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Tiny Municipality Better Known After Abusive Cop Video on YouTube

Last month I showed you videos from Jimmy Justice — the New Yorker out to show the world that New York traffic cops, and other officials, park in places where nobody should be paking — such as in front of fire hydrants, bus stops and on public sidewalks. He gets in the face of these officials and screams at them about breaking the law.

Well, by now, most of you have likely heard about the St. Louis area case of a young motorist berated by a cop from the virtually unknown municipality of Saint George (pop. 1,288, google map).

Here is part 1 of the video. Note, the video doesn’t show much but the audio records the entire scenario. The cop uses the f-word often so just make note of that if you are watching at the office, around impressionable ears or just plain offended by the f-word then you may want to skip this one.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8033SPavXEc[/youtube]
The National Association of Motorists, with a slogan of “we fight back against unfair traffic law” has the story with a complete transcript here.

Time for me to get a hidden scooter-cam! This cop may have been having a bad day but that is no excuse in my view — he should have asked to be off duty or done something to get help. He should not be allowed to have a badge, billy club and certainly not a gun. He shouldn’t even be permitted to be a mall security guard! The cop’s attorney says the driver, Brett Darrow, taunts police.
Other sources:

Today’s Post-Dispatch sheds some light on St. George:

It’s one-fifth of a square mile of small brick homes and condominiums — amid a sea of small brick homes and condominiums — at Interstate 55 and Reavis Barracks Road in south St. Louis County.

Like so many of the county’s 91 municipalities, it’s a subdivision with police power, and no shortage of it. Some who have gotten tickets might have wondered why St. George even exists. They can thank moms in two subdivisions, back in 1948, who wanted their kids bused to school. Bayless schools would not send buses. So the subdivisions incorporated as St. George, which allowed them to join Affton schools.

Yes, this is why we have 91 municipalities in St. Louis County — because it was very easy to incorporate. Decades later we are left with tiny villages and towns trying to find ways to pay for services demanded by residents. Like the City of St. Louis of past, these incorporated areas find themselves losing residents as people move further out for newer digs or, ironically, move back to the city for a more urbane lifestyle. So they try to draw big box stores, strip centers and issue as many tickets to motorists as they can.

Getting the city back into St. Louis County is potentially an impossible task, one that requires a statewide vote to change the Missouri constitution. However, consolidating municipalities, school districts and other governmental jurisdictions within St. Louis County is relatively easy. Two subdivisions, that incorporated nearly sixty years ago, do not need to remain separate with its own police force, six aldermen and a mayor.

 

Six Years and Counting

Like the “where were you when Kennedy was shot” question from an earlier generation, we all know what we were doing as we watched on live television the unfolding of events on 9/11/2001. There I was in the living room of a client I had just met, watching that second plane hit the other tower of the World Trade Center. Any doubt about the first plane being lost in the fog was gone. I think what I remember most was the courage of those in the fourth plane, knowingly facing their own deaths, thinking of others on the ground — preventing the deaths of so many more.

In the weeks prior a friend and I had booked an exciting 17-day trip to the east coast — Washington DC, Pennsylvania and New York. Our flight to DC was October 19th. I had been to DC before but this time was obviously different — the Pentagon had a huge hole in the side. Still, people were out and about in the various neighborhoods. The Washington Monument, as you might suspect, was closed to visitors. We had planned a road trip from DC to New York via Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water in rural Pennsylvania and thus had booked a rental car. Getting off the city bus at National Airport was weird — the place was a ghost town as flights were still not being permitted in or out. My first time in New York was surreal. Hotels and restaurants were eager to kick start the local economy so tourists were welcomed. As you approached “ground zero” as it was becoming known, the smell hit you. Neighbors in nearby Battery Park were hosing out the filters on their ventilation systems. The skyline I had seen my entire life in pictures was different, the Statue of Liberty was closed. We walked through the upper east side on the day a person died of anthrax poisoning on the upper east side. Stores had signs indicating they sold the anti-anthrax drug.

I visited New York again in the Fall of 2005. By then the debate about the future of the 16+ acre WTC site was in full swing. It should become a memorial park, it should be rebuilt as it was, and we shouldn’t build targets anymore were among the numerous viewpoints. Others advocated for much needed housing rather than simply replacing vast quantities of office space. Still others sought to return to the long abandoned street grid.

When Minoru Yamasaki was selected to design the World Trade Center his Pruitt-Igoe public housing, designed a decade earlier, was already troubled. When the ribbon was cut for the WTC in 1973 St. Louis had already begun to implode Yamasaki’s insensitive work here. In the 50s and 60s there was little opposition to such large scale projects save for Jane Jacobs. Today the debate over the 16+ acre site in lower Manhattan continues. Such a massive site in NYC is a rarity.

Back in St. Louis 16 acres is nothing to us. The Schnuck’s City Plaza development at Natural Bridge & Union is 20 acres, the Southtown Plaza strip center (former Famous-Barr site) is 11 acres. The old arena site, now called The Highlands, is 26 acres. The remaining Pruitt-Igoe site is roughly 33 acres. At 30 acres, Loughborough Commons, the Schnuck’s/Lowe’s albatross, is nearly twice as big as the WTC site. Yes — Loughborough Commons is 87% larger than the World Trade Center site! Wow, they are debating how many blocks and streets as well as how much office, retail and housing they can squeeze onto their 16 acres while here just getting the ability for an ADA-compliant sidewalk clearly takes more than action by the Board of Aldermen.

