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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

 

Big Box Blues: Sears, Kmart, & Sports Authority

I remember trips to Sears with my mom in the early/mid 1970s, plus I’d look through the Sears catalog at home. Much of my early wardrobe was from Sears. I also remember trips to the same Sears with my dad to buy/replace Craftsman tools.  My parents had our new house built in 1965  — the same year the 160,000+ sq ft Sears store was built 2.2 miles away (map).  That Sears store is still open, and isn’t on the recent list of Sears/Kmart closures.

One Kmart in the St. Louis region was on the list last month, the Bridgeton location at 11978 St Charles Rock Rd.

The Bridgeton Kmart was built in 1991, per St. Louis County tax records
The Bridgeton Kmart was built in 1991, per St. Louis County tax records

A few years ago the Bridgeton Walmart moved to just East of this Kmart. But the Sears/Kmart closures are part of a bigger trend for these retailers:

Trying to cut its way to profitability, troubled Sears Holdings announced Thursday that it will close 68 Kmart and 10 Sears stores this summer in its latest move to cut losses.

Sears’ (SHLD) move (see the list of the stores) comes atop a previous announcement that it will close 50 other stores. Sales have been falling and Sears had a disappointing holiday sales season.

“The decision to close stores is a difficult but necessary step as we take aggressive actions to strengthen our company, fund our transformation and restore Sears Holdings to profitability,” said Sears Holdings CEO Edward Lampert in a statement. (USA Today)

From February:

Sears said Thursday that its same-store sales fell 7.1% in the fourth quarter and revenue dropped 9.8% to $7.3 billion. 

The company reported a quarterly loss of $580 million, or $5.44 per share, compared with a loss of $159 million, or $1.50 a share, the previous year. (Business Insider)

Retailing is competitive. but many put part of the blame on the libertarian leader: Eddie Lampert. From July 2013:

Every year the presidents of Sears Holdings’ many business units trudge across the company’s sprawling headquarters in Hoffman Estates, Ill., to a conference room in Building B, where they ask Eddie Lampert for money. The leaders have made these solitary treks since 2008, when Lampert, a reclusive hedge fund billionaire, splintered the company into more than 30 units. Each meeting starts quietly: When the executive arrives, Lampert’s top consiglieri are there, waiting around a U-shaped table, according to interviews with a half-dozen former employees who attended these sessions. An assistant walks in, turns on a screen on the opposite wall, and an image of Lampert flickers to life.

The Sears chairman, who lives in a $38 million mansion in South Florida and visits the campus no more than twice a year (he hates flying), is usually staring at his computer when the camera goes live, according to attendees.

The executive in the hot seat will begin clicking through a PowerPoint presentation meant to impress. Often he’ll boast an overly ambitious target—“We can definitely grow 20 percent this year!”—without so much as a glance from Lampert, 50, whose preference is to peck out e-mails or scroll through a spreadsheet during the talks. Not until the executive makes a mistake does the Sears chief look up, unleashing a torrent of questions that can go on for hours. (Bloomberg)

Why does he manage this way? From December 2013:

Once upon a time, hedge fund manager Eddie Lampert was living a Wall Street fairy tale. His fairy godmother was Ayn Rand, the dashing diva of free-market ideology whose quirky economic notions would transform him into a glamorous business hero.

 
For a while, it seemed to work like a charm. Pundits called him the “Steve Jobs of the investment world.” The new Warren Buffett. By 2006 he was flying high, the richest man in Connecticut, managing over $15 billion thorough his hedge fund, ESL Investments.

Stoked by his Wall Street success, Lampert plunged headlong into the retail world. Undaunted by his lack of industry experience and hailed a genius, Lampert boldly pushed to merge Kmart and Sears with a layoff and cost-cutting strategy that would, he promised, send profits into the stratosphere. Meanwhile the hotshot threw cash around like an oil sheikh, buying a $40 million pad in Florida’s Biscayne Bay, a record even for that star-studded county.

Fast-forward to 2013: The fairy tale has become a nightmare.

Lampert is now known as one of the worst CEOs in America — the man who flushed Sears down the toilet with his demented management style and harebrained approach to retail. Sears stock is tanking. His hedge fun is down 40 percent, and the business press has turned from praising Lampert’s genius towatching gleefully as his ship sinks. Investors are running from “Crazy Eddie” like the plague.

That’s what happens when Ayn Rand is the basis for your business plan. (Salon)

For now the Big K store on Manchester in St, Louis remains open. But for how long?
For now the Big K store on Manchester in St, Louis remains open. But for how long?

Next to the Bridgeton Kmart is another retailer that’s closing: Sports Authority. Two more St. Louis area locations were to close: St. Peters & Fenton.

