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This Blog Goes To Eleven

October 30, 2015 Featured, Site Info, Steve Patterson Comments Off on This Blog Goes To Eleven

Tomorrow is the eleventh anniversary of this blog, Sunday is the start of the 12th year. I can’t hear the word eleven without thinking of this clip from 1984 film This is Spinal Tap:

Hopefully my mind is sharper than Nigel’s. See you Sunday.

— Steve Patterson



Twenty-Five Years in Saint Louis

August 27, 2015 Featured, Steve Patterson Comments Off on Twenty-Five Years in Saint Louis

I didn’t go to high school here, but 5 years after high school St. Louis became my new home — 25 years ago today. A couple of weeks earlier I arrived in St. Louis for a 2-night stay on my way to Washington D.C., but I quickly feel in love with St. Louis.

 Looking north on Lemp, August 1990.
Looking north on Lemp, August 1990.

After visiting Washington D.C. for a few days, then Chicago for a few hours, I loaded up my car (a 1984 Dodge Colt) in Oklahoma City and moved to St. Louis. I was 23.

I’ve lived in several neighborhoods, 6 months in the Central West End, 3+ years in Old North St. Louis when it was still officially Murphy-Blair, 10+ years in Dutchtown, 3+ years in neighboring Mt. Pleasant, and now nearly 8 years in Downtown [West].

When I moved here we didn’t have an NFL team, razing buildings to build a stadium to attract a team was an odd priority. The street grid and solid brick buildings were too irresistible.

I often wonder what my life would’ve been like had I kept to my original plan and moved to Washington D.C. Or had I left St. Louis for Seattle in 1999 — I’d sold my furniture and was preparing my house for sale when I got a new job that kept me here.

The other day on the bus I passed by the house where I stayed my very first 2 nights and about a month after I returned permanently. I saw the for sale sign out in front of 2930 Lemp.

— Steve Patterson




“Do You Have A Home?”

Living at 16th & Locust is very convenient to the downtown central business district (CBD), central library, city hall, numerous MetroBus lines, Washington Ave nightlife, etc.  It’s also very close to where many of the region’s homeless hang out — not a problem for me. In fact, when I’m out in my wheelchair I’m often mistaken as homeless. My white middle-class neighbors ignore me on the sidewalk, church groups passing out food from car trunks/vans offer me a meal, the homeless ask me if I have a cigarette or light.

Part of it is that I rarely dress to impress, shorts/faded jeans  & t-shirt are common. Another is the wheelchair. My power chair is now seven years old, it’s showing its age. Still, few disabled homeless have power chairs, most use manual wheelchairs. Still, I think many assume a person in a wheelchair passing the library is a homeless person.

Students return to Lafayette Preparatory Academy from outdoor time at Lucas Park's playground, August 2013 photo
Students return to Lafayette Preparatory Academy from outdoor time at Lucas Park’s playground, August 2013 photo. Click image for school website

As is often the case I was returning home from Culinaria as grade school students were returning from recess in Lucas Park. The Locust sidewalk is narrow next to the building so I waited as they passed by, many of the kids said hello as they walked single-file past me. But one girl asked, “Do You Have A Home?” Caught off guard, I quickly replied, “Yes, a few blocks away — a nice loft.”

I didn’t expect such a question, earlier that morning I attended the ULI presentation on the Railway Exchange Building (see What To Do With 1.2 Million Square Feet In The Railway Exchange Building) — I was dressed my best that day: new jeans, white dress shirt, custom-made sport coat. Weeks later is still bothers me this little girl thought I was homeless.

A 2011 interior photo of our loft
A 2011 photo of our loft, I’ve lived here since November 2007

I do think kids raised seeing all facets of society will be better prepared for life when they go out on their own, those raised strictly within their economic class will need to adjust more as adults. I’ll likely email the staff at Lafayette Prep to inquire about their conversations with students about homelessness.

— Steve Patterson


A Decade Since Steve Patterson Filed To Run For The St. Louis Board Of Alderman

A decade ago today I decided I wasn’t going to let an incumbent win four years in office because of a lack of a challenger.  If she, Dorothy Kirner, wanted a four-year term she was going to have to work for it. Two months later I lost the primary, receiving 44.1% of the vote.  Not bad considering I started putting together my campaign after filing on the very last day, instead of months earlier.

Here I was a candidate but I had no team, no money, no plan.   My check for the filing fee didn’t even clear, thankfully then-Democratric party chair Brian Wahby allowed me to replace it rather than disqualify me from the race. At this point I was an unknown, this blog had only been around a little over two months.

I had been paying attention though, the day before filing I posted:

Carl Coats, a former city building inspector, had filed to challenge Dorothy Kirner for the 25th Ward aldermanic seat. On 1/4/05 he withdrew himself as a candidate. Unless someone files tomorrow Dorothy Kirner will win by default. This is my ward – I was hoping someone would mount a good challenge to Kirner. (See 25th Ward Challenger Carl Coats Has Withdrawn from Race).

That night I realized nobody else was going to run, but why not me? I was 37 and self-employed, so I had the time. I owned three properties in the ward, one co-owned with a friend, so I was invested. I had ideas I wanted to become part of the conversation during the election. I called a few people that night and the next day I went down to the Board of Election Commissioners to file.

People I know & people I just met stepped up to offer help, money, advice, etc. — too many to thank them all individually.

