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Water Main Break Underscores Need To Update Century Old Water System

May 13, 2021 Featured, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Water Main Break Underscores Need To Update Century Old Water System

You may have heard about a press conference last week at St. Louis’ Chain of Rocks water treatment  facility.

The 1913-1914 Chain of Rocks filters, left, and 1914 head house, right.

St. Louis and Environmental Protection Agency officials are calling for the passage of President Joe Biden’s jobs plan to help update the city’s water treatment system to continue to provide safe drinking water.

EPA officials and regional leaders toured the Chain of Rocks water treatment facility Wednesday. Officials have identified more than $400 million in upgrades necessary to renovate the city’s water treatment system to maintain clean drinking water. Biden’s American Jobs Plan includes $111 billion in water infrastructure upgrades across the country. (St. Louis Public Radio).

Other sources on the event:

Inside the very long filters building they had information explaining the filtration process.
A view of the filters without any signs.

This is where I’d planned to go off on some tangents, but since I started this post something related happened. A water main break in Downtown West that impacted the following neighborhoods: Downtown (central business district), Downtown West, Columbus Square, Carr Square, St. Louis Place (and NGA West site), and Old North St. Louis.

A 36-inch water main burst just west of downtown Tuesday, sending water gushing along Lucas Avenue and North Tucker Boulevard. The flooding swamped basements, shut down businesses and triggered a boil advisory. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

We were just slightly inconvenienced, but many lost work, customers, had serious property damage. St. Louis needs the American Jobs Plan to update our water system.

Ok, back to where I was in my post before Tuesday’s water main break.

The four speakers with St. Louis Water employees behind them, L to R: US Rep Cori Bush, EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, and Water Commissioner Curtis B. Skouby.

Like all of Biden’s cabinet/cabinet-level they’re all fairly new to their positions. The new head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has great credentials, Michael Regan’s nomination was supported by environmental activists.

“Regan, who will be the first black man to run the EPA, tells Rolling Stone that rebuilding the agency is his first priority. “We have world-renowned experts at EPA,” he says. “We should be listening to them, and we will.” With the Biden administration vowing to use every bit of executive power to tackle climate change, a revitalized EPA will be at the center of its ambitious targets to reduce emissions. “I will be laser-focused on how we limit methane emissions,” Regan says of the potent greenhouse gas released in natural-gas operations. He lists environmental justice and water quality as his other priorities, but guiding his approach on all of these ambitions is the belief that what’s good for the planet can also be good for workers and for business — a conviction Biden shares. “All of those priorities that I just laid out will be good for people, the planet, and profit,” Regan says. His personal philosophy is one “of trying to meet people where they are, understand everyone’s challenges, whether it’s an individual or a company, and then think through, ‘How do you get to the solution in a way that can possibly work?’?”” (Rolling Stone)

In addition to hearing Regan I hadn’t seen Mayor Tishaura Jones or Rep Cori Bush since their election victories.  I’ve also known Jones’ public information officer, Nick Dunne, for years. Finally, I was very curious just to see the water treatment facility.

I got on the North Riverfront Trail right after it makes a hard right and crosses over a creek.

Initially I told the EPA person in DC I wouldn’t be able to attend because it was too far from public transit. The night before I thought perhaps I could take the bus up north and then use the North Riverfront Trail to reach the Chain of Rocks Water Treatment facility on Riverview. I knew the biggest challenge would be trying to cross Riverview. After studying Google street view I was able to find a route that might work, I wouldn’t know until I got there.

On the return trip I took this photo to show where I had to cross Riverview Blvd in my power wheelchair — rough gravel, no crosswalk, no light, big trucks. Thankfully only one lane per direction.
After making it across Riverview I turned left to head toward Metro’s bus transit center. A short distance without a sidewalk. Off roading in my chair!

I traveled by wheelchair roughly 5.5 miles round trip, mostly on the trail. It was gorgeous out Wednesday last week so I enjoyed the time, reminded me of when I used to bike the trail before my 2008 stroke.

