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A Day Trip Down South

Last month the hubby and I decided to go town to Sainte Genevive, Missouri. I’d been once or twice twenty plus years ago, he’d never been. The fastest way there is I-55 south, but we took the long way heading south from downtown St. Louis on Jefferson Ave until it merges with South Broadway into St. Louis County. On highway 231 we passed Jefferson Barrack’s Cemetery, which we’ve seen before including a memorial service a few weeks earlier.    We were close to two parks we visited last year, Cliff Cave Park and Bee Tree Park.

We got to the end of 231, turning left (south) onto state highway 61/67. Very soon Siri is telling us to turn left for Kimswick, MO. Charming, we made a note to return for lunch or dinner sometime. We continue passing through Barnhart, Pevely, Herculaneum, Festus/Crystal City, happened on a charming old roadside park, before finally arriving in Sainte Genevive. The backroad journey took at least twice as long as the interstate, but it’s so much more interesting!

More after the pics…

Kimswick, Missouri
Vernacular buildings in historic Kimswick, Missouri, click image for more infomation
Highway 61 roadside park near Bloomsdale, MO
Highway 61 roadside park near Bloomsdale, MO
Fourche a du Clos Valley as seen from the highway 61 roadside park
Fourche a du Clos Valley as seen from the highway 61 roadside park, you can hear the traffic of I-55 below but you can’t see it. Click image for more info.
Sainte Genevive
Sainte Genevive
Sainte Genevive
Sainte Genevive lost a historic building in 1934 for a service station, which later became a firehouse, and is now a cafe.
View from the Chaumette tasting room
Stunning views at Chaumette Winery
I love this house on highway 61 in St. Mary, MO
I love this house on highway 61 in St. Mary, MO

Most of the Ste Genevive wineries are a long drive from the historic town, next time we’ll take I-55 so we have more time to explore, possibly staying overnight in one of the many choices for accommodations.

We’d decided to cross the Mississippi River and return to St. Louis via Illinois, but first we stopped in St. Mary where I fell in love with the house shown above. We crossed the river into Chester, IL and came north on Route 3 without stopping.  Very different terrain 0n the Illinois side. I love seeing these historic towns on a map, a nice grid of streets.

Have a great weekend, do something memorable!

– Steve Patterson

Readers Support St. Louis’ Challenge Of Missouri’s Ban On Same-Sex Marriage

Last week more than two-thirds of the readers supported the decision by St. Louis officials to issue marriage licenses to four same-sex couples in an effort to challenge Missouri’s ban. While I’d like my own same-sex marriage recognized by Missouri, beyond a joint tax return, I voted for “somewhat support.”  Before I explain why, here are the results:

Q:  On June 25th the City of St. Louis defied Missouri’s ban on same-sex marriage by marrying 4 couples. Oppose or support this decision?

  1. Strongly support 92 [69.7%]
  2. Strongly oppose 21 [15.91%]
  3. Somewhat support 8 [6.06%]
  4. Somewhat oppose 6 [4.55%]
  5. Neutral 4 [3.03%]
  6. Unsure/No Answer 1 [0.76%]

As I stated when I introduced this poll, this action was being discussed quietly last year. At that time Missouri’s ban wasn’t being challenged in the courts, but in February this year:

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Missouri filed a lawsuit in state court today on behalf of eight same-sex couples who are seeking recognition for their legal out-of-state marriages. The lawsuit does not seek a repeal of Missouri’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples within the state. (ACLU

That case wasn’t a direct challenge to the ban, that came in June a day before the weddings at city hall:

Court records show the Jackson County case was filed Tuesday.

ACLU attorney Tony Rothert said Friday that it wasn’t publicized because supporters didn’t want to distract from efforts in St. Louis.

