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Staying Informed And Engaged In 2013

Continuing the theme from Saturday (Political Engagement & Social Media) I want to talk more about engagement. Many people are working hard to make a difference in St. Louis, each doing their best. Some are involved in more than one effort.

Some seemed upset that last week’s City Affair panel discussion on political engagement wasn’t mentioned in the places they check, so they didn’t know about the event in advance. To help out here is how you can contact some local mainstream media:

This may come as a complete shock, but the people who work hard to put together events like City Affair, Pecha-Kucha STL, etc. don’t actually get to dictate what ends up on mainstream media. Media outlets have consultants, market research and assignment editors that decide what to tell you about.

Here at UrbanReviewSTL.com I’m the only one responsible for what is, and isn’t, presented here. I generally don’t blog about an event before it happens, I like to attend, take a pic or two, then maybe post something about it afterwards. That’s what I did on Saturday.  That said, I do share additional information via the UrbanReviewSTL Facebook page and Twitter account. When event organizers send me ads for upcoming events I run those for free. For example: Wall Ball 2013, an fundraiser for Saint Louis City Open Studio  and Gallery.

ABOVE: Top search results for City Affair Political Engagement with the Facebook event at the top of the list followed by nextSTL calendar , the City Affair Tumblr blog and a repost of my saturday post. Click image to view the nextSTL.com calendar.
ABOVE: Top search results for City Affair Political Engagement with the Facebook event at the top of the list followed by nextSTL calendar , the City Affair Tumblr blog and a repost of my saturday post. Click image to view the nextSTL.com calendar.

Not on Facebook or Twitter? Sorry, I can’t call or mail you a postcard to tell you about everything going on in the city you might find of interest. Those who spend hours putting together interesting events also don’t have the time to call you. Another way to stay informed is to stop into places where much activity originates, such as St. Louis Curio Shoppe and STL-Style, both on Cherokee St. RSS is the best way to stay current with many blogs/websites, see What is RSS? to help you get started.

The biggest problem with many of these events is you’d think by those attending the city was 98% white middle class. Last week I told a couple of other gay friends how well represented gay men were at the event, females comprised at least half the crowd, that’s good. But racial minorities were very few, not remotely close to our demographics, not good at all.

Not sure why these events are overwhelmingly white.  According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project blacks use Twitter at twice the rate of whites, hispanics have a slight lead over whites too:

Several demographic groups stand out as having high rates of Twitter usage relative to their peers:

  • African-Americans — Black internet users continue to use Twitter at high rates. More than one quarter of online African-Americans (28%) use Twitter, with 13% doing so on a typical day.
  • Young adults — One quarter (26%) of internet users ages 18-29 use Twitter, nearly double the rate for those ages 30-49. Among the youngest internet users (those ages 18-24), fully 31% are Twitter users.
  • Urban and suburban residents — Residents of urban and suburban areas are significantly more likely to use Twitter than their rural counterparts.

I suppose the fact the last tweet from the City Affair Twitter account (@CityAffair) was on October 7, 2011. Looks like they need to review this wikiHow on How to Link Tumblr to Twitter. But even once tweeting again I realize the composition of those in attendance isn’t going to change without more effort.

But it’s 2013, don’t check your postal mailbox for a newsletter.

— Steve Patterson


Poll: What Outcome Do You Want With The Rams And The Dome?

On Friday arbitrators ruled in favor of the St. Louis Rams — the CVC’s proposal was insificient to make the Edward Jones Dome a “top tier” facility. They didn’t create a new plan but favored a proposal put forth by the Rams last year:

ABOVE: Dome would be expanded across the existing Broadway and Baer Plaza
ABOVE: Rams proposed expanding the EJ Dome across the existing Broadway and Baer Plaza

If the CVC does not meet that plan, however, the Rams and CVC will go to a year-to-year agreement, but the team could still leave town after the 2014-15 season. (KSDK)

So now what? Many options still exist:

  • The CVC could try to get city/county/state funds to rebuild the dome per the Rams proposal, though highly unlikely
  • A new stadium could be built somewhere else in the region funded by taxpayers and/or the Rams
  • The Rams could pack up and leave the St. Louis region in two years.

The poll question this week wants to know what outcome you’d like to see happen. I personally want to see the Rams use their own money to build a facility in the region, the site of the former Chrysler plant in Fenton is often suggested.