I was so glad to see the water treatment facility and hear officials talk about investing in needed maintenance and environmental justice.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Thoughts on St. Louis’ First Non-Partisan General Election

April 8, 2021 Featured, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Thoughts on St. Louis’ First Non-Partisan General Election
Vintage photo of the former offices of the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners. From my collection

In November we passed non-partisan “approval voting” for local elections. Last month the top two in multi-candidate races in the primary advanced to Tuesday’s general.

It appears to have worked well. Some races the candidate with the most votes in the primary went on to win the general, others the 2nd place primary candidate won the general.

There were two citywide races on Tuesday, only one competitive: mayor. Once again comptroller Green wasn’t challenged.

In the mayoral primary I voted for two of the four candidates — city treasurer Tishaura Jones and alderman Cara Spencer — the top two in the primary. Jones had come in 2nd place in the March 2017 partisan primary. Last month Jones came in 1st, Spencer 2nd. I was thrilled knowing one of my choices would become mayor.

The month between primary and general was intense. Many people took sides, getting into heated arguments. Campaigning turned negative, especially from Spencer or groups supporting her. It’s unclear to me if another strategy would’ve enabled Spencer to overcome Jones’ lead.

An example of a 2nd place primary finish to victory in the general is James Page in the 5th ward, my ward. In the primary a month ago Tammika Hubbard received more votes than challenger Page. I’d backed challengers to Tammika Hubbard in 2013 & 2017, only to see Hubbard win in the partisan primary. In 2017 the democratic primary had six candidates. Tuesday Page received 52.49% — the first time candidate came from behind to defeat the Hubbard political family.

Tammika Hubbard is the daughter of Rodney & Penny Hubbard. In 2016 Penny Hubbard lost her reelection bid for state rep. Their son Rodney Hubbard Jr. previously held that seat. Penny Hubbard is still 5th ward Democratic committeewoman, but Rodney Hubbard Sr. previously lost the committeeman seat to state rep Rasheen Aldridge.

Carr Square Village, built by the St. Louis Housing Authority in the 1950s, has been updated over the years

The Hubbard family is considered a political institution in the 5th ward, Carr Square. However, Rodney Hubbard Sr.’s political career began in the inner-ring suburb of Pagedale.

  • August 1973: he replaced someone else on the Pagedale zoning commission.
  • October 1973: he lost a special election to be Pagedale mayor, a 472-47 landslide.
  • February 1974: appointed Pagedale public relations director.
  • April 1975: sworn in as a Pagedale alderman.
  • September 1986: now acting resident manager at Carr Square Tenant Management Corp.

Rodney Hubbard Sr. wasn’t mentioned in the Post-Dispatch between April 1975 and September 1986. He was hired as a resident manager in the mid 1980s and hasn’t left. I wonder if the board is independent.

The last 28 aldermen are now set, in 2023 the number of wards will be cut in half.  Old political machines like the Hubbard’s will find it hard to cope with bigger wards in terms of voters and geographic size. In the next two years we’ll see the 28 aldermen jockeying for attention to help them potentially run against a fellow alderman.

— Steve Patterson

 

Nonprofit Run By Hubbard Family To Renovate Long-Vacant Carr School

April 1, 2021 Featured, North City, NorthSide Project, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Nonprofit Run By Hubbard Family To Renovate Long-Vacant Carr School

Carr Square Tenant Management head Rodney Hubbard Sr. will announce later today that the nonprofit will finally renovate the crumbling Carr School.

Carr School, built in 1908, has been vacant for decades. 2013 photo

After collecting fees from & suing actual developers, the Hubbard family is going to put on the developer hat. Securing permits won’t be a problem because Rodney’s daughter Tammika Hubbard is the alderman.  Unless James Page defeats her at the polls on Tuesday.

Carr School is owned by Carr Square. The ground surrounding it is owned by NorthSide Regeneration, the Paul McKee-led effort to compile property in north St. Louis, in which Carr Square is partner. (Post-Dispatch)

Yes, the Hubbards will likely turn to their buddy Paul McKee for help. Their nonprofit helped McKee get his tax credits. Expect the project to proceed at the pace of other McKee’s NorthSide projects.

