Reading: Urban Street Stormwater Guide by the National Association of City Transportation Officials

 

 Though I receive a lot of new books, it’s rare to see a technical best practices manual — plus hardcover with tons of full-color photos and illustrations. But last month I received just such a book. Though not a compelling novel for the nightstand, Urban Street Stormwater Guide is very intriguing …

Opinion: Razing Vacant Buildings A Short-Term Strategy With Negative Long-Term Consequences

 

 Razing buildings might seem like the answer, but the unintended consequences shouldn’t be overlooked.Sure, no vacant building but then you’ve got a vacant lot unlikely to be developed. Dumping, high weeds, etc are all nuisances that can happen at vacant lots. While rehabbing an old building is more expensice than …

Pine @ Tucker Treated Different Than Locust @ Tucker

 

 In April I wrote how some drivers get confused on one-way Locust approaching Tucker — some turn left from either lane because it’s not properly marked. Two blocks directly South, on Tine St, is the identical situation but properly marked.  Pine is also a 2-lane street one-way Westbound.  But the city …

Sunday Poll: Would Tearing Down Vacant Buildings More Quickly Help St. Louis?

 

 Vacant buildings are often in the news in St. Louis, here’s two recent examples. June 2017: Forum addresses dangers of St. Louis city’s abandoned buildings July 2017; Tests confirm presence of asbestos in Clemens House fire debris The morning the historic James Clemens house burned two other vacant properties also had fires. …

Recent Articles:

Readers: Remove Payroll Tax Exemption From Not-For-Profit Employers With More Than 20 Employees

June 14, 2017 Featured, Taxes Comments Off on Readers: Remove Payroll Tax Exemption From Not-For-Profit Employers With More Than 20 Employees
 
Saint Louis University is among those currently excerpt

Employers in the city pay a one-half of one percent payroll tax, but many have been exempted from this requirement. Ald Conway wants to end the exemptions for those with 21 or more employees:

BOARD BILL NO. 58 INTRODUCED BY ALDERMAN STEPHEN CONWAY An ordinance pertaining to the payroll expense tax, repealing, subject to voter approval, those exemptions from the tax in section nine of ordinance 60737 for religious and charitable organizations and institutions, not-for-profit civic, social, service or fraternal organizations, not-for-profit hospitals and not-for-profit educational institutions that employ more than twenty (20) employees; submitting to the qualified voters the question whether the exemptions to the payroll expense tax for religious and charitable organizations and institutions, not-for-profit civic, social, service or fraternal organizations, not-for-profit hospitals, and not-for profit educational institutions that employ more than twenty (20) employees shall be repealed and a payroll expense tax of one-half of one percent (0.5%) imposed; providing for the conducting of an election on such a question; providing, upon voters’ approval of such repeal of the exemptions, for the effective date for imposition of the payroll expense tax upon religious and charitable organizations and institutions, not-for-profit civic, social, service or fraternal organizations, not-for-profit hospitals, and not-for-profit educational institutions that employ more than twenty (20) employees; with an emergency clause.

If you look at the language in Board Bill 58 you’ll see it doesn’t mention any by name, just “religious and charitable organizations and institutions, not-for-profit civic, social, service or fraternal organizations, not-for-profit hospitals, and not-for profit educational institutions ” I’ve never been a fan of Ald Conway, but I agree with him on removing exemptions.

I’m not sure how 20 employees become his threshold. Why not 15 or 25? No threshold at all? Hopefully this will be discussed in the committee hearing on the bill. Ald Conway just happens to be Chair of the Ways & Means Committee. The committee meets at 9am this morning, but #58 isn’t listed on the event page.  Either it isn’t being considered or the website is out of space to list additional bills.

Committee members are:

  • Stephen Conway, Chair
  • Pam Boyd
  • John Collins-Muhammad
  • Marlene E Davis
  • Carol Howard
  • Samuel L Moore
  • Beth Murphy
  • Joseph Vaccaro

In the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll a majority of readers agreed these should no longer be exempt:

Q:  Agree or disagree: Large not-for-profit employers should remain exempt from a St. Louis payroll tax.

