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One Year Since St. Louis County Voters Approved Proposition A

A year ago St. Louis County voters approved a small sales tax increase to fund transit, Proposition A. Wednesday I attended a panel discussion on why this measure  passed where previous attempts had failed.  Professors Todd Swanstrom & David Kimball introduced their new study:  From Checkbook Campaigns to Civic Coalitions: Lessons from the Passage of Prop A (PDF).  From the introduction:

On April 6, 2010 the voters of St. Louis County approved a tax increase for transit with a surprising 63 percent majority. The 1⁄2 cent sales tax now raises about $75 million a year to maintain the bus system and expand light rail. Seventeen months earlier a similar initiative had lost with 48 percent of the vote. With the economy in a recession in 2010, unemployment high, and the anti- tax Tea Party movement rising around the nation, the huge majority for Prop A was startling. In this paper we try to explain the success of Prop A and tease out the lessons for future tax initiative campaigns and civic coalitions.

Compared to the defeat of Prop M in 2008 two characteristics of the 2010 Prop A election make the victory especially surprising and help to frame our analysis: 1) Prop A succeeded in an off-year election when the composition of the electorate is less inclined to support tax increases and public transit; 2) Prop A, at least initially, did not enjoy unified business support – usually the kiss of death for transit tax initiatives.

The report details how the campaign differed from prior campaigns.  One difference was the campaign targeted some voters, as outlined by the dark line below.

ABOVE: the dark area had increased support of more than 18%, the grey 10-18%

Basically efforts were concentrated on West & North County and ignoring far SW and South parts of the County.  Voters who had voted in the prior 12 elections were targeted rather than all registered voters.  Citizens for Modern Transit (CMT) funded an educational component that never mentioned Prop A.  The pro-transit slogan was: Some of us ride it. All of us need it. Here is the TV spot that ran in the months leading up to the vote:


Notice Metro isn’t mentioned at all, the focus is on transit.

At the panel an audience member asked about a more regional approach and including St. Charles County. All agreed that more of the region should be served by transit but it was noted those areas need to step up with a funding source. In Illinois both Madison & St. Clair Counties fund transit.    While the 2010 passage of Prop A was important, we still have more work to do.

– Steve Patterson


Weekly Poll: How do we reduce the number of municipalities in St. Louis County?

ABOVE: Sign on Natural Btidge marks the city limits of Uplands Park, population 460

In February I ran a poll asking about the number of municipalities in St. Louis County – a massive 91. With nearly 94% of the votes readers overwhelmingly agreed St. Louis County has too many municipalities.  OK, so now what?  With the exception of 6% of readers and the St. Louis County Municipal League, we all agree there are too many but the next question is how do we reduce the number? And to what? 88? 45? 20?

The question of how to reduce the number is the topic of the poll this week, see the upper right of the site to cast your vote.  The results will be published Wednesday April 13th.

– Steve Patterson


Readers: Businesses Will Think They Are Grandfathered On New Smoke-Free Laws

ABOVE: Chevy's restaurant in Olivette lacked the required universal no-smoking symbol on Sunday
ABOVE: Chevy's restaurant in Olivette lacked the required universal no-smoking symbol on Sunday

Every year the week between December 25th and January 1st is the lowest readership.  Last week was no exception so I’m not surprised at the low number of votes in the weekly poll.  The current poll had more voters in the first 24 hours than all of last week. Here are the results:

Q: Will St. Louis businesses be ready when the smoke-free law begins on 1/2/2011?

  1. No, many will incorrectly think they are “grandfathered” 23 [34.33%]
  2. Yes, most will post the required signs but some won’t 20 [29.85%]
  3. No, some will post the required signs but most won’t 19 [28.36%]
  4. Unsure/no opinion 3 [4.48%]
  5. Other answer… 2 [2.99%]

The majority feel businesses wouldn’t be ready for Sunday, but for different reasons.  The two “other” answers were:

  1. Stupid poll
  2. NO, most will ignore or think they are exempt.

Sunday night I had dinner at Chevy’s in Olivette.  This was one establishment I stopped going to in 2008 due to the fact they permitted smoking in the bar area. It was nice to return for dinner with friends in a smoke-free environment. But like so many businesses, Chevy’s didn’t have the required universal no-smoking symbol displayed at the entrance.

Yesterday I went down both sides of Washington Ave from 10th to 16th trying to find a single business in compliance with the sign requirement of the new ordinance. Like St. Louis County, no smoking signs must be displayed at all entrances.   I’ve yet to see a business in compliance.  You might point out it has only been a few days. True, but both laws were passed in 2009, businesses had all of 2010 to get ready.  Businesses that were already smoke-free just needed to add a universal no-smoking symbol at each entrance.

How can compliance be so bad?  The departments responsible for enforcement got the word out didn’t they?

ABOVE: The St. Louis Dept of Health website last night gives you heat advisory alerts and where to find cooling centers, click to view larger version.

The St. Louis Department of Health could use a calendar, they think it is still summer. Someone should check on Dept of Health webmaster James A. Heitert to see what he is working on. It sure wasn’t putting out press releases.

ABOVE: Last press release issued by Health Dept was in May 2009

Although I shouldn’t put much stock in the City’s Press Release page to be accurate.

mayorprIt shows one press release from the Mayor’s Office in October 2010 and then March before that.  I know I’ve received many press releases not listed here.  It seems our folks at City Hall are so incompetent they can’t seem to get the word out about a significant new law with over a year to do so.  Or maybe they did but they forgot to archive the press release?

Licensed business owners could have easily received a notice of the new law with their license renewal in 2010, but they didn’t.  Successful compliance begins with communications.  Maybe the aldermen spread the word at well attended neighborhood meetings?  Can we get some real leadership in City Hall?