— Steve Patterson

 

I Was Partially Wrong About How Our Non-Partisan Elections Will Work

January 26, 2021 Featured, Politics/Policy Comments Off on I Was Partially Wrong About How Our Non-Partisan Elections Will Work

I try to avoid making mistakes, but it does happen. I like to verify information before publishing these posts, but when I didn’t get an answer from the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners I should’ve looked harder to find the answer. My apologies if my mistake caused any confusion.

Vintage photo of the former offices of the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners. From my collection

First, what I got right:

  • Candidates for local office are no longer listed on the ballot by political party, all are independent. Thus, non-partisan.
  • As independent candidates they can’t just pay a fee to their party of choice to get on the ballot — they must submit a petition signed by registered voters.
  • Voters can vote for as many candidates as they like. Example: Three candidates for a race means a voter could select 0-3 of them.

What I got wrong:

  • I knew that in a race with three or more candidates the top two in March would face each other in April. I incorrectly thought if one got 50% of the votes in March the race was over — WRONG.

The full petition behind Proposition D passed in November 2020 says:

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, in the primary election for the offices of Mayor, Comptroller, President of the Board of Aldermen, and Alderman, voters shall select as many candidates as they approve of for each office. The two candidates receiving the most votes for each office shall advance to the general election. The candidate for each office receiving the most votes in the general election shall be declared the winner.” [Emphasis added]

So what does this mean? In races with only one or two candidates on the ballot the March & April ballots for that race will look the same. In races with two candidates one might win in March but the other win in April.  Most likely the March result will be similar to April.

The big difference will be seen in races with three or more candidates, like the 4-way mayoral race or 6-way aldermanic race in the 21st ward. In these races we know the election won’t be over in March with April only a formality. The month between the March primary and April general will determine the winner.

The candidate that comes in a close second place in March can win in April if they keep pushing and trying to win over voters who selected candidates that got eliminated by placing third or later.

Though I wish the language had been like I thought it was, I understand that would’ve been a lot more complicated of a change. I’m still glad Prop D passed.

I hope the next change is a thorough overhaul: Eliminate the March primary and have ranked-choice voting in April with ballot measures and school board races.

Again, my apologies for my mistake.

— Steve Patterson

 

March 2nd Non-Partisan Ballot Is Set

January 12, 2021 Featured, Politics/Policy Comments Off on March 2nd Non-Partisan Ballot Is Set
Vintage photo of the former offices of the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners at 208 South 12th Tucker) from February 1932 through December 1998. From my collection

Seven weeks from today, Tuesday March 2, 2021, St. Louis will hold its first non-partisan election for aldermen & mayor. Additionally, it’s the last election where half the aldermen means 14.

This year happens to be the odd-numbered wards up for election — to a special two-year term. A couple of even-numbered wards also have elections to fill an unexpired term. In two years the total number of aldermen will drop from 28 to 14, then 7 will get an initial 2-year term and 7 the usual 4-year terms. Once the census numbers are know  redistricting will begin.

Unlike past elections, the winners now must have more than 50% of the votes, so in a race with 3 or more candidates and nobody achieves the 50% threshold a runoff election will be held on April 6, 2021. Any runoff would be the top two candidates only. It’s unclear to me what would happen if two or more candidates tied for second place.

For decades partisan candidates paid a filing fee to the political party they were running for, usually Democrat. Independent candidates had to collect signatures to get on the general election ballot. Now every candidate is independent and must collect signatures to be included on the ballot. Some declared candidates are not on the ballot because their petitions didn’t contain enough signatures of registered voters.

Additionally this is the first time voters get to vote for more than one candidate in each race on their ballot.

Okay, let’s take a look at the races & candidates on the March 3rd ballot, here in reverse order:

WARD 27 — includes parts or all of: Walnut East & West, North Point, and Baden neighborhoods.

– Mary Ann Jackson is the only candidate. The incumbent is Pam Boyd.

WARD 25 — includes parts or all of: Carondelet, Dutchtown, and Mount Pleasant neighborhoods.

– Shane Cohn, the incumbent, is the only candidate. I ran for this seat 16 years ago, 4 years before Cohn won in 2009.

WARD 23 — includes parts or all of: Lindenwood Park, Ellendale, Clifton Heights, and North Hampton neighborhoods.

– Joseph A. Vaccaro, Jr., the incumbent, is the only candidate.