Why? I don’t want the Rams to leave because I don’t want to hear the moaning about us not having an NFL team, heard enough of that in the early 1990s. But I also don’t want taxpayers to foot the bill for another facility, especially since the current facility hasn’t been used for even 20 years yet.

The poll is in the right sidebar.

— Steve Patterson


What’s In Store For My Next 22 Years In St. Louis?

Will the next 22 years be just as interesting as the first 22?

It was 22 years ago today that I first saw the City of St. Louis, it was truly love at first sight. The city had seen better days long before I was born, but the potential sparked my imagination about what this place could become. Problems were everywhere.

ABOVE: The Darst-Webbe towers on the near south side circa 1990-91, razed

Much was in the very recent past or even still to come:

  • The former St. Louis Centre downtown mall was just five years old.
  • Union Station had only been reopened as a “festival marketplace” for 5 years.
  • The Gateway Arch parking garage was only 4 years old. Current plans call for it to be razed.
  • The Gateway One office building, now known as Peabody Plaza, was also just 4 years old.
  • The 14th Street Pedestrian Mall opened 13 years earlier in 1977, but had already failed. It would take the next two decades to remove the failed experiment.
  • The Kiel Opera House was still open, although it closed months later.
  • Hockey was played in the Arena on Oakland.
  • Getting to/from the airport required a vehicle because we didn’t have light rail.
  • Boatman’s & Mercantile were the biggest banks in town, both local with histories dating back to the 19th century.
  • St. Louis was down about not having an NFL football franchise, the Cardinals had moved to Arizona 3 years earlier.
  • Vince Schoemehl was elected to his third term as St. Louis mayor the year before (1989).
  • The 1990 Census, taken months before I arrived, would show a population of  396,685.  By 2010 I’d witnessed a population decline of 77,391.  Not a small number in 20 years time, but the decade between 1970 and 1980 saw more than twice as many people leave: 169,435.
  • Famous-Barr was the big local department store chain, part of Federated May Department Stores bought by Federated (Macy’s) in 2006. The Famous-Barr at Chippewa & Kingshighway had wonderful urban massing & form. It was razed to build a Home Quarters big box store. The HQ chain closed in 1999 before the store would be built.  Central Hardware was the local home improvement chain, it closed in 1997.

Yes I’m feeling nostalgic, I usually do on anniversaries.  But the real lesson here is people, and the places where they live, aren’t static. Change is a constant.  This isn’t inherently good or bad — it just is.

ABOVE: Showing my love for St. Louis on the wheelchair I use when I need go more than a block from my downtown loft.

What changes will I be able to write about 22 years from now?

  •  Continued population losses? Increases?
  • St. Louis elected first female mayor?
  • Several expansions of the local modern streetcar system connected the city (north, central, south) and the older inner-ring suburbs.
  • Board of Aldermen reduced in size?
  • St. Louis razed the old I-70 (elevated & depressed sections) downtown?
  • City rejoined St. Louis County as one of many municipalities? City, County and municipalities merged into a unified regional government?
  • Daily physical newspaper no longer printed?
  • Earthquake hit St. Louis?
  • Bill Haas elected to an office higher than the school board?
  • St. Louis adopted a city-wide urban form-based zoning code?
  • Tired & outdated Loughborhough Commons replaced with a dense mixed-use development?

I’m as excited about the future of St. Louis as I was 22 years ago. I’m less naive I was then but I’m forever an optimist, albeit a critical one.

— Steve Patterson


Dear Rams, Good Luck In Your Next City, We Don’t Need The NFL

ABOVE: Dome would be expanded across the existing Broadway and Baer Plaza

No doubt about it, I’m ready for the Rams to pack their bags. Head to Los Angeles, or London, I don’t care. St. Louis has three professional sports teams right now, that’s at least one more than we can realistically support. Without question the St. Louis Cardinals MLB team has the most love from the region.

I don’t think we, as tax payers, should support any progressional sport other than buying a ticket if we want to see a game. These teams are owned by very wealthy people who do this as a hobby. That said, I do believe in investing in infrastructure so that additional private investment is made. But I don’t see investing $1 to get a 15¢ return. I want government to invest $1 and get a $5 return on that investment through additional investment and/or tax revenue.

