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Opinion: Region Needs A Major Restructuring

April 4, 2018 Featured, STL Region Comments Off on Opinion: Region Needs A Major Restructuring
The last time anyone looked at the region was Harland Bartholomew’s 1947 plan, which called for 25 airports un the St, Louis region!

The recent non-scientific Sunday Poll was about a statewide vote to change the Missouri constitution to let the City of St. Louis back into St. Louis County. If you didn’t figure it out, it was an April Fool’s Day joke. The issue, however, is no joke.

Given the St. Louis metropolitan area is falling behind other regions in growth I don’t think doing nothing is a sound strategy.The entire region needs to act quickly or we’ll continue dropping in rankings of metropolitan areas. We’re good at lip service and doing little things that don’t change the big picture — just give us the illusion we’re progressing.

It’s time to end the fragmentation that exists on both sides of the river. Redraw political boundaries so the region can compete. We’ve got to attract immigrates and others to the region — not just get people to leave St. Louis City & County for St. Charles County.

Politicians must give up their little fiefdoms, which is why the needed change probably won’t happen.

Here are the results from the AFD poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: Missouri voters will approve Constitutional Amendment A on August 7th, placing St. Louis back inside St. Louis County

  • Strongly agree 4 [12.5%]
  • Agree 3 [9.38%]
  • Somewhat agree 8 [25%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 3 [9.38%]
  • Somewhat disagree 1 [3.13%]
  • Disagree 3 [9.38%]
  • Strongly disagree 6 [18.75%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 4 [12.5%]

Please…someone prove me wrong.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: The St. Louis Region Dropped From 20th to 21st In Population, Is This The City’s Fault?

March 25, 2018 Featured Comments Off on Sunday Poll: The St. Louis Region Dropped From 20th to 21st In Population, Is This The City’s Fault?
Please vote below

Thursday the St. Louis region found out it had dropped from 20th to 21st nationally — switching places with Baltimore MD.

Overall, the St. Louis metropolitan area, which comprises 14 counties and the city of St. Louis, grew slightly but at a much slower rate than other parts of the U.S., based on population estimates taken from July 1, 2016, to July 1 of last year.

The Baltimore area, which had been ranked 21st, swapped spots on the population list with the St. Louis region. The city of Baltimore saw a numeric population drop greater than St. Louis city, but Baltimore’s loss represented a 0.9 percent decrease, compared with a 1.4 percent loss in St. Louis. (Post Dispatch)

The above quote focuses on the city at the center of each region. Population leaving the city for say Jefferson or St. Charles counties doesn’t alter the region’s population. It’s people that leave the St. Louis region for others like Dallas-Ft. Worth, for example, that reduces regional population. But the region didn’t lose population — it gained 556 based on estimates. Of the 20 regions ahead of St. Louis only one lost population — the Chicago area dropped by over 13,000. It’s still way ahead of 4th place Dallas/Ft. Worth (9,533,040 vs 7,399,662, respectively). According to the Census esteems the St. Louis region is only 837 people behind 20th place Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD. While we gained a mere 556 people they gained 7,147.

This is the subject of today’s poll:

This poll will close at 8pm tonight.

— 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

 

Opinion: St. Louis Wants To Pretend Racism Didn’t/Doesn’t Exist

June 28, 2017 Featured, Parks, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Opinion: St. Louis Wants To Pretend Racism Didn’t/Doesn’t Exist
The confederate memorial was dedicated in 1914, rededicated in 1964.

In Sunday’s non-scientific poll more than half of those who voted felt the city wasn’t the owner of the Confederate monument even though it had been in Forest Park since 1914.

Q: Agree or disagree: The Confederate Monument, placed in Forest Park in 1914, is the property of the City of St. Louis.

  • Strongly agree 5 [19.23%]
  • Agree 2 [7.69%]
  • Somewhat agree 1 [3.85%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat disagree 5 [19.23%]
  • Disagree 5 [19.23%]
  • Strongly disagree 5 [19.23%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 3 [11.54%]

Last week the Missouri Civil War Museum had sued the City of St. Louis to be able to remove the monument, claiming the now-defunct b

In a settlement between St. Louis and the Missouri Civil War Museum, the museum agrees to remove the massive marker by the end of the day Friday — and perhaps much more quickly. Workers began rapidly deconstructing the monument Monday, shortly after the settlement was announced.