St. Louis officials granted marriage licenses to four same-sex couples Wednesday, which also has prompted a legal fight. (KSDK)

In this case two same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses are challenging the ban, a legal strategy successfully used in other states. Maybe both challenges will be stronger than just the one, it certainly got positive press for St. Louis. It also seems like a way to help Recorder of Deeds Sharon Carpenter in her August 5th primary, not a worthwhile reason for getting St. Louis sued by Missouri Attorney General:

Cases currently pending in Jefferson City and Kansas City regarding the constitutionality of Missouri’s ban against same-sex marriage will be decided in the coming months. Regardless of my personal support for marriage equality, such vital questions cannot be decided by local county officials acting in contravention of state law. 

St. Louis is arguing county recorder of deeds are free to act based on their understanding of the constitution. I can’t help but wonder if conservative Brian Nieves would issue same-sex marriage licenses if he becomes the Franklin County recorder of deeds and our ban is ruled unconstitutional? Missouri has 115 recorder of deeds, do we want them each interpreting the constitution? Their job is to record and file documents.

– Steve Patterson

Poll: Oppose or Support St. Louis Marrying 4 Same-Sex Couples on June 25th

Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar

Thursday morning I decided the poll I had planned to run this week will have to wait until next week. Late Wednesday St. Louis officials married four same-sex couples despite Missouri’s 2004 constitutional ban.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster sued the city of St. Louis on Thursday morning, seeking and getting an injunction to stop the city from issuing more same-sex marriage licenses. (stltoday)

The four marriages occurred on the same day a U.S. appeals court struct down Utah’s ban and a federal district judge tossed Indiana’s ban.

Before you scroll down to the comments to complain this has nothing to do with urban planning let me say it has everything to do with public policy, and St. Louis.

In a reader poll last year more than half indicated Missouri should wait on same-sex marriage until forced otherwise by the courts. In February the ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging Missouri’s ban.

Ok, so the poll is in the right sidebar (desktop layout) and the comments are open.

– Steve Patterson

Readers: Same-Sex Marriage To Be Recognized In All 50 States In The Year…; I’m Now Legally Married

Over the last 10+ years public opinion on same-sex marriage has shifted from majority opposed to majority support. It’s no longer if, but when. Last week’s unscientific poll looked at the timing:

Q: When do you think Same-Sex Marriage will be recognized in all 50 states?

  1. 2019-2024: 30 [26.55%]
  2. 2016: 18 [15.93%]
  3. 2025 or later: 17 [15.04%]
  4. Never: 17 [15.04%]
  5. 2017: 12 [10.62%]
  6. 2015: 10 [8.85%]
  7. 2018: 7 [6.19%]
  8. 2014: 2 [1.77%]

There’s no right or wrong here, we’re all just placing bets. However, the 15% who picked “never” will be in for a shock when the SCOTUS issues a ruling, making same-sex marriages legal in all 50 states.

The Supreme Court’s term runs from October to June. With the high likelihood that at least one circuit will decide against state limits by summer or fall, observers say, the Supreme Court should have ample time to hear a case for a decision by June 2015, though unexpected delays could push it to 2016 at the latest. (NY Times)

On June 12, 1967 the SCOTUS ruled on Loving v. Virginia, “ending all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States.” The same will happen for same-sex marriage, though not unanimous as was Loving v. Virginia. My prediction is the SCOTUS will decide the issue in June 2016.

And on a personal note…

The morning I posted this poll, Sunday June 8, 2014, was my own same-sex marriage in East St. Louis, at the beautiful Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park.

David and I exchanging our vows on Sunday June 8th, officiated by our friend Chris Reimer.
David and I exchanging rings on Sunday June 8th, officiated by our Chris Reimer. Photo by Chris Andoe.
After Chris (center) announced we had no official photographer so we wanted everyone to take pics I got out my iPhone to take a quick selfie of us.
After Chris (center) announced we had no official photographer so we wanted everyone to take pics I got out my iPhone to take a quick selfie of us.
Dionna Raedeke singing "The Very Thought of You" during our ceremony. Photo by Chris Reimer
Dionna Raedeke singing “The Very Thought of You” during our ceremony. Photo by Chris Reimer
Our reception was brunch at Bevo Mill, Lydia S. drove us in her Tesla.
Our reception was brunch at Bevo Mill, Lydia S. drove us there in her Tesla. Photo by Alan Brunettin

We couldn’t get married in Missouri, but we did borrow the St. Louis skyline as a backdrop. We plan to honeymoon in Denver later this year (fund).