Thousands lost their lives six years ago and many more were strongly impacted by the loss of family, friends, co-workers, neighbors and simply a smile from a passing stranger no longer with us on the subway. Decisions made about the future of the WTC site, as well as development sites here in St. Louis and throughout the world, will too have an impact on people’s lives, although in a different way. We must ask ourselves why we are not creating places beyond just the short-term — a place to buy a cordless drill or get a latte at a drive-thru window. Architecture cannot made us better persons but our environment can and does impact how we all engage each other in our daily lives. We must do better. If not, we are simply funding a self-inflicted form of long-term terrorism.

 

The Magic Continues at Loughborough Commons

It has been a while since I’ve written about Loughborough Commons, the big box retail center receiving something like $14 million in various tax incentives. They been busy building some more retail square footage and preparing for some new tenants to open soon. This is simply a teaser post to show you a couple of the things I’ve been watching for a while.
IMG_2763.JPG

Above, a staircase leads you down to the parking lot for the multi-unit strip center from the public sidewalk along Loughborough. So we have an SSC — sunken strip center. Or is the center depressed rather than sunken? Or simply depressing? When this stair was announced in the Holly Hills neighborhood newsletter a while back, prior to construction, they made mention of a bike rack at the bottom of the stairs. And here it is — a bike rack at the bottom of stairs.

A bike rack at the bottom of stairs! Get it? Pretty convenient location if you are capable of biking down a set of stairs. So when you bike into the parking area from the complete opposite side you might decide to ride over here to lock up your bike — if you know it is there. And yes, the bike rack is the same width as the concrete pad so that on the off chance the front side is full and you need to use the back side you must push your bike through the grass and shrubs, assuming the sprinkler system is not on. I’m not sure how they expect you to bike back up the stairs.

Those that bike for transportation might have actually appreciated not having to lift their bike over the curb. Say you’ve got one of those handy kid holders on the back of your bike — suddenly the bike is a lot heavier and the kid is precious cargo. Those biking through the park with a kid trailer are simply out of luck as no place is big enough to park your bike & kid trailer. Well, unless you can pick up both over the curb and through the shrubs you can leave the trailer on the grass portion at the back.

I’m also really fond of the ADA ramp at the bottom of the stairs. That will actually come in quite handy for everyone taking their wheelchair up & down the stair. The red truncated domes serving as a “detectable warning” for those with visual impairments are meant to be felt under foot to alert someone when entering a road — not a parking area. That is communicating to someone the are entering a street situation. Clearly they should have consulted with someone with some actual knowledge about the ADA.
Speaking of ADA ramps.
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Down the hillside closer to the Schnuck’s and Lowe’s some new stores are being built. In the foreground is a new sidewalk and ramps that to the right connect to the sidewalk along the edge of the main driveway (I say sidewalk but it is too steep to be considered a sidewalk per ADA). The original drawings for the center didn’t include this is the way to get to the Schnuck’s — they had pedestrians crossing the main drive earlier and then the side drive to where you see the back of the stop sign above. I think this could have been a better solution. OK, so you make your way down the hillside from the pubic street, you cross a drive that is just to the right, you make the 90 degree turn, you note the half buried fire hydrant, and you spot the ramp across the drive — they don’t line up.

This is entirely new construction and the ramps on each side of the main driveway do not align. This is all by the same people being built at the same time — am I being unreasonable expecting that they’d align ramps so the person in the mobility scooter, the child on their bike or the parent pushing a baby stroller can safely cross the main entrance to a busy shopping center? This is not complicated stuff here. Yeah yeah, they are not done yet. I don’t want to hear it —- they’ve poured the concrete so they are done with this portion.

I am waiting for a bit more to get done and I will bring you a more in depth review of the new areas and some changes in the old. It is clear to me they were making an effort to improve upon what they had previously done but from the looks of things they simply didn’t have the right people on the job.

 

What Local Control Gets Us In St. Louis

Yeah, Rep. Rodney Hubbard saved the day by requiring local control over any development receiving a huge state tax credit (at least in the version passed by the state house). So, if passed by the Senate and signed by Gov Blunt then Paul McKee will have to make political contributions to aldermanic campaigns, not just those of the Mayor and President of the Board of Aldermen. With contribution limits back in place it really shouldn’t cost him much. For all 28 aldermen that is less than ten grand. Pocket change.

And for anyone that thinks that magically the development we’ll get will magically be better due to local control think again. Here are a few reminders of local control in St. Louis:

truman_parkway - 04.jpg

New sidewalks between residential areas and mass transit lacking street trees.

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Massive parking lots but no ADA access route. … Continue Reading

 

Bus Tour of Dilapitated McKee-owned Properties Ignored Other Issues

This past Thursday morning I attended, as did many others, the press conference and bus tour relating to 500+ properties owned by Paul McKee through various companies in his control. For those of you living under a rock for the last year, McKee had quietly bought hundreds of properties mostly in the city’s 5th ward through companies with names like “Blairmont Associates, LLC” and “Dodier Investors LLC” (see list). Blair and Dodier are both street names in the area. In the last Missouri State legislative session McKee’s attorney Steve Stone wrote a tax credit bill worth $100 million for anyone that assembled large acres of land in distressed areas. All sounds good so far, right?

… Continue Reading

 

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