and their operations.
  • Board Bill No. 129 |Ordinance banning horses on public streets
    BOARD BILL NO. 129 SPONSORED BY ALDERMAN JOE VACCARO An ordinance to make it unlawful, subject to those exceptions stated herein, for any person to ride, walk or otherwise lead a horse or horses on, along or over the public streets, alleys and sidewalks within the City of St. Louis and the paths and trails, and any extensions thereof within the City of St. Louis.

ON THE AGENDA* FOR INTRODUCTION TODAY 9/29/17:

*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.#130 –Spencer/Ogilvie/Cohn/Guenther –An ordinance pertaining to the levying of certain fees as described herein upon tickets sold for events at City?owned facilities, including the Scottrade Center, the Peabody Opera House, and any new City-owned professional soccer stadium and other City-owned buildings used for sports and entertainment purposes to fund certain construction, reconstruction and improvements as described herein and authorizing and directing the establishment of The Sports and Entertainment Facilities Support Fund by the Comptroller or other appropriate City Officer, providing public funding for such activities and repealing Ordinance 70473.
  • B.B.#131 – Davis –Pursuant to Ordinance 68937, an ordinance authorizing the honorary street name, Elder Bennie Lee Thompson Street which shall begin at the intersection of Sheridan and Webster and run East on Sheridan to N. Garrison.
  • B.B.#132 ? Howard –An Ordinance establishing an Office of Community Mediation and for the appointment of a Director for its oversight and management who shall establish a protocol for delivering voluntary mediation services for the citizens and a schedule of fees which may be charged therefor to be based upon participant’s ability to pay, and who shall monitor the outcomes and lasting results of mediations; and containing an emergency clause and severability clause
  • B.B.#133 –Martin –An ordinance recommended by the Board of Public Service to conditionally vacate above surface, surface and sub?surface travel in Primm Street from Reilly in City Blocks 3126 and 3150.

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: A Deity Didn’t Plan St. Louis’ 1927 Tornado — 90 Years Ago

September 27, 2017 Featured, History/Preservation Comments Off on Opinion: A Deity Didn’t Plan St. Louis’ 1927 Tornado — 90 Years Ago
 
Damage caused by 1927 Tornado, Photo:St Louis Public Library . Click image to view slideshow

Ninety years ago this Friday afternoon a tornado hit St. Louis, causing major death & destruction:

The forecast for Thursday, Sept. 29, 1927, was for rain. It was cloudy and 72 degrees at noon. In Central High School, 1,750 students tended to their studies.

The barometer fell steadily at the Weather Bureau office downtown in the Railway Exchange Building, where forecasters went upstairs for a look. To their west was a low, black thunderstorm charging to the northeast. Sudden torrents of rain chased them inside.

They couldn’t see the tornado churning through the heart of the city. In barely five minutes, it killed 78 people and seriously injured an additional 550 along a seven-mile path. (Post-Dispatch)

Here’s a brief video on this disaster:

St. Louis has experienced numerous destructive tornados, we may get a big earthquake at some point. Most of us accept these as natural ossuaries. However, some like former actor Kirk Cameron and televangelist Joel Osteen, think sisters are the result of their deity’s plan!  Either punishment or a test, respectively.

The result of the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll.

Q: Agree or disagree: Disasters (hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, etc) are part of God’s plan.

  • Strongly agree 3 [8.82%]
  • Agree 1 [2.94%]
  • Somewhat agree 0 [0%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 3 [8.82%]
  • Somewhat disagree 2 [5.88%]
  • Disagree 1 [2.94%]
  • Strongly disagree 22 [64.71%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 2 [5.88%]

Thankfully most who responded don’t think a deity plans the killing of people in disasters, though those in the middle or who think sisters are part of a plan probably don;t think man has caused climate change — the reason recent hurricanes were worse than they would’ve been otherwise.

— Steve Patterson

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