Thanks to so many people, including Bryan Werner of the Metro East Park & Recreation District.

– Steve Patterson

Poll: When Do You Think Same-Sex Marriage Will Be Recognized In All 50 States?

Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar

In May 2004 the first same-sex marriages in the United States began in Massachusetts, the result of a court ruling. That year many states, including Missouri, passed constitutional bans against recognizing same-sex marriages. Other states approved same-sex marriage.

A year ago the Supreme Court determined part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional. Since then states like Illinois & Hawaii has approved same-sex marriage through their legislatures while courts have found more than a dozen state bans are unconstitutional, including Wisconsin on Friday.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb struck down the ban, making Wisconsin the 27th state where same-sex couples can marry under law or where a judge has ruled they ought to be allowed to wed.

Every remaining state ban is now challenged in court.

Same-sex marriages in Illinois were to begin on June 1st but a court ruled in February there was no reason to wait. Some counties like Cook (Chicago) and St. Clair County have been issuing licenses since then. However, St. Clair County wasn’t issuing licenses to out of state couples that live in states with a ban. But on Wednesday of last week St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly determined they could issue licenses to couples from Missouri and other states, as Cook County had been doing.

The poll question this week asks when you think same-sex marriage will be recognized in all 50 states. The poll is in the right sidebar.

– Steve Patterson

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Why I’ll Be Voting Against the Sales Tax Increase in November

In November Missouri voters will be asked to raised the state sales tax by three-fouths of a cent, earmarked for transportation projects:

The tax increase would generate an estimated $534 million a year, with 90 percent of the money going to state projects and 10 percent to local projects. It would run for 10 years.

Critics say sales taxes are hardest on low-income people because a higher percentage of their income goes toward buying essential items. However, the 3 percent general fund portion of the current state sales tax of 4.225 percent is not applied to groceries or prescription drugs, and the increase would not be, either. (stltoday: Voters will decide whether to boost Missouri sales tax for highways, transportation)

Missouri’s current fuel taxes are below the national average, and the legislature squashed Gov Nixon’s veto of a state income tax cut measure.

In five annual steps beginning in 2017, the bill will cut the state’s top personal income tax rate to 5.5 percent from 6 percent and provide a new 25 percent deduction for business income reported on individual returns.

The cuts will be implemented only if state general revenue grows by at least $150 million a year compared with the high-water mark of the previous three years. (stltoday – Missouri Legislature overrides Nixon’s tax cut veto)

Back to our low fuel taxes:

Of all the states bordering Missouri, only Oklahoma has less fuel taxes…by just 3 cents.   Source: American Petroleum Institute, click image to view
Source: NAME, click image to view
Detail on Missouri’s fuel taxes   Source: American Petroleum Institute, click image to view

All over the state roads & bridges are crumbling, and I’m a huge fan of investing in infrastructure. So why am I voting no? Simple, the money has to come from somewhere, but sales taxes on necessities (groceries, clothing) is the worst way to fund transportation.   The better option is to start by increasing our very low gas & diesel tax:

The gasoline tax has a lot of virtues from an economic point of view. It matches costs and benefits, because drivers who buy the most fuel are also causing the most wear on our roads. It’s easy to collect and hard to evade.

The fuel tax tends to be unpopular with the trucking industry, which would rather have the rest of us pay for the infrastructure that it uses most intensively. And trucking lobbyists tend to have a lot of clout in state capitols, which may be why the Legislature is talking about raising the sales tax instead of the gasoline tax. (stltoday: Sales tax is wrong way to pay for Missouri roads)

What about Oklahoma, why is their gas tax is 3 cents less per gallon? We should do what they do to keep from raising our fuel taxes, you might say. Fine by me!

