Readers Split On Homicide Rate

 

 Last year St. Louis had more homicides than we’d seen in a couple of decades. This year we have a new police chief, hired from within, and our mayor in her first full calendar year in office. Will they be able to lower the number of homicides this year? Of …

St. Louis’ Dr Martin Luther King Drive

 

 This is my 14th consecutive year looking at St. Louis’ Martin Luther King Drive — documenting physical changes since the prior year. Next year, my 15th, may well be my last. Each year it gets more and more depressing to do. Each year there is at least one bright spot, but …

Sunday Poll: Will Our Homicide Rate Be Less Than In 2017?

 

 St. Louis had a record year in 2017, just not the type of record cities like: homicides.The St. Louis Police had complied statistics as of December 19, 2017. Number of homicides: 2013: 120 2014: 159 2015: 188 2016: 188 2017: 199 Before the year was out a new chief was named …

St. Louis Board of Aldermen Week 29 of 2017-2018 Session

 

 The St. Louis Board of Aldermen will meet at 10am today, their 29th week of the 2017-2018 session. ELEVEN (11) NEW BOARD BILLS ON THE AGENDA* FOR INTRODUCTION TODAY 1/12/18: *Note that just because a bill is on the agenda doesn’t mean it’ll be introduced, similarly, bills not on the agenda might …

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Reading: The Hidden Rules of Race: Barriers to an Inclusive Economy

December 4, 2017 Books, Featured Comments Off on Reading: The Hidden Rules of Race: Barriers to an Inclusive Economy
 

If you think everyone has an equal chance in our society…you’re probably white. Though I’m a white male, I realized years ago the system has long been rigged to favor those who had money & privilege. A recent book looks at the formal & informal rules put into place to maintain an unequal society.

Why do black families own less than white families? Why does school segregation persist decades after Brown v. Board of Education? Why is it harder for black adults to vote than for white adults? Will addressing economic inequality solve racial and gender inequality as well? This book answers all of these questions and more by revealing the hidden rules of race that create barriers to inclusion today. While many Americans are familiar with the histories of slavery and Jim Crow, we often don’t understand how the rules of those eras undergird today’s economy, reproducing the same racial inequities 150 years after the end of slavery and 50 years after the banning of Jim Crow segregation laws. This book shows how the fight for racial equity has been one of progress and retrenchment, a constant push and pull for inclusion over exclusion. By understanding how our economic and racial rules work together, we can write better rules to finally address inequality in America. (Cambridge University Press)

Here’s a look at the chapters in the book:

  1. American Politics and Economic Outcomes for African Americans
  2. Stratification Economics
  3. Creating Structural Changes
  4. The Racial Rules of Wealth
  5. The Racial Rules of Income
  6. The Racial Rules of Education
  7. The Racial Rules of Criminal Justice
  8. The Racial Rules of Health
  9. The Racial Rules of Democratic Participation
  10. What Will It Take to Rewrite the Hidden Rules of Race?

I like that the authors suggest ways to change the rules to level the field, showing us how to get to an inclusive economy. Amazon has a preview of the first pages, it can also be ordered through Left Bank Books.

— Steve Patterson

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 Books, Featured 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

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