With the number of MLB games and the excellent performance of the Cardinals we probably break even on the government-funding of Busch Stadium. Well, once we actually see some revenue from a complete Ballpark Village. But NFL plays so few home games per year it seems impossible to get a decent return on our investment. I’ve not studied the numbers but many have. I found a PDF called 8 Reasons to Reject Publicly Financed Stadiums For Professional Sports Teams that has a good list:

  1. Public Money for Private Gain.
  2. Negligible Economic Benefits.
  3. Costs Outweigh the Benefits.
  4. Destroys jobs and drives down wages.
  5. Stadiums can be built with private money.
  6. Doesn’t Improve Team Performance.
  7. Doesn’t improve team attendance. Research also shows that new stadiums have little impact on long-term attendance.
  8. Diverts resources from funding priorities.

Click the link above to see explanations for each item.

But perceptions about sports will muddy this issue. The following are taken from the same commenter on the original post, but from two different comments:

 If St. Louis goes dark in pro football, it will be a big loss to the region.  St. Louis needs and can support three pro sports.

Warning, the sky will fall. We need three pro teams. BS!! For most of the last 50-60 years we’ve had 2-3 pro sports teams. How has that benefitted us? We’ve lost population, schools have declined, the corporate headquarters here has dropped. If you’ll have less civic pride if we go from three to two pro teams then you don’t really appreciate all that St. Louis is about. We didn’t have pro football when I moved here in 1990, it wasn’t important to me personally.

The provided answers in my poll last were very biased, something I try to avoid. But it happened.

Q: How Should The St. Louis Region, via the CVC, Respond To The Rams?

  1. Wish them well in London, LA, or ? 68 [45.64%]
  2. Agree to their proposal but only if it comes with a new 30-year lease 51 [34.23%]
  3. Remind them the Cardinals won the World Series twice since the one time the St. Louis Rams won the Super Bowl. 14 [9.4%]
  4. Other: 13 [8.72%]
  5. Bendover and pay whatever it takes to keep them here for the last 10 years of the original lease 2 [1.34%]
  6. Unsure/no opinion 1 [0.67%]

The other answers were:

  1. certainly don’t bendover but emphasize compromise
  2. Make some improvements but not 700m worth
  3. Less Public $, More Private $ otherwise deal’s over.
  4. I’m trying to care about this, but I just can’t.
  5. Your options certainly show your bias
  6. how about compromise, STL NEEDS NFL
  7. Negotiate a new lease, meet the Rams somewhere in the middle
  8. Ignore them.
  9. Tell Kroenke to go **** himself
  10. Don’t have anymore regional funds to waste on the rams…
  11. The answers you provided clearly show your bias in this poll
  12. negotiate
  13. tif or special use tax

If the Rams want to build a privately financed facility in Fenton or somewhere  out in big open space I’d have no objections. Otherwise, get lost. The CVC’s original proposal was excessive and the Rams’ response isn’t even close to reality. They are testing us to see how gullible we are. We were desperate to get a team twenty years ago when we were building the dome but weren’t awarded an expansion team. We got screwed on the terms of the original lease, I don’t want us to get screwed again.

— Steve Patterson


Poll: How Should The St. Louis Region Respond To The Rams?

ABOVE: Dome would be expanded across the existing Broadway and Baer Plaza

The CVC has until June 1 to accept or reject the Rams’ proposal:

The Rams’ proposal was released against their wishes on Monday, a response to the dome improvement plan submitted by their landlord, the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, in February. And the discrepancy is wide: The CVC plan called for $124 million in upgrades, 52% of which would be paid for by the Rams; the team’s plan called for a complete overhaul estimated by the city to cost more than $700 million, and it wasn’t clear how it would be funded. (USAtoday.com)

My post from Tuesday is here, it includes a link to the proposal. Who holds the cards in the negotiations?

Los Angeles is really the only viable remaining market in North America that would potentially support an NFL team and help the league generate greater revenues. If they don’t build a facility, or if they do but another franchise beats Kroenke to the punch, then Kroenke’s negotiating leverage versus the CVC will be weakened. (Forbes)

Well we’ve got great negotiators here in St. Louis! We got the Kiel Opera House 20 years ago and that vibrant Ballpark Village in 2006. Oh wait…

The poll this week asks how the St. Louis region, via the CVC, should respond. I say we wish them well wherever it is they move after the 2014 season.

– Steve Patterson