Oklahoma has 10 turnpikes, more than 600 miles of pavement, making the state second in the nation for miles of toll roads. (Oklahoma Doesn’t Make Profit On Turnpikes; Who Does?)

Tolls, like fuel taxes, makes those who use the infrastructure pay for the infrastructure. I’ve paid more to Oklahoma  in tolls than in fuel taxes the last 23+ years of driving back to visit family.

A common misconception is more fuel efficient cars, hybrids, & electric vehicles have significantly reduced revenues collected from fuel taxes. It’s true, cars are more efficient:

Cars and light trucks sold in the United States hit a new record for fuel efficiency last year — 23.6 miles per gallon, on average — in response to still-high oil prices and strict new fuel-economy standards.

That’s a big step up from the 22.4 miles per gallon average for new vehicles in 2011. And overall fuel economy is expected to increase to 24 miles per gallon in 2013, another record. (Washington Post: Cars in the U.S. are more fuel-efficient than ever. Here’s how it happened.)

But that’s not why fuel taxes don’t cover needed work, just look at the federal highway trust fund:

The Fund is paid for by the federal gas tax. The gas tax has not been raised in over twenty years. Many items have doubled or tripled their cost since 1993. For example, a new car cost $12,750 in 1993, yet in 2013 a new car cost $31,252. The easiest explanation is that we are trying to build a 2014 infrastructure system with 1993 dollars. This is obviously an untenable formula. (Highway Trust Fund 101: What You Need to Know

Yes, the cost to build & maintain our infrastructure have been increasing while the Missouri & federal rate has remained flat.  For years inflation was masked because gasoline sales and total vehicle miles driven increased year over year, the funds grew too.

Source: NAME, click image to view
Graph shows total vehicle miles driven increased until the last recession. Source: St. Louis Federal Reserve, click image to view
Source: NAME, click image to view
Total gallons of gas sold dropped off just as miles driven have. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, click image to view

Rising costs and a slight drop in gallons of fuel purchased doesn’t mean we should now start taxing every purchase to maintain roads & bridges. But yes, the number of hybrids and others has increased, but the percentage is small relative to the big picture:

The number of alternative-energy vehicles on the road grew to almost 3.1 million in 2013, compared with 2.5 million in 2012, according to the study. In 2013, nearly 72,000 vehicles were pure electrics and three million were hybrids, compared with 21,000 pure electrics and 2.5 million hybrids in 2012.

Data for the analysis comes from Experian Automotive’s database, which includes information on nearly 700 million vehicles in operation. (New York Times - Experian Study Highlights Differences Between Hybrid and E.V. Owners). I encourage you to contact your elected officials in Jefferson City and Washington D.C to tell them to increase  the fuel taxes, not the sales taxes on goods. In November, please vote no on this sales take hike.

– Steve Patterson

Missouri’s August Primary

Two days ago many voters in the region went to the polls to vote on local measures, such as bond issues. Those of us in the City of St. Louis didn’t have an election, our next time voting will be the Missouri primary on Tuesday August 5, 2014. However, voters in the 13th ward will vote at a special election on April 29th.  Fred Wessels resigned as alderman on December 31st to become the head of the Community Development Administration (CDA):

The CDA, among other things, administers federal funds for housing, community and economic development programs. It’s also responsible for administering the city’s share of federal community development block grants.

Wessels will replace Jill Claybour, who is retiring. (Beacon)

The 13th ward candidates are Beth Murphy (D) and Conan Predergast (R), see official list here.  Phyllis Young of the 7th ward is now the most senior alderman, her and Wessels were both sworn into office in April 1985.

Click image for information on becoming a poll worker.
Click image for information on becoming a poll worker.

IMPORTANT PRIMARY DATES:

  • Absentee balloting begins: Tuesday June 24, 2014
  • Last Day to Register to Vote: Wednesday July 9, 2014
  • Primary Election Day:  Tuesday August 5, 2014

In the city the primary will include three county-level offices: Collector of Revenue, License Collector, and Recorder of Deeds. Let’s take a look at the candidates seeking the nomination of their party:

Collector of Revenue

  • Democratic
    • Gregory F.X. Daly (Incumbent)
    • John P. Parhomski
  • Republican
    • Dylan M. Farrell
  • Green
    • None

License Collector

  • Democratic
    • Mavis “Tesssa” Thompson (Incumbent)
    • Jeffrey L. Boyd
    • Francis Horton
  • Republican
    • None
  • Green
    • Don DeVivo

Recorder of Deeds

  • Democratic
    • Jimmie Matthews
    • Sharon Quigley Carpenter (Incumbent)
    • Edward McFowland
  • Republican
    • Erik Shequist
  • Green
    • None

What do we know from this list? All three incumbents are Democrats, no surprise. What’s surprising and refreshing is all three are being challenged in the primary.  We also know the two Republicans, and the one Green, will represent their respective parties in the November general election.

The most interesting of the races is the Democratic primary for License Collector. Thompson was appointed by Gov. Nixon last year to replace Michael McMillan, who became President of the Urban League of St. Louis.  Alderman Jeffrey Boyd ran unsuccessfully for Treasurer in 2012, coming in 3rd in the 4-way Democratic primary, just after Fred Wessels.

– Steve Patterson

Readers: Missouri Should Fully Legalize Marijuana

Marijuana is everywhere, in the news, these days:

With a majority of Americans now in favor marijuana legalization, President Barack Obama is now saying weed is no more dangerous to individuals’ health than alcohol. (Huffington Post — Obama: Marijuana No More Dangerous Than Alcohol)

This is a blazing moment for American stoners. Colorado has just legalized the commercial production, sale, and recreational use of marijuana, while Washington State will begin its own pot liberalization initiative at the end of February. On Jan. 8, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said his state would join 20 others and the District of Columbia in allowing the drug for medical purposes. (Business Week - Legal Weed’s Strange Economics in Colorado)

To be sure, ending prohibition won’t singularly eliminate the underground market or end racism in law enforcement. But it is a constructive step toward those goals, especially considering the aforementioned White House ad correctly acknowledging that marijuana isn’t egregiously dangerous. Sure, the government’s “safest thing in the world” line may have been an overstatement – but it was certainly closer to the truth than all the fear-mongering about our decision to embrace reefer sanity here in Colorado. (Salon – Reefer sanity takes hold in Colorado)

New York is one of the only states in the Northeast without a medical marijuana program. Gov. Andrew Cuomo was opposed to medical marijuana, and attempts to create a law have failed to get through the state Senate for years. Now Cuomo has reversed himself, proposing a medical marijuana research program run under exacting federal guidelines that would be the most restrictive in the country.(NPR – New York’s Medical Marijuana Experiment Begins With Caution)

News articles will continue on the topic as more states legalize medical & recreational marijuana, Illinois Dept of Health released draft medical marijuana rules yesterday. What about here in Missouri? 

Thirteen initiative petitions related to the legalization of marijuana and hemp products were approved for circulation by Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander Wednesday, clearing the way for voters to decide on the issue during the November 2014 election.

For marijuana legalization to make the ballot, petitioners have to get enough signatures to account for eight percent of the total votes cast in the 2012 governor’s election from six of the state’s eight congressional districts. (KSDK)

The advocacy group Show-Me Cannabis submitted the petitions for approval but hasn’t yet determined if they’ll work to collect the needed signatures:

But before we launch a full campaign, however, we must assess whether likely 2014 voters will pass any of these measures at the ballot box in November. For that reason, we are hiring a firm to conduct scientific polling on the official ballot language approved by the Secretary of State. Polling is most accurate when respondents are presented with the specific question as it would appear on the ballot, so that is why we could not conduct this polling earlier.

We hope to receive results of the poll by the beginning of February, and if around 60 percent of likely 2014 voters surveyed say they will vote for our measure, we will very likely pursue a campaign this year. 60 percent is considered to be a very safe benchmark because even if support decreases somewhat by Election Day, which is common with initiatives, it will still pass. I am optimistic that the polling will show strong support, but that hunch needs to be tested scientifically. (Show-Me Cannabis)

The weekly polls here are not scientific, but since the same poll last April support of full legalization jumped from 53% to 63%!

Comparison of the results from a non-scienticfic poll conducted in April 2013 and last week.
Comparison of the results from a non-scienticfic poll conducted in April 2013 and last week.

From these results it appears increased full legalization support comes from the legalize medical/decriminalize recreational camp. It’ll be interesting to see the scientific polling of likely Missouri voters. Other states will likely have medical or full legalization on their November ballots.

Why am I so interested? Several reasons: prohibition on marijuana doesn’t make sense from a law enforcement, policy, health, or economic perspective. With the latter — the “green rush” is creating new opportunities, employing people, etc.  For full disclosure: about 14% of my portfolio is comprised of marijuana-related stocks: (CANV, CBIS, FSPM, GRNH).

– Steve Patterson

National Prohibition Ended 80 Years Ago

Eighty years ago our country made a big constitutional change:

The 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, repealing the 18th Amendment and bringing an end to the era of national prohibition of alcohol in America. At 5:32 p.m. EST, Utah became the 36th state to ratify the amendment, achieving the requisite three-fourths majority of states’ approval. Pennsylvania and Ohio had ratified it earlier in the day. (History.com)

Today many counties in the country remain dry or semi-dry:

33 states have laws which allow localities to prohibit the sale (and in some cases, consumption and possession) of liquor. Still, many of these states have no dry communities. Three states, Kansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee, are entirely dry by default: counties specifically must authorize the sale of alcohol in order for it to be legal and subject to state liquor control laws. (Wikipedia)

"Map showing dry (red), wet (blue), and mixed (yellow) counties in the United States" from Wikipedia
“Map showing dry (red), wet (blue), and mixed (yellow) counties in the United States” from Wikipedia

From the same Wikipedia article:

Missouri state law specifically prohibits any counties, or unincorporated city or town from banning the retail sale of liquor, but only allows incorporated cities to ban the sale of liquor by the drink by public referendum. No incorporated Missouri cities have ever chosen to hold a referendum banning alcohol sales. In addition, Missouri state law specifically supersedes any local laws that restrict the sale of alcohol. (see Alcohol laws of Missouri)

At least in this regard, Missouri is a blue state.

– Steve Patterson

Readers: Missouri Should Wait Until Courts Force Same-Sex Marriage

November 27, 2013 Missouri, Politics/Policy 7 Comments

In unusually high voting, it seems readers don’t want Missouri to recognize same-sex marriages until forced to do so by the courts, likely the United States Supreme Court. Here’s the results from last week’s poll:

Q: Should Missouri allow same-sex couples to marry before being required by the courts?

  1. No 130 [51.79%]
  2. Yes 102 [40.64%]
  3. Unsure/no opinion 19 [7.57%]

These polls, of course, aren’t scientific.

Even without recognition by Missouri, my boyfriend and I are registered Domestic Partners with the City of Saint Louis. We’ll be married across the river in Illinois in June. In 2015 we’ll file our federal and state taxes as a married couple.

In the meantime more Missouri same-sex couples will continue getting married out of state — especially border states like Iowa & Illinois. Missouri could draw couples from redder states like Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Doing so would help our state economy.

Once the SCOTUS makes same-sex marriage recognized in all 50 states, the short-term geographic advantage will be lost. Sadly, Missouri will probably be among the final holdouts — like Mississippi and Alabama.

– Steve Patterson

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