– Steve Patterson


Much Of The Region Should Be Walkable, Not Just The City

Late last week I posted about the lack of walkability at a subdivision in the western suburb of Chesterfield, These McMansions Will Be Hard To Give Away A Decade From Now.  As I expected I got this viewpoint in the comments: “I get it – you love urban living, but not everyone else does.  One size does not fit all, and commuting is highly personal, and for an increasing number of people, no longer includes the CBD.”

For the last 3 years I’ve lived downtown, just west of the central business district. The prior 17 years I lived in the CWE, Old North & Dutchtown/Mt. Pleasant neighborhoods.  I commuted by car to jobs in Rock Hill,  North St. Louis and Kirkwood.

The St. Louis MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) is 16 counties — 8 in Missouri and 8 in Illinois.

ABOVE: STL MSA. Not shown: Bond, Calhoun, & Macoupin counties in Illinois & Washington in Missouri. Click image to view the WikiPedia entry on the region

So? Our region is quite large geographically.  In 2000 we had 2.8 million living in 8,846 square miles.  The City of St. Louis represents only 66.2 square miles of the total area – less than one percent.  Even looking at St. Louis County & City only, the city represents only 11% of the total area.

We can’t all live in the city so I expect much of the region to be walkable.  That is, a person living in a developed area should be able to walk to a store.  Their kids should be able to walk to school.  The fact is this is already a reality for many throughout our region.  The concept of walkability shouldn’t be limited to within the city limits.

Yes, most will drive to reach their places of employment.  But for those living in walkable areas like downtown St. Louis, New Town at St. Charles, Ferguson, etc.  the many non-work trips can be done on foot. Many of the people I know who live downtown don’t work downtown.  They live here, in part, because it provides a walkable lifestyle for everything other than getting to/from their jobs.

Back to that McMansion subdivision in Chesterfield, those residents must drive everywhere.  They have no choice. Every no-work trip will be an auto trip.

There is nearly 20 miles from the street I mentioned before reaching the western edge of the City of St. Louis.

I don’t have figures on how much of the 8,846 square mile region is urbanized (developed) vs rural.  Parts of the city are, unfortunately, auto-dependent.  Some of the region outside the city is at least somewhat walkable.  But how much of the total area isn’t auto-dependent? Maybe 1-2%? I’d like to see that be 10% or more.

But please, don’t assume that I’m speaking of the city vs the remainder of the region when I write about walkability.  Walking knows no political boundary.

– Steve Patterson


Poll: Will Area Businesses Be Ready On January 2nd For New Smoke-Free Laws?

December 26, 2010 Smoke Free, STL Region 26 Comments

nosmokingsymbolOne week from today, Sunday January 2, 2011, new smoke-free laws will begin in the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County.

In the city it is ordinance 68481, the St. Louis City Smoke Free Air Act of 2009.  There are a few notable exceptions, small bars in particular:

7. Bars in existence on the effective date of this ordinance in which only persons aged twenty one (21) years old or older are permitted to enter the premises, the square footage of the entire floor area of the level of the building on which the bar establishment is located is two thousand (2000) square feet or less. The square footage shall not include kitchen areas, storage areas and bathrooms. The bar shall prominently displays outside of the premises at each entrance and above the bar the following sign in lettering that is black bold Arial font at (ninety-eight) 98 point size: “WARNING : SMOKING ALLOWED HERE”. This exemption for bars shall expire five (5) years after the effective date of this ordinance.

So a place that is 2,200 square feet with 400sf of that in kitchen & bathrooms cannot be exempt? I can see a lot of confusion over this exemption.  But clearly places that believe they are exempt need to post a sign outside indicating as much. On January 2, 2016 their exemption goes away.

Conversely all other establishments are required to indicate they are smoke-free:

SECTION NINE. Posting of Signs

1. “No Smoking” signs or the international “No Smoking” symbol (consisting of a pictorial representation of a burning cigarette enclosed in a red circle with a red bar across it) shall be clearly and conspicuously posted in every public place and place of employment where smoking is prohibited by this Ordinance, by the owner, operator, manager, or other person in control of that place.

2. Every public place and place of employment where smoking is prohibited by this Ordinance shall have posted at every entrance a conspicuous sign clearly stating that smoking is prohibited. Every vehicle that constitutes a place of employment under this Ordinance shall have at least one conspicuous sign, visible from the exterior of the vehicle, clearly stating that smoking is prohibited.

3. All ashtrays shall be removed from any area where smoking is prohibited by this Ordinance by the owner, operator, manager, or other person having control of the area.

I can imagine many smoke-free businesses failing to indicate they are smoke-free as required.

St. Louis County’s law has similar requirements for signs:

Signs clearly stating smoking is prohibited must be prominently displayed on the outside of the establishment at all public and employee entrances. A person having control of a place shall clearly and conspicuously post “No Smoking” signs or the international “No Smoking” symbol (consisting of a pictorial representation of a burning cigarette enclosed in a red circle with a red bar across it) near all entrances where smoking is prohibited pursuant to this chapter. Such signage shall consist of letters not less than one inch in height. (605.050)

St. Louis County has a different exemption for bars:

Drinking establishments which are in operation on or before the effective date of this chapter; provided, however, that no smoke infiltrates into areas where smoking is otherwise prohibited, and further provided that each such drinking establishment has posted in a place visible to the public from its exterior a certificate of exemption issued by the Department of Revenue. Click here to apply for this exemption.

Confused yet? Take the poll this week (upper right) on how ready you think area businesses will be next week.

– Steve Patterson