Steve Patterson speaking at a gathering at Gallery Urbis Orbis downtown, February 2005
Candidate Steve Patterson speaking at a gathering at Gallery Urbis Orbis downtown, February 2005
Patterson yard signs in the 25th Ward
Patterson yard signs in the 25th Ward
The yard sign graphic
The yard sign graphic with my campaign website prominently displayed
Kirner reused signs from the prior year, before the 25th Ward Regular Democratic Club had endorsed her in the current race
Kirner reused signs from the prior year, before the 25th Ward Regular Democratic Club had endorsed her in the current race
This rink in Mt. Pleasant Park was one issue during the campaign, none of us in the immediate area asked for this in the park -- it just appeared,
This rink in Mt. Pleasant Park was one issue during the campaign, none of us in the immediate area asked for this in the park — it just appeared

Early press was discouraging, such as the story ‘Incumbent aldermen assured of re-election’  in the South Suburban Journal five days after filling closed:

Incumbent Alderman Dorothy Kirner, 70, of the 3700 block of Taft Avenue, faces challenger Steven L. Patterson, 37, a real estate agent living in the 3100
block of Mount Pleasant Street. The primary is March 8.

“I have lived in the neighborhood for 48 years,” said Kirner, who was elected June 15, 2004 to succeed her husband, Alderman Dan Kirner, who died in office. Stressing her experience, she said, “I have been around longer than my husband was in the political field.”

But Patterson, who has lived in the neighborhood for 10 years, said he had a lot of experience in getting things done, in looking at development and managing people and projects.

“I think the fact that I haven’t spent many years in politics is actually a benefit to me. It’s time for a fresh approach to the ward,” he said.

As the campaign progressed the coverage did improve, from the Vital Voice, an LGBT publication, just days before the primary:

Steve Patterson is busy knocking on doors and talking to residents throughout the 25th Ward in hopes of becoming the first openly gay individual to serve in the 28-member St. Louis Board of Alderman.

Patterson, who turns 38 on Feb. 28, is mounting a serious challenge to unseat incumbent Alderwoman Dorothy Kirner in the March 8 primary. Kirner, 69, was elected last June to serve the remaining ten months of her late husband, Dan Kirner’s term.

“What brought me into politics is the desire to see change and realizing that I couldn’t sit here and complain that no one was taking charge without realizing that maybe that should be me,” said Patterson of his insurgent campaign. “The campaign experience is awesome. I’m really enjoying getting involved and being involved. It actually feels really good to be this civic minded.”

The 25th Ward, which includes neighborhoods around far South Grand is ethnically diverse with large Caucasian, African American, Bosnian and Vietnamese communities. The ward also has a representative gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community. Nevertheless, the heavily Democratic 25th is socially conservative and accordingly voted to approve Amendment 2 last August witch banned gay marriage in the Missouri Constitution.

Yes, only one of the city’s 28 wards voted in favor of Amendment 2 and I, an openly gay man, was running for alderman in that ward just 4 months later.  What was I thinking? I do remember knocking on one door, the woman who answered asked me if I supported gay rights or same-sex marriage. When I told her I was gay I turned a sceptic stranger into a voter, we remain friends today.

Although Kirner won a full 4-year term I have no regrets about running, one of the best decisions I ever made.  I do have some hindsight from my one and only political campaign:

  • Plan well ahead, don’t wait until the last day to file to start putting the campaign together.
  • Run to win, but know that becoming serious candidate makes you a winner even if you don’t win the election.
  • Video record your debate, I wish I’d done so!

This election was prior to social media — no Facebook or Twitter! Like I indicated in the photos above, I had a blog/website, one of the earliest aldermanic campaigns to have one. I raised & spent about $1,200m Kirner raised & spend about $12,000 — she  had to hire consultants to build a website.   She showed up for a debate on the issues, something she wouldn’t have had to do otherwise.

One issue raised during our campaign was a Citizen Review Board, I favored it while Kirner, whose late husband had been a police officer, opposed external review of the police. The Board of Aldermen passed a Civilian Review Board bill a year later — vetoed by Mayor Slay.

I received
I received 278 votes (51.5%) in the two precincts East of Grand, while Kirner received 292 votes (64.7%) from the two precincts West of Grand.  I lived East of Grand, Kirner West of Grand, her support was stronger than mine. Total votes was 437 vs 554.

After serving her one term, Dorothy Kirner didn’t seek a 2nd in 2009, setting up a 4-way race for the open seat. Openly gay Shane Cohn won the democratic primary with 487 votes (46.25%), this 4-way race had 1,053 votes vs 991 votes in my 2005 race.

Filing for the March 2015 primary has closed, though independent candidates can still get on the ballot in the April general by collecting signatures. Those of you in odd numbered wards who are considering running in 2017 should begin planning now.

Tomorrow I’ll look at the 2015 spring municipal races.

— Steve Patterson


10th Anniversary of UrbanReviewSTL.com!!

In February 2009 a couple of friends noticed me on Google's Street View, this would've been prior to 2/1/2008.
I try to avoid using images from Google’s Street View, but this one of me on my scooter from before my 2/1/2008 stroke is a favorite. Discov

There are very few things I’ve done consistently for a full decade. Who knew when I started blogging on Halloween Day in 2004 I’d still be doing so a decade later? I would’ve laughed then if you’d said I’d be celebrating the 10th anniversary. I almost didn’t make it to the 4th.

I can tell you nothing else I’ve done in my nearly 50 years comes close to the joy & clarity this blog gives me.  I’ve learned you can plan all you want but life throws things at you that weren’t anticipated, you’ve got to continually reevaluate and change. St. Louis hasn’t learned this yet, our 1947 Comprehensive Master Plan still guides much of our development patterns nearly seven decades later.

Am I celebrating? Yes, meeting my husband today for lunch, photographing updates for a prior post. If you see me out and about please be sure to say hello!

Thank you for reading,

— Steve Patterson