The museum will foot the bill for the move, and agreed to store the monument until a permanent new location is found for it. That permanent location must be at a Civil War museum, battlefield or cemetery, the agreement says.

 The museum also agrees not to display the monument in the city of St. Louis or St. Louis County. (Post-Dispatch)

So not only are we working hard to forget our ugly history, this will never be on display again in the city or county? Awful.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Opinion: Recent Flooding An Act of Mankind, Not A Deity

May 10, 2017 Featured, Planning & Design, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Opinion: Recent Flooding An Act of Mankind, Not A Deity

The afternoon of Sunday April 29th I posted a news story to this blog’s Facebook page with a title that read: “MoDot: Very good chance Route 141 at I-44 underwater by Monday morning.” It was. Route 141 didn’t reopen again until late Monday May 8th. When posting the article I’d said: “Sprawl is to blame.”

Two comments stood out:

  1. Maybe rain is to blame. Not everything needs to be blamed folks.
  2. Poor design is to blame – how hard is it to to (re) build a road higher than known flood levels?! Higher than the adjacent flood wall?!

These two comments, both from individuals I know personally, demonstrate why the region is in this mess in the first place. The “it rains, it floods” and “just build higher” is exactly why such a major flood happened again so soon after the December 2015 flood.  We’ve been building higher which helps some initially — but water must go somewhere. More on this later.

Those who believe in a diety might say something like “It’s all part of his plan.” This is the “I can’t understand it so God must have done it” response.

Flooding on the St. Louis riverfront is a common occurrence. At least now the light fixtures stayed dry by being on raised concrete piers. May 7, 2017

The phrase “act of God” does have legal meaning:

act of God
n. a natural catastrophe which no one can prevent such as an earthquake, a tidal wave, a volcanic eruption, a hurricane or a tornado. Acts of God are significant for two reasons 1) for the havoc and damage they wreak, and 2) because often contracts state that “acts of God” are an excuse for delay or failure to fulfill a commitment or to complete a construction project. Many insurance policies exempt coverage for damage caused by acts of God, which is one time an insurance company gets religion. At times disputes arise as to whether a violent storm or other disaster was an act of God (and therefore exempt from a claim) or a foreseeable natural event. God knows the answer! (Law.com)

Note that flooding isn’t in the above definition. To be fair, other definitions do include flooding. As an atheist, I prefer the term, “act of nature.” But our recent flooding was neither — it was manmade.

“Land use is really a huge factor in flooding,” Holmes said. “From what I’ve seen, it trumps climate change in some areas.”

It’s definitely “a bigger game-changer,” he says, in urban areas, where paved surfaces drive more runoff into waterways and still more water is diverted by levee systems.

Bob Criss, a professor at Washington University’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences who studies flooding, agrees that the cumulative impact of diverted water — and not rainfall — best explains the region’s recent major floods.

The problem, he says, was especially apparent with last week’s crest of the Mississippi River. Such a big river, he says, should not normally be so sensitive to similar episodes of rain. But he says it’s increasingly behaving like a small basin “because it’s far too squeezed” by levees that amplify flood severity. (Post-Dispatch)

The City of St. Louis divorced itself from the largely rural St. Louis Count in 1876. In the 20th century population began to spread out — consuming more land per person. Just in the nearly 27 years I’ve lived in the region I’ve seen lots of low flood plain get developed.

Chesterfield Commons has over 2 million square feet, this site was flooded in 1993.

In the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll most didn’t think flooding was an “Act of God.”

Q: Agree or disagree: Recent flooding in the St. Louis region was an “Act of God.”

  • Strongly agree 0 [0%]
  • Agree 5 [14.71%]
  • Somewhat agree 2 [5.88%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 3 [8.82%]
  • Somewhat disagree 4 [11.76%]
  • Disagree 3 [8.82%]
  • Strongly disagree 16 [47.06%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 1 [2.94%]

Flooding throughout the region will continue until we take the necessary steps to undo the causes. This means we must remove considerable non-poutous paving, and un-develop flood plains. This line of thought led me to again watch Ellen Dunham-Jones’s 2010 TED Talk on Retrofitting Suburbia.

At the 16 minute mark she talks about regreening parts of Atlanta — pulling development back from waterways. The St. Louis region desperately needs to do this. I doubt anything like this will take place, regular flooding will continue.

— Steve Patterson

 

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