  • Strongly agree 5 [16.67%]
  • Agree 1 [3.33%]
  • Somewhat agree 4 [13.33%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 1 [3.33%]
  • Somewhat disagree 3 [10%]
  • Disagree 8 [26.67%]
  • Strongly disagree 8 [26.67%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 0 [0%]

If the Board of Aldermen approves this bill citizens would vote on removing the exemption. Just because a majority here favored removing the exemption doesn’t mean voters would do the same.

— Steve Patterson

 

50 Years Since Unanimous SCOTUS Decision In Loving v Virginia

June 12, 2017 Featured Comments Off on 50 Years Since Unanimous SCOTUS Decision In Loving v Virginia
 
Mildred & Richard Loving, 1967

Half a century ago today the US Supreme Court unanimously ruled laws outlawing interracial marriage were unconstitutional.

On June 12, 1967, the nation’s highest court voted unanimously to overturn the conviction of Richard and Mildred Loving, a young interracial couple from rural Caroline County, Va. 

That decision struck down the anti-miscegenation laws — written to prevent the mixing of the races — that were on the books at the time in more than a dozen states, including Virginia. (NPR)

The first 9 years of their marriage included arrests, moving to DC, and prolonged legal battles.

Few cases were more aptly named than Loving v. Virginia, which pitted an interracial couple – 17-year-old Mildred Jeter, who was black, and her childhood sweetheart, 23-year-old white construction worker, Richard Loving – against Virginia’s ‘miscegenation’ laws banning marriage between blacks and whites. After marrying in Washington, D.C. and returning to their home state in 1958, the couple was charged with unlawful cohabitation and jailed. 

The Lovings left Virginia and went to live with relatives in Washington, D.C. When they returned to visit family five years later, they were arrested for traveling together. Inspired by the civil rights movement, Mildred Loving wrote to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy for help. The couple was referred to the ACLU, which represented them in the landmark Supreme Court case, Loving v. Virginia (1967). The Court ruled that state bans on interracial marriage were unconstitutional. (ACLU)

Mildred Loving was on Indian descent, but often viewed as black. Nevertheless, she wasn’t white.

The Lovings, who had married in the District of Columbia on June 2, 1958, were in violation of Virginia code 20–54, which declared marriages between “white and colored persons” unlawful, as well as code 20–58, which made it unlawful to go out of state to marry with the intention to return and cohabit as husband and wife. The original legislation, which became the Racial Integrity Act on March 20, 1924, defined a white person as having only Caucasian blood. The Virginia ruling class, however, claiming descent from Pocahontas and John Rolfe, successfully lobbied the legislature to revise the definition to include what became known as the “Pocahontas Exception,” meaning that those with no more than 1/16th American Indian ancestry would be legally considered white.(Time)

Virginia’s position was interesting:

The State does not contend in its argument before this Court that its powers to regulate marriage are unlimited notwithstanding the commands of the Fourteenth Amendment. Nor could it do so. Instead, the State argues that the meaning of the Equal Protection Clause, as illuminated by the statements of the Framers, is only that state penal laws containing an interracial element as part of the definition of the offense must apply equally to whites and Negroes in the sense that members of each race are punished to the same degree. Thus, the State contends that, because its miscegenation statutes punish equally both the white and the Negro participants in an interracial marriage, these statutes, despite their reliance on racial classifications, do not constitute an invidious discrimination based upon race. The second argument advanced by the State assumes the validity of its equal application theory. The argument is that, if the Equal Protection Clause does not outlaw miscegenation statutes because of their reliance on racial classifications, the question of constitutionality would thus become whether there was any rational basis for a State to treat interracial marriages differently from other marriages. On this question, the State argues, the scientific evidence is substantially in doubt and, consequently, this Court should defer to the wisdom of the state legislature in adopting its policy of discouraging interracial marriages. 