From March:

The retailer filed for Chapter 11 protection in federal bankruptcy court in Delaware in a move aimed at helping it shed much of its debt and clean up its balance sheet. A successful revamp would let Sports Authority improve its brick-and-mortar, perhaps with in-store boutiques similar to the Under Armour and Nike shops that have been so fruitful for rival Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Sports Authority, whose name adorns the stadium of the Denver Broncos, has been saddled with boatloads of debt ever since a $1.3 billion leveraged buyout a decade ago. At the time, the Colorado-based retailer and Dick’s  DKS -1.79%  were similar in size with annual sales of $3 billion. But since then, Dick’s has invested in its in-store experience and in-store tech, which have helped propel the retailer’s sales past Sports Authority’s. Analysts are forecasting total 2015 sales of $7.3 billion for the Pennsylvania-based company, compared to almost $3 billion at Sports Authority. (Fortune)

In early April it looked like the bankruptcy might work:

Embattled retailer Sports Authority has finally received a bit of good news: it looks to have settled a dispute with consignment suppliers that could resolve around 160 lawsuits.

The suits centered around $85 million-worth of winter gear currently being sold at the sporting goods retailer’s stores, and suppliers who had sold these products on consignment wanted them back in the wake of Sport Authority’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in March.

Now, if the settlement is approved by Judge Mary Walrath of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, Sports Authority will be able to sell this gear throughout the bankruptcy proceedings, according to the Wall Street Journal. (Fortune)

The Bridgeton Sports Authority on April 24th had a sign indicating only this location was closing, the others in the region were staying open
The Bridgeton Sports Authority on April 24th had a sign indicating only this location was closing, the others in the region were staying open

End of April:

Vendors, however, didn’t like seeing the merchandise they had consigned sold off in liquidation sales without reimbursement, and they sued. Sports Authority countersued.

Landlords also were upset that the company filed for bankruptcy protection one day after March rents were due, stiffing them out of $27 million.

“They didn’t get very far into this before they hit snags with their suppliers. That tells me they weren’t that close to getting the reorganization done,” said Dan Schniedwind, a credit analyst and retail specialist with Denver Investments.

In the end, creditors weren’t willing to allow the company to continue making large purchases, something required to keep stocking the shelves in even a reduced number of stores. (Denver Post)

By mid-May:

Sports Authority Holdings Inc. will head to auction next week with bids in place from two groups of liquidators plus smaller offers from rivals Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. and Modell’s Inc., according to people familiar with the situation.

However, the bids from Dick’s and Modell’s were considered “disappointing” and for fewer stores than initially expected, one of the people said. Dick’s, which one equity analyst said could make an offer for 180 stores, instead placed a bid for less than 20 stores; Modell’s made an offer for a small handful of stores, the person added. (Wall Street Journal)

Heres’s a list of the St. Louis area locations, the first three were announced in March:

  1. 11982 Saint Charles Rock Rd Bridgeton , MO 63044
  2. 4025 Veterans Memorial Pkwy, Saint Peters , MO 63376
  3. 788 Gravois Bluffs Blvd, Fenton , MO 63026
  4. 8340 Eager Rd, Brentwood, MO 63144
  5. 4445 Lemay Ferry Rd, Saint Louis , MO 63129
  6. 1205 S Kirkwood Rd, Kirkwood , MO 63122
  7. 15907 Manchester Road, Ellisville , MO 63011
  8. 6298 Ronald Reagan Dr, Lake Saint Louis , MO 63367
  9. 6575 N Illinois St, Fairview Heights , IL 62208

From November 2014:

New retail tenants are moving into the space in Ellisville Square in Ellisville that Kmart vacated earlier this year.

Brixmor Property Group, the New York-based commercial real estate company that owns Ellisville Square, said the space will be filled by three new tenants: a 40,000-square-foot Sports Authority, a 19,000-square-foot Michaels and a 16,000-square-foot Party City. The stores are slated to open in the third quarter of 2015, Brixmor officials said in a statement. (St. Louis Business Journal)

The Ellisville location was announced in January 2015:

Three new stores — Michaels, Sports Authority and Party City — will be opening soon at the site of what was a K-mart store at Clarkson and Manchester roads in Ellisville (Post-Dispatch)

The Sports Authority in Ellisville opened on Saturday August 8th, 2015.

Earlier we discussed the Sears/Kmart CEO, but why did Sports Authority fail?

Once one of the largest sports retail chains in the country, Sports Authority has now slipped behind outlets like Dick’s Sporting Goods and REI. These chains have positioned themselves more successfully in the market through establishing strong relationships with their suppliers, developing the leverage to keep prices low that their competitors have had difficulty matching, Rory Masterson, an industry analyst at IBISWorld, told the Los Angeles Times in April. They’ve also adapted more sucessfully to the online marketplace. Online sales at Dick’s climbed at a compounded annual rate of 39 percent from 2010 to 2015.

While Sports Authority may be faltering, the sporting goods industry as a whole is growing. It accounts for an estimated $150 billion per year globally. In 2014, the most recent year available for figures, the industry was worth $63.7 billion in the United States, an increase of 24 percent since 2009 and a jump of 2 percent from the year before.  

