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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St. Louis’ Easton & Franklin Avenues Became Dr. Martin Luther King Drive 45 Years Ago Today

February 17, 2017 Featured, History/Preservation, MLK Jr. Drive, North City Comments Off on St. Louis’ Easton & Franklin Avenues Became Dr. Martin Luther King Drive 45 Years Ago Today
 

Last month, on the Martin Luther King holiday, I posted my 13th look at the street named after the slain civil rights leader — see Annual Look At Changes Along St. Louis’ Dr Martin Luther King Drive. From a STL250 Facebook post that has since been deleted:

This Day in St. Louis History, February 17, 1972:
Martin Luther King Boulevard is dedicated

A Board of Aldermen bill was passed that changed the name of Easton Avenue and portions of Franklin Avenue to Martin Luther King Boulevard. Alderman C.B. Broussard was a primary sponsor, and he announced that the change was part of a nationwide organized drive to rename street[s[ in honor of the murdered civil rights figure. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed by James Earl Ray on April 4, 1968 while standing on a hotel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee. Just days after his murder, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

By 1972 St. Louis was aware the 1960s was its second decade in a row with major losses in population. In the two decades since the St. Louis population peaked in the 1950 census, the city lost more than a quarter of its residents. The biggest reduction, however, happened during the 1970s. By the 1980 census St. Louis had again lost more than a quarter of the population — in a single decade.

As the white middle class fled North St. Louis for North St. Louis County, commercial streets like Easton & Franklin Avenues were already in decline before 1972.

One building symbolizes this change better than any other. Demolition of existing 2-story buildings began on February  29, 1948 — the new JC Penny store opened the following year. By 1967 the store was so crowded a warehouse was added to the West (since demolished). Less than a decade later, the store closed on September 11, 1976.

 

The former JC Penny store (1949-1976) on MLK in the Wellston Loop in the modern style with an urban form, rather than style of its red brick neighbors that are 20-40 years older.
Click image to view the nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.

As residents fled to North County retailers followed them. New shopping areas like Northland (1955), River Roads (1962), Northwest Plaza (1965),  and Jamestown Mall (1973) opened to serve the new suburban middle class. Franklin & Easton Avenues would have declined even it not renamed.

Can this corridor be revived? To the point of being the honor it was intended? I have my doubts. Perhaps we should do something different to causally honor Dr. King’s legacy and return the street name to Easton & Franklin Avenues?

— Steve Patterson

Opinion: Sales Taxes Outdated In 21st Century

February 15, 2017 Featured, Retail, Taxes Comments Off on Opinion: Sales Taxes Outdated In 21st Century
 

We order stuff online frequently because it’s convenient to do so, not because we want to save on taxes. Often we’ll order from target.com so we pay the same tax rate we do when we shop at Hampton Village location once per month.  Amazon is the bulk of our online shopping so now we’ll pay 4.225% for Missouri sales tax. Fine.

There are lots of online retailers out there, from 2013:

Using figures from a variety of sources, including Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide for 2013 and data from the U.S. Census Bureau, ReferralCandy determined that there are 102,728 e-commerce retailers in the United States that are generating at least $12,000 per year in revenue. That’s a 13.5 percent increase over last year’s findings, which revealed 90,501 online retailers generating the same amount.

Other findings from the study include:

  • 61,728 online retailers generate at least $25k in revenue (up 12.8 percent from the year before)
  • 38,157 e-commerce merchants generate at least $50k in revenue (up 12.3 percent from the year before)
  • 23,587 online merchants generate at least $100k in revenue (up 13.6% from the previous year) (Forbes)

So over 100k retailers should register with every state to be able to collect and report sales taxes?  I looked at three retailers located on Cherokee Street to see how they handle sales taxes on their online shops — they ship to every state:

Firecracker Press

  • Collects 8.7% Missouri & St. Louis sales tax on orders shipped to Missouri customers.
  • Doesn’t collect sales taxes shipped outside Missouri.

Spoked Bikes & Stuff

  • Doesn’t appear to collect sales taxes on any online order, though a tax line appears in the cart.

STL-Style

  • Doesn’t appear to collect sales taxes on any online order, no sales tax line appeared .

More than half of those who voted in the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll support online retailers collecting state sales taxes:

Q:  Agree or disagree: Online retailers, without brick & mortar stores in a state, shouldn’t collect sales taxes in that state.

  • Strongly agree 6 [14.63%]
  • Agree 5 [12.2%]
  • Somewhat agree 1 [2.44%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 1 [2.44%]
  • Somewhat disagree 3 [7.32%]
  • Disagree 9 [21.95%]
  • Strongly disagree 15 [36.59%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 1 [2.44%]

Oh, I bet many thought I was talking only about Amazon. Where is the line drawn in the sand? Is it based on sales shipped to each state? If so, the three small retailers on Cherokee would need to keep track of sales to each state and then begin collecting state sales taxes only when their sales to that state have crossed the threshold?