Because we reject the notion that the mere “equal application” of a statute containing racial classifications is enough to remove the classifications from the Fourteenth Amendment’s proscription of all invidious racial discriminations, we do not accept the State’s contention that these statutes should be upheld if there is any possible basis for concluding that they serve a rational purpose. The mere fact of equal application does not mean that our analysis of these statutes should follow the approach we have taken in cases involving no racial discrimination where the Equal Protection Clause has been arrayed against a statute discriminating between the kinds of advertising which may be displayed on trucks in New York City or an exemption in Ohio’s ad valorem tax for merchandise owned by a nonresident in a storage warehouse. In these cases, involving distinctions not drawn according to race, the Court has merely asked whether there is any rational foundation for the discriminations, and has deferred to the wisdom of the state legislatures. In the case at bar, however, we deal with statutes containing racial classifications, and the fact of equal application does not immunize the statute from the very heavy burden of justification which the Fourteenth Amendment has traditionally required of state statutes drawn according to race. (Source)

Here’s the trailer for the 2016 film based on their story.

A 4-minute vintage news report:

I know an interracial couple who were married prior to the Loving v Virginia decision — but my friends were from Manhattan so it wasn’t illegal, However, that doesn’t mean their relationship was met with approval or their children weren’t teased.

Loving v Virginia was cited in the 2015 SCOTUS decision in Obergefell v Hodges allowing same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

Mildred Loving wrote in 2007:

My generation was bitterly divided over something that should have been so clear and right. The majority believed that what the judge said, that it was God’s plan to keep people apart, and that government should discriminate against people in love. But I have lived long enough now to see big changes. The older generation’s fears and prejudices have given way, and today’s young people realize that if someone loves someone they have a right to marry.

Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the “wrong kind of person” for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights.

I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.

— Mildred Loving 

Richard Loving was killed in a car accident in 1975, Mildred died in 2008 (source). I’m forever grateful to both of them — and the ACLU.

— Steve Patterson

Sunday Poll: Should Large Non-Profits Remain Exempt From A Local Payroll Tax?

June 11, 2017 Featured, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Should Large Non-Profits Remain Exempt From A Local Payroll Tax?
 
Please vote below

On Fridsy a bill was introduced at the St. Louis Board of Aldermen to increased revenue to pay for more police, and increase their salaries.

Alderman Stephen Conway says he’d like to end the city’s exemption of the half percent payroll tax granted to nonprofits.

“We are losing officers,” Conway says referring to the higher salaries being offered in nearby St. Louis County.

Conway estimates the payroll tax on large nonprofits could generate over $8 million a year to go towards giving police officers a raise and hiring more. (KMOV)

The official summary of Board Bill 58 is:

An ordinance pertaining to the payroll expense tax, repealing, subject to voter approval, those exemptions from the tax in section nine of ordinance 60737 for religious and charitable organizations and institutions, not?for?profit civic, social, service or fraternal organizations, not?for?profit hospitals and not?for?profit educational institutions that employ more than twenty (20) employees; submitting to the qualified voters the question whether the exemptions to the payroll expense tax for religious and charitable organizations and institutions, not? for?profit civic, social, service or fraternal organizations, not?for? profit hospitals, and not?for profit educational institutions that employ more than twenty (20) employees shall be repealed and a payroll expense tax of one?half of one percent (0.5%) imposed; with an emergency clause.

Which brings us to today’s poll:

This poll will close at 8pm tonight.

— Steve Patterson

St. Louis Board of Aldermen: Board Bills 49-61

June 9, 2017 Board of Aldermen, Featured Comments Off on St. Louis Board of Aldermen: Board Bills 49-61
 
St. Louis City Hall

Last week the St. Louis Board of Aldermen had new Board Bills 43-48 on their agenda for introduction but they adjourned after announcements — see video here.

ON AGENDA FOR INTRODUCTION TODAY 6/9/17:

  • B.B.#49 – Davis  –An ordinance approving a Redevelopment Plan for 3904 Folsom.
  • B.B.#50 – Conway –An ordinance authorizing and directing the Mayor and Comptroller to execute, upon receipt of and in consideration of the sum of One Dollar ($1.00) and other good and valuable consideration, a Quit Claim Deed to remise, release and forever quit-claim unto McGrath & Associates, Inc., certain City-owned property located at 1920 South Kingshighway Blvd.
  • B.B.#51 – Davis –An Ordinance recommended and approved by the Airport Commission, the Board of Public Service, and the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, establishing and authorizing a public works and improvement program (the “Airfield, Building & Environs Projects”) at St. Louis Lambert International Airport, consisting of capital improvement projects to and for the terminal complexes, concourses, parking facilities, taxiways, runways, and associated Airport structures, and facilities, and environs including certain equipment and vehicles, and other associated Airport improvements, entitled “FISCAL YEAR 2017 PROJECT/EQUIPMENT LIST (PART 2)” at a total estimated cost of Nine Million Dollars; authorizing an initial appropriation in the total amount of Two Million Three Hundred Sixty Four Thousand Three Hundred Ninety Six Dollars from the Airport Development Fund; and containing a severability and an emergency clause.
  • B.B.#52 – Spencer/Ingrassia –An Ordinance pertaining to the Animal Code; repealing Section Two of Ordinance 62941, providing definitions, codified as Section 10.20.010 of the Revised Code, and enacting in lieu thereof a new section on the same subject matter; repealing Section Five of Ordinance 62853, codified as Section 10.20.013 of the Revised Code, pertaining to Rules to be promulgated by the Health Commissioner and enacting in lieu thereof a new section on the same subject matter; repealing Section One of Ordinance 68463, pertaining to the prohibition of the keeping of certain animals, codified as Section 10.20.015 of the Revised Code, and enacted in lieu thereof is a new section on the same subject matter; repealing Section Eight of Ordinance 62853, pertaining to the regulation of animal housing, codified as Section 10.20.016 of the Revised Code, and enacting in lieu thereof a new section on the same subject matter; repealing Section Four of Ordinance 47883, pertaining to the penalty for violating certain sections of the Revised Code, codified as Section 10.20.160 of the Revised Code, and enacting in lieu thereof a new section on the same subject matter; repealing Section One of Ordinance 47883, pertaining to the definition of fowl, codified as Section 10.20.130 of the Revised Code; repealing Ordinance 42333, codified as Section 10.70.170 of the Revised Code, pertaining to the appointment of a veterinary surgeon; and containing a severability clause.
  • B.B.#53 – Howard –An ordinance directing the Department of Public Safety, starting in 2018, to move the City of St. Louis’ National Night Out from the first Tuesday of August to the first Tuesday of October.
  • B.B.#54 – Vollmer –An Ordinance recommended by the Board of Estimate and Apportionment authorizing The City to issue its Taxable Industrial Development Revenue Bonds (Huvepharma Inc. Project), Series 2017, in a principal amount of not to exceed $20,700,000 for the purpose of providing funds to pay the costs of acquiring, constructing, equipping and improving an industrial development project in the City.
  • B.B.#55 – Conway –An Ordinance pertaining to the Transit Sales Tax imposed pursuant to Section 94.660, RSMo., as adopted and approved by the voters on August 2, 1994, pursuant to Ordinance 63168 creating the “City Public Transit Sales Tax Trust Fund” directing the Treasurer to deposit funds received pursuant to said sales tax into the “City Public Transit Sales Tax Trust Fund – Account ONE” appropriating $11,560,000 from the said sales tax for the period herein stated to the Bi?State Development Agency for certain purposes; providing for the payment of such funds during the period July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018; and containing a severability clause.
  • B.B.#56 – Conway –An Ordinance pertaining to the Transit Sales Tax imposed pursuant to Section 94.660, RSMo., as adopted and approved by the voters on November 4, 1997, pursuant to Ordinance 64111 creating the “City Public Transit Sales Tax Trust Fund” directing the Treasurer of the City to deposit funds received pursuant to said sales tax into the “City Public Transit Sales Tax Trust Fund – Account TWO” appropriating $11,560,000 from the said sales tax for the period herein stated to the Bi?State Development Agency for certain purposes; providing for the payment of such funds during the period July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018; and containing a severability clause.
  • B.B.#57 – Conway –An ordinance appropriating the sum of $21,877,000, as described and defined in Section 94.600 through 94.655, RSMo. 2000 as amended for the period herein stated, which sum is hereby appropriated out of the “Transportation Trust Fund” to the Bi?State Development Agency for transportation purposes; and further providing that the appropriation is conditional upon the Bi?State Development Agency supplying the Board of Estimate and Apportionment an annual evaluation report; further providing that in no event shall the Comptroller draw warrants on the Treasurer for an amount greater than the amount of proceeds deposited in the “Transportation Trust Fund” during the period from July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018; and containing a severability clause.
  • B.B.#58 – Conway –An ordinance pertaining to the payroll expense tax, repealing, subject to voter approval, those exemptions from the tax in section nine of ordinance 60737 for religious and charitable organizations and institutions, not-for-profit civic, social, service or fraternal organizations, not-for-profit hospitals and not-for-profit educational institutions that employ more than twenty (20) employees; submitting to the qualified voters the question whether the exemptions to the payroll expense tax for religious and charitable organizations and institutions, not-for-profit civic, social, service or fraternal organizations, not-for-profit hospitals, and not-for-profit educational institutions that employ more than twenty (20) employees shall be repealed and a payroll expense tax of one-half of one percent (0.5%) imposed; with an emergency clause.
  • B.B.#59 – Conway –An ordinance, relating to the Solid Waste Services Fee established under Ordinance No. 68698, authorizing an increase to said fee of three dollars ($3.00) per month per dwelling unit commencing with the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2017, and containing an emergency clause.
  • B.B.#60 – Conway –An ordinance relating to public safety; imposing, under and by the authority of Section 67.547 RSMo, subject to the approval of the voters, a one?half of one percent sales tax on all retail sales made in the City of St. Louis which are subject to taxation under the provisions of Sections 144.010 to 144.525 RSMo, solely for the purpose of providing revenues for the operation of the department of public safety, including police and fire divisions, in addition to any and all other sales taxes allowed by law; submitting to the qualified voters of the City of St. Louis a proposal to impose such tax; providing for an election and the manner of voting thereat; providing that if such question shall receive the votes of a majority of the voters voting thereon that such tax shall be authorized and in effect as provided in Section 67.547 RSMo; and containing an emergency clause.
  • B.B.#61 – Green/Tyus/Guenther/Williamson – An Ordinance to require the provision of community benefits and executed Community Benefits Agreements for certain development projects seeking public support for investments above certain threshold levels; including certain exemptions; providing penalties and provisions for enforcement; and containing a severability clause.

The meeting begins at 10am, it can be watched online here. See list of all board bills for the 2017-2018 session.

— Steve Patterson

Option: Minority Of Drivers Put Others At Risk By Not Using Headlights When Visibility Is Reduced.

June 7, 2017 Featured, Transportation Comments Off on Option: Minority Of Drivers Put Others At Risk By Not Using Headlights When Visibility Is Reduced.
 
The latest Volvo’s have distinctive “Thor’s Hammer” daytime running lights.

I got pulled over once for not having my headlights on when I should have. Years ago I bought a used Audi A4 where the dash lights were on if the car was on. Leaving a restaurant on South Grand my first night with the car I could see fine due to all the urban light pollution, but others couldn’t see me. A few cars before the Audi was a used Volvo that allowed me to leave the switch in the on position — the lights went on and off with the car.

Anyway, a longtime pet peeve of mine is people who don’t have their lights on when they should. I rarely drive now, just once or twice each weekend. Maybe a weeknight dinner out (will be on South Grand again tomorrow night for our 3rd wedding anniversary). Most drivers are good about using their lights, but 5-10% are not.

The non-scientific results of Sunday’s poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: Drivers should turn on their headlights only when they have trouble seeing the road.

  • Strongly agree 0 [0%]
  • Agree 3 [7.89%]
  • Somewhat agree 0 [0%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat disagree 0 [0%]
  • Disagree 12 [31.58%]
  • Strongly disagree 23 [60.53%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 0 [0%]

All but 3 answered correctly. The 3 who agreed with the statement are wrong — they’re likely among those putting at risk by not turning on their lights when they should.