WARD 21 — includes parts or all of: Kingshighway East, Greater Ville, O’Fallon, Penrose, and College Hill neighborhoods. This ward has six (6) candidates and is the most likely to have a runoff election on April 6th.

– Laura Keys, current Democratic committeewoman
– Travon Brooks
– Melinda L. Long, a former alderwoman for this ward
– John Collin-Muhammad, current alderman
– Ticharwa Masimba
– Barbara Lane

WARD 19 — includes parts or all of: Shaw, Tiffany, The Gate District, Midtown, Vandeventer, and Covenant/Grand Center neighborhoods.

– Cleo Willis, Sr.
– Marlene E. Davis, incumbent

WARD 17 — includes parts or all of: Shaw, Botanical Heights, Tiffany, Midtown, Central West End, Forest Park Southeast, Kings Oak, and Cheltenham neighborhoods. Longtime alderman Joe Roddy announced last year he wouldn’t seek another term.

– Don De Vivo
– Tina Pihl
– Kaleena Menke
– Michelle Sherod

WARD 15 — includes parts or all of: Tower Grove South, Dutchtown, Gravois Park, Tower Grove East, and Benton Park West neighborhoods.

– Jennifer Florida, another former alderwoman running
– Alexander J. Gremp
– Megan Ellyia Green, incumbent

WARD 13 — includes parts or all of: Carondelet, Holly Hills, Boulevard Heights, Bevo Mill, Princeton Heights, Southampton, and Dutchtown neighborhoods.

– Anne Schweitzer
– Beth Murphy, incumbent

WARD 12 — includes part or all of: Boulevard Heights, Princeton Heights, St. Louis Hills. Larry Arnowitz resigned last year.

– Joe Rusch
– Bill Stephens
– Vicky Grass, incumbent from special election

WARD 11 — includes parts or all of: Carondelet, Patch, Holly Hills, Boulevard Heights, and Mount Pleasant neighborhoods.

– Sarah Wood Martin, incumbent

WARD 9 — includes parts or all of: Dutchtown, Mount Pleasant, Marine Villa, Gravois Park, Kosciusko, Soulard, Benton Park, Tower Grove East, and Benton Park West neighborhoods.

– Ken A. Ortmann, former alderman
– Dan Guenther, incumbent

WARD 7 — includes parts or all of: Kosciusko, Soulard, Benton Park, McKinley Heights, Fox Park, Compton Heights, Lafayete Park, Downtown, Downtown West, and Near North Riverfront neighborhoods.

– Shedrick (Nato Caliph) Kelley
– Jack Coatar, incumbent

WARD 5 — includes parts or all of: Downtown West, JeffVanderLou, St. Louis Place, Carr Square, Columbus Square, Old North St. Louis, Near North Riverfront, and Hyde Park neighborhoods.

– Tammika Hubbard, incumbent
– James Page

WARD 4 — includes parts or all of: Lewis Place, Kingshighway East, Greater Ville, The Ville, and Vandeventer neighborhoods. Sam Moore died in 2020, this election is for the remainder of the term.

– Edward McFowland
– Leroy Carter
– Dwinderlin (Dwin) Evans, incumbent from special election

WARD 3 — includes parts or all of: JeffVanderLou, St. Louis Place, Hyde Park, College Hill, Fairground, and O’Fallon neighborhoods.

– Brandon Bosley, incumbent
– Herdosia Kalambayi Bentum

WARD 1 — includes parts or all of: Wells/Goodfellow, Kingshighway East & West, Penrose, Mark Twain, and Walnut Park East neighborhoods.

– Loren Watt
– Sharon Tyus, incumbent
– Yolanda Brown

COMPTROLLER — citywide

– Longtime Comptroller Darlene Green is again unchallenged.

MAYOR — citywide. Mayor Lyda Krewson isn’t seeking a second term.

– Andrew Jones
– Tishaura O. Jones
– Cara Spencer
– Lewis Reed

So those who are unchallenged will be re-elected. The races with only two candidates will be decided on March 2nd. Races with 3 or more candidates might be decided on Election Day — if one gets at least 50% of the votes.

School board elections and any runoff races will be Tuesday April 6, 2021.

— Steve Patterson

 

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