We pay taxes to receive services from the government(s). How governments collect revenue varies widely, not all collect sales tax:

In 2013, sales and gross receipt taxes nationwide totaled $254.7 billion — a 3.9% increase from the year before — which means Americans spent an average of $806 on sales taxes last year. That’s less than the $309.6 billion, or $979 per American, spent on state income taxes. However, including selective sales taxes, which are levied on goods like gas and cigarettes, Americans actually pay more in sales taxes than they do in state income taxes.

Sales taxes vary widely from state to state. Some states charge no sales tax, while some localities charges as much as 10% when state and local sales taxes are combined. Tennessee, on average, has the highest sales tax at 9.44%.

There are four states with no sales tax: Delaware, Montana, Oregon, and New Hampshire. A fifth, Alaska, has no state-level sales tax but allows municipalities to impose the retail-level tax. As a result, the average sales tax rate in Alaska is 1.69%. 

While 10% of U.S. states impose no sales tax, a much smaller percentage of the population lives in one of these states — only about 2.5%. (Motley Fool)

Let’s not forget the complex sales tax pool in St. Louis County.

I think it may be time to admit sales taxes as a revenue source is outdated by current technology & shopping trends. I’m not suggesting we need lower taxes — but that we need to find a better way to fund local & state government services.

— Steve Patterson

Finally Visited The National Blues Museum

February 13, 2017 Downtown, Featured, Popular Culture Comments Off on Finally Visited The National Blues Museum
 

Last month my husband and I finally visited the National Blues Museum, just a 15 minute walk from our loft. The museum opened in April 2016, but we never got around to visiting until recently. First, we had lunch a Sugarfire Smoke House located in the same building at 6th & Washington.

I’ve been a vegetarian for a quarter century now, but I have no problem eating at BBQ places — as long as they offer something like a portobello sandwich. Smart BBQ places do.

My portobello sandwich at Sugarfire

The museum isn’t large, but it’s well-organized. The displays  and signage is fresh looking.

Entry to the National Blues Museum
Photography isn't allowed inside. but I got one photo
Photography isn’t allowed inside. but I got one photo

There was a concert later in the evening, our tickets would’ve gotten into that as well. I’ll keep that in mind — will plan our next visit, followed by dinner and a blues concert.

Very glad to see the museum completed, I was a sceptic when I first heard the concept.

— Steve Patterson

Sunday Poll: Should Online Retailers Collect State Sales Taxes?

February 12, 2017 Featured, Retail, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Should Online Retailers Collect State Sales Taxes?
 
Please vote below

As I’ve previously noted, the retail landscape is always changing — big downtown department stores rarely exist anymore — more & more suburban malls struggle. Last month another change was announced:

The collection of state sales tax in Missouri will begin Feb. 1, Amazon spokeswoman Jill Kerr said in an email to the Post-Dispatch. The state sales tax rate in Missouri is 4.225 percent.

Items sold by Seattle-based Amazon.com and its subsidiaries already are subject to sales tax for merchandise shipped to more than 30 states. Amazon will also begin collecting sales tax on Feb. 1 in Mississippi, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Vermont, and in Wyoming in March.

Amazon does not yet have facilities in the state of Missouri, and online retailers aren’t required to collect sales tax where they don’t have a physical presence. Amazon charges sales tax in Illinois, where it has multiple distribution facilities, including in Edwardsville. (Post-Dispatch)

Posts on social media showed disagreement on this issue so I thought it would make a great poll question:

The poll will close at 8pm, results & my thoughts on Wednesday.

— Steve Patterson

St. Louis Board of Aldermen: Last Full Meeting Before March 7th Primary

February 10, 2017 Board of Aldermen, Featured Comments Off on St. Louis Board of Aldermen: Last Full Meeting Before March 7th Primary
 
St. Louis City Hall
St. Louis City Hall

Today is the last meeting of the Board of Aldermen before the primary election on March 7th. Bills that don’t get approved by today are dead. The meeting begins at 10am, it can be watched online here.

From a recent agenda:

  • FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2017 – LAST FULL BOARD BEFORE SPRING RECESS
  • MONDAY, APRIL 17, 2017 – SINE DIE (LAST MEETING OF THE 2016-2017 SESSION)
  • TUESDAY, APRIL 18, 2017 – FIRST MEETING OF THE 2017-2018 SESSION
  • FRIDAY, APRIL 21, 2017 – NO FULL BOARD MEETING

— Steve Patterson

 

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