Most polls don’t get many comments on social media, but this one did. These comments on the Facebook post explain what I planned to explain today:

From Beverly B:

Headlights aren’t just for the driver to see the road, they’re for others to see you. I (barely) see untold numbers of headlight-less drivers at dusk, on cloudy days, and in other low light situations and to me, it’s dangerous. I habitually turn my headlights on when I start my car and I wish all cars were made so that they were always on when the engine is running.

Jacob S replied to the above comment:

Seconded! I was just about to comment along these same lines. I’m glad someone else already did! Headlights are extremely important for pedestrians to see cars! The fact that this topic is even up for debate (amongst society, not necessarily this page lol) is infuriating. As long as there are humans walking on this planet motor vehicles should always have to have headlights on at night and daytime running lights on during the day. It’s a safety issue. I wish Missouri police would step up their ticketing of people who aren’t using their lights during the night and when it’s raining (which is actually required by state law and is posted on every roadway upon entering the state).

Joe B wrote:

Back around 2002, Regina Walsh came knocking on my door asking for votes to become a Missouri Representative. She also asked if there was anything I’d like to see passed. With a resounding YES, I said a law to turn on all vehicle lights in rain, fog or snow. Imagine a tractor-trailer going down the middle lane of I-270. Now imagine that truck needs to get into the right hand lane for an upcoming exit ramp. Now imagine a GRAY CAR sitting next to that truck’s right side in the rain with NO LIGHTS ON. You want me to send you a private message with the original letter I typed up to be read in front of the Missouri Legislators? I will. I’m the one that started the ball rolling! Wake up people… Inclement weather hinders others vision from SEEING YOU unless you turn on your damn lights. Twenty years I drove without a single wreck or ticket. – end of rant.

David B quoted Missouri’s law:

RSMO 307.020:

(9) “When lighted lamps are required” means at any time from a half-hour after sunset to a half-hour before sunrise and at any other time when there is not sufficient light to render clearly discernible persons and vehicles on the highway at a distance of five hundred feet ahead. Lighted lamps shall also be required any time the weather conditions require usage of the motor vehicle’s windshield wipers to operate the vehicle in a careful and prudent manner as defined in section 304.012. The provisions of this section shall be interpreted to require lighted lamps during periods of fog even if usage of the windshield wipers is not necessary to operate the vehicle in a careful and prudent manner.

The laws in all 50 states are similar, though they do vary. A total of 20 states, including Missouri, require headlights when wipers are in use. .

As usual. one missed the mark. Jim Z commented :

Daytime running lights (DRL’s) serve essentially the same purpose and are required in Canada, so GM chose to make them standard on their vehicles 20-some years ago. The upside is that they do make vehicles more visible from the front, but the downside is that they do nothing to make vehicles more visible from the rear. Given the spread of automatic headlamps, it’s amazing the number of vehicles I see driving around at night with just their DRL’s on and no tail lights. But the biggest offenders seem to be some bicyclists (and yes, they are vehicles) who ride at night, many times against traffic, with no lights, at all! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daytime_running_lamp

DRLs make cars more visible during the daytime when visibility isn’t reduced by clouds, rain, snow, etc. Automatic headlights? The used Corolla I nought in 2008 had them — they’d come on when I pulled into our parking garage or if it was very late out. I had to manually switch then on many times.

Back to comments on Facebook, Brian W used his wife’s vehicle as an example:

A lot of cars (like Diane’s new RAV4) that have automatic headlights are not calibrated low enough to activate when there’s rain or overcast conditions during the day. I still find myself having to manually activate the headlights.
I suspect many people don’t even know *how* to manually turn theirs on!

And DRL’s (and the always-illuminated dash) Are pox on humanity!!
I can’t even count the # of people I see driving with lights out at night because of these things!

If it were up to me all lights (front, rear, dash) would be on at all times. Short of that it wouldn’t be difficult for new cars to have lights come on when wipers are used. Once we all stop driving and use autonomous vehicles the issue of lighting will become moot. Until that time, it is relevant.

Automotive lighting is one of my favorite topics so future posts will address design and regulation.

— Steve Patterson

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