Sports Authority faces tough competition from traditional sports retail outlets, yet its financial struggles point to the increased diversification of the sports retail market.  A wide array of more specialized competitors have entered the field, providing both traditional sports garments and “athleisure”, or casual wear inspired by workout clothing that has exploded in popularity over the past few years. (CSM)

The Bridgeton Kmart & Sports Authority are both part of Hill Top Plaza.

Hilltop Plaza Redevelopment Area Tax Increment Financing Redevelopment Plan – Hilltop Plaza Community Improvement District; analysis of the eligibility for TIF and CID, and the planning and financial projections for the redevelopment of the 70% vacant portion of Hilltop Plaza, formerly a destination shopping area on St. Charles Rock Road. (EDR)

I was at the MetroBus stop on St. Charles Rock Rd in 2013 — had no idea at Kmart & Sports Authority were close. Was wasn’t/isn’t any pedestrian access. Even between Kmart & Sports Authority there’s no pedestrian route! I know the lack of pedestrian access didn’t cause these stores to close, but it didn’t help them either. Pedestrians do exist in the area — there are sidewalks along St. Charles Rock Rd and the parallel internal road — they just don’t connect the businesses to transit or each other.

As Gen Y moves to the suburbs they may expect a Walkscore higher than 56.

— Steve Patterson

 

I’m Opposed To Sales Tax For Zoo, Expand Zoo-Museum District And/Or Charge Admission

St. Louis Zoo
St. Louis Zoo

Two mornings a week admission to the Missouri Botanical Garden is free to those who live in St. Louis city & county — who pay property taxes to the Zoo-Museum District. The rest of the time admission is charged. The zoo, however, is free.

In 1972, the Metropolitan Zoological Park and Museum District – the Zoo Museum District – was formed. Through the District, the citizens and taxpayers of St. Louis City and County make possible the extraordinary quality of five institutions that are essential to life in St. Louis: the Zoo, Art Museum, Science Center, Botanical Garden and History Museum. (Zoo-Museum District)

Limiting the district to city and county made sense, that’s where the bulk of the population lived:

In 1970, the large majority of St. Louisans came together to save the cultural institutions. Today, less than half of the citizenry is left to carry the tax burden that fulfills the dream. There are actually 220,000 fewer residents today than there were in 1970 within the combined borders of the city and county, while the metropolitan area has grown by more than 400,000. (St. Louis Magazine, March 2009)

Yes, in 2009 the population of city & county is less than what it was at formation of the district.

St. Louis and St. Louis County residents already pay property taxes that raise more than $70 million a year for the region’s five cultural institutions. The zoo gets $20 million a year, as does the St. Louis Art Museum. The Missouri Botanical Garden, Missouri History Museum and St. Louis Science Center each receive about $10 million annually. (Post-Dispatch, October 2013)

From last month:

Zoo lobbyists are now working in Jefferson City to get legislation passed. The bills would allow county councils to put the tax on county ballots, perhaps as early as next spring.

But a variety of regional leaders have asked the zoo to consider an entry fee for nonresidents instead.

Charging St. Louis and St. Louis County residents with two taxes is unfair, said Ben Uchitelle, a former board member of the Zoo-Museum District, which collects and distributes the existing property tax. He’s also worried about accountability with a new tax. The Zoo-Museum District “carefully studies and holds accountable” the five regional institutions, including the zoo, that receive property tax dollars. Who would collect the new tax? Who would monitor its use? (Post-Dispatch)

In the non-scientofic Sunday Poll a majority supported a sales tax in five counties.

Q: The St. Louis Zoo may propose a 5-county 1/10th of a cent sales tax. Support or oppose?

  • Strongly support 10 [27.78%]
  • Support 8 [22.22%]
  • Somewhat support 2 [5.56%]
  • Neither support or oppose 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat oppose 3 [8.33%]
  • Oppose 5 [13.89%]
  • Strongly oppose 7 [19.44%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 1 [2.78%]

Support was 55.56 % to 41.66% for opposition. Count me among the opposition. We already have a good model for regional cooperation, we just need to expand it the way population has.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: Support or Oppose a Regional Sales Tax for the St. Louis Zoo?

Please vote below
Please vote below

In the news last month was the idea of a 5-county sales tax to support the St. Louis Zoo:

The chief executive of the St. Louis Zoo says a regional sales tax is the right way — and perhaps the only way — to preserve the zoo and its animals for years to come.

President Jeffrey Bonner, in an impassioned argument for a five-county sales tax, said the zoo needs money to repair sewers, roofs and animal exhibits on its 100-year-old Forest Park campus. And it can’t consider operating a proposed 300- to 400-acre conservation breeding site without the new tax.

An admission fee is not the answer, Bonner said. Charging nonresidents for entry would create long lines, discourage attendance, reduce visitor spending and cost the zoo an estimated $50 million in turnstiles, ticket booths and the like. (Post-Dispatch)

The tax, if passed, would be collected on sales in the following counties: Franklin, Jefferson, St. Charles, St. Louis, and the independent City of St. Louis. Currently, the Zoo receives about $20 million annual from a property tax in St. Louis city & county.

This is the subject of today’s poll:

The poll is